Hashtags Still Most Undervalued Tool in Digital Marketing

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If you have any familiarity with the world of digital marketing, you know there's an abundance of tools available. If you're not familiar, I'd bet you still view hashtags as a silly Millennial trend.

They're not. In fact, of all the tools available to marketers, hashtags might be the most powerful. They're also free to use, easy to follow, and can help you gain business.

First, let's get rid of any misconceptions. You might be familiar with the hilarious Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon hashtag sketch. If not, please familiarize yourself below. This is everything you need to avoid when using hashtags.

The joke is that people on various social media platforms use hashtags to describe everything they're doing and their thoughts about it (e.g. #OatmealRasin #Cookie #ImTheRealCookieMonster). No normal person is going to search for that information! Which brings up the question: What exactly is a hashtag for?

Hashtags, in essence, are publicly visible meta tags for social media sites like Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, and others. Their purpose is to make your content (which you typically want everyone to see) as publicly visible as possible. For instance:

Let's say you tweet a link to an article published by your brand. The article contains valuable information for your targets, and you need a simple, cheap way to place that valuable information in front of relevant eyes. By adding appropriate hashtags, people searching for the topic your article covers can now find your valuable information. Here's an example.

Text Request Twitter Hashtags Screenshot

If your article is titled 3 Content Marketing Fundamentals & Why They Work, you might add these relevant hashtags: #DigitalMarketing, #BusinessTips, #Marketing, #LeadGeneration, #Sales, or #SalesTips, for example. Note that hashtags are used to cover topics people are already searching for. They're not necessarily describing your tweet or situation (like #Article, #Internet, #ReadThis, or #Twitter), but describing its topic and who it should appeal to.

Between various social media platforms, there's about 1 billion people actively using hashtags every month. And every single one of those hashtags is 100% searchable by anyone (including you)! Let's say you're in the toy manufacturing business, and you want to know what kinds of toys people like enough to share with their friends and followers.

You can jump on Twitter or Instagram, search #Toys or #KidsToys, and see what consumers are enjoying most. You can then use that information to aid your marketing and manufactured products, tailoring your messaging and designs to comply with market demand.

On all of these sites, you can also see what people are talking about right this second! You can see "trending topics," which is massive! This capability even solidified an entirely new branch of digital marketing, called Real-Time Marketing (RTM). As appropriate, you can jump into live conversations with any of your targets anywhere, using current events to gain exposure and recognition for your brand. Hashtags enable your brand to keep a pulse on what's happening, and provide you with a limitless supply of market research.

Hashtags, in their simplest form, can be used for four things. You can use hashtags to search for more, specific information on subjects you wish to learn more about or engage with. On the other hand, you can use hashtags on your own posts, so that people searching for that topic can find you and your brand.

You can use hashtags to see who's talking about what, when, and why, which helps you understand consumers' interests and preferences. And you can use hashtags to interact with your targets in relevant, real-time conversations, right where they're already spending their time.

A billion+ people are using hashtags to engage with the world around them. They can be a master key to growth, should you choose to use them. Unfortunately, many undervalue hashtags. Rather than looking at them as a silly trend, embrace hashtags as a powerful, free business tool. You'll be thankful you did.