Do you ever wish you could re-invent yourself and have a more powerful effect on the world? That is exactly what the Hashtag did in the past decade. This symbol went from the lowly ‘pound sign’ that you would press to complete a message, to the powerful ‘hashtag’ that now organizes social media and can make anything trend within hours.

A hashtag is now included in marketing campaigns for Fortune 500 companies, weddings, birthday parties and the trend of parents using their kids names for a hashtag within Instagram to create a collection of memories. By using the same hashtag repeatedly the different software platforms link all of their posts together. The importance of understanding your market’s trending hashtags can not be understated. To be a contender in your market harnessing the power of the hashtag is a must.

Are you are a person who hasn’t cared about the hashtag but you are on social media? Are wondering why it’s not working so well? Then grab a cup of coffee and keep reading. We are going to jump into a hashtag bootcamp.

1. Where do I use a hashtag?

You will want to use them within your social media post. Twitter and Instagram are the top platforms to use a hashtag. But they can also be used on Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest. I suggest starting with one platform to build your fan base and knowledge.

Twitter is probably the most prominent place because you can interact quickly with people in your industry and you can be on the pulse of the influencers. If you are a non-profit Twitter could be your place to expand your influence. You can search for keywords that are important to your work, see what the conversation is about and toss your opinion in the ring. To be a key player you have to enter the conversational ring.Instagram uses hashtags to categorize posts. Go onto Instagram right now and search #coffeelover, you will see almost 5 million linked posts. Use this to your advantage by creating your own brand hashtag. It could be your organizational name, a phrase unique to you, a product you offer or a commonly used phrase in your industry.

For example if you are hosting a 5K fundraiser in your city a good place to start would be: the name of the run, the city you are in, the phrase 5K, sponsors and who the fundraiser is benefiting. This hashtag foundation is a good place to start. Search the internet about your industries trending hashtags and also use phrases you would use to look your business up.

2. When do I use a hashtag?

Once you have found a few hashtags to use, use them constantly. Put them in your profile and ask other people to use them. When they do, repost it to share the love. You want to create momentum around your hashtags and also create value out of them.

3. What to do next?

Create value by hosting giveaways on your profile and also participate in group giveaways. The most popular giveaway is when you account reaches a specific number of followers. Your organization can give away a free entry or swag. If you have sponsors ask for some items to give out.

4. Invest in your followers:

The highest peak of social media is actually socializing with people. You don’t want to always be selling to people and just posting about yourself. Engage with your followers and other influencers, ask them questions and repost other people’s pictures.

Hashtags are only growing in usefulness so there is no need to ignore them like a passing trend. To sum it all up: Pick a social media platform that makes sense for you, find some useful hashtags, use them over and over, create value for your followers and engage.

If you are new to the social media marketing game it can seem daunting and there is a lot of information out there from simple to complex. But as long as you start somewhere you will start to build some momentum which is better than none. Learn by doing and remember there is no single plan that works for everyone. Become creative and make your own plan.

If you have recently started with social media marketing, what are some tips and tricks you know now that you can share?