Hashtags have been around for longer than you'd imagine. The first time that '#' was introduced to the public was in 1988. It was used to categorise metadata tags in Internet Relay Chat so that the users could find channels easier.

However, it wasn't until 2009 that hashtags became a global thing, thanks to Twitter. Since then, social media networks, such as Facebook and Instagram, followed the trend.

Here are five ways that you can effectively use them to enhance your campaign:

1. Improve your reach

If you want to call your campaign a success, it is not only necessary for your posts to reach a great number of people, but they also have to reach the right people too. Fortunately, hashtags can help you achieve just that. They help you fit your content into a category and hit your target audience.

Just like you search for a brand or person online, people also search for hashtags, which are keywords that they are interested in. To reach those people, you need to use hashtags that are both fitted for your campaign, as well as those that people are looking forward to.

Don't overuse hashtags, as your posts will lose relevance and they may even end up not showing up in searches. To boost your chances of reaching the right audience, use hashtags that are specific and that are aimed towards the people you want to attract.

2. Build a community

Remember the '#IceBucketChallenge'? Everybody, from your friends to Patrick Stewart, was doing it. The campaign was used to raise awareness and money for the ALS Association — and it was a raging success.

This is just an example of how hashtags can be used to bring people together and create a movement. If this is one of your campaign's goals, then you need to make sure your hashtag is original and has not been used in a similar campaign before. Make sure you conduct thorough research on all social media platforms before launching the campaign.

Monitor the success of your campaign

If you want to see how effective your campaign was, you can start by monitoring sales. But another way to measure success is by looking at how many people used your hashtag.

This will help you monitor both the overall effect the campaign had, but also provide you with some powerful information about your target audience. You can see which group age was impacted most by the campaign, as well as which regions or social groups are more likely to be associated with your brand.

If you aim to go international, another way to see what areas your brand will have the most success in is to translate hashtags and engage people to use them in their native language.

This is called multilingual marketing. To ensure that the tag has just as much success as it would have in English, you need to make sure it has the same impact. This is where Google Translate can't help you, as the translation may sometimes be a bit off. Instead, use some high-quality translation services, such as The Word Point, to make sure you are sending the right message.

Raise awareness

Hashtags have the power to get people's attention when it comes to things that are not necessarily easy to talk about. If you believe in a cause and want to make people publicly aware that your brand supports that particular cause, then hashtags can help you achieve just that.

One such example is '#NewBlood', a campaign launched by The South African National Blood Service in March 2018. The campaign was launched in the hopes of encouraging people to donate blood.

According to their research, only about 1% of people in South Africa were donating blood. The service aimed to collect 4.500 units of blood and launched the campaign on Human Rights Day — adding '#HumanRightsDay' to their campaign. It was a total success and it helped collect a bit under 5.500 units of blood, which exceeded their target.

Promote contests

Contests and giveaways are your tickets to user engagement, but in order for people to join them, they need to find out about them. This is where hashtags are your best friend. Coming up with an original hashtag for your campaign will make it easier for people to share and promote your contest through user-generated content.

Lay's, for example, wanted to create a new chip flavor, so the brand asked its customers to come up with their own ideas and post them on social media with the hashtag '#DoUsAFlavor'. The campaign sparked a lot of interest and it became an annual contest, with this year's winner taking home no little than a million USD.

Hashtags have helped develop real communities and bring people together, no matter where they came from. If you are looking to boost your marketing campaign and create a strong community within your audience, then hashtags are the way to go. They can help you promote your brand, monitor the success of your new campaign, as well as associate your brand with a cause or belief.