Wondering how to use hashtags?
Hashtags are like the Kardashians! Love them or hate them, you can’t ignore them.
If you find hashtags a bit baffling, we’ll clue you in.
This complete guide will cover:
- What are hashtags?
- Why use hashtags?
- How to use hashtags properly
- How to find the best hashtags (plus case studies)
- How to use hashtags on Twitter
- How to use hashtags on Facebook
- How to use hashtags on LinkedIn
And much more! So let’s get started.
What are hashtags?
Once upon a time, a hashtag was just the hash mark or pound symbol, like so: #
The revolution started in 2007 when Twitter began to use the hashtag as a method of indexing keywords for easy discovery.
Other social sites jumped on the bandwagon, and now hashtags are ubiquitous on social media. The term has become so commonplace that it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2010.
You know that pound (#) sign on your keyboard? Just add it before a word and voila, you have a hashtag!
A hashtag is a word or a group of words preceded by a pound (#) sign, which is used to categorize and find conversations around a particular topic or trend.
A hashtag is a clickable link to a group of posts using the same hashtag.
Yup, it’s that simple! You don’t have to be a teen or a computer geek to use hashtags.
In geek-speak, hashtags are metadata tags which are used for grouping conversations. For example, suppose you are interested in Internet Marketing. You can search for #internetmarketing. Any social posts on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and such that use this hashtag will surface, so you can be a part of the conversation.
The very first hashtag was tweeted on August 23, 2007, by Chris Messina, a product designer and internet consultant.
Now, whether you’re posting on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, hashtags are the way to keep your social media accounts happening.
Why use hashtags?
Hashtags have become an essential part of our day-to-day vernacular, all thanks to social media. And there is probably no better way to distinguish a digital novice from a digital native than the way they use hashtags.
Hashtags are often used as commentary or a punch line, but that’s not helpful to us as marketers.
We want to use hashtags that help our content get discovered, and to be part of a larger conversation around topics relevant to our business.
Hashtags are also useful to discover what’s trending, and to follow breaking news. Click on a hashtag to get a real-time feed of the posts using that hashtag, and get an overview of an event.
You can also share your interest or your business with a hashtag like #photography, so that people who search for that particular topic can find your post.
Why are hashtags important for business?
Even though hashtags were created to organize content, they’ve since become a way to create conversations and promotions for brands and people.
Before we dive into the benefits that hashtags offer, check out some statistics to understand the influence that hashtags have on Twitter.
source: Buddy Media
- The most important benefit of hashtags is that you can immediately find topics and conversations to join. A clever use of a hashtag can really put you on the map.
- If you are a marketer, hashtags are a golden opportunity for you to create conversations without having to worry about finding participants.
- Hashtags can lead to traction and sales, magic words to any business.
- A relevant hashtag coupled with a clever tweet can even improve your online reputation.
How to use hashtags properly
Hashtags are a great way to get your message in front of people actively looking for your topic – but you need to use them well.
Follow these hashtag rules and you’ll be off to a great start!
Remember that a hashtag is a single word. There should not be any spaces – even if the term contains multiple words, punctuation, and special characters.
The different words of a hashtag can be distinguished by using capital letters. For instance, a very popular hashtag campaign by Red Bull #PutACanOnIt is basically “Put a can on it.” The use of capital letters makes it easier to distinguish the different words of a hashtag.
If you place punctuation within your hashtag phrase, you will break the tag. Only the part before the punctuation will be your hashtag.
For instance, if you want to tag #Let’sGoHeat, you need to use #LetsGoHeat. In the first instance, your hashtag is actually #Let, because it’s broken at the punctuation.
Just because you can add hashtags to your tweet or your post, does it mean #You #should #add #every #word #as #hashtag?
No, Nope, Nopes!
Although it largely depends on the social channel you are using (for instance, on Twitter, you should use fewer hashtags, but on Instagram it’s okay to use more), too many irrelevant hashtags just make you look awful.
Here’s one example of an absurd usage of hashtags. You be the judge!
If you’re a newbie and looking to dip your toe into hashtag waters, check out some do’s and don’ts that you absolutely must follow. Consider them your Hashtag Rules:
- The first step is to discover the hashtags used by others in your niche. Follow hashtags related to your line of business.
- Before using a hashtag on a particular social channel, check out the rules. Although the fundamental principles are the same, the rules vary from one social channel to another. For example, Twitter focuses more on the topic while Instagram focuses on the description.
- For a business, it’s important to perfect the art of targeting your audience. So get as specific as possible when using hashtags.
- Get creative. The right hashtag has the power to go viral. After you’ve gotten the hang of using hashtags, try coming up with a new one. Who knows, it might become a trend!
- Hashtags are not just for marketing and promotion but for engagement as well. Use hashtags to start a conversation and participate in that conversation. Engaging with your users is a key to a well-rounded business.
- Don’t use a hashtag without research. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Check whether the hashtag is already being used. If it is, note what is it being used for, to save yourself from possible embarrassment.
Check out this awkward example to understand what you should never be doing!
- Don’t overdo it. Using too many hashtags will make your post look spammy and drown the message. Depending on the social channel, decide on the number of relevant hashtags that you can use. But in general, don’t have more hashtags than you have words.
- Keep your hashtags short. Using overly long hashtags will confuse the visitors and put them off. #thisgivesmeaheadache – well, you got it!
- Don’t use hashtags on all platforms. LinkedIn dabbled with hashtags for a time but then eliminated them. Using hashtags on LinkedIn will only make you look out of touch.
- Hashtagged Facebook posts have been proven to get less engagement, so you’ll want to avoid using tags on those platforms too.
- Avoid acronyms which are not popular or well known. Acronyms like #YOLO may work but ones like #MCM may not. For example, an acronym used by the Burger King (#WTFF) meaning What the French Fry – failed to gain any traction mainly because of the unfamiliarity of the hashtag.
How to find the best hashtags
Now that you understand the hashtag basics, let’s look at where to find good ones to use in your tweets and posts!
When using hashtags for your business, there are tools to help improve the reach of your campaign.
Some of the best tools available:
Check out influencers in your niche and note which hashtags they’re using on their social accounts. Hashtagify.me can help you find them.
If these tags work for the top businesses in your niche, they’ll probably work for your business too!
Twitter has a trending tags section you can check to see what’s hot.
IF relevant, jump on the trend to increase your brand awareness. (Note: Don’t use irrelevant tags just to get attention. That’s spammy).
A useful tool to identify trending tags is RiteTag.
A branded hashtag can help group your business content together to make it easy to find. This tag is one you’ll make up yourself!
Types of branded hashtags to consider using:
- Business name
- Your mission statement or tagline
- Campaign or promotion name
Marketing wiz Mónica uses #MarketingForBrandsWhoGiveaDamn on her Instagram posts. It’s a cool tagline!
Don’t worry, yours doesn’t need to be that long or clever. I use #LouiseM on my Pinterest posts.
Check out a couple case studies of branded hashtag use below.
Case Studies of some popular hashtags
#BareSelfie Campaign by Lancôme
To promote its DreamTone serum, Lancôme blended the two most trending elements of social marketing: selfies and hashtags. For the campaign, Lancôme urged the women to post selfies without makeup. The campaign resulted in huge engagement with over 500 images being posted with the hashtag #bareselfie and generated an impressive four percent conversion rate for the serum.
The Washington Post #Election Campaign
By sponsoring the hashtag #Election, The Washington Post ensured that the newspaper’s tweets appeared first on Election Day when anybody clicked on that particular hashtag. It resulted in a huge surge in the traffic to The Washington Post’s website.
#TweetFromTheSeat campaign by Charmin
Unlike companies where glamorous products rule the roost, some companies find it hard to market their products. That didn’t deter Charmin, the manufacturer of toilet paper, to create a very tongue-in-cheek campaign #TweetFromTheSeat. This hashtag found a huge engagement.
How to use hashtags on Twitter
If you tweet with a hashtag on a public Twitter account, anyone who does a search for that hashtag may find your tweet, increasing your visibility.
In addition, including hashtags helps your tweets get indexed by Google!
- When using hashtags, understand what they mean before using them. Especially if you hijack an existing hashtag, research its meaning first.
- Twitter’s best practices suggest using only two hashtags per tweet. Spamming your tweet with hashtags is never a good idea.
- Twitter also suggests only using hashtags relevant to your tweet.
- It is also suggested to use “CamelCase” format if you’re using two or more words. For instance, if you read shareacoke, it may not make much sense, but if you see “ShareaCoke,” you know it’s a hashtag by Coca Cola.
- The popular hashtags can be viewed on the “Trends” sidebar on the left of Twitter. Clicking on the hashtag (it appears in blue) will take you to a search results page where all the tweets containing that hashtag appear.
How to use hashtags on Instagram
Although hashtags started on Twitter, they reached their full expression on Instagram. You just need to figure out which to use, and get tagging.
- In the caption section of your post, type all the hashtags related to the photo. For instance, if you are into wedding decoration services, you can tag the image with relevant wedding hashtags.
- Hashtags can also be added in one or more comments.
- Although the maximum for Instagram is 30 tags, an excessive amount of tags may be annoying for some people. But they definitely work for growing your account!
There’s so much to say about Instagram hashtags, I wrote an entire article! There’s even a free download for your enjoyment.
How to use hashtags on Facebook
Hashtags turn topics and phrases into clickable links in posts on your profile or Page. When people click a hashtag or search for a hashtag, they’ll see a results that contain the hashtag so they can learn more about topics that interest them.
Facebook introduced hashtags in 2013, but hasn’t said much about how to use them. They seem sort of forgotten.
One reason is that the majority of Facebook profiles are private: 72%, vs. only 12% of Twitter accounts.
People with private accounts can’t get involved in public hashtag conversations, so their effectiveness is limited.
Theoretically, here are 5 ways Facebook hashtags could help your brand:
- Expand your reach – Help people interested in niche topics find each other and join the conversation.
- Amplify the brand – Help an idea or product catch on by branding your Facebook page posts with your own hashtag.
- Cross social platforms – Post to multiple platforms with the same post now that hashtags in Facebook are searchable.
- Promote specials and events – Use a special hashtag in your posts to promote your events on other platforms.
- Capture new fans and leads – Reach like-minded individuals within key audiences and get them to engage with your page or cause.
Do hashtags work on Facebook?
There are conflicting studies on whether hashtags increase or decrease your Facebook reach. Any effect seems to be slight.
Due to the overwhelming majority of private accounts and an older user base, hashtags never really caught on here. They seem odd and out of place, like you posted over from another platform and didn’t bother to edit your caption.
If you choose to use hashtags on Facebook, limit it to 1 or 2. I recommend using your brand hashtags, since users aren’t searching out topical hashtags.
Your brand hashtag here will strengthen your identity across platforms, and since it’s clickable, will enable users to find all your content about a campaign in one place.
Facebook hashtags and privacy
Here’s the scoop on hashtags and privacy via Mari Smith. Have no fear when using hashtags on personal posts – your Facebook privacy settings prevail.
- Hashtags work on personal profile posts, fan page posts, group posts, event posts, and all comments.
- When users click a hashtag they’ll see a feed of posts that have been shared with them (or are public).
- All Fan Page posts are public, and may be found in a hashtag search.
- If you publish a post on your personal profile to friends only, and the post contains a hashtag, the hashtag will be clickable and open up to display all other posts on Facebook containing that hashtag.
- But, ONLY friends can see your friends-only posts in hashtag searches.
- Public posts – with or without hashtags – are public.
- Private (friends-only) posts – with or without hashtags – are just that: private and visible to friends only.
- Even when friends include hashtags in comments on your friends-only thread, your post is still private and visible just to your friends.
- With hashtags shared in private groups, the hashtag link will show public posts with that tag (along with any friends’ posts with that tag), but posts from the private group would only show to members.
- Individual comments on threads do not surface in hashtag searches; just posts show in searches.
How to use hashtags on Pinterest
For years, Pinterest discouraged hashtag use.
They changed their tune in August 2017, and now actively encourage the use of descriptive, contextual hashtags.
Add a couple relevant and keyword-related hashtags at the end of your Pin description. The maximum is 20.
Once again, this topic deserves an article all its own!
How to use hashtags on LinkedIn
A latecomer, LinkedIn added hashtag functionality in 2018.
Adding a few carefully chosen hashtags to your LinkedIn posts can help you connect with other members interested in your niche.
Members can also choose to follow hashtags. By following hashtags of personal interest, you’ll start seeing relevant updates in your feed that include those hashtag topics.
Because LinkedIn is a professional network, stick to content-related terms. Ditch the commentary and jokes or memes. #KnowWhatIMean ?
When you create an update to share with your network from your LinkedIn homepage, you can add your hashtag by typing # and the word or phrase directly in your post. You can also click on # Add hashtag at the bottom of the share box and type your desired hashtag.
Recommended hashtags will automatically be suggested when you compose your hashtag.
Hashtags can be used anywhere in your post to share a video, article, or document. Hashtags in comments or within articles don’t show up in hashtag feeds at this time. source
You can also add hashtags when you write an article.
When you’re ready, click Publish in the top right corner. A pop-up window will appear.
In the Tell your network what your article is about field, add copy to introduce your article, along with relevant hashtags.
LinkedIn will suggest hashtags it believes fit your article. Use them if they seem relevant.
Note that you cannot add, edit, or remove hashtags after you’ve hit Publish.
Once you’ve added hashtags to your article, members will be able to find it by searching for that word or phrase on LinkedIn. Hashtags will not be added to the article itself, but can be found in the commentary that shows above your article in the LinkedIn feed. source
For Tumblr and other social channels, hashtags work more or less the same way. Just remember the social etiquette of being polite, ensure that whatever hashtag you are using doesn’t have a double meaning, and don’t stuff your posts with hashtags.
How to use hashtags: Conclusion
The right hashtags used in the right way can help you create positive engagement with your users.
To help you choose and use the right hashtags, we covered all this:
- What are hashtags
- Why use hashtags
- How to use hashtags properly
- How to find the best hashtags
- How to use hashtags on Twitter
- How to use hashtags on Facebook
- How to use hashtags on LinkedIn
Scroll back and review what you missed!
I go in-depth to Instagram and Pinterest in separate articles linked above.
You can also grab a free “days of the week” hashtag cheat sheet on the post below!
Share this article with others – use a hashtag! Suggested: #HashtagTips
Pin the helpful infographic, compliments of The Payroll Blog.
Then share your comments or confusion below on how to use hashtags.