Whether you only dabble in social media or you’re a serious social media marketer, it’s worth taking the time to learn the ways of the hashtag. First used on Twitter in 2007, they have now spread to most of Australia’s popular social media sites and have changed the face of social media in a big way.

This overview provides a glimpse into the different uses a hashtag can have and gives some tips on how to hashtag like a professional.

What is a hashtag?

A hashtag is a hash symbol (#) followed by a word or phrase made up of alphanumeric characters such as #hashtag or #contentmarketingaustralia. These metadata tags are used on social media platforms to group together posts on particular topics, and to allow users to search for information.

In some parts of the world, the # is known as the ‘pound sign’ or an ‘octothorpe’.

Read more: Intro to hashtags

Why hashtags are great for business

Hashtags are a powerful social media marketing tool. They allow brands to reach a wider and more targeted audience and to drive customer engagement. Companies can promote brand awareness through online interactions and communities using simple hashtag marketing strategies.

Read more: Hashtag tips for businesses

Best practice for hashtags

Like any form of communication there are rules and guidelines which govern best hashtag practice. Some are technical, like not including non-alphanumeric symbols in your hashtags (things like -, !, ?). Others improve readability and flow, like #not #putting #too #many #hashtags #midsentence, while others still will mark you out as a pro or a rookie.

Read more: Hashtag best practice

Hashtags for different platforms

Hashtags may have started out on Twitter, but they are now used across most popular social media sites including Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. While general best practices apply universally, there are a few important tips and tricks to know for tailoring your hashtags to the platform you’re using.

Read more: Hashtag tips for Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn

How do you choose the best hashtags?

There is no real magic formula for picking the best hashtags, but there are several useful tools and techniques for choosing which ones to attach to your posts.

Read more: How to choose hashtags

Branded, trending and recurring hashtags

Branded hashtags are used by brands to endorse or promote things like product launches, campaigns and conferences.

Trending hashtags are hashtags that are popular at a given time. These can be found within the social media platform you’re using – for instance Twitter and Facebook have trending topic sections – or via trending hashtag sites like trendsmap and hashtagifyme.

Recurring hashtags are, as the name suggests, hashtags that get used repeatedly. Things like #throwbackthursday, #motivationmonday and #2bittues.

Read more: Hashtag groups and how to use them

How not to hashtag

Hashtags allow you to reach a wide audience and join in conversations with potentially thousands of other social media users. The downside? This means any gaffs or embarrassments in your hashtag game will be available for the world to see – or, equally discouragingly, for no one to see. Don’t underestimate the importance of knowing what not to do when it comes to hashtagging.

Read more: Hashtag mistakes to avoid

It doesn’t take much effort to go from a hashtag novice to a confident, savvy hashtagger. Knowledge is power, so arm yourself with some hashtag know-how and before long you’ll be tagging with the best of them.