Trials and tribulations are inevitable. And when one fiery, unexpected trial descends, it can be excruciating if we are not somewhat prepared for the onslaught. Having a solid foundation rooted in some sort of stability, whether it be in your personal life or in your business, is key to surviving and overcoming when life throws you curve balls.

When a personal event suddenly turned my life upside down last year, I was grateful to already be involved in a ministry that helps participants work through hurts, habits and hang-ups. After completing a nine-month-long study with 15 other women who met weekly, we celebrated our graduation by sharing our testimonies through cardboard messages set to music before an audience of nearly 200 people.

Not only did I feel compelled to share in front of a live audience, I wanted the world to know about my accomplishments and how others too could find hope in the midst of their own personal struggles. How else to reach beyond the doors of my church than by deciding to post on social media. My choice? Instagram, of course. It’s a great way to connect with your audience, especially when you have all the right ingredients for a fantastic post: an inspirational photo or video, a caption that tells a concise and captivating story and an accompanying hashtag or two, all of which can generate dialog among online users.

Hashtags followed by a word or phrase (#wordorphrase) creates a searchable and clickable link or metadata tag, allowing users to connect with others with similar posts. In addition to Instagram, you’ll find hashtags on Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter and even Facebook.

The connecting power of hashtags can be a rather effective and powerful tool that either motivates your audience to click deeper or it can be downright obnoxious, turning off your captive audience, especially when they are overused. The trick is striking the right balance with all the elements of the post working harmoniously.

Keep It Simple

Don’t overdo it with hashtags. A few general hashtags at the end or peppered throughout if relevant to your product or service is a workable and effective method.

Plan Ahead

When attaching hashtags to a photo, do some research beforehand to ensure you’re using relevant phrases that when clicked don’t drop a user in an unsavory environment. And be sure your hashtags align with your target audience.

Consider the Complete Package

The recipe for a successful social media post, particularly on Instagram, includes a well-crafted caption that is neither too short nor too long; an inspirational, quality photo or collage; and a few thoughtful hashtags.

When I generated my post on Instagram, I shared briefly my story and my success, and I incorporated only a single hashtag: the name of the ministry that was vital to my recovery. That single phrase was the catalyst that connected others to share their own stories of hope and healing. And to me, that proves the connecting power of hashtags and why you should be incorporating them into your content marketing strategies.

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Elaine VeltriEditor/Writer

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