As hashtags have become a staple of successful athletic events, it’s no longer enough to simply create hashtags—you also need to measure them. Early on, hashtags were a cool way for competitors to index their thoughts and takeaways in real time on Twitter. Now, hashtags are used on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Vine, Google+, Tumblr and many more social media sites. With the wide integration of this feature, you now have an opportunity to track participant feedback and thoughts as they happen. Hashtags not only increase event engagement, but they can also help you increase ROI. For example, they can enable you to make immediate on-site tweaks, like adjusting traffic flow or solving Wi-Fi problems, and discover which elements resonate the most with athletes and families to help make future site selections leveraging that feedback. Another perk is gaining additional exposure for sponsors and attracting future competitors by interacting with social media accounts they mention with the event hashtag and also networking with accounts that retweet/share/repost about the event. Getting started measuring hashtags is easy and doesn’t have to be cost-prohibitive. Take a look: Free Hashtag Tracking > Storify Track hashtags across various platforms and view results in chronological order in one place. This is one of the simplest tools but does not contain analytics features. > HashAtIt.com This site markets itself as the social media search engine for hashtags. Use the simple search feature to view hashtag results from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest in one interface. Premium Hashtag Tracking and Analytics > Tagboard Locate social media posts across platforms in the form of text, images and video to track the overall conversation around a hashtag. With a client list of big names like Social Media Week and the Radio Disney Music Awards, Tagboard Live is a smart way to manage prolific content in an easy-to-use interface. > Talkwalker Calling itself a social data intelligence brand, Talkwalker tracks hashtags and also collects information on gender dissemination, geographic location and sentiment breakdown in 25 different languages. Data can be filtered, arranged and plotted within the site, and results can be exported to Microsoft Office programs. There are many hashtag-tracking options, ranging from basic to robust. The primary price differentiator is the ability to analyze, not just observe and track, conversations across platforms. Beginners should start with one of the free options. For organizations ready to leverage hashtag data in event decision-making, consider investing in an enterprise service. Crystal Washington works with organizations using technology to increase profits and productivity. She delivers keynotes around the world and is the author of “The Social Media Why: A Busy Professional’s Practical Guide to Using Social Media Including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter , YouTube, Pinterest, Google+ and Blogs for Business.” Find her on Twitter, @cryswashington.