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For most local business owners, the term hashtag isn't new to them by any means; yet if you asked many local business owners, they might not be able to tell you exactly what a hashtag is or how to use them. But the truth of the matter is they can really help boost your business in a variety of ways.

Per Twitters help page, a hashtag is defined as:

The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.

In a nutshell, hashtags can be used by small businesses to promote, get found, spread messages, research the competition, and more to boost their local business, research and educate themselves about current industry trends, and generate buzz to build brand identity and expert status throughout the Internet.

How can you maximize the use of hashtags?

  1. Read up on how to use hashtags on Twitter. Twitter has some great information about how to use hashtags in their online help center. There's also some great info about hashtags and best practices on the Twitter Fan Wiki page.
  2. Use relevant keywords and find out what hashtags are being searched on so you can use them for your local business. Hashtag.org is a great resource to find out what some of the current trends are and to identify if your hashtag is currently being searched on. Use keywords that are relevant for your local business in hashtags for an added boost in findability for your business.
  3. Use hashtags for promotions and customer engagement. There are some great success stories for businesses around the use of hashtags in an article on a Fox Business News website. For example, a non-profit farmer group, the Vineyard Team, uses Twitter with great success to spread the word about events for their SIP the Good Life division, a division created to spread the word about their sustainable programs beyond farmers.
  4. Make sure you have a public account. When you have a public account, if you Tweet using a hashtag, then anyone who does a search for that hashtag could find your tweet. With a private account, only your followers can find you.

What should you avoid when using hashtags?

  1. Don't try to spam with hashtags or work the system. You don't want to distract readers from overdoing it with hashtags, nor do you want to turn them away by spamming. Its recommended to use no more than 3 hashtags per Tweet.
  2. Don't use irrelevant hashtags. Again, stick to relevant hashtags for your business. You don't want to mislead your readers or confuse them with irrelevant hashtags.

Using hashtags can help you promote your business and get found online, which means increased leads and sales for your local business. Do your own research and create a game plan to optimize hashtags and Twitter for your small business today.

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