There’s no getting around it: We live in the age of the internet. And whether you like it or not, we’re all spending more and more time on our smartphones. They’re the portal to some people’s entire lives. These mysterious objects that used to hang on the wall in your kitchen are now in the pockets of millions upon millions of people and open so many different opportunities, it’s hard to keep track of them all.

For anyone with a business, one of the most important of these opportunities is marketing. Considering that so many people have smartphones, getting your message on their screens can make a serious impact. An effective way to go about this is via social media, where hundreds of millions of people spend their time. Of course, most of the time, unless the end user is specifically looking for someone with your services, you may not get the results you desire without paying the platform to promote a picture or video you publish.

But what if I were to tell you there’s an easier way to go about this? What if I told you there’s a way to get your message on the screens of millions of devices a day for not a dime over $0.00?

The best part? It’s extremely easy.

It’s simply using hashtags. You’ve probably heard all the hipsters talking about those magical tools in the past decade, and while they are fun to use for those who just like tweeting and taking pictures, they can also act as a serious tool for promoting your business and brand. There are a few tricks to using them, but we’ll get to that later. Let me introduce you to the concept.

What Are Hashtags?

Image via Flickr by mikecogh

Hashtags, in their purest form, are categories. When you include a hashtag in a photo, video, or text post on social media, that post gets categorized in whatever topic your hashtag mentions, such as sunsets, puppies, politics, et cetera. That way, anyone looking for more posts on that topic can search sites like Instagram and Facebook and find your post.

Who Uses Hashtags?

Admittedly, hashtag use has diminished among average Joes and Janes, but it still remains a very useful way for brands to spark conversations with potential customers and clients. In fact, we may even see hashtag usage grow larger very soon. Instagram recently updated its mobile apps so you can follow hashtags and see all the pictures and videos that get posted within them, so we may be on the brink of yet another surge in hashtag interaction.

How to Use Hashtags Effectively

The best way I can describe using hashtags effectively to promote your business and brand is by comparing them to paid ad placement. If you spend, say, $100 on Google AdWords or Facebook’s advertising platform, you’ll reach around 200 to 300 new people. That’s a great start and should generate a larger following for your business. But if you really want results, you have to spend more cash. For instance, spending $500 on those platforms could get you 1,000+ new follows and potential customers, which would really increase your business’s exposure.

The same thing applies to hashtags. The principle is simple: the more you spend, the more attention you’ll gain.

You may have seen this method in practice before on platforms like Instagram. When someone posts a photo of a sunset, they may say how beautiful and how colorful it is in the caption. But when you scroll further down, you may notice there are around 30 different hashtags in use, ranging from subjects like “#sky” to “#MotherNature.” This is to get the post in more places on the platform and on the screens of not just thousands, but millions of people around the world.

Think of hashtags as a currency: If you spend more, you get more in return. The more hashtags you include in your posts on both Instagram and Facebook, the larger the audience that sees what you put up.

What Benefits Do Hashtags Have?

Exposure usually means nothing unless you see results, and fortunately, hashtags serve as a tool that gets you both. Not only will more users see your pictures and videos, but you’ll almost certainly notice more engagement on your posts. For instance, including anywhere between 20 and 30 hashtags in your post can generate more likes and even spark a conversation in your post’s comment section.

This is all great for a brand, but it may not seem immediately obvious that it can also help those who need to generate sales. After all, at least on Instagram, you can’t include a link in the caption. Luckily, as long as you post high-quality content and feature your website link in your social media profile’s bio, you’ll start seeing a spike in your site stats as more potential customers learn more about what your company offers.

What Kind of Hashtags Should You Use?

Much like promoting your brand and business on advertising platforms, you’ll want to include hashtags that are topical and relate to the great content you’re pushing out. If you record a 60-second video on how to knit a sweater, you don’t want to include hashtags based on funny cat pictures. Rather, you’ll want to include ones that pertain to arts and crafts, those who are into knitting, and those who may be looking to make clothing. In other words, don’t include hashtags just for the heck of it. Make them relevant to your content.

For anyone who’s been looking to grow a larger presence across social media, hashtags are the way to go. They’re easy to come up with, there are already a lot out there to use, and hundreds of millions of people search for them every day on the internet. It’s kind of the worst-kept secret in marketing on how to grow your business and brand on the web. If you implement everything mentioned in this article, you can expect further engagement with your content, higher sales, and a bigger and better overall reputation in our connected world.