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 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.
Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
What is a Hashtag?
Frequently asked questions about hashtags in social media include the basics like “what is a hashtag” or “what does a hashtag mean?”
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.
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
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.
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 agencies that will develop a unique strategy for your brand.