Hashtags, hashtags, everywhere. On Twitter, on Instagram, on LinkedIn, on Facebook. But what’s a good way to use them that doesn’t leave you looking like a total noob and some kind of makeup tutorial influencer?

When used for a reason, hashtags are a powerful ally in your marketing arsenal, but when they’re sprayed on thick like surface spray on a huntsman spider as you’re screaming for your wife to call triple zero because you’re about to burn the whole house down, then you’re not helping yourself, or others, to get anything of value from what you’re posting online.

Using hashtags on Twitter

Hashtags became really popular when they hit Twitter. And while they’re utterly unnecessary now on Twitter, they were pretty popular as a way to attract people to your content, who would search for those hashtags to follow particular news, trends or topics. Hashtags became something a little more than that on Twitter though. They became a method of self-expression. A way to add humour, defuse a serious story or even as a substitute for an emoji. #toolongdidntread

So should you still use hahtags on Twitter. Absolutely yes! When there’s an election or a political story running hot, the hashtag #auspol runs up post after post. TV shows like “Q and A” will use the #qanda tag to display feedback and questions from the audience. But adding a swathe of hashtags for the sake of it is only using up your character count for no good reason other than to attract search queries that can come just from having the word in your post. So while technically you don’t need hashtags on Twitter, they make sense when you want to associate your quote with a popular movement, TV show or topic.

Using hashtags on Instagram

Instagram is probably the place where hashtags are used now more than anywhere else. And as a platform over-run by influencers and marketers, it’s unsurprisingly turned the humble hashtag in to a marketing tool that is used, and abused prolifically. While a simply image of a caffe latte can seem to have 30 hashtags alongside it that are all a theme on the word “coffee” you can be left wondering if it was necessary to use all those hashtags for a simple image of a cup of coffee. And in the world of “spray and pray” marketing, like what is so common on Instagram where amateur marketers portray themselves as highly successful business owners, you get a lot of really bad advice. While you can use up to 30 hashtags on a post on Instagram, you don’t have to use them all. In fact, a photo of coffee accompanied by a hashtag that isn’t really relevant to what is in the photo, such as #beautifulday can be counterproductive. If you’re showing up in searches for that hashtag on Instagram, you are part of the problem with search on Instagram. Just try searching for the hashtag of your town’s name now and see how much irrelevant rubbish comes up from marketers using cheap Canva graphics to sell nutritional supplements, and pouting princesses and flexing bros who are standing in a gym with a hashtag of your town. If you were after photos of your town, and all you’re getting are photos of that, then your experience of Instagram is going to be really bad.

Try this little formula… limit yourself to just four hashtags. Make two of them relevant to you locally. For example, if you’re a café in Geelong, make your hashtags #geelongcoffee #geelongcafe. Then make the next two, about what is actually in the photo, such as #coffee and #latte. Then one hashtag that is about your brand or business name, such as #fuelcoffeegeelong.

The thought process here is that while you attract less likes and views from people in Serbia who will never visit your café and never drink your coffee, you are attracting very specific people who are looking for photos of coffees, latte, coffee in Geelong and cafes in Geelong… and of course those who are actually looking for you, specifically.

That method is not on you’ll hear from a lot of influencers though, as their aim isn’t usually to attract relevant followers and likes, it’s to attract anyone, whether real or not, to bolster their numbers, and either boost their ego or attract more sponsors who want to pay them to feature product. Which is not a bad thing; it’s just not that useful for a local business in regional Australia who isn’t selling something to people in Sioux Falls, Idaho.

Hashtags on LinkedIn

Facebook isn’t a platform for hashtags, even though they are available on it. I’ll leave that there. However, LinkedIn is. Surprisingly. The professional’s social network lets you add up to 10 hashtags to a post. And my approach to this, is much the same as Instagram. Even though you CAN add up to 10 hashtags doesn’t mean you SHOULD add that many. It’s a limit, not an instruction. Similarly, keeping your hashtags relevant to a few objectives will help you use hashtags to the best of their capability. I also like to stick to around 5 here. One or two hashtags that describe what you do, such as #trainer #training Then a couple that are location based such as, #wollongong or #wollongongtrainer. Finally, throw in a branded hashtag, such as #kpitraining, if that’s what your business is called.

Whilst it’s tempting to max out your hashtags everywhere you can, and there is no real penalty for doing it, there’s also very few cases for real small businesses, where there is any benefit to the bottom line of that business to add a gazillion hashtags to their posts on any social network. So hashtag away… but be sensible.