How to Hashtag like a Pro When You Run a Small Business

Everyone’s on social media. Your mom. Your cousin. Your dentist. And now it’s time to bring your small business onto Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope, Pinterest and Connector. Okay, the last one isn’t real but give it six months. New social media platforms pop up like pimples on a teenager’s face and it can be hard to keep up. For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on the Big Three: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Hashtags are defined as a keyword that is preceded by the pound sign (#) that help raise brand engagement. They allow for people to search for exactly what they want. By using relevant and correct hashtags you can raise your profile and in the process, convert “window shoppers” into customers.

In order to hashtag like a pro and turn those who are just browsing into brand ambassadors for your small business, follow these following five tips:


1. Don’t smash too many words together.

Hashtags are meant to be searchable. If you use hashtags that are a two or more words mashed together, they will not be found. For example, if you run a restaurant in Halifax and are trying to promote a new menu item, this is the wrong way to do that:

Lenny’s Lunch has a new club sandwich made with organic turkey. #lennyslunch #ournewclubisgreat #comeinforabite

Nobody is searching “comeinforabite” or “ournewclubisgreat” because those words when pushed together lose all meaning. The best way to raise awareness for your new sandwich is like this:

Lenny’s Lunch has a new #clubsandwich made with #organic #turkey. Come in for a bite! #halifaxeats

That is the simplest way to get people who are searching for a new place to eat to find Lenny’s Lunch. Additionally, “halifaxeats” is a current hashtag that many businesses in the area use that gives Lenny’s Lunch a location.


2. Don’t jump on trends.

Topics that do not relate to your brand or service are off limits. If you see that Bernie Sanders is trending on Twitter but you run a dry cleaner in Antigonish, you don’t need to use that trend in your social media post. All too often, we see posts that misuse hashtags because they think adding a trending topic will boost their awareness.

This is wrong:

Johnson’s Dry Cleaners is offering 2 for 1 on dress shirts. Bring us your dirty clothes and we’ll clean ‘em up! #laundry #2for1special #feelthebern #antigonish #drycleaner

There’s one hashtag in there that doesn’t work, “feelthebern”, and it ruins the entire post. Without the mention of the trending topic, the post is perfect. People searching for Bernie Sanders on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram are not going to care about Johnson’s Dry Cleaners.


3. Don’t tag other brands, especially your competition.

The only instance in which you should be giving your competition a shoutout is NEVER. Don’t give your competition any publicity. They have their own social media accounts to plug their products. You don’t need to do it for them. If you run a restaurant in Dartmouth and are looking to gain new customers, this is a no-no:

Forget about #dominos and #pizzahut and come try our new #donairpizza

Hashtagging two very large pizza chains in a post about your new menu item does nothing for you but adds to Dominos and Pizza Hut’s searchability. The right way to promote your new menu item is like this:

Looking for something different for #dinner? Try our new #donair #pizza #dartmouth #tasty #scotia


4. Don't cloud your post with hashtags.

Too many cooks spoil the batter. A post with 20 hashtags is going to get lost in the shuffle. Keep your hashtags to a minimum and your message won’t get swallowed up. For instance, this post has too many hashtags:

Alana’s Beauty Salon is offering free facials on Mother’s Day! Come in and get gorgeous! #beauty #salon #facial #mothersday #pretty #nice #gorgeous #special #beautiful #mouth #eyebrows #clearskin #makeup #eyes #nose #spring #summer #bestfaceforward #lovely #mom #mama

Instead, cut those hashtags down to:

Alana’s Beauty Salon in #Lunenburg is offering free facials on Mother’s Day! Come in and get #gorgeous! #freefacials #mothersday #beauty #summer #mom


5. You are not a celebrity; you are a business.

Celebs are given carte blanche to do whatever they want on social media. A certain family made up of people who do something – no really, they do something, we’re just not sure what – are prime examples of this carte blanche. For us plebes, it is important to remember that when we use social media, we are not celebrities; we are a business. We are representing a brand and we cannot throw up whatever hashtags we want.

This is what you shouldn’t do:  

Try our homemade pasta sauce and change your life #areyoureadytoeatpasta #savethewhales #tables #chairs #dinner #yummy #eggs #meatballs #salad #appetizer #maincourse

Even if you run a spaghetti sauce company, you cannot post this. If you are a celebrity you can post a photo of yourself about to indulge in a big bowl of pasta and use all the irrelevant hashtags you want. Why? Because there are no rules for celebrities on social media and even though this post is terrible, it’s allowed.

Unless you are running the social media accounts for somebody famous, stick to these five rules. You will notice a difference in brand engagement and gain new followers and more importantly, new customers.


Article by Elisabeth Galina