Celebrating its 10-year anniversary, the hashtag has become a crucial tool when it comes to using social media for business. First used on Twitter as a way to group together topics of interest, the humble hashtag has since been added to social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. The term ‘hashtag’ was added to the dictionary in 2014.

Hashtagging has become one of the easiest ways to get involved with social media. Adding a hashtag in a post is a great way to instantly connect to a conversation – particularly due to the targeted nature of B2B marketing. Just searching for a hashtag finds every mention of a particular topic, as well as who is actually talking about it.

But after a decade of use, how can hashtags improve your social strategy? Here are seven tips that will help enhance your posts.

1. Create a hashtag
Hashtags are a great way to level the playing field. Whether you’re a niche player or a big dog, hashtags are noticed by everyone who sees them and can be a great way to gain exposure online. Create a hashtag around a marketing campaign and get colleagues, partners and customers to join in and who knows, you might even start trending!

2. Make them relevant
Maybe I’m stating the obvious here, but don’t just add on random hashtags at the end of your posts to try and boost visibility and engagement. Adding #JustinBieber on to a tweet around quantum computing will make you look foolish. Make sure your hashtags are targeted toward a) the topic that you want to talk about and b) the people you want to reach and converse with.

3. Find prospects
These days it’s harder to find someone that’s not on social media than someone who is. In fact, it’s becoming pretty easy to find just about anyone. Sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter have become databases full of prospects that can be found with a simple search. Want to see who’s active in the PR and marketing space? Type in #PR or #Marketing and find out.

4. Join the conversation
A quick search for #B2Bmarketing on Twitter gave me hundreds of results, but hashtags don’t necessarily need to contain large groups of people. Try and search for more niche hashtags, see who’s tagging them and send them a quick reply. Social media is about engaging with people, and a great way to start is by finding a conversation that matched your interests.

5. Newsjacking
One of the biggest PR buzzwords, newsjacking is the art of taking a breaking news story and linking it into your client’s key messages. For example, General Electric recently shared a post on Facebook around the North American solar eclipse which received over 118,000 views and 1,200 likes. But be warned, newsjacking the wrong story can lead you in a PR crisis.

6. Events
Events are one of the most effective ways you can use a hashtag. Most event organizers now create their own hashtags which can be used to generate social ‘buzz’ before, during and after. A simple tweet can be seen by journalists or analysts who might like an interview with a company exec when they see you’re attending. So before you click post, have a look to see if the organizers have a social page and if they’re using a hashtag for the event.

7. Don’t overdo it
When adding in hashtags, always stick to the rule of three. Any more will just make it look like a desperate plea for attention. Too many tags will also reduce the quality of your content which is the main driver in getting your social updates to stand out from the crowd. Used correctly, three hashtags should be more than enough to get your post noticed. It’s up to you to make sure the post is structured correctly and interesting enough to get engagement.

#JonBrown is an Account Executive at IBA International.

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