Whether you are on Twitter, Facebook, Insta-gram, Pinterest, Google+, or YouTube, you cannot escape the all-encompassing presence of hashtags. To the social media novice, hashtags might seem confusing, annoying, and pointless at first glance. However, if you understand their purpose, hashtags can be a powerful tool to help you engage your target audience and increase your brand awareness.

A hashtag is a keyword or phrase preceded by the hash symbol (#) that people include in their social media posts. Hashtags appear as clickable links on posts, and a mouseclick will display a real-time, live feed of every other post tagged with the same hashtag. Essentially, it makes the content or your post accessible to those with similar interests, even if they are not your followers or friends. For example, if you attended Vision Expo East and want to see what you missed, a simple #VisionExpo search on any social network will open a dedicated news feed and the aggregated posts of anyone who used “#VisionExpo” in their posts.

Here are some suggestions on how to use hashtags to promote your business. First, make sure your business’s social media profile is public. Then all you need to do is include a # and a relevant keyword or phrase. Your content is now accessible to all other users interested in similar topics. Choosing the right hashtag can greatly broaden the reach of your social media posts to thousands of potential followers, fans, or patients. Some people like to weave their hashtags into the middle of posts while others prefer inserting them at the end. It really doesn’t matter, as long as your hashtags remain relevant. However, nothing turns people off more than a post cluttered with excessive hashtags, or overly lengthy hashtags, i.e., #ThisLongHashtagIsSoPointless.

Great hashtags for an optical business may include: #YourCityName, #NameOfYourPractice, #Eyecare, #Optical, #Nike (or another brand name you carry). As a general rule, keep your hashtags to a maximum of two or three on Twitter and Facebook. For Instagram, the ideal number is five. If your hashtag includes multiple words, capitalize the first letter of each word to make it easier to read. Finally, always remember to use clear, unique, and relevant hashtags. Now, get out there and #GrowYourBusiness.

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