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How to Use Hashtags: The Ultimate Guide

#hashtags are an incredible way to get your social media in front of people who actually are interested in it. However, are you using too many hashtags for your target platform? Find out here!

Home / Blogs / How to Use Hashtags: The Ultimate Guide
Raghav Tayal

Head Of Operations - Digital Web Solutions

June 21, 2024

Social media is the rage in today’s times for all the right reasons. The platforms make it easier for brands and people to create content that appeals to a target audience by using content creation methodologies and hashtags. While the techniques and approaches used by content creators can be different, what binds everyone together is the use of hashtags.

If you are wondering what they are, hashtags are often represented with a ‘#’ symbol followed by a word or phrase that relates to the content being shared. Anything can be a hashtag as long as it is unique, meaningful, and has a following. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Here is everything you need to know about #usinghashtags:

What Are Hashtags?

Hashtags bring together all the discussions and social conversations about a specific topic under one roof in a single place. They make it easier for people to find what they are looking for and contribute their own ideas, thoughts, and findings with related and relevant hashtags. The octothorpe symbol (#) is used to hashtag a word into a topic on social media. Hashtags do not necessarily work on websites.

Chris Messina is credited with using hashtags to group conversations surrounding a topic. The first hashtag campaign was launched on X (formerly Twitter) in 2009. Since then, it has been adopted by many social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, TikTok, and YouTube. As a result, using popular, relevant, and trending hashtags has become a crucial part of any social media strategy.

Why Are Hashtags Important for Social Media?

Hashtags are versatile. They can be used to connect with like-minded people, speak for a cause, start a campaign inviting content from your audience, and even propagate your brand’s motto beyond the website. They also enable a business to promote its range of products and services by bringing them in front of people looking for them. Additionally, as hashtags can be location-based, you can increase your brand’s visibility by using location and branded hashtags. 

Here’s why hashtags are so important:

  1. They increase engagement among your followers and non-followers by allowing you to join an ongoing conversation and share your point of view. Doing so will boost your brand’s visibility and draw engagement by means of likes, shares, comments, and follows. 
  2. Branded hashtags can be used to create brand awareness and entice people to take an interest in your offerings. These hashtags can contain your business name or the slogan that keeps everyone connected with your brand. 
  3. Every social media platform has character limits when it comes to captions. Using hashtags allows brands to add meaningful context to their content without writing too much. 
  4. Hashtags form a social conversation group, and using them will enable anyone on social media to find your brand. For instance, using #beach will be seen by people who love to travel, live near the beach, or are planning a beach vacation. They effortlessly make your brand more discoverable. 
  5. Catching up on trending hashtags is the fastest way to grab user attention and be seen by new people without being heavily promotional. It also helps your target audience see an informal side of your brand, making it more relatable. 

How Do Hashtags Work?

To understand how hashtags work, it is necessary to recognize that they work differently on each platform. Each social media platform customizes its algorithm to maximize the discoverability and relevance of hashtags.

Hashtags often act like little tags or labels that group together a topic under one frame. When a hashtag is used in a post, it gets linked to all other social media posts on the platform that are using the exact same hashtag. As a result, each of these hashtags becomes a massive library of information that is centered around covering a specific topic.

Social media users can use hashtags to find what they are looking for and can even share their content to get featured in this library. There is no limit to the number of hashtags a social media platform can house. The hashtags can range from sharing funny content to serious opinions about a trending topic. Its ease of use makes hashtags incredibly versatile to form and share.

How to Use Hashtags Effectively

Hashtags work differently for social media platforms; it is best to understand how they work before using them. Here’s everything you need to know:

Understanding the Basics

  • Your hashtags must always start with ‘#.’ Avoid using spaces, symbols, and punctuation.
  • Keep your hashtags small. Putting together too many words can be confusing and difficult to read.
  • Make sure to keep your profile public. Using hashtags in a private account will not be seen by your non-followers.
  • Avoid stuffing your social media posts with hashtags. Use only relevant and trending hashtags.
  • Don’t use unnecessary jargon for your hashtags. They are hard to find and will most likely not have any followers.

Strategies for Choosing the Right Hashtags

Here are some must-try strategies for choosing hashtags that are right for you:

  • Identify what relevant influencers are doing and learn from them. They play a crucial role in shaping the dynamics of today’s social media trends. Search for the ones relevant to your niche and find the most popular and niche hashtags. These tags will help your business become more discoverable to a favorable audience.
  • Another quick and effective way to find relevant and trending hashtags is to use tools for research work. These tools are designed to analyze different social media platforms and find popular and trending hashtags to leverage.
  • When you find a set of hashtags relevant to your business niche, it is highly recommended that you evaluate them before using them. You wouldn’t want to use a hashtag without understanding its origin and nature of use. To guarantee a successful hashtag strategy, make sure you understand the context before using it.

The Role of Hashtags in Marketing

Over the years, hashtags have become important for social media marketing. A successful hashtag strategy is the key to making your brand stand out and become the talk of the town. However, it is essential that your business makes the right choice. Recent algorithm updates prioritize content that fits a context, and using a few hashtags can be enough to get your post across landscapes and reach its target audience.

Aside from finding and using trending hashtags, you can also consider starting one of your own. It only needs to have a meaning and should be simple to use. Most businesses launch social media campaigns with a hashtag that summarizes the gist of the campaign. Ensuring yours sticks in people’s minds and resonates with them is crucial.

Creating a unique hashtag gives your business the power to market its brand in its own way. Additionally, it also makes it possible for businesses to leverage storytelling to their advantage while encouraging their followers to join in and share a piece of their lives, experiences, and knowledge with the world.

What Is an Example of a Hashtag?

Let’s look at how Orea, a beloved biscuit brand worldwide, sizzled social media networks with its hashtag campaign #OREODunkSweepstakes.

What was the campaign about?

Oreo asked people to take pictures of them dunking their Oreos in milk and share them using a dedicated branded hashtag, #OREODunkSweepstakes to win a chance to enjoy a VIP dunking experience in LA or New York.

How did it perform?

The campaign went viral and garnered thousands of people sharing their pictures with the hashtag on social media networks like Instagram and X (formerly Twitter).

What makes it work wonders:

Celebrities like Christina Aguilera, Josh Peck, David Lopez, and Brazilian football star Neymar Jr. shared posts of themselves getting ‘dunks.’ The campaign worked because it was fun to do with family and friends while having the chance to win an extravagant reward.

Best Practices for Hashtag Use in Social Media Marketing

While hashtags are incredibly promising for making your social media post go viral and be seen by non-followers, it is still crucial to use them appropriately for maximum results. Here are the key practices to try:

1. Number of Hashtags to Use

Your social media post should not be a museum of hashtags you could find. It should rather be a highly relevant and selective set of hashtags that align with your brand as well as the context of the post. To ensure social media platforms do not see your posts as spam, use a specific number of hashtags.

For instance,

  • The ideal number of hashtags for Instagram is 3-6 hashtags on a single post. However, nearly 20-30 hashtags can be added to the first comment to gain more post visibility and increase discoverability further.
  • Similarly, for Facebook, using 2 to 5 hashtags can help the right audience find your posts.
  • On LinkedIn, there is no limit to the number of hashtags that can be used. However, the platform recommends using at least 3-4 hashtags per post.
  • Whereas, on YouTube, any more hashtags than 15 get ignored.
  • Pinterest allows a maximum of 20 hashtags per post. However, using only 4-5 highly relevant hashtags will do the trick in making your content more visible.

2. Placement and Presentation

Adding the recommended number of hashtags for most social media networks will help your post reach its target audience. If you want to add more hashtags, consider adding them as the first comment. Too many hashtags in the caption make the post seem spammy, and social media algorithms discourage discoverability for them.

3. Tracking and Analytics

Tracking and analyzing hashtags is important to ascertain that they work for your business. Metrics like reach, engagement, impressions, sentiment, and influence are crucial as they indicate whether your posts are reaching the right audience. Also, performance tracking will help you understand if the posts are garnering the type of attention and engagement you want or if there’s a need to revisit and change the hashtag suggestions you picked.

4. Avoiding Common Mistakes

Here are some common mistakes that businesses often make when they are using hashtags for their growth:

  1. Avoid using generic hashtags. They are vast and may not be successful in attracting the attention of your target audience.
    • Do this instead: Use hashtags specific to your target audience, align with the post’s context, and are niche industry keywords.
  2. If you have a brick-and-mortar location where your target audience can come to shop or spend time, not using location hashtags will make it challenging for your local target audience to find you.
    • Do this instead: Using local hashtags like #Chicago or #NewYorkCity can help drive qualified traffic to your establishment.
  3. Not understanding the context of the hashtag and drawing your own meanings can lead to posts that do not align with its purpose.
    • Do this instead: Spend time checking what type of captions, messaging, and pictures others have posted for the hashtag you are aiming to target.
  4. Using hashtags of all sorts without analyzing if they are fetching you fruitful results.
    • Do this instead: Use hashtag analyzing and tracking tools to determine what is working and what’s not. Being experimental can do the trick.
  5. Stuffing your caption with hashtags that you found to be relevant. Overusing hashtags will make your posts look spammy, and readers will ignore them altogether.
    • Do this instead: Be very selective and specific with your hashtags. Using a few hashtags will take your post to places where your target audience would actually want to read it.

Advanced Hashtag Techniques

Ready to launch your very own sparkling hashtag campaign? Here’s everything to do:

1. Creating Effective Hashtag Campaigns

Start by understanding who your target audience is, what they want, and how you can deliver it to them. While staying afloat with the social media demographic is important, it is equally essential to understand your target audience’s buyer persona. This way, you will better understand their online behavior and curate campaigns that strike a chord with them.

2. Leveraging Trending Hashtags

Using trending hashtags is the best way to jump on a moving train that’s headed to your destination. However, make sure that you are setting a clear (and realistically achievable) goal that you would want to achieve at the end of the campaign. Once the goal has been decided, identify the trending hashtags that align with your business and use them in your posts. At the same time, if you want to become a trendsetter, consider creating a hashtag campaign that engages your target audience while aggregating information from them while they have fun.

3. Cross-Platform Hashtag Strategies

Hashtags work differently on each social media network, and to guarantee success, consider taking all the networks and their algorithm preferences into account.

Here’s how you can use hashtags for each social media platform:

  • Instagram hashtag strategy:
    • Use broad spectrum and niche-specific hashtags.
    • Avoid generic or oversaturated hashtags.
    • You can add hashtags on your Instagram stories using text (only one hashtag is allowed if you use a sticker).
    • Up to 30 hashtags can be added as the first comment on the post.
  • Facebook hashtag strategy:
    • As Facebook doesn’t rely on hashtags to show posts to its users, too many hashtags will make your post look spammy.
    • Use hashtags naturally in your sentences instead of adding them at the end of the post.
    • Use Facebook’s hashtag suggestions to choose the best hashtags for your post.
  • Twitter hashtag strategy:
    • Use the Explore tab to find trending hashtags and leverage them only if relevant.
    • A mix of specific campaigns and popular hashtags can increase discoverability.
  • TikTok hashtag strategy:
    • As the platform thrives on trending hashtags, watch for worthy finds on the Discover page.
    • Group your hashtags based on the topic you are posting on.
  • Pinterest hashtag strategy:
    • Use the hashtags in the pin’s description and never in the title.
    • Pinterest shows the search volume for every hashtag; use this information to find relevant ones for your post.

Industry-Specific Hashtag Usage

Hashtags may seem complicated and ineffective if you haven’t used them correctly. It is always best to understand your competitors, what they are doing, and ideas you can borrow from their hashtag strategy. A successful hashtag strategy starts when you use hashtags as a means to add context to your posts and make it easier for your target audience to find them. Do not hesitate to use tools to identify market potential, track performance, and optimize your campaigns.

Future Trends in Hashtag Usage

Potential future trends include:

  • AI-driven hashtags
  • Interactive hashtags
  • Visual hashtags
  • Cause-related hashtags
  • Story-driven hashtags
  • Niche hashtags

Hashtags are popular on social media for various reasons. They look trendy and catchy and group people interested in the same topic together. However, using too many hashtags can hamper your brand’s reach, engagement, and following. Also, every platform has its own preferences and algorithms gauging the use of hashtags, so it is important to adhere to the limit to make the most of your social media presence.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, absolutely! Branding hashtags are a great way to create a unique and appealing brand presence on social media platforms.

Using social media tracking tools is the best way to track the performance of your hashtags. These tools can scan through various social media networks to generate accurate results.

While using the wrong hashtags will not cause any penalties, they can prevent your posts from reaching the target audience. Moreover, most social media platforms see the overuse of hashtags as spam, eventually resulting in poor reach. There’s also a probability that you may end up using tags that are taken over or temporarily blocked.

Using generic hashtags will only get you moving in the hashtag game without any promising wins. However, using niche hashtags will get you to the audience that is looking for you, drawing in more engagement, follows, and eventually an audience base that is interested in what your brand offers.

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