The dos and don’ts of hashtags for e-commerce marketing

Desiree Martinez

October 1, 2013

Hashtags have been getting a lot of attention these days in the land of social media and ecommerce marketing. You might have even seen the recent sketch with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake which makes light of the overuse and often misuse of hashtags. #omghilarious

If you’re new to social media, you might be asking, what in the world is a hashtag?

What is a hashtag?

In a nutshell, a hashtag is a filter in the form of a word or phrase (no spaces!) preceded by a # sign. (example: #cupcake or #HomemadeCupcakes). Adding a hashtag makes it easier to search for a particular topic by tying together related conversations and posts. Once you click on a hashtag, you’ll see a feed or display of other posts that have also used that hashtag. You may use hashtags to connect to an event, brand, TV show, sporting event or anything else of interest. It’s a great way to gain exposure for your business by tying your store or your products to something relevant that’s currently popular online.

Who’s using hashtags?

Twitter may have started it all, but hashtags have expanded into other territories like Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Vine, Google+, Facebook and most recently Google search. Yep, that’s right! You can now do a Google search for #CupcakeRecipe. No need to worry about privacy, as all of the information displayed is public or already shared with you if you’re a Google+ user. While Google is still working out the kinks, it’s already proved helpful in that you can now quickly search a topic throughout all social media platforms that use the hashtag feature. They may be a little late to the game, but they’re going full speed ahead and are using this as an opportunity to promote Google Shopping and Google+, both of which can be seen highlighted on the right-hand side.

Do’s and don’ts

As an e-commerce business owner, it’s important to understand how hashtags can help or even hinder your marketing efforts. When posting, try to keep these simple tips in mind to make sure you’re getting the best mileage out of your campaign.


Don’t spam. When it comes to hashtags, less is more. Get straight to the point and use this as an opportunity to summarize and build your brand. Keep your hashtags to no more than 2-3 per post.

Don’t stick in hashtags at the end of your post. This one is especially important for Twitter, where a character limit is enforced. If your tweet is retweeted, it runs the risk of falling out of the 140 character limit. Bonus points if you can tie your #hashtag into the content itself.

Don’t use excessively long hashtags. You want to get your point across quickly in a little nugget of information. You run the risk of having people skim over your post if you decide to use lengthy hashtags such as #omgtheworldsyummiestcupcakerecipeever as opposed to simply #cupcakerecipe. As the wise Sweet Brown once said, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

Don’t be trendy for trendy’s sake. As tempting as it is to want to include a hot topic hashtag into your post, please do a little research first! You want to make sure that you aren’t jumping into a topic that might be bad for your company or brand if the hashtag is anything but appropriate.

Don’t forget to promote. Once you find a great hashtag that you want to associate your brand with, shout it from the rooftop! Include it in your posts, blog, emails and all promotional material. This serves as a friendly reminder on how to reference your business to others when posting about your products. (example: I’m in heaven! #JennysCupcakes are the best!)


Do try and engage your viewers. Start a conversation, ask questions, surprise people with cool facts/tips relevant to your product. Readers love to come across something that is informative, usable, or shareable. Instead of focusing solely on your product, mix up your posts and watch viewer interaction go up! Don’t be afraid to be informal — humor (in good taste) goes a long way in helping your followers relate to you.

Do check out the competition. Pay attention to what people are saying about your competitors. This may help shed some light on what they are doing greatly and where you might want to spend some extra time improving.

Do check out news/industry topics. Look for hashtags that might be relevant to your business/field. Are you seeing questions being asked that might give you an opportunity to contribute? Giving friendly advice is a way to get your name out there without coming across as spammy and instead looking more like an authority in your field.

Do ask for feedback. Is there a way to improve on your product or how you’re doing business? Who’s better equipped to supply that information than your customers themselves? Not only is it possible to get some great tips out of it, you may also notice some clever and unique ways to market your products in the future.

Do give the VIP treatment. People love feeling special! As a business owner, you want to show your customers how much you appreciate their business. A great way to do this is by rewarding those who are loyal to you. Give your followers the first peek at upcoming discounts or coupon codes to help keep them interested and more likely to spread the word.