If you’ve spent any time on social media lately you’ve probably seen a hashtag or two. In the past couple years they’ve gained popularity with brands and platform users alike, but you can’t just throw them around. Like anything else, it’s important to think strategically when incorporating them into your social media content.

So how can you avoid missing the mark? Here are some of our hashtag do’s and don’ts to get you started.

Do use hashtags to help categorize your online conversations

This is especially true on Twitter and Instagram, where they’re most relevant. Hashtags can help improve the searchability and discoverability of your content and in turn get that content you worked so hard on in front of more eyes that might not see it otherwise.

The smaller and more targeted your niche the more specific you’ll want to be to make sure you’re reaching the right audience, with the right message, at the right time. After all, reach is meaningless if the people you’re reaching don’t care.

…. but don’t use hashtags excessively (or excessively long hashtags).

Would you want to type out a hashtag that took up twenty characters? What about thirty? Space is limited on Twitter and if your hashtag takes up too many precious characters it will more likely than not end up falling by the wayside.

And we’ve all seen those posts that go overboard and use hashtags for every word. #Doing #this #looks #so #spammy. Could you read that? If you could, I bet it wasn’t easy. Readability is key in social media so make sure any hashtags you use provide some value to the reader. As a rule of thumb, try to limit yourself to no more than 3 on Twitter and 10 on Instagram.

Do consider creating your own

Consider leveraging a branded hashtag to stand out from the competition. Whether you’re tweeting about something unique to you or just holding an event a branded hashtag serves two purposes: 1) it helps provide some additional context in those categorized tweets we talked about and 2) (when used correctly) only pulls in tweets about you.

… but don’t forget to do your research

A quick search before typing out that hashtag may seem unnecessary but it can save a lot of pain in the end. Is it already being used? For what? Is it relevant? Does it bring in a lot of noise? Or connect you to conversations your brand would rather stay out of? An irrelevant or misused hashtag can lead to getting lost in the noise at best and a community management nightmare at worst.

Do leverage them to get people talking

Once you create a hashtag (or pick a few existing ones to use in your tweets) start talking and encourage others on the platform to join in. Holding a large event? Consider using a hashtag to spark conversation and capture insights from attendees in real time. HubSpot does this well with their annual Inbound Conference.

… and don’t forget to cross promote them.

Shout your hashtag from the marketing rooftops. People can’t use your hashtag if they don’t about it and it won’t be easy for them to discover it on their own. Give them a little push and point them in the right direction to get the conversation started.

Have questions about incorporating relevant hashtags in your social media marketing strategy? Ask us: info@rdwgroup.com.