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How to Use Hashtags for Small Businesses and Nonprofits

During the rise of social media, hashtags have emerged as a type of search engine for individuals, businesses and organizations. Formerly recognized as the pound or sharp symbol, hashtags are used to categorize information on social media such as Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and even Facebook. They connect individuals sharing a variety of interests as well as likeminded individuals and companies – #entrepreneur has 4.3 million posts on Instagram; #SmallBusiness has 1.4 million; #ShopLocal has 2.1 million posts.

Hashtags have become nearly universal in marketing campaigns because they allow companies to use strategic and specific slogans to reach their desired audience. Hashtags allow companies and brands to personalize their reach as well as expand their audience. Because hashtags act as a search engine on Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites, your hashtag will link a broad audience to your post, connecting to your campaign so they can learn more about your organization.

Here are some things to keep in mind when using hashtags:

  1. Research what you use: There are millions of hashtags already in existence. Chances are some of the hashtags you are thinking of are already being used. When developing your marketing campaign, unless you intentionally want to use a wide-range hashtag like #happy, make sure you do your research. Another company may have already chosen to use that hashtag for a vastly different campaign that you may not connect with your brand. For example, check out  Entrepreneur’s article on the Five Worst Twitter Marketing Fails of 2014. 
  1. Spelling: Be careful when you type your hashtag into various social media sites. Not only do typos mean completely altering your audience reach, one small typo can turn into a huge mistake! Just refer back to Entrepreneur’s article on the Five Worst Twitter Marketing Fails of 2014.
  1. Broad vs. Specific:  Know when to use broad hashtags or specific hashtags. Using a broad-range hashtag such as #HappyCustomer can connect you to a new audience your company has not previously reached and could generate new customers. Check out this list of popular hashtags used by small business owners. However, creating a specific hashtag to use continuously is a better way to generate a search for your company or nonprofit organization. A custom hashtag can also give you a way to analyze and monitor your hashtag’s reach for marketing purposes. Use specific hashtags for your company to have a conversation about a specific event or sale that will generate additional buzz about your company.
  1. Don’t Use Too Many Hashtags:  While using several hashtags will provide a wider search opportunity for your post, if someone within your audience is following you in their newsfeed, the overuse or inappropriate use of hashtags could be viewed as a nuisance or look like spam, and you could lose followers. For example, watch this humorous SNL skit by Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake.
  1. Collaborate & Incentivize: Use hashtags to work with other organizations that align with your interests and brand. A great example of this is #igersjax in Jacksonville, Fla. This Instagram photo community has a large following and managers of the hashtag regularly collaborate with other organizations on social media promotions. If you partner with another business, you have the opportunity to multiply your reach for your audience. Often times these collaborations result in a growth of new customers, better event or sale attendance, and generally help your marketing campaign create more of a buzz about your company. By working with businesses that have common interests, you’re also supporting your community and your industry.

Hashtags are a powerful opportunity to utilize when done properly. Follow the tips in this article and use hashtags to increase prospects, leads and customers. While this might be #TheEnd of this article, it is #JustTheBeginning of the opportunities your small business or nonprofit organization may encounter when you use hashtags to promote your brand.

Point Taken Communications, a boutique Jacksonville public relations and marketing firm serving brands nationwide, creates engaging campaigns that ignite positive change and move audiences to action. We go above and beyond, ensuring each client gets the best return on its investment. Our team of senior professionals has decades of experience bringing bold, creative ideas to life to help companies and nonprofits grow and evolve. At Point Taken, our clients inspire us to fuel progress for your organization, your industry and our world.