What is a hashtag and how do you use it? Top tips
Hashtags aren’t new but not everyone has discovered the benefits of using them yet.
Many brands utilize them regularly to boost their social media engagement – and it’s working.
Are you using hashtags and if yes, are you doing it right?
Read on to learn how to avoid hashtag mistakes, how to find specific hashtags that work best for your business and why not to focus only on popular ones. What’s more, you’ll get the best tips on using hashtags on each social media platform.
Let’s dive right in!
What is a hashtag and how do you use it?
What is a hashtag?
This symbol on your keyboard – # – is known as a number sign, hash, pound sign or octothorpe. It was originally used to mark numbers.
Then, in the summer of 2007, a guy named Chris Messina came up with the great idea of using this symbol to group related Tweets together. The hashtag quickly became widely popular on Twitter and later spread on to other platforms thanks to its incredible reach and effectiveness.
Basically, hashtags are a way to connect your social media content to a specific topic, conversation, theme or event. They facilitate discovery of specific subject-related posts because they gather all similar content together.
How do you hashtag?
Are you confused when it comes to adding hashtags to your posts? It’s not that difficult actually! Here are the basics:
- Hashtags always have to start with #.
- Capital letters are allowed but no spaces, punctuation or special symbols.
- Shorter is better. Don’t put too many words together in one hashtag – it becomes harder to read and remember.
- Relevance is key. Make sure you implement specific and relevant hashtags in your social media posts. If the hashtags are too obscure, they will be difficult to find. Plus, it’s unlikely that other users will choose to use them.
- Less is better. Don’t go overboard with the number of hashtags you use in a single post. If you put too many, it’ll look spammy and people won’t even bother reading them.
- Make sure your social media accounts are public. If they’re private, no one will see your hashtags except for your friends and followers.
Now that you know how to hashtag, let’s see all the great reasons to do so.
Why should you use hashtags?
Why use hashtags, you ask? Here’s why:
Increase social engagement
Including hashtags in your posts helps you join any conversation happening on your chosen social media platform. Plus, it makes your posts visible to anyone in that conversation.
This is a great way to boost your brand’s social media engagement through likes, comments, shares and new followers.
Reach your target audience
Using some popular hashtags can help you reach your target audience. On Instagram and LinkedIn, users can follow hashtags as well as other users.
If you have a business related to makeup products and use the hashtag “beauty”, for example, users who follow that hashtag will see your latest posts on their feed and start following you. That’s an easy way to help people find your brand.
Build your brand effectively
Do you want to promote your business and encourage conversation?
Create a branded hashtag that’s catchy and relevant. Put it in your bio as well.
The hashtag can be part of one of your marketing campaigns. The important thing is that people can easily remember it so that they can use it. One of the best examples is Coca-Cola’s #ShareACoke.
Create a contest where your followers upload photos and tag their posts with your branded hashtag. People love participating – and they’ll quickly spread the word that way.
Add context to your posts
While on Twitter you have a limited amount of characters per post, on other platforms there are no restrictions but shorter posts still do better.
Try using hashtags to add more context without using up more characters or repeating yourself. Insert hashtags directly in your sentences for better efficiency.
Show support for social issues
Use a trending hashtag that’s connected to a global or social issue. That way you’re able to show your support for that cause.
You can also create a branded hashtag related to it and engage users who support it.
Focus on social issues and important causes that you truly support instead of trying to earn as many followers as possible by being dishonest. That way you’ll surely gain more loyal customers, earn a better reputation, more trust and respect.
How to use hashtags right?
When thinking about how best to engage your audience, hashtags are an obvious choice.
Here are some tips on how to hashtag right and what mistakes to avoid:
- Avoid focusing only on popular hashtags.
Popular hashtags are not always the best choice. For example, #followme has more than 542 million posts on Instagram but won’t add any value to your posts or say anything about your brand. On the contrary, it can annoy some users and make you seem like you’re begging for followers.However, make sure to check popular hashtags and use those that suit your business. #throwbackthursday and similar daily hashtags are good ones if you’re looking for a fun and simple way to join a wider social media conversation.
- Do some research.
Take example of your partners, competitors and social media influencers within your niche. See what they’re doing right and what can be improved upon. How many hashtags do they use and which ones do they regularly include?That way you’ll easily learn how your competitors are engaging with your shared target audience and adjust your social media marketing strategy accordingly.
- Use available tools.
There are many online tools out there to help you with your hashtag strategy. With Hashtagify.me, you can find hashtags that work best for your brand. You can search any hashtag and see how popular it is on Twitter or Instagram. What’s more, if you type in your caption, you’ll get multiple hashtag suggestions.With RiteTag, you insert your social media caption and upload the photo it’ll go with to get all trending hashtags suggestions that match them. This will help your posts get more visibility quickly, as well as over time, depending on your wish.
- Use related hashtags.
If you already know which hashtags work well for your business, try using related hashtags as well. They can be more specific and help you connect with a more targeted audience.
On Instagram, you can see the related hashtags in the Explore section.On LinkedIn, you can click on “Discover new hashtags” to do so.
- Analyze your social media posts.
Check your hashtag analytics on social media. Analyze which hashtags you’ve used on past posts. See which posts have been the most popular and have brought you a lot of new followers. Think whether there’s a trend in the hashtags you’ve used.
You may notice that you have repeated hashtags with great success. Try using them in more posts (when appropriate) and see whether that’s the key.
How to use hashtags on Instagram
When it comes to Instagram hashtags, the optimal number is between 5 and 10 per post.
However, if you don’t want it to be too spammy and distracting from your caption, you can simply publish your hashtags in a comment below your original post.
You can also add hashtags in your Instagram’s profile bio. That’s a good place to include your own branded hashtag.
But did you know you can add hashtags to your stories too? If you don’t like how it looks, you can always hide hashtags under a sticker, and they’ll still work fine.
And one more thing – there are some hashtags on Instagram that are banned and hidden (like #elevator, for example). Check in advance whether the hashtag you have in mind is OK to use.
How to use hashtags on Twitter
The optimal number of hashtags on Twitter is 2 per Tweet. Use them in the beginning for emphasis, at the end for context or in the middle to highlight a word.
You can also include hashtags in comments, replies and the bio on your Twitter account.
Follow Twitter’s trending topics and use trending hashtags to enter current discussions and reach more people.
How to use hashtags on Facebook
It’s similar on Facebook. You can insert hashtags anywhere but it’s best to keep them up to 2.
Hashtags are also handy for grouping content in private groups by theme or topic.
However, on Facebook, many users’ profiles are private, so it’s harder to track how many of them are interacting with your hashtags.
In general, Facebook is not the most popular place for hashtags. They thrive better on the previous two platforms we mentioned but this shouldn’t discourage you from finding creative ways to use them on Facebook.
You can also use hashtags on YouTube (2-3 for best results), LinkedIn (1-2) and Pinterest (2-5). Experiment and see what works best for your brand.
To sum up
Many marketers often underestimate hashtags. Don’t make their mistake.
Now that you know the answer to the question “What is a hashtag and how do you use it?”, you can swiftly get ahead of the competition.
If you use hashtags correctly, you will easily boost your brand’s social media engagement.
They bring you further reach, more likes, comments, shares and even conversions.
But that’s not the only way to reach maximum social engagement.
Use eye-catching popups and page banners on your website to direct visitors to your social media accounts. Following/liking your social media page will only take a moment of their time but will bring you many benefits. You’ll be able to easily reach them later and further engage them with your content. What’s great is that the more followers you have, the better for your popularity and reputation.
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