By: Maria Mosman

Hashtags are among the most prominent and valuable features on social media platforms today. Introduced by Twitter in 2007, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest have since picked them up on their own media platforms. When used correctly, hashtags are a valuable tool that can help businesses increase engagement from their target audience and boost visibility. However, misusing or overusing hashtags can portray a business as annoying, pushy, or out-of-touch (after all, hashtags have been around for well over a decade). Fortunately, there are a few simple tricks you can follow to utilize hashtags to their full potential.  

The purpose of a hashtag is to categorize your content and link it to a searchable page, thereby making you discoverable when users click on or search for that hashtag. Hashtags function similarly to SEO keywords on search engines like Google – content with relevant keywords will always get the most traffic; therefore, you should only be using hashtags pertinent to both your business and current trends.  

The most straightforward approach to correctly utilizing this feature is to watch which hashtags are trending, then selecting those that relate to your company message to include in your post. If you're feeling ambitious, you can also get ahead of the curve and anticipate which hashtags will take off by staying up to date on current events and trends.   

Upon learning how hashtags work, businesses are sometimes tempted to cram as many as possible into everything they post to reach a broader audience – this is a big (and common) mistake. For starters, including too many hashtags on a post can overtake your content's message, especially on sites like Twitter with strict character limits. Moreover, #Hashtagging #Every #Single #Word #Gets #Really #Annoying #Really #Fast and can drive away your audience.

Jimmy Fallon illustrated this point eloquently in 2013, when hashtags had gotten seriously out of control (yes, over-hashtagging has been around 2013 – ergo the out-of-touch image). Some social media platforms' algorithms will even penalize accounts for going overboard, which buries content rather than boosting its visibility.  

To get the most out of your social media accounts, shoot for quality over quantity, using no more than 11 relevant hashtags per post relating to what matters to your business and your followers. Doing so is the best and easiest method to consistently producing content that interests, entertains, and engages your target audience.