For those of you knowing that you should have jumped on the social media bandwagon long ago, but felt too intimidated to do so,  I suspect one of the main reasons for your trepidation was that strangely ubiquitous symbol “#”. What’s it for, anyway? Why use it at all? To a novice, the symbol may seem unnecessary.

In social media circles, the hashtag, or “#” symbol first appeared in Twitter as a way for people to categorize the kind of content they were contributing. Typically you would tweet your thought/comment/status, and attach hashtags at the end that would be related to your topic. Over time, with enough hashtags present, it became a simple way for someone to find all tweets related to a location, theme, or event. With its utility proven on the Twitter, other social media platforms quickly adopted the same convention.

From a business perspective, hashtags have several uses. A significant one would be if you were at a industry event that publicized a hashtag associated with that event.  In realtime, while you are in attendance, you can quickly see what others are experiencing/commenting on at the same event. It’s a great way to meet new people, as their tweets can be a great conversation starter.

If you are considering running a contest as a way to increase your social media follower base, you will want to create a hashtag associated with the contest as an easy way to both track who is participating and for other people to quickly find the contest and participate, thereby learning about your business along the way.

Locally, we have some great hashtags that are worth exploring, both to learn more about our community and the great things that are happening here, and as tools you can use to increase your business’ presence on social media. Some examples are:

#stthomasproud #stthomasontario #elgincounty #explorerailwaycity #ontsouthwest #shop519 #aylmerontario #portstanley

Keep in mind hashtags are somewhat fluid; you need to continue to use social media on a regular basis to stay aware of which hashtags are waning in popularity and which new ones are on the horizon. You can’t really go wrong when using them (so long as you are not exploiting them), so have fun experimenting and exploring new content.

Happy Hashtagging!