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3 Ways to Master the Hashtag #amIdoingthisright?

By Ann Handley

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In an episode of his late-night show last fall, Jimmy Fallon held a Twitter conversation in real life with Justin Timberlake. Littered with spoken hashtags (my favorite: #lololololololololololol), the sketch skewered what happens when companies--and all of us--get a little carried away with tacking these things onto every social media utterance.

But hashtags don't have to be gratuitous and silly. They serve a purpose and can help tell your company's story, share your history and align you with an audience.

In social media, the pound symbol (or hash) turns any word or group of words that directly follows it into a searchable link or keyword on Twitter, Vine, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+ and Pinterest. A hashtag is a handy shortcut--a way for people to find, categorize and rally around topics and conversations. So if you want to chat about the return of 24 to the Fox Network this month, you might search for #24Fox to follow the conversation. You can track and follow trending hashtags on the various platforms themselves or via, which categorizes and gives details for each.

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