What the #### is a Hashtag? – An introduction to the proper use of hashtags for small businesses

Everyone who has used social media has undoubtedly encountered the pound sign (#) followed by some version of unspaced text. While this may have seemed confusing at the time, this symbol or hashtag has become an important way in which the world communicates. But what is a hashtag? On social media sites, the (#) followed by text is known as a hashtag. Even with the uncanny rise of hashtags, many of us are still confused when it comes to how to use them and even more are confused when it comes to what they mean.


In 2007, a developer, Chris Messina, suggested in a tweet that Twitter start using hashtags to group different topics. Even though Twitter initially rejected the suggestion, journalists began using the hashtag to update tweets about the San Diego forest fires. As a result, the hashtag quickly gained widespread use.


A hashtag can be described as a label for content that helps other people find information on a specific topic. Anyone who is sharing information on a specific topic can add a hashtag to their message to associate their message with other messages of similar relevant content. Although the hashtag gained most of its fame through Twitter, other major social media sites such as Facebook, Vine, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Google+ now incorporate hashtags.

Hashtags have been ideal for following news stories and providing up-to-the-minute information about important events. In the case of natural disasters or huge stories, hashtags have become an information lifeline. Although hashtags were originally used for news stories, there has been a growing use of hashtags for business.

Hashtags for Business

Many major brands have incorporated the use of hashtags for business. If you are considering using hashtags for business, you should keep the following tips in mind.

  • Make sure your hashtags are relevant to your field, which will make your brand discoverable by users searching for those keywords.
  • Choose one specific account or set up a business account that will represent your brand. By doing so, you can ensure that users can easily find all of your relevant tweets in one location.
  • Creating your own unique hashtag is a great way to promote your brand. The hashtag should be short but descriptive. Most importantly, make sure you remind everyone to use the hashtag in all related tweets and in all promotional material.
  • Check out which relevant hashtags are trending and make sure you use it.
  • Test hashtags to make sure it is being used. Using a hashtag that no one has ever used will not produce results. The best hashtags are those that people are already using and are therefor searching for. One example would be #WereHavingaSale, which only one person has used and is therefor ineffective.

Ways to Use Hashtags for Business

1. Contest

    • One great way to use hashtags for business is to hold a contest and require that users use the hashtag to enter the contest. Make sure you understand the rules of each social platform regarding contests.

2. Connect with Other Users at a Conference

    • When businesses host conferences or meetings, you can easily find out who is there by checking the stream for the hashtag. This way you can send them a direct message and schedule a time to meet up directly.

3. Hold a Twitter Chat

    • Considering that Twitter is one gargantuan open platform, using a hashtag is one way you can designate who participates in the chat. On the other hand, there is no way to know if someone is responding to your topic or simply talking about and entirely different subject.

4. Check out Hashtags.org

    • Hashtags.org is an online service that groups hashtags and gives you an idea of what other people are discussing online. By knowing what is trending, you are destined to come up with ideas.

5. Use hashtags to learn more about your industry

    • Industry experts often use hashtags for articles and relevant news for your industry. For example, a company like Ready to Run would use #SEO or #SocialMedia.

Hashtags have moved well beyond just a current social media fad – transitioning to an online marketing necessity. In the coming weeks, Ready to Run will be discussing hashtags and a number of other social media marketing strategies. Hopefully, this introduction will provide some clarity on using hashtags for brand exposure online.

For a more indepth guide to #Hashtags, see our article: Facebook’s New Move: #Hashtags

3 Easy Tips for Businesses & Brands on Pinterest

Pinterest for Business

Pinterest is taking off as the fastest growing social media site and is the fourth largest traffic driver surpassing Yahoo. The site is based on the idea of “pinning”, or including visual content, on “boards” with themes. Pinterest provides its users with endless varieties of information and visually pleasing photos.

Users can browse boards, “like” images, comment on them, and “re-pin” them on to their own boards. The images can link back to websites which might include content such as recipes, do-it-yourself instructional material, blogs, or business websites.

Many businesses have found that the simple yet striking visual content display that Pinterest provides draws viewers and traffic to their websites, increasing interest, improving SEO and building an online community.

Pinterst referrals improve marketing ROI and spend more!

Wayfair, the second largest home goods retailer by revenue, found consumers referred from Pinterest:

  • Spend an average of 70% more money than visitors referred from non-social channels
  • Are 10% more likely to purchase than any other social media site
  • Actually spend about 10% more money on the purchases they make!

While Pinterest strategies for business and brand marketing are vast and include many techniques, we will discuss three simple methods that are useful to new business users to improve your ability to draw new viewers to your boards and ultimately to your website and products.

Our 3 easy tips are:

  1.  Use evergreen topics
  2. Hold contests
  3. Create and share community group boards

1)      Evergreen Topics

While an initial thought would be to start a board with images of only your product, new potential users might not search specially for this one item or category.  Posting images of common or familiar situations where your product is being used can draw viewers to want more information and link to your specific website.  Evergreen content such as beauty tips and how-tos consistently rate highly on the Most Repinned count in Pinterest Web Analytics.

One company that is successfully using this technique is ELLE magazine – for example, their “how-to” pin on hair care drove very high page views and repins. The website wikiHow, which focuses on how-to guides, is also a successful Pinterest user.  By pinning unique, high-quality items on curated boards, they were able to connect with pinners looking for instructional information on a daily basis.

2)      Contests

Holding contests on Pinterest is another way to draw visitors to your boards. Contests can take a variety of forms.  For example, Pinterest members could be asked to curate boards on a specific topic, which would be judged by celebrities in a particular field or interest area.   The travel site Jetsetter challenged users to develop boards on four travel themes, which were then judged by well-known media personalities.  As a result of the contest, over 50,000 images were pinned in less than a month, and the Jetsetter page views were increased by 150%.

Another type of pinboard contest involves members re-pinning images or posts from other social media sites on to their own Pinterest boards, or being rewarded for finding all the pieces of a puzzle or a specific number of images.  Other types of contests could involve getting the highest number of re-pins or votes.

Running a successful contest using Pinterest involves setting goals and objectives and knowing your audience. It is also important to review the Pinterest guidelines for contests before you start: http://business.pinterest.com/logos-and-marketing-guidelines/

3)      Group Boards

Group boards are an excellent way to engage customers and drive traffic to your business. A group board functions just like a regular Pinterest board but allows other people to also pin to the board in addition to the board creator. Group boards can be shared on a small or large scale depending on the goal.

Group boards go under different names but have the same general purpose.

  • Shared Boards
  • Contributor Boards
  • Community Boards
  • Collaborative Boards

The benefits of using group boards for business are vast and diverse. The boards invite engagement and brand awareness. You will expand your network by inviting others to pin on a common theme. Pins can also be catered to specific topics that may be blog subjects, allowing bloggers to share pin each other’s content that is useful.

Group boards are a great way to share contests (tip #2). Having all associated pins in one place allows users to easily navigate all similar content. It will also help your business to judge the contest without having to scour the web and hope that pins were hashtagged.

You can use these boards to share your content, tips, how-tos, training materials and resources with people with similar interests.

Group boards are also excellent for planning events and creating a buzz. Use the boards to share ideas, venues, marketing materials, menus and table decoration ideas, to name a few. This is also a good place to raise money for cause-related events.

Additionally, designers and other creative professionals can use these boards to better connect with their client’s style and preferences. By inviting your client to share, they can pin design or decorating ideas that will ultimately cut time from evaluating an individual style or desired motif. By using pins, translating customer’s expectations becomes much more efficient.

Brands should remember to keep their theme relevant to the interests of their target consumers. Stay engaged and comment on good pins. Today’s consumer loves to feel connected and listened to. Customers that have regular interaction with brands on social media are much more likely to make a purchase.

As you start to use Pinterest for your business, you can read about some of the successful techniques companies have used to boost traffic to their Pinterest boards on Pinterest’s own business blog.

Pinterest provides a new and rapidly growing way for your business to connect with a community of users. Developing boards based on evergreen content, holding contests and sharing group boards are three simple ways to begin to engage your audience and attract new customers.

For ways to improve your business or brand’s online presence and effectiveness, contact Ready to Run Designs for a free evaluation.