A woman holds a travel coffee mug while she checks her phone on a city sidewalk.
From creating challenges to targeting local and community trends, there are several different ways to use hashtags when promoting your business on social media. — Getty Images/RgStudio

Nearly every social media platform supports hashtags, and there's a good chance you already use them for your Instagram and TikTok posts. But not all hashtags are created equal. Some target local customers, while others leverage trending topics to reach a broader market. When used correctly, most hashtags can be used to promote your small business on Instagram and TikTok.

Social media users search by hashtag to find interesting content related to their hobbies, personal or professional lives, and even the latest trends. You can make the most out of every word by adding hashtags to your posts strategically. Here are four ways to use hashtags to market your business.

Start a branded hashtag challenge on TikTok

A hashtag challenge is when a TikTok creator makes a video and asks their audience to put their own spin on it. These run the gamut from dance moves to recreating childhood photos. Your brand can — and should — get involved in trending challenges, but you can also create your own.

Use these tips for creating successful branded hashtag challenges on TikTok:

  • Align the theme with your brand. Choose a challenge that fits your business. For instance, if you have a coffee shop, record a TikTok showing your reaction when your cup is empty.
  • Add sound or a visual effect. What sound effect mirrors your reaction when you take that first sip of coffee? The Angel Choir by Motion Array comes to mind. Or add the Expressify filter to magnify your eyebrows, mouth, or eyes.
  • Keep it simple. Your TikTok hashtag challenge should be relatively easy to copy and accessible to everyone.
  • Make it open-ended. The idea is to inspire others and encourage them to interpret your TikTok challenge in their own way. Give your branded hashtag challenge a general title and let your audience do their thing.
  • Add a call to action (CTA). Make sure your audience knows what to do next. Here's a coffee shop example: Need your java, but your cup is empty? What's your first reaction? #RefillPlease.

[Read more: 5 Tips For a Killer Small Business TikTok Strategy]

According to TikTok, 67% of users said that "TikTok inspired them to shop even when they weren't looking to do so." There's even a hashtag for it: #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt.

Embrace local and community hashtags

People head to social channels to do more than interact with friends. They also want shopping inspiration. According to TikTok, 67% of users said that "TikTok inspired them to shop even when they weren't looking to do so." There's even a hashtag for it: #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt.

The same goes for Instagram. Facebook found that "54% of people surveyed say they made a purchase either in the moment or after seeing a product or service on Instagram." Your can target customers in a certain area with local and community hashtags. Doing so can drive foot traffic to your business and encourage a sense of togetherness.

Max out Instagram's hashtag limit

Promote your business by adding hashtags to your Instagram Stories, Reels, and posts. Unlike TikTok, which limits your captions and the included hashtags to 300 characters, Instagram allows 30 hashtags. Later is a social media scheduling platform that said, "using 30 Instagram hashtags per feed post results in the most likes and comments."

Optimize your small business Instagram strategy by using a mix of hashtags, including:

  • Branded hashtags.
  • Local and community hashtags.
  • Industry-specific hashtags.
  • Trending or seasonal hashtags.
  • Niche hashtags.

[Read more: How to Hashtag on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter]

Make your brand memorable with hashtags

Brand hashtags are unique terms or phrases that symbolize your brand. They become part of your brand identity and help increase awareness across the web. You can use custom hashtags to track social media contest entries and encourage customers to share user-generated content.

The easiest place to start is using your business name as your custom hashtag. Alternatively, you can use a super short brand tagline. Consider adding a word before or after your company name to personalize it. For instance, in the following examples, replace the word "brand" with your company name: #MyBrand, #BrandLove, #BrandFans, #BrandCommunity, or #BrandVIP.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published May 10, 2022