Social media marketing is far from an exact science.

A brand can spend untold amounts of money, time and energy on a creative social media strategy and never go as “viral” as a video of a cat dressed like a shark, riding on a Roomba. Going viral happens largely by accident, but there are some ways you gain more exposure through social media — and one of them is the use of #hashtags.

If you’re not an avid Twitter user, hashtags might not make a lot of sense. To put it simply, a hashtag allows you to categorize status updates based on their specific subjects. When ProPRcopy posts on Twitter, for example, we often use the hashtags #copywriting, #marketing and #blogging — because we do a lot of that stuff.

You can also designate a hashtag for a specific social media campaign. When done right, hashtags can draw attention to your posts and encourage people to interact with you, particularly on Twitter and Facebook.

What constitutes “sharable” keywords?

Nowadays, hashtags are everywhere, including on TV commercials, billboards and other forms of more traditional advertising. During last year’s Super Bowl, for example, the Wonderful Pistachios brand featured international recording star Psy, along with the hashtag #crackinstyle. This allowed the brand to make the most of the huge investment of running an ad during the most televised event of the year.

While you might not have the resources to launch your social media campaign with a TV ad that reaches hundreds of millions of people at once, you can use hashtags to your advantage on social media. The following are some quick tips:

  • Avoid ‘the’ — Hashtags are meant to be a succinct representation of what you’re feeling or thinking. It’s rarely necessary to include “the” because it’s already implied.
  • Don’t ask questions — Twitter hashtags do not recognize punctuation, so question marks are pointless.
  • Hashtags are not taglines — In most cases, your brand’s usual tagline won’t work well as a hashtag. Most slogans are too long to be used for this purpose, and unless it’s particularly compelling, social media users are not likely see it as something worth their attention.

When planning your brand’s social media strategy, consider how you can leverage hashtags for greater levels of engagement across multiple channels.

Allison Lewis is an associate editor with ProPRcopy, a company that provides copywriting services for social media, blog content, articles and more.