ImageWhen a new company or person starts a Twitter, Instagram, or Google + account, many are confused about the use and meaning of the "hashtags." One of the most frequently asked questions I get when I work with companies with no social media background is about hash-tags.

Do they serve a purpose? Is it mandatory to "hashtag" every word? Is it professional?  What keywords do I hash-tag?   

A lot of my social media skills over the past six years have come through trial and error. One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first created a Twitter account was not using hashtags. If you scroll through your Twitter list, look at Instagram pictures or certain articles on Google +, you see that some words are being hashed. The reason behind this is simple, yet complex.

Once you hashtag a word with Twitter, Instagram and Google +, all account users can see it. It goes into the world of hashtags. This allows users who are not following you to see your tweets and content that you put out on various social media sites. So to keep it simple, people are only one hashtagged word away from possibly being seen by thousands, if not millions of people through social media.

Now with this being said, it is recommended that you only use hashtags for 1-3 words per tweet. I suggest only using it for 1-2 words, if at all possible. You don't want to flood your tweets with hashed words that make your brand or company look like spam. You want your tweets to be simple and filled with content to direct the user back to your website or link that you are promoting.

This would be a good use of hashtags if you were tweeting about sports. For instance, I was tweeting on National Signing day about one of the most highly sought out basketball players not committing to Michigan State. 

The tweet is simple and to the point. And, at that moment in time, the sports nation was tweeting about Jabari Parker and him committing to Duke opposed to Michigan State. So thousands had the potential to see my tweet when I hashtagged #MichiganState and #Jabari.   

Here would be an example of an over hashed, in my opinion, flooded bad tweet: "So #excited to go to #Paris for #winetasting and #food. So #lux!"

With this tweet and use of hash-tags you see that almost every other word is hashed. It makes the tweet flooded with hashtags as opposed to getting your content across. It has a hard time getting the point across due to the reader focusing on the hashtags. 

Some people use hash-tags for fun. Others use it to help brand their companies and to keep track of their brand through social media. And some businesses go viral off of hashtags and get nation-wide attention through a hashtag. Look for what’s trending and get involved with the conversation through a hashtag. I learn a lot when I search Twitter for a hashtag such as #socialmedia. 

Find the key words in your tweets that have potential to go viral and to help you brand and hashtag away. 

image: hashtags/shutterstock