Using hashtags on Twitter in a thoughtful, strategic way can dial you into your target audience, enhance your exposure, and help you start cultivating a following.

When a strong and growing Twitter following is coupled with a dynamic content and posting strategy, you’ll be able to turn your audience into more new leads and business.

Hashtags 101: What Are Hashtags & Why Use Them?

What are hashtags?

Hashtags – # (pound sign) – are symbols that, when used on Twitter (and other social media platforms) with keywords following them, can categorize Tweets.  Example: #usinghashtags

Why use hashtags?

When hashtags are used in Tweets, those Tweets can be searched by that hashtag. When people click on that hashtag, they can see all posts marked/associated with that hashtag.

Using Hashtags on Twitter: The Do’s & Don’ts

DO incorporate popular hashtags when appropriate – When hashtags are trending or getting more attention and they apply to your message and/or business, using them can immediately expose you to a huge audience. So be mindful of current events, news and topics, and take advantage of trending hashtags when appropriate and possible.

Example: On Dec. 31st, hashtags like #NewYearsEve #HappyNewYear and #party tend to be popular. For a business that offers party supplies, venues, or party planning services, it makes perfect sense to include one of the previously mentioned popular hashtags in Tweets posted on Dec. 31st.

DO use more specific hashtags (reflective of your niche) – Not every hashtag included in your Tweets has to be popular at the moment in order for it to provide some value. So, consider what your niche is and who your specific target audience is. This can guide more precise selections for hashtags.

Example#Fishing isn’t going to be as dialed in as #FlyFishing when it comes to the niche for a fly fishing supply business.

DO incorporate your location in hashtags – When appropriate, show some local love! With Google now indexing about five times as many Tweets as it did back in January 2015, including a local reference can add some SEO value in terms of local exposure.One trend that’s gaining some traction is to include city hashtags based on airport codes.

Example: Businesses based in St. Louis could throw an #STL into their Tweets every now and again.

DO research hashtags before using them – Phrases and even business names may already be associated with very specific topics or groups of people online.  So, don’t assume that even an innocuous phrase is up for grabs when you are picking hashtags to include in Tweets.

Taking the time to do a little bit of research can save you from potentially huge headaches and blunders later – like seriously offending your audience, losing your following, and possibly even damaging your business’ reputation.

Example: A few years ago, DiGiorno Pizza made the mistake of using the hashtag #WhyIStayed, which is associated with domestic violence survivors and their stories. The blunder generated a lot of negative attention for the company. After deleting the Tweet, the company Tweeted “A million apologies. Did not read what the hashtag was about before posting.” They learned this lesson the hard way – thankfully, you don’t have to.


DO NOT use hashtags just because they’re trending – In other words, don’t try to hijack a conversation with your message if it’s not providing any value or if it’s irrelevant. This is a common mistake businesses make when trying to jump on a trending hashtag that’s remotely, if at all, related to their message or offerings.

The danger here can be that you end up driving away big groups of people who, otherwise, may have been interested in what you have to post. And, once you lose your audience, it can be really challenging to regain their trust and attention.

Example: Same as above. DiGiorno Pizza had actually used the hashtag because it was trending as a result of a high profile NFL player being accused of domestic violence against his wife.

DO NOT overdo it with hashtags – This is another pitfall because it’s usually a turn off to audiences. If your posts come with a barrage of hashtags, it can come across as obnoxious, heavy handed and misguided – and that can cause people to disconnect, stop reading your Tweets and maybe even stop following you.

Example: None needed – we think you get the picture.

DO NOT post anything without rereading it at least once – Just because you think one thing was typed doesn’t necessary mean that is what appears on the page (especially if you work with autocorrect programs). So be sure to reread every hashtag (and post) at least once before publishing (or scheduling it to publish and shelving it). This extra step can help you avoid making embarrassing typos or ambiguous word combinations that could cause real damage.

Example: Sephora made a big mistake back in 2014 when, attempting to promote its Count Down to Beauty Campaign, it used a hashtag for the name, leaving the “o” out of the word “count.” The embarrassing typo stirred up the Twitter community, many who found the Tweet offensive and vulgar.