Hashtags in Social Media: Guide

Social Media Marketing
Hashtags in Social Media: Guide
Article by Bisera Stankovska
Last Updated: November 25, 2023

Hashtags have been around since 2007, and the platform where they first appeared was Twitter. Chris Messina, the “inventor” of the hashtag, had a revolutionary idea that wasn’t well received back then. He suggested that putting the pound sign in front of words or phrases in tweets could cluster topics and make them easily searchable.

Messina’s persistence paid off. Today, hashtags are popular on all major social media platforms — Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, and even LinkedIn.

This article, with the guidance of a social media marketing agency, will be your guide through hashtags in social media. You'll discover what hashtags are, why they're important, and how they help create viral marketing campaigns.

What Is a Hashtag?

A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by a hash symbol (#) on social media platforms, used to categorize content and make it easily discoverable.

When someone clicks on a hashtag, they'll see a feed of all public posts that include the same hashtag. Private account posts that contain hashtags are not publicly visible — they are only available to private account followers or connections.

What Is the Purpose of Hashtags in Social Media?

Hashtags are designed to improve the user experience on social networks. Today social media algorithms are advanced and sophisticated. Still, in the early 2000s, users had very little control over the content they saw on their feeds, which led to frustration and dissatisfaction.

The hashtags changed the way search on social media functions, making content more discoverable and allowing users to easily find and follow conversations, topics, events, and trends related to that specific hashtag.

When someone clicks on a hashtag, they are shown a feed of all the public posts on that specific social media platform that have used that hashtag. This allows users to see a curated selection of content related to a particular topic, making it easier for them to engage with relevant information.

For example, when someone clicks on the hashtag #SocialMediaMarketing on Twitter, they will see all public posts that use this hashtag.

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Six Ways on How To Find Trending Hashtags

Hashtags can increase your visibility and attract the right audience to your social media pages, but only if you use the right ones. Here are six simple ways to find trending hashtags for your niche:

  1. Social Media Platforms
  2. Hashtag Research Tools
  3. Social Media Listening Tools
  4. Analyze Competitors
  5. Follow Influencers in Your Niche
  6. Online Communities

1. Social Media Platforms

Hashtags are primarily used on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok but are also increasingly present on Facebook and LinkedIn. Each of these platforms has a homepage or explore page where you can see trending topics and hashtags:

  • Instagram. Type a keyword related to the trending hashtag in the search bar, click on the results, and filter them by choosing the "Tags" option. You'll get a sorted list of popular hashtags related to your keyword. Check the "Explore" page on Instagram to see the top posts and hashtags.
  • Twitter. Go to the "Explore" page and type a keyword related to the trending hashtag you're looking for in the search bar. You will see a list of the most popular hashtags related to your keyword. You can also check the "Topics" section on the left sidebar to see your niche's trending topics and hashtags.
  • Facebook. Type in a keyword related to the trending hashtag you're looking for in Facebook's search bar. You will see the list of the most popular hashtags related to your keyword in the drop-down menu.
  • YouTube. Check the “Explore” page to see trending topics and hashtags in your industry. Another option is to go to the YouTube homepage and turn on “Trend Alerts”; enter the keywords you want to track, set notification frequency, the number of views per hour that will trigger notifications, and the YouTube category and language. Save the alert.
  • TikTok. Type in a keyword related to the trending hashtag you're looking for in TikTok's search bar. Click on "Hashtags" from the options that appear, and you will see a list of the most popular hashtags related to your keyword. You can also check the "Discover" page to see the top trending hashtags on TikTok.
  • LinkedIn. Go to the “My Network” icon on the top (PC) or the bottom (smartphone) of your screen. Scroll to the bottom to see trending hashtags relevant to your network.

2. Hashtag Research Tools

Hashtag analytics software like Brand24, Digimind, BuzzSumo, Hashtagify, or BrandMentions can help you discover your niche's most popular and relevant hashtags. These tools are mostly premium, but most come with a free trial.

Although each tool has unique features and capabilities, they work on a similar principle: enter the keyword or hashtag you're interested in, and the software will generate a list of related hashtags you can use. It will provide insights into the popularity, engagement, and reach, so you can find trending hashtags that are most relevant to your audience.

Many hashtag research tools provide a list of related hashtags that you can use to expand your reach and increase engagement. They also track the performance of your hashtags over time. Use this information to adjust your hashtag strategy and improve your SMM efforts.

3. Social Media Listening Tools

Monitoring and tracking social media conversations and activities related to your industry or brand can help you discover trending hashtags.

Choose a social media listening tool that suits your needs and budget. Popular choices include Hootsuite Insights, Sprout Social, and Brandwatch.

Create a search query using relevant keywords, phrases or hashtags related to your industry or brand. You can use any word — your main keywords, company’s or CEO’s name, product names, or existing hashtags. Based on your entry, the tool will show you the most relevant hashtags you can use.

4. Analyze Competitors

Researching and analyzing competitors can be a great way to discover new hashtags and stay up to date with the latest social media trends.

Identify your competitors (if you already haven't) by entering your primary keywords into the search engine or social media platforms. Top-positioned results are your main competitors. Analyze their social media posts and see what hashtags they use frequently and which generate the most engagement (likes, comments, shares). Social media analytics tools like Sprout Social or Hootsuite will help you gain these valuable insights.

Use the hashtags you discovered in your social media marketing strategy, but only if they’re relevant to your content and targeted audience.

5. Follow Influencers in Your Niche

Influencers are trendsetters. Identify and follow the most popular influencers in your industry. See what hashtags they use in posts on social media platforms like Instagram (don’t forget that Stories and Reels can contain hashtags, too), Facebook, Twitter, or others. Check what hashtags generate the most engagement and include them in your content.

6. Online Communities

Identify online communities relevant to your industry or niche. These could be forums, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, or subreddits. Join communities and start monitoring the discussions. Look for posts and comments that include hashtags and take note of the ones that are frequently used.

How To Use Hashtags in Social Media

Hashtags can improve your social media marketing strategy and make it more efficient, but only if you follow the best practices while using them:

  1. Learn the Hashtag Basics
  2. Choose the Right Hashtag for Your Niche
  3. Use Hashtags in Your Content
  4. Track Your Hashtag Strategy Progress

1. Learn the Hashtag Basics

Follow these rules when adding hashtags to your social media posts:

  • Always put the hash (#) sign in front of the word. Don’t use spaces if your hashtag has more than one word. You cannot use punctuation signs in hashtags.
  • Don't overuse them. A #sentence #written #this #way is #illegible and #difficult to #understand. Use the hashtag 1 to 3 times per post, depending on the social network platform.
  • Keep it as simple as possible. If it contains more than one word, capitalize each word to make the hashtag more readable #UseHashtagsCorrectly.
  • Use hashtags the audience is searching for. Unusual hashtags with low search volume won’t attract users to your post.
  • Use specific terms instead broad ones. Broad terms have an enormous reach and your post will sink in and go unnoticeably.

2. Choose the Right Hashtags for Your Niche

Using popular hashtags if your posts are not relevant in content is not recommendable. Instead, determine the goal you want to achieve and start looking for the most effective hashtags for your niche. Hashtag research tools such as Keyhole, Hashtagify, or Sprout Social can help you identify keywords and hashtags relevant to your brand.

Your hashtags can be product-related (for example, #Smartphone), seasonal (#Thanksgiving), social cause (#MeToo), location-oriented (#NY) or acronyms (#SMM).

Branded hashtags are a great way to boost reach, discoverability, and engagement. It consists of your company's name — for example, ours is #DesignRush.

Another interesting type is influencer hashtags which influencers create to help their followers find and engage with the content they create. These hashtags are usually short and catchy and often include the influencer's name, brand, or signature catchphrase. Check out top influencer marketing agencies to discover influencers in your niche and start collaboration.

3. Use Hashtags in Your Content

Once you've chosen the hashtags, start adding them to your content, but do it sparingly. The rule of less is more is especially applicable here.

If you overuse hashtags, your posts may appear difficult to understand and cluttered; therefore, social media platforms may consider them spam. On the other hand, using a few hashtags relevant to your content will add value and boost your brand's visibility, contributing to the success of your SMM strategy.

4. Track Your Hashtag Strategy Progress

Monitoring the performance of your hashtags is the best way to find out if and to what extent they are contributing to the success of your social media campaigns.

Each social network has its own analytics, but you can get more detailed reports using the hashtag research tools mentioned above.

You should pay attention to the metrics of popularity, reach, interactions, and users. They will help you decide which hashtags are performing well and which you should replace.

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How To Use Hashtags on Different Social Media Platforms

Although there is no universal rule for using hashtags in social media, one piece of advice applies to all platforms — use only the ones relevant to your content. Here are the best practices for how to use hashtags in social media:

How To Use Hashtags on Instagram

Instagram Help Center suggests the following guidelines for hashtag usage:

  • Add hashtags to post descriptions, comments, or stories.
  • If your profile is private, posts containing hashtags won't appear publicly on hashtag pages.
  • Your hashtags can contain numbers, but not spaces and special characters ($ or %).
  • You can use up to 30 hashtags per post. If you add more than 30 tags to a single photo/video, your comment will not be published.

According to Instagram’s Creator Community, use 3 to 5 hashtags per post for best results.

How To Use Hashtags on Twitter

Twitter is the home network of hashtags. Here are the best practices for using them according to Twitter’s guidelines:

  • Use hashtags anywhere in the tweet or quote.
  • Find popular hashtags in Twitter’s trending section.
  • Hashtags do not support punctuation signs and spaces.
  • The number of hashtags is not limited, but use no more than two for best results.

How To Use Hashtags on Facebook

Facebook suggests the following guidelines for hashtag usage:

  • Keep it simple, avoiding punctuation, special characters, and spaces.
  • Use hashtags in posts, comments, and stories.
  • Although there is no official limitation, limit hashtags to 1 or 2 per post.

How To Use Hashtags on YouTube

Hashtags also boost discoverability on YouTube and, therefore, you should use them as a part of the video optimization process, along with the keywords.

Google Support suggests following these practices:

  • Use hashtags in the playlist title or video description.
  • For best results, use up to 5 tags per video.
  • If you use over 60 tags, YouTube will ignore each of them. Over-tagging might cause the removal of your video from the platform.
  • Misleading, irrelevant, hateful speech, vulgar, or sexual harassment tags will lead to removing your video from the YouTube platform.

How To Use Hashtags on TikTok

Including hashtags in your TikTok videos can make them more easily discoverable to a broad audience. This increases your reach and helps in getting more views, likes, and followers.

Additionally, TikTok's algorithm uses hashtags to suggest content to users based on their interests, so using relevant hashtags can also help users get recommended to new audiences.

  • Use hashtags in all of your posts.
  • Avoid using too broad tags, such as #DIY or #TBT.
  • For best results, use up to five tags per post.

How To Use Hashtags on LinkedIn

The most popular business platform, LinkedIn, is an ideal place to develop and use branded hashtags and encourage your connections to use them, too. Besides branded tags, you can also use all industry-related tags to boost the visibility of your posts.

LinkedIn suggests following hashtags guidelines:

  • Use hashtags anywhere in your posts.
  • Do not exaggerate — use 2 to 5 hashtags per post.
  • Use a mix of niche-specific and branded hashtags.

What Are the Benefits of Using Hashtags?

The benefits of using hashtags may vary depending on your specific niche, use case, and audience. Still, these are some of the most common:

  • Increased visibility: Hashtags help increase the visibility of a post, making it easier for users to discover and engage with related content.
  • Better user experience: Hashtags help categorize and organize content, making it easier for users to find and follow relevant topics. Easier discoverability improves overall user experience.
  • Increased engagement: Posts with relevant hashtags can increase engagement from users who follow those hashtags or search for related content.
  • Greater reach: By using trending hashtags, you can expand the reach of your posts to a larger audience beyond your followers.
  • Improved brand awareness: Using branded hashtags can help increase brand awareness and recognition.
  • More accurate audience targeting: Hashtags can help you target specific groups of users based on their interests, leading to more targeted and relevant engagement.
  • Improved analytics: Hashtags can provide valuable insights into your audience and their behavior, helping you track engagement, reach, and growth.
  • Event promotion: You can use hashtags to promote and track engagement for online and offline events, increasing visibility and reach.
  • Community building: Hashtags can help build online communities, promoting a sense of connection among users.

Hashtags in Social Media: Key Takeaways

Hashtags are a popular asset of all social media platforms. They categorize content making it more discoverable to a broad audience. This way, hashtags raise brand visibility, improve reach and allow better targeting and engagement. The benefits of hashtags include facilitated community building and event organization.

To improve your SMM strategy, you’ll need to determine the goals you want to achieve, based on which you will choose relevant and popular tags.

For best results, follow the suggested social media tips for using hashtags on different social media platforms or contact some of the top social media marketing companies that will develop a unique strategy for your brand.

Hashtags in Social Media FAQs

1. What is the purpose of a hashtag in social media?

The purpose of a hashtag in social media is to group posts on a particular topic and increase their visibility. When you add a hashtag to a post, it becomes easier to discover by anyone interested in that specific topic.

The audience often uses hashtags to join and contribute to conversations; content creators use them to gain greater visibility for their posts and reach a wider audience.

2. What is a hashtag used for?

Hashtags are used to categorize posts and increase discoverability, brand awareness, and engagement in marketing campaigns and event organizations.


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