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


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