The What, Why, When, Where and How of Hashtags
One of the questions I’m most frequently asked when I’m running social media training sessions is
“What are # hashtags?”
They are so commonly used now that everyone recognises them. Often though many social media users not too confident about how and when to use them.
Because of its widespread use, the word hashtag was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in June 2014.
- They always start with # but won’t work if you use spaces, punctuation or symbols.
- Make sure your accounts are public. Otherwise, the hashtagged content you write won’t be seen by any non-followers.
- Don’t string too many words together. The best hashtags tend to be relatively short and easy to remember.
- Use relevant and specific hashtags. If it is too obscure, it will be hard to find and it won’t likely be used by other social media users.
- Limit the number of hashtags you use. More isn’t always better. It actually can look spammy.
Hashtags are either a keyword or an unspaced phrase prefixed with the hash character (
#) to form a label. It is a type of metadata tag. They originated on Twitter. Twitter hashtags, like #followfriday also known as #FF, help spread information while also helping to organise it. Basically, they allow grouping of similarly tagged messages so that a search will return all the messages that contain that hashtag.
Words or phrases in messages on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube can be tagged by entering # before them. They can be added as the word or phrase appears in a sentence, e.g.,
“Do you need a Marketing Strategy for your business? A #MarketingStrategy would help you better understand your approach to achieving your business goals.”
or can be added at the end, e.g.,
“Check your stats to see when your followers are most active. Then plan to post during those times #TwitterTips”.
A hashtag is a favourite tool of conferences and event organisers, such as the Social Media Marketing World Conference “Learn more about social media at #SMMW2023”. It’s also a way for Twitter users to organise themselves. If everyone agrees to append a certain hashtag to tweets about a topic, it becomes easier to find that topic in a search. It also makes it more likely the topic will appear in Twitter’s Trending Topics.
Capitals or Lower Case?
Usually, you’re advised to use all lowercase after your hash, however, I don’t recommend that but instead recommend that you capitalise each word. For example, for my two businesses, I use #MorrMarketing and #BeYourOwnGraphicDesigner.
It’s too easy for your hashtag to be misread, like this infamous one #susanalbumparty for the singer Susan Boyle’s album launch. Or this one which caused great confusion #nowthatchersdead, if each word had been capitalised it would have been obvious it was about Margaret Thatcher and not Cher.
How many hashtags should I use?
This varies according to the social media platform, so let’s take them one at a time:
Technically, you can use as many hashtags as you like in a Tweet, within the 280-character limit. But Twitter recommends using no more than two.
Twitter reported that tweets with hashtags can increase engagement by almost 100% for individuals and 50% for brands. Hubspot also found that tweets with hashtags are more likely to be retweeted than those without. They also found that using more than 2 hashtags dropped engagement by an average of 17%.
On Facebook only use 1-2 as the more you use the fewer interactions your post will get. Hashtags are not a popular thing to use on Facebook as they focus attention on the hashtag rather than on content and visuals.
You can use up to 30 hashtags on an Instagram post. But, many marketers say that looks spammy. Use 5 or 6. One study found that using 11 got them the best engagement.
It’s really up to you and what you find works best with your followers. To make it less obvious, many marketers add their hashtags as the first comment rather than in the original post.
1 or 2 is the recommended amount, incorporated anywhere into your written LinkedIn update or in a LinkedIn article you write.
You can also:
- Search hashtags using the platform’s search bar.
- See trending LinkedIn hashtags that will show in the “news and views” section on the home page.
- Get hashtag suggestions from LinkedIn as you write an update.
You can use between 2-5 hashtags on Pinterest. When using Pinterest for business, include Pinterest hashtags when writing a Pin description or in a written description when Repinning.
Pinterest even offers hashtag suggestions (in the mobile version only) when creating a new Pin.
The optimal number of hashtags to use is 2-3. Add them to your brand’s YouTube video title or in the video description.
Remember: Don’t use more than 15 hashtags. YouTube will ignore all the hashtags and maybe even flag your content because of your spammy behaviour.
Why use hashtags?
- Increased engagement with your followers as you’re taking part in a conversation happening on that social media platform
- An opportunity to build your brand. Creating a branded hashtag can be an effective way to promote your business and drive the conversation
- A way to show support for social issues. Using a hashtag that’s connected to an issue beyond your brand is a way to mobilise support for an important cause or issue
- Add context to a social media post without using up valuable characters or writing repetitive captions
- Help your target audience find you.
I hope that helps and if you have any questions then come and ask them on social media!