I recently checked out the Facebook page of a new niche small business. Aside from the content being a little slim, which is understandable because it’s brand new, I noticed that every single post had 15 hashtags. Each post used the same hashtags in the same order. It got me to thinking: Are hashtags still cool? I think they are. But there definitely seems to a good, better and best ways to use hashtags.

Understanding hashtags

Hashtags are the pound symbol — # — that came to be used as a sorting device online in posts and comments. Hashtags were created for Twitter but expanded to Google Plus, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram.

On Twitter, hashtags have become less useful than they were when they were first developed. For instance, “Enjoying this delicious cocktail!” will show up in searches for “cocktail” the same way that “Enjoying this delicious #cocktail!” will.  A hashtag is clickable and can help users sort out other posts with that same hashtag. But it doesn’t affect who sees your tweets or posts. One drawback with using hashtags is that they can seem like a grab for attention. Too commercial, in other words. Even though as a business you are trying to be commercial. The trick is to use them effectively in a way that serves your purpose but does not alienate people. Here are our recommendations for the good, better and best ways to use hashtags.

Good ways to use hashtags

  • Come up with a hashtag you use for your brand. If your juice cart is named “Island Juices” it makes perfect sense that a hashtag you would want to start using would be #islandjuices. First though, check to see if that hashtag is already widely in use by another brand.
  • Come up with 10 hashtags you think best represent your brand. Use them in your posts but not all at once. Three hashtags that are appropriate for the post seems cool. 15 hashtags that cover every single possible angle is overkill. Alternate these hashtags so each post has some coverage but is not too much.
  • Be specific in your hashtags. The more specific it is the more targeted your audience will be. For instance, if you’re crafting natural lotions and skincare products, #skincare will be a more targeted hashtag than #DIY.

Better ways to use hashtags

  • Use your #islandjuices hashtag in contests, such as asking your Facebook or Instagram friends to post photos of themselves with that hashtag so you can find it, and you’ll choose a winner each week to receive a free juice. Contests or promotions like this are an easy and free way to interact with your brand and costs you nothing other than the juice you give away each week. That goodwill, however, is priceless.
  • Keep them short. If you know your salon offers the best prices on manicures in the whole town, don’t choose the “#bestpricesonmanicuresever” hashtag because no one will type that many characters in. Instead, go for something like “#manitoday”.
  • Don’t have more hashtags than words in your post. There is room for using a LOT of hashtags as a joke, once in a while. But in daily practice this is not a good idea. For one reason, you might end up with followers who are spammers, because the overload of hashtags is seen as nothing but marketing promotion and the people who follow you are only interested in being followed back. These aren’t the quality followers you’re looking for.

Best ways to use hashtags

  • Not every post or comments needs a hashtag. If it’s not meant for a wide audience, leave them off.
  • Monitor them and respond. If people are using your hashtag, that’s great! Acknowledge them somehow so they get some kind of feel good reward to keep using it.
  • People search for common brand and product hashtags. When you’re posting your content, think like a customer and think about what they would search for. For example, if you’re a hair salon, post images of your hair cuts (with your customer’s permission) using the already-popular #hairstyles hashtag. If you only use certain styling products, use that brand’s hashtags.

Claiming your business listings on such services as Google Maps means you can manage the information yourself. Once claimed, enhance your presence by updating your business hours and adding photos. You likely already have some automatically created listings. Find these listings and go through the process to “claim” or “verify” that the business is yours. Typically, it is a simple process. You may simply need to request a phone call or receive a postcard in the mail with a code, for instance. Then, take that code and enter it in the website to claim your listing.

Here are the top sites to look at and claim your business listings if necessary.

Google My Business

Google My Business lists your business hours, phone number and directions to your location on Google Search and Maps–these are key to making sure your local business can easily be found.

Facebook For Business

Given how popular Facebook is now, your Facebook Business page is likely going to be the first thing potential customers find when they search for your business. Even if you have a website that you direct your business traffic to (which is what we recommend), your Facebook page is your hub that includes basic information to help people find you.

Yelp For Business

We feel that Yelp has some flaws, particularly in what reviews they choose to weight heavily and what criteria they use when allowing people to post reviews. However, it is a popular and often-used site where a lot of people get their information to help them make decisions about what businesses to support.

Yellow Pages

The iconic print business directory has migrated online.

Yahoo Search

At the bottom of this page is a “Submit Your Site” button that allows you to submit your site directly to the Yahoo Search index.

This page above allows business owners to create a business listing on Yahoo, similar to the one Google allows you to create. While Google is the most-used search engine, Yahoo is no slouch coming in third, so create a listing on this search engine as well.

Bing Places For Business

Claim your business listing on Bing, the second most-used search engine in the world. It is likely already created, and just waiting for you to claim it and edit it.


Manage your listing on Foursquare and attract more customers. Foursquare lets people “check in” on social media platforms such as Facebook.

On each of these listings, strive to ensure that your business information is consistent. Use the same business name, same ZIP code format, same telephone formatting, etc. Keep a document of each listing, if necessary, so you can duplicate it.

Add logos and photos wherever you are permitted to. Add new photos once in a while, perhaps seasonally, to keep things fresh. If you have a brick-and-mortar business, encourage people to use an app such as Foursquare to “check in” and share their location with their friends.

Look for and claim your business listings on all of these sites, because the listings are likely already created automatically from other information that is online. While it is not likely that someone else could claim your business listing and use it as their own, not claiming it leaves you unable to manage the information that is out there and keep it updated.

Whether you’re just getting started with a new business or you have an established business that is underperforming, the following are key 10 online marketing checklist items for optimizing your customer experience. The things in this online marketing checklist aren’t the only things that are important, but addressing these 10 things will give any business a boost.

1. Hire Professional Editors and Designers

Nothing reduces trust and confidence like mistakes and typos on a website, or images and colors that are just not quite right. You’re an expert in your field . . . editors and designers are experts in their field. Just as you completely understand your business, they will deeply understand how to create written and visual content that communicates your message with the utmost credibility. Professional designers and editors are trained to look at each detail and they will pick up on things that you won’t.

2. Integrate Keywords

When you’re writing your product descriptions or service packages, include keywords that people will search for. Search engine optimization starts with page titles and moves down the page to image titles and alternative descriptions. Not sure how to go about this? Let us help.

3. Use Share and Follow Buttons

Add social sharing buttons to your website, blog and email newsletters. Make it easy and instantaneous to share your great content, and people will do it. Add buttons linking to your social profiles that are easily found on all pages of your website, in a global footer, header or sidebar.

4. Keep Your Information Up To Date

Evaluate your About pages for terms such as “we started 5 years ago” when 2 years have gone by since you wrote it. Unless you’re going to remember to update these date-related terms each year, change them to “we started in 2009.”

5. Be Easy to Find

Links to your contact page should be easy to find. If your business relies on phone calls, make your phone number a hyperlink that people can tap and dial. Have you claimed your Local Business page? Your location should appear in Google Maps and other local search options if that is appropriate. Include multiple contact options. Give customers the option of chatting, phone calling, fax, in-person visits or email. The easier it is for people to find you and get in touch, the more likely you are to get the customers you want.

We published a post about what sites to go to online and claim your business listings.

6. Have Multiple Calls to Action

As visitors move through your site, they should encounter enough information along the way to increase the likelihood that they will complete the transaction or take the action you want. Have there be CTA buttons or links at each step so when they’re ready, it’s right in front of them. For instance, if your site visitors must scroll down to see all product categories, have a second “add to cart” button at the bottom of the page.

7. Have An Easy Checkout Process

If your goal is to get as many sales as possible, ensure that your customers have an easy shopping experience. This involves a few things, but key elements are an easy to find cart, clear shipping costs and instructions and clear contact information and return policy. Allow customers to easily add and remove items from their cart, continue shopping from their cart and link back to the product descriptions from their cart.

8. Have a Social Media Presence

Having a “social” company means more than just creating a Facebook page and never using it. Establish and interact with your audience in the platforms you’ve committed to. Give customers a reason to follow you by providing interesting and usable information. Social media channels are not the place to simply push sales.

9. Develop Comprehensive FAQ Pages

Site visitors who navigate to your FAQ page demonstrate a deliberate interest in knowing more about your products and services. Give them detailed information in the form of articles, videos and photos along with the ability to reach you if they want to learn more.

10. Say Thank You

Confirm the purchase or transaction with a confirmation email thanking the customer for their business and providing some basic information. You may wish to offer a newsletter sign-up on this email, or your full contact information or a coupon code for their next purchase. Engage with the customer and welcome them back again.

Pick one of the things in this online marketing checklist and check out how your site handles it. If you can improve it, you’re one step closer to greatness If you’re already doing, good for you!