Some hashtags feel like quaint relics of an internet past. But there’s one throwback hashtag that will never go out of style: #TBT.
Maybe it’s because this hashtag comes with nostalgia built right in, but the #TBT (or #ThrowbackThursday) hashtag somehow never gets old. It appeals to people’s deep desire to share their favorite moments from the past.
In other words, #TBT is here to stay. Here’s how to use it in 2023.
What does TBT mean?
TBT stands for “Throwback Thursday.” Social media users use this hashtag on posts that “throwback” to an older version of themselves. While the hashtag is most common on Twitter and Instagram, you can find it used all over the internet.
TBT or Throwback Thursday posts can be selfies, audio or video recordings, or even text describing a memory or a past event. It’s a handy excuse to dredge up a memory from the past. (In fact, it might not even be a good memory — a Throwback Thursday post could also play nicely as the “before” to a “before and after” post.)
When did TBT start?
The history of this social media trend actually goes back pretty far. Vox says that blogger Mark Halfhill was one of the first to use the phrase on his sneaker blog in 2006, while Time reports that a guy named Bobby first brought the #ThrowbackThursday hashtag to life on Instagram with this photo of Hot Wheels in 2011:
People now love throwing it back so much that they’ve developed a series of competing hashtags for different days of the week, including #MondayMemories, #TakeMeBackTuesday, #WaybackWednesday and #FlashbackFriday.
Of course, you don’t want to hold your followers hostage while you show them every page of a family photo album (metaphorically speaking), so it’s best to stick with just one of these throwback days. You’ll likely get the most traction if you use the most popular.
Why should you use #TBT?
Okay, so we’ve established what it is, but why on earth should you post your own Throwback Thursday? Well, it often makes for perfect content for your brand. Here’s why.
Unless it really doesn’t align with your social media strategy, sharing the occasional TBT post is a straightforward way to have a little fun. Whether you’re laughing about your early brand flubs or posting pics of your very first office in your parents’ garage, looking back on the past is a great way to keep it light and playful.
It boosts engagement.
People love anything that feels like a peek behind the scenes or insider access, so #TBT posts often see strong engagement. You can even build a call-to-action right into the throwback. Post the first draft of your business plan and ask people to share their early ideas in the comments, or encourage readers to tag you in a throwback of their prom photo.
It expands your reach.
If you’re getting strong engagement, the algorithm will share your post more widely (yup, this is true on basically every social platform). And if you’re expanding your reach, you’re introducing potential new followers to your brand. If you’ve got fun, interesting or unique TBT content, you’ll build brand awareness and gain new followers in no time.
It happens every week.
We get it — it’s hard to come up with fresh angles or new ways to present your content. And while TBT shouldn’t be the only thing you post, it’s an excellent way to offer regular, engaging content. After all, Thursday rolls around once a week.
7 ideas to inspire your next TBT post
Now that you know the ins and outs of Throwback Thursday, it’s time to start putting it into practice. Here are some great examples that might help inspire you to reach TBT greatness.
1. Location, location, location
TBT is all about nostalgia, and few things tug at the heartstrings quite like remembering the places from our pasts. Posting up a spot from your own history can be a great way to rake in the TBT likes.
The MLB tapped into nostalgia while opening up the comment section by asking their fans to comment on which old ballpark they loved most:
You don’t need the legacy of America’s favorite pastime to get into the spirit, though.
Brands of any size can get in on the fun by showing the evolution of their office over the years. This company has been in the same office since the 1970s, which makes for some great before and after photos:
2. Go retro
In fact, if you’ve got any kind of old-school photos or videos kicking around from you, your life or your brand, it’s always a great idea to dig them out for TBT. Not only do they make for interesting captions, but they usually look aesthetically pleasing, so they break up the monotony of someone’s timeline.
The Special Olympics Minnesota is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, so they’ve been looking back on the past with each Throwback Thursday. Some 19 years later, these photos from 2004 look like a blast from the past:
MMA fighter John Maguire had these pics of his Ninja Turtles collection in 1990 and managed to recreate it for a satisfying before-and-after TBT in 2023:
On a classier level, the BBC Symphony Orchestra hopped on the hashtag to boast about their double bassoon game way back in 1942:
— BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus (@BBCSO) January 12, 2023
3. Awkward fun
Humor is one of the most infectious traits you can have online, and Throwback Thursday is a perfect time to prove you’re game for a laugh. When all else fails, use the hashtag as an excuse to get silly.
Health influencer Dr. Shriram Nene proved he’s a good sport and in on the joke when he shared this hilarious prom pic from his “awkward teenage years” for TBT:
— Dr. Shriram Nene (@DoctorNene) December 8, 2022
Alternative radio DJ St. Pete Sam pulled off a double whammy by incorporating the #NationalBaconDay hashtag into her TBT post with this slow-motion video of herself munching on some bacon:
in honor of it being #nationalbaconday, here’s a super awkward #tbt video of me eating bacon with @budlight at #kegsandeggs in 2019. 😂🥓 @stpetesam #bacon #budlight #brandambassador pic.twitter.com/6RdCx3INAd
— 97X (@97xonair) December 30, 2021
Author Patricia Cornwell upped the ante with some ’90s cheese, posting a TBT pic straight out of 90210:
— Patricia Cornwell (@1pcornwell) December 8, 2022
4. Mark a milestone
Whether it’s an anniversary, a birthday or any old occasion worth remembering, TBT is a great time to post something from the past. Use old ephemera — think posters, ticket stubs or other fun items — to highlight a unique milestone from your brand’s history.
The official Twitter for the Black Sabbath page regularly marks time with TBT posts, posting ticket stubs for concerts that happened on that day in the past:
— BlackSabbath (@BlackSabbath) January 12, 2023
The Broadway version of Beetlejuice celebrated its final show in NYC with a TBT post highlighting the ups and downs of its run:
— Beetlejuice on Broadway (@BeetlejuiceBway) January 5, 2023
The House of Blues took it a step further and paid tribute to the late rapper DMX, sharing a clip from his final show at their venue to mark what would have been his 52nd birthday:
In honor of DMX’s birthday on Sunday, we got a BIG #tbt when he played his last Chicago show at House of Blues on May 4, 2019! ❤️ 🖤
— House of Blues Chicago (@HOBChicago) December 15, 2022
5. Share an old product
Throwback Thursday is also great to show how far you’ve come as a brand by sharing your original products. Just make sure your post is clearly labeled as being from the past, so you don’t confuse your audience!
The London-based recumbent bicycle brand Brompton demonstrated just how long they’ve been in the game with this post of their 1977 model, The Fold:
— Brompton Bicycle (@BromptonBicycle) June 29, 2021
Archie Comics went even more retro, using Throwback Thursday as an opportunity to showcase an old comic book from the late 1950s:
— Archie Comics (@ArchieComics) January 12, 2023
BMW uses its BMW Classic account to highlight its history of beautiful automobiles. Here’s a post that uses the #ThrowbackThursday hashtag well:
6. …or share a new product
TBT can also directly drive sales, particularly if you specialize in vintage, antique or otherwise old-timey items. Here are some examples of ways people use the hashtag to sell.
Nothing ages quite like wine, so Ranchero Cellars cleverly uses the hashtag to advertise this vintage vino from 2010 — a product they still have for sale.
Shout! Factory, a company that reissues classic TV on Blu-ray and DVD, similarly used the hashtag to promote their new Little Rascals box set:
7. Call to action
Because they’re so engaging, Throwback Thursday posts are powerful ways to establish authority in your industry, make a point, or drive traffic to an article or call to action on a product.
Boeing is discontinuing its 747 jets, but they’ve used that as a powerful launch pad for a whole narrative that establishes them as an industry leader. This 1974 pic of a Boeing over Mount Rainier points readers to a listicle about how the jet changed the flight industry:
#TBT The original 747 soars high above Mount Rainier in Washington state in 1974. 🛫 Though production is ending on the 747, the first jumbo jet’s legacy will endure for decades.
— The Boeing Company (@Boeing) January 5, 2023
Shark Tank host Daymond John doesn’t need to link out anywhere. Instead, he uses his TBT to make a point about physical advertising with a photo of a FUBU billboard from back in the day:
These days a lot of brands are fixated on their digital presence. For good reason, but studies are also showing that, post-covid, people are highly receptive to physical ads. That's not to say you need a billboard, but remember to think outside the phone!#TBT #FUBU pic.twitter.com/2D0ftmf9VT
— Daymond John (@TheSharkDaymond) August 11, 2022
Arnold Schwarzenegger leans into his status as a walking meme with these comical old pics of his former fitness pamphlets. But it’s part of a bigger campaign because it points to a new fitness ebook available in his bio:
Throwback Thursday best practices
Ready to start creating your own TBT posts? Just keep these tips in mind.
Post on a Thursday
It goes without saying that you should do the Thursday hashtag on, well, the actual day in its title. If your audience spans multiple time zones, try posting early in the morning to ensure you’re not showing up too late to the party. It varies from app to app, but we suggest you post on Instagram between 9 a.m. and noon.
Use the hashtags
If you’re going to participate in the hashtag, you have to use the hashtag! While it’s true that social media sites have adapted to use context clues and captions in searches, you still want your post to show up on the clickable tag. Don’t be shy! Use both #TBT and #ThrowbackThursday.
Share old content
Again, it might seem obvious, but it bears repeating. The whole point of Throwback Thursday is to throw it back to something from the past. Make sure your posts include old content. And make sure it’s clear that the content is old — you don’t want to confuse users into thinking a product you no longer have available has come back.
Have a plan
Some clever copywriting can make TBT an integral part of your marketing plan. Maybe you’re about to launch your latest fashion line — why not point to it by throwing back to your first-ever launch? These kinds of benchmarks will help highlight just how far you’ve come as a brand.
With Hootsuite you can set up streams to monitor hashtags—including #TBT—and see how effectively you’re using them. Try it free today.