The BIGGEST question I get during my social media bootcamps is, “What is a hashtag?” And they want to know the quick hashtag success tips. It’s understandable. Millennials throw the term around like it’s a baseball during spring training. Hashtags are everywhere! We see them on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. We even see them on the evening news, movies and billboards.

Businesses using social media need to know what a hashtag is, and they need to have a hashtag strategy. It is simply a word or phrase used to describe a topic or theme. Hashtags are characterized by the “pound symbol (#)” we see on phones. There is a hashtag etiquette that businesses and brands should use before they start using them on all of their posts, comments and tweets. To build engagement, impressions and followers, here are five hashtag success tips.

  • Be Brief: For Twitter, social media managers should limit their use to 2 – 3. Instagram allows users to up to 30, but don’t go crazy. Studies show that eleven hashtags will give the best engagement (79.5%). Some research shows that 1 – 2 hashtags on Facebook is a good number, and the interactions drop substantially after five hashtags. Similarly, choose hashtags that quickly express your message. Cookie maker Oreo recently used #NationalOreoDay to track engagement for their brand of tasty treats.
  • Be Consistency: Women’s clothing retailer AH Collection posts photos and videos everyday of their employees and customers wearing their clothes. This consistency keeps them in their followers Instagram feed with fresh, new content. By consistently using specific branded and community hashtags, your followers, friends and connections will associate your company with that hashtag.

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  • Be Short and Simple: The attention span of the average adult has decreased from 12 seconds to 8 – less than that of a goldfish. Long phrases and gimmicky words are a recipe for failure. The Coca-Cola campaign using #ShareACoke was genius because it was easy to share on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Followers took pictures of bottles with their name on it, and they included the hashtag to drive Coke’s engagement, clicks and impressions through the roof. Of course, sales went up too.
  • Be Creative: Hashtags allow users to be creative – even with their business. Oreo takes the cake (and cookie) here too. Their use of #OreoHorrorStories, #OreoSmores and #OreoThins draws in audiences. Active followers created their own hashtags with #redvelvetoreo and #playwithoreo. Brand Ambassadors!
  • Be Trendy: Social media moves fast. It is important to use grab ahold of hashtags that describe events in the moment. During the 2012 Presidential campaign, #HorsesandBayonets became a popular trend to follow for President Obama. BE CAREFUL! Mitt Romney’s statement about #BinderofWomen became popular, but for different reasons. Seize the moment and ride the “hashtag wave.”

Apply these hashtag success tips to your favorite social media platforms, but they are mostly applied to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Businesses and brands use hashtags to monitor trends in their industry, track competitive activity and build engagement. They are not just for millennials, but they are also for millionaires. Churches use them for capital campaigns. Schools use them for school safety. How are you using them.

Scientifically Speaking, of course…