#What is the deal with hashtags?

The hashtag must be the most commonly used and the most common incorrectly used symbol in social media marketing. This symbol has been around for a long time, a largely useless button on the phone's dial pad, but over the past 5 years it has gained an entirely new level of fame.

Surely you have noticed your friends on Facebook using them as a way to add a short, witty phrase to their posts. #herearesomeexamples #myjobiscrazy #firstworldproblems #needavacation #blogsrock

As fun as these punctuation-free add-ons may be, #s actually serve a very important job in the world of social media marketing. 

#whyusehashtags

Hashtags are a way to categorize user posts by topic on select social media sites; the # symbol essentially turns any combination of letters, words or groups of words (with no spaces or punctuation) into searchable terms. On Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram and Pinterest, users can use the search bar to find articles, photos, videos and comments about topics that interest them.

Used correctly, hashtags can boost engagement for social media marketing within the yacht industry. Artwork by Regia Marinho.

Used correctly, hashtags can boost engagement for social media marketing within the yacht industry. Artwork by Regia Marinho.

By indexing posts with a hashtag and the topic (i.e. #yachtdesign, #charterlife, etc.), it makes it easier to find and share related information between social media users and enables the formation of communities of people interested in that topic. This is can help extend your social media content beyond your own audience; "this is the only way to do so without using paid media," says Peg Fitzpatrick Canva. 

Hashtags are particularly handy in order to gain feedback and see what participants really enjoyed about the event, for example #miamiboatshow2017, #perinicup or #londononwater. It can also be used to connect the information you're posting to a location, special event or cause, for example tagging #Valencia in your post about last week's regatta or #Monacoyachtshow when inviting followers to visit your stand. 

#howtousehashtags #effectively

Hashtags are a way boost the reach of articles, images or videos posted to social media. Posts with hashtags can gain up to twice the amount of engagement as those without.

But don't overdo it. They should be specific and used sparingly, however; the general rule is 3 or less. There should never be more hashtags than actual words in the post and don't feel the need to use them in every post. Also, try to avoid hashtags that are excessively long or difficult to understand due to the lack of spaces or punctuation.

Users tend to use and search for hashtags less frequently on Facebook and some studies have shown them to have little impact in terms of marketing goals. That said, your company still might find them helpful for following users' discussions about your brand, product or event or for special promotional activities aimed at driving engagement, such as a photo contest. Used in this way, they allow marketing managers to unify posts, promote across multiple platforms and encourage followers to share their own posts using a unique tag.

Hootsuite recommends using specific hashtags for each social media network by researching what the most popular and relevant tags are on that channel. Utilize websites like hashtags.org to find out the popularity and ranking of a hashtagged topic. Sites, such as hashtagify.me, can help you find the most popular hashtags related to a topic; for example, #yacht is followed by more people than #superyacht, #yachting or #vacature. To track mentions of a particular topic in real time, there are web services like Keyhole and Brand24. Plus, integrated tools on social media pages, like Facebook's EdgeRank can assist you in identifying your target audience. 

#yachtindustryhashtags

Ready to get started? In addition to event tags and your specific brand tags, here are some examples of popular ones for the luxury yacht industry: 

Among the top 100 hashtags on Instagram are #summer #amazing #sun and #design.

Popular tags on Twitter include #yacht #superyacht #sailing #Boat #luxlife and #yachtlife.

On Facebook, use unique tags when your company is interested in tracking user activity in relation to your products and brand, such as #my[brand name]yacht or #classicyachtchallenge, or in relation to a particular campaign or contest. 

#whileweareonthetopic @whatsthisabout ?

Similarly, the combination of the @ sign and letters, words or groups of words is called a handle. On Twitter, the @ symbol followed by a Twitter name can be used to tweet directly to another user, for example @john_waters or @sailingmagazine. On Facebook, using the @ symbol followed by a user name - for either an individual or company - ensures that that FB user will be tagged in the post. This could be helpful for including key partners in your social media activity, for example:

Thanks to @BoatInt and @Slam for helping make this year's regatta a great success! #2017yachtchallenge 

Read more about the proper etiquette for using hashtags and handles in this article by Kathleen Glass. 

Bottom Line

Embrace these tools for effective social media marketing, but don't go overboard. Pun intended.

And HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my biggest fan, my DAD. 

#tidesntrends