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Social Media Basics: Hashtags and How to Use Them

A hashtag is a word or phrase that follows the # sign in a social media post. You might have seen them on Twitter, Instagram or Google+. This summer Facebook got on the bandwagon when it added hashtag support so that they would be clickable and searchable on Facebook like they are on other social networks.

Basically, hashtags look something like this: #insurance #AllianceExpo13

Anyone can add a hashtag to a social media post. Others can click on it or do a search and pull up all the posts that have been labeled with that hashtag.

How to Create a Hashtag

Hashtags are simple, but there are a few rules to keep in mind.

  1. No spaces allowed. You can use a word, abbreviation or a phrase for a hashtag. If you use a phrase, you cannot include spaces. For example, if you put spaces in #Alliance Expo 13, the hashtag is actually just the word Alliance and not the whole phrase.

  2. A hashtag must start with the # symbol. This symbol, which in the U.S. we call a number or pound sign, is called a hash sign in other countries.

  3. Start creating and adding hashtags to your social media posts.

How to Use Hashtags


If you frequently post on certain subjects, adding a subject-related hashtag can make it easy to organize and search for those posts. A common one I see from agents is #insurance. If you post about your community a lot, you could add a hashtag for your town.


When you attend an event, such as the 2013 Alliance Convention & Expo, the organization will often create a hashtag (#AllianceExpo13) for the event so attendees can connect with each other on social media. Plus, people who could not attend the event can do a search for the hashtag and follow the updates.

Online chats

Twitter chats are when people gather on Twitter at a specific time to discuss a certain topic in real time. Hashtags are used so participants can easily follow along and participate, and the discussion doesn’t get lost in the main stream. In addition, hashtags can be used for webinars, like the tag #MastersMktg we use for our monthly marketing webinars, the same way they are used for events.

Social Commentary

When major events occur, we watch them unfold on our TVs from home and can join in a greater online discussion using hashtags. These events can be tragic like the Boston bombing or part of our pop culture like the Oscars or the Super Bowl.


Memes are hashtags that people use to have fun. For a meme like #ReplaceMovieTitlesWithPope, you replace a word in a famous movie title with the word pope. For example, those posts could include Cool Hand Pope, The Pope Identity or Pope Dark Thirty.

Using hashtags can be a great way to join online discussions and connect with new people. How do you like to use hashtags? Leave a comment or tweet me at @lrixford.

About the Author:

Laird Rixford, vice president of product development at Insurance Technologies Corporation (ITC), currently consults agencies nationwide on their online marketing initiatives. Laird and the Insurance Website Builder team have launched more than 2,000 insurance agency websites nationwide. In addition to Insurance Website Builder, Laird has designed the AgencyBuzz drip email marketing and lead management solution exclusively for the insurance industry. To learn more about ITC and its products and services for insurance agents, visit

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