How To Use Hashtags As A Marketing Tool (Without Looking Like One)

Hashtags have come an incredibly long way in just six years. First posted on Twitter in 2007 as a way to identify groups on the new social site, they’re now used—for good or for ill—across nearly all social media platforms.

Marketers can use them in a host of ways, but they should practice caution. Hashtags are an excellent tool for attracting attention on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Facebook—but obnoxious, silly or just plain wrong hashtags can make your brand look like a tool. And not the good kind.

Hashtag Pros:

  • Building hype—Bring awareness to a subject, product or service. Subway’s attempt to make #addavocado a popular hashtag has been largely successful.
  • Trendsetting—Get people talking and exchanging ideas about a particular topic. For instance, #birdmanhandrub is a popular meme on Twitter.
  • Eavesdropping—Listen in on conversations about your industry or your product and discover what your audience is talking about.

Hashtag Cons and Cautions:

  • Hashtag abuse—Using a whole clutch of hashtags in Twitter or Facebook message is not just confusing, it’s annoying.
  • Tag hijacking—This happens when a brand or individual introduces a hashtag for one purpose and users turn it into a joke. Last year, McDonald’s learned about hashtag hijacking the hard way.
  • Doing it wrong—Hashtags should be used on social media sites and nowhere else. So, no, #Beautiful is not a legitimate use of a hashtag, no matter what Mariah and Miguel say.

Hashtags should be used carefully—but when done right they can be, pound for pound, as valuable as any other social media tactic.