Hashtags are one of those funny social media features that can be difficult to understand and use. But, once you get the hang of them, the results come pouring in.
Using hashtags is essentially a way to group together conversations or content around a certain topic, making it easy for people to find content that interests them.
Hashtags can be used on just about any social media platform, but they’re most popular on Twitter and Instagram.
If you are using social media to market your brand, then you should use hashtags. Hashtags can help boost your brand’s social media reach and engagement.
But using hashtags effectively is more than just making #ThrowbackThursday posts on Instagram.
A good social media strategy should include a mix of popular, relevant, and branded hashtags.
This post breaks down the basics of effectively using hashtags on social media and why you should use them.
You’ll also learn:
Let’s get started.
The pound symbol on your keyboard — also called an octothorpe — was initially used to mark numbers.
It was first used for hashtags in the summer of 2007 by Chris Messina. That’s when the web marketing specialist walked into Twitter’s offices with an idea. Because of the platform’s brevity, he suggested the company start using the pound symbol to group related Tweets together.
This was the first-ever use of the hashtag:
Since then, the use of hashtags, their reach, and their effectiveness has only grown.
Hashtags are a way to connect social media content to a specific topic, event, theme, or conversation.
They’re not just for Twitter anymore, either. Hashtags are effective on other social media platforms too. (Find more details on how to use hashtags for each platform below.)
Hashtags are a great way to connect with like-minded people, and they can be used for just about anything.
For example, if you’re a small business owner, you could use hashtags to promote your products or services.
You could also use hashtags to raise awareness for a cause or to start a conversation.
Hashtags are also a great way to keep up with trends and breaking news.
Here are a few more reasons you should be using hashtags in your social media strategy.
Including hashtags in your posts means taking part in a conversation happening on that social media platform. And most importantly, it makes your posts visible in that conversation.
This can lead to greater engagement, boosting your brand’s social media engagement through likes, shares, comments, and new followers.
Creating a branded hashtag can be an effective way to promote your business and drive conversations.
Branded hashtags can be as simple as using your company name or incorporating a tagline into a hashtag.
For example, JIF Peanut Butter made TikTok history in 2021 with its branded hashtag #JIFRapChallenge which featured rapper Ludacris rapping with a mouth full of peanut butter.
The hashtag challenged users to make their own video, or Duet with Luda, with a bit of JIF in their grill.
This challenge saw more than 200,000 impressions and 600 unique videos created.
Another example is #PlayInside, a hashtag Nike Los Angeles made popular during the pandemic when people were stuck in their homes.
#PlayInside is now featured on more than 68,000 posts, and it’s still growing.
Using a hashtag that’s connected to an issue beyond your brand is a way to mobilize behind an important cause or issue.
For example, 2021’s most retweeted Tweet comes from K-pop sensations BTS, who took to Twitter with a #StopAsianHate #StopAAPIHate message.
On Twitter, you don’t have a ton of space to write a caption. Only 280 characters, to be exact.
On Instagram, longer captions aren’t always the most effective. Same with Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or any other platform. Sometimes less is more.
Using a hashtag can be a simple way to contextualize what you’re talking about, without using up valuable characters or writing repetitive captions.
For example, BTP Lancashire (the British transport police force in Lancashire, UK) got creative with their Twitter word limit when asking locals to stay off train tracks.
Hashtags contextualize this creative Tweet, making it clear that BTP Lancashire is taking part in the World Emoji Day conversation while also delivering an important PSA.
On LinkedIn and Instagram, users can follow hashtags as well as other users. Using a few popular hashtags can be another way to help new users find your brand.
For example, if you use #travel on your Instagram posts, someone who follows that hashtag will see your recent post in their feed. You might even gain some new followers this way.
This section is for influencers and brands who work with influencers.
When working with brands, influencers have to let their audiences know that a piece of content is sponsored. It’s the law — the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) released detailed advertising disclosure guidelines for online influencers in 2019. Failure to comply can result in high fines for both the influencer and the brand.
So, influencers: always add hashtags clearly indicating a sponsorship to branded posts.
Brands: make sure that you look for such hashtags when reviewing and accepting influencer content.
The most popular hashtags out there aren’t necessarily the best hashtags.
For example, the hashtag #followme has more than 575 million posts on Instagram. Hashtags that solicit likes don’t engage your followers and don’t add any meaning to your social media post.
They also look really spammy. And you don’t want that.
But don’t ignore popular hashtags, either. For example, #throwbackthursday or #flashbackfriday or other daily hashtags can be fun ways for your brand to join a wider social media conversation.
As of April 14, 2022, these are the top 10 hashtags on Instagram:
Of course, popular hashtags differ depending on what social media platform you’re using. On LinkedIn, popular hashtags include #personaldevelopment and #investing.
While there are millions—even billions—of posts using popular hashtags, they’re relatively universal. They aren’t specific to an industry or a theme. And don’t say a lot about your brand.
So, try to identify niche hashtags relevant to your brand and what you represent.
To find hashtags that are specific to your brand, your industry, and your audience, you’ll have to do a little research.
Start by doing a competitive analysis on social media. Gather intel about your competitors and any relevant influencers within your brand’s niche.
Make note of which hashtags they use most often and how many hashtags they use in each of their posts. This will help you learn how your competitors are engaging with your shared target audience and which keywords they tend to use.
RiteTag lets you type your social media caption into the text bar and upload the photo you’ll pair with your caption.
RiteTag generates trending hashtag suggestions based on your content. You’ll see the best hashtags to get your post seen immediately, as well as hashtags to get your post seen over time. Click “Get Report” for a detailed analysis of the hashtags it displays.
A social listening tool like Hootsuite lets your brand use search streams to discover which hashtags are the best for each social network you’re on. Put simply, search streams make it easy to see which hashtags are the most popular and the most effective.
Learn more by watching this video:
If you already have a good grasp of which hashtags are working well for your brand, consider using related hashtags. These might be a little more specific than the popular hashtags you’re already using, which could help you connect with a more targeted audience.
On LinkedIn, you can find more hashtag recommendations after clicking on a hashtag. Choose the “Discover more hashtags” buttons after clicking on the ellipsis.
Keep track of which hashtags you’ve used on past posts. Analyze which posts have been most popular, then see if there’s a trend with the hashtags you’ve used.
If you notice some of your most popular posts always contain a few of the same hashtags, make a point to include those in your future posts as well.
All this research to come up with the right hashtags for every. single. post. is a lot of work.
Enter: Hootsuite’s hashtag generator.
Whenever you’re creating a post in Composer, Hootsuite’s AI technology will recommend a custom set of hashtags based on your draft — the tool analyzes both your caption and the images you’ve uploaded to suggest the most relevant tags.
To use Hootsuite’s hashtag generator, follow these steps:
The hashtags you selected will be added to your post. You can go ahead and publish it or schedule it for later.
When you use hashtags, your post becomes discoverable to people who are searching for that hashtag.
For example, if you’re a wedding planner and use the hashtag #weddingplanner, someone who is engaged and looking for your services may come across your post.
The best way to increase your organic reach with hashtags is to use ones that are relevant to your business and industry.
Do some research on which hashtags are most popular in your industry, then start using them in your posts.
Once you have a stockpile of relevant, high-performing hashtags, you can start using them in your posts.
Here, find simple, easy-to-read tips for using hashtags on different social media platforms.
You can use hashtags anywhere in your Tweets. Use them at the start for emphasis, at the end for context, or in the middle of your post to highlight a keyword.
Hashtags can also be added in a comment when you Retweet, in replies and in your Twitter bio.
You can also:
Include hashtags after writing a great Instagram caption. You can also include hashtags in the comments section when engaging with your followers.
And you can include up to 10 hashtags in your Instagram Stories. (However, Instagram Stories are no longer featured on hashtag pages or shown to users who follow a tag.
This means that hashtags won’t necessarily help get your Stories in front of new audiences, but you can still use them to add context to your content.)
It’s also possible to include hashtags in your brand’s Instagram profile bio.
And, of course, watch our strategy video:
You can also:
Hashtags can be included in any part of your written Facebook post or in the comments.
Hashtags are also useful for grouping content in private Facebook groups by theme or topic.
This is important for brands to keep in mind as private channels like Facebook groups continue to grow in popularity.
You can also:
Add a few hashtags in your brand’s YouTube video title or in the video description.
Click on the hyperlinked hashtag to see a feed with other videos that also use that same hashtag.
Remember: Don’t use more than 15 hashtags. YouTube will ignore all the hashtags, and maybe even flag your content because of your spammy behaviour.
YouTube hashtags aren’t the only way to help users find your videos. We have 12 tactics that will help your brand’s videos get views.
Incorporate hashtags anywhere into your LinkedIn posts.
You can also:
For more tips, read this guide to using hashtags on LinkedIn.
While Pinterest is considered more of a keyword engine, hashtags can give your content an extra boost when used correctly.
When using Pinterest for business, include Pinterest hashtags when writing a Pin description or in a written description when Repinning.
Pinterest even offers hashtag suggestions (in the mobile version only) when creating a new Pin.
Hashtags on TikTok can be found in video descriptions or on the Discover page.
On Discover, you’ll be able to view trending hashtags and any videos currently using them.
You can also use the search bar to find hashtags that interest you.
If you’re not already, it’s time to start using hashtags in your social media posts. Even though they first gained popularity in 2007, they’re even more useful today for your brand!
Find the best Hashtags and manage your entire social media presence with Hootsuite. Schedule posts and Stories, easily engage your audience, measure performance, and more. Try it free today.