Pound sign no more. Hashtags are simply phrases, without spaces, with a # sign in front of them that can be used to categorize social media posts, promote a campaign, increase your reach, or piggyback on a trending topic. For example, My Marketing Team launched two Extra $40 social media promotions in December for Calvin Klein and Cole Haan by creating custom hashtags for Premier Program practices to post on their own social media channels. At the end of the promotion, we simply searched for #CKExtra40Promotion and #CHExtra40Promotion on different social media channels and voila! The posts with the hashtags were listed in the search results. Sounds easy enough, right? 

If you haven't tried using hashtags yet, now is the time. Here's some simple ways to get started.

#YourPracticeNameHere. Start including your practice name at the end of your social media posts in the form of a hashtag, i.e. #DrEyeOptometry. (Remember, hashtags are 

mainly used on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.) Take it to the next level by creating a catchy phrase to identify your practice instead. Think Nike's "#JustDoIt". Pro tip: capitalize each word to make the hashtag easier to read. 

#TrendingTopics. Gaining new followers on social media can be difficult, but posts with hashtags can help increase your reach. Amplify your visibility online by joining in on popular conversations, or trending topics, such as #OptOutside with a photo of a patient or staff member outside sporting new eyewear. Create your own topics that your followers can adopt as well, such as #SunwearSaturday or #FrameFriday. Pro tip: Consider posting a photo contest and randomly choose a winner who posts a photo along with your hashtag!

#LocalScene. A few years ago, American Express launched #ShopSmall or #SmallBusinessSaturday. These are still hugely popular hashtags that encourage consumers to shop at local businesses, such as an optometry office. Pro tip: Offer a special discount for locals using a hashtag with your city and/or neighborhood. 

#IndustryWords. Add hashtags describing the subject of the photo you're posting, including brand names and product types. Pro tip: Instagram suggests no more than 3-7 hashtags per post, so keep them relevant to the image or article you're posting. 

Questions about using hashtags? Or, does your practice have a hashtag pro tip to share? Email us at mymarketingteam@vspglobal.com.