“What’s a hashtag?” Well, a hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by a pound sign used to identify messages on a specific topic.

Some of the top 100 hashtags out there according to Webstagram include #love, #tbt (Throwback Thursday), #follow, and #picoftheday. You can see that the hashtag can be a word, an abbreviation, an acronym, or even a keyword phrase with no spaces.

Most social media platforms let you draft a post that includes a hashtag. Once posted, readers or followers can click on the hashtag that has become a hyperlink. That link takes you to a page where all messages using the same hashtag can be conveniently read in one location.

While you have a specific number of followers, new followers might happen upon you if they stumble upon the hashtag. Hashtags open up a world of discovery. If you’re looking to convert followers to paying customers, focus on location-specific tags. They will reach an audience that can find its way to your door.

Where do hashtags come from?

Make up your own hashtag, or find one that’s already trending by doing a Google Search for “trending hashtags”. There are great sites out there like TrendsMap that tracks popular hashtags on maps like the one below, HashTagify that can find related hashtags, and TagBoard that can be used to explore what types of posts are using a hashtag.

Show Personality

Sometimes a silly or sarcastic post can get you positive attention and show that your business has a sense of humor.

Use Caution

Be careful to use a hashtag for its intended topic because people on social media can get pretty irate if they see you using a hashtag inappropriately. One bad example of using hashtags comes from The Gap. They tweeted, “All impacted by #HurricaneSandy, stay safe! We’ll be doing lots of Gap.com shopping today. How about you?” While you might not initially think this is terrible, Twitter users everywhere began to wonder how talking about online shopping was appropriate when people were dying as a result of the storm. Many took great offense to the message. The Gap could have stopped with, “All impacted by #HurricaneSandy, stay safe!” and avoided the public backlash.

Above all, have fun with your hashtags in your social media marketing. Use them to start conversations and interact with potential customers and new followers. You’ll be glad you did!