How to use Hashtags
Hashtags are a key component of any company’s social media strategy. No matter which social platforms you use, understanding how to use hashtags can add a significant boost to your brand’s online engagement.
What are Hashtags?
In short, hashtags are an excellent way to categorise social media content to a specific topic, event, theme or conversation and make it more discoverable. They allow you to place your content in front of a greater community of people who are specifically looking for or talking about your topic. Hashtags can therefore be very useful in driving more users to your site and and expanding your brand’s social reach.
Why use Hashtags?
As mentioned above, including hashtags in your posts make them more visible to groups of people who are engaging in a relevant topic. This means that you are essentially delivering a post to a community which is already looking for it. If used correctly, a hashtag is almost guaranteed to increase the amount of views your content receives, provided the conversation is popular enough.
Overall, the key aim of hashtags is to promote your business and achieve greater social engagement with your content through likes, shares, comments and new followers.
A great example of a company successfully utilising a hashtag is Coca-Cola with their #ShareACoke campaign. In 2013 Coca-Cola came up with the idea of offering personalised labels for their coke bottles. Within this initiative, customers can gift Coca-Cola to others and share a Coke with them.
The brand followed this with the launch of a website, from which customers could order their personalised Coke. The visibility of this campaign was further boosted when the brand formed collaborations with stars like Ryan Seacrest and Selena Gomez. The result was a viral hashtag which served to redefine Coca-Cola’s media image, and is still being promoted by the brand to this day.
Popular Types of Hashtags
Product or service
If your post is prioritising the sale of a particular product or service, it is common for brands to make use of basic keywords to describe a product or service, examples being #ToteBag or #Cafe.
With 7 days in the week and a wide spectrum of emotions to associate with them, there is an extensive variety of daily hashtags to choose from. Some examples include #MondayBlues, #Friyay or #PicOfTheDay.
These are slightly more specific, displaying your brand's position within an industry. Examples may include #JapaneseSweets or #TravelBlogger.
Whether it's in real life or online, different communities can exist anywhere. Think #GardenersOfInstagram or #PaintersOfTwitter.
Special or seasonal event
These refer to holidays or seasonal celebrations or perhaps support for social issues, with examples being #NationalDoughnutDay or #PrideMonth.
While you can geo-tag your posts, it is still a good idea to refer to your location through a hashtag, examples being #LondonEats or #VisitNepal.
These combine elements of product, niche and community hashtags. They are phrases people use to connect to existing communities in order to promote brand awareness and to foster a sense of belonging. Examples include #WritersBlock or #SheWhoWanders.
Highly popular due to their simplicity and universal recognition, previous examples include #OOTD (outfit of the day), #TBT (Throwback Thursday), and the infamous #YOLO (you only live once).
Hashtags also help your audience find you
Instagram and LinkedIn both offer users the ability to follow hashtags as well as other users and organisations. Therefore, using the more popular ones can be a great way to help your audience find your content.
For example, if you were to use #Tattoo in your social posts, anyone following that hashtag will likely see that post in their feed. This can achieve anything from merely placing your brand name in front of more eyes, to gaining new followers and shares for your brand.
How to find the best hashtags for your brand
Check out the competition
You shouldn't model your own approach to social media on your competition's strategy too closely, but take a look at the hashtags they use, as this can give you some ideas about what works in your particular industry, as well as what doesn't.
This can help you to understand where your competitors are posting, and if there are any gaps in their approach that you can exploit.
Observe what hashtags your audience is already using
If your audience is already using a specific hashtag, it is likely that other people are using it too. Tapping into these existing communities is a great way to expand your audience, as these are the people who are most likely to be interested in your business.
Both Instagram and Twitter provide features which allow you to filter your search so that you only see the hashtags used by your followers.
Instagram also offers a related hashtag feature
This allows you to find relevant hashtags which are slightly more specific than your original keyword-based hashtags. This essentially means a more targeted audience with less content to compete with. These can therefore be some of the best hashtags for Instagram brands wanting to connect with more passionate communities.
LinkedIn also delivers something similar by offering hashtag recommendations after you click on one. To access this, choose ‘discover new hashtags’ after clicking on the ellipsis.
Create a branded hashtag
If you are looking for a more original approach, you may also find success through the creation of your own hashtag. A branded hashtag is simply a tag that you create in promotion of your brand or your campaign. While this may present more of a challenge depending on the size of your brand, the aforementioned example of the #ShareACoke campaign demonstrates the efficacy of this when done on a large scale.
You can raise awareness of your hashtag by including it in the captions of your posts and making it visible throughout your daily stories (Instagram & Facebook stories, Twitter fleets etc).
In addition to this, you could run a contest with a branded hashtag to increase its popularity while also collecting user-generated content. This has been demonstrated in the past by Audi shortly after the release of the R8.
Following the launch, a Twitter user let the brand know how badly she wanted to drive the new car by including #WantAnR8 in her tweet. In a surprising masterstroke, the brand allowed her to drive the new R8 for a day. The hashtag then grew in popularity as the brand used it in the promotion of their new car. This led others to start using it as Audi began surprising a few unsuspecting followers by letting them drive the R8 for a day.
More than 75,000 Twitter mentions later, this demonstrates a real-world example of how to correctly utilise user-generated content and the rewards which accompany social listening.
Hashtag Best Practice
Capitalise your words
When using or creating hashtags that have more than one word, such as #CoffeeTime, it's important to capitalize the first letter of every word. This is because assistive technology (such as screen readers for people with visual impairments) require the capital letter to understand that there are two separate words. Without the capital letter on #CoffeeTime the screen reader will just read it out as a single word.
Don't just choose the most popular hastags you can find
It's often tempting to choose the most popular hashtags you can find, for example, a coffee shop choosing the hashtag #Coffee. However, as there are over 142 million posts tagged with #Coffee, your post will quickly disappear from peoples timelines.
In this case, it might be better to choose a slightly less popular hashtag such as #CoffeeVibes as this hashtag has less than a million posts. This means your post will stick at the top of the page and in people's timelines far longer.
What are the best social media sites for hashtags?
Hashtags are useful additions to all social media posts. While Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are the most popular platforms for hashtags, YouTube is just as well optimised for them.
Out of the five, Facebook is the one site on which hashtags are not as prevalent for navigation and discovery. Since many users' profiles are private on Facebook, it is more challenging for brands to track how users are interacting with them.
To monitor user engagement with your brand’s hashtags you must use the URL facebook.com/hashtag/, including the keyword you want to search at the end.
How many hashtags should I use?
The number of hashtags you should use can differ depending upon the chosen social media platform:
- Twitter - While you can use as many hashtags as you like within the 280 character threshold, Twitter recommends you limit yourself to 2 as best practice.
- Facebook - While Facebook is seeing its users shift to private channels, you can still use hashtags in addition to comments and for grouping content in private groups. The optimal number to use is 1-2.
- Instagram - As most users factor in their hashtags near the bottom of their posts or in a comment, you can use more without your post appearing cluttered. The optimal number is 5-11. While you can also include up to 10 hashtags in your stories, it is harder to hide and may impact the appearance of your content.
- YouTube - You can add hashtags into your YouTube video title or in the video description. However, should you use more than 15 hashtags, YouTube’s algorithm will ignore all the hashtags and may even flag your content for spam behaviour. It’s recommended that you use 2-5 hashtags.
- LinkedIn - You can add hashtags anywhere into your written LinkedIn updates and articles. Although, since LinkedIn is a professional platform, it is wise to act mindfully when incorporating hashtags into your posts. The optimal number of hashtags to use is 1-3.
You can recap the points made in our post in our short explainer video:
Hashtags first gained popularity in 2007, and their importance to social media strategy has only grown in the years since. They are an incredibly useful resource for organically boosting social engagement with your content, as well as your brand.
No matter what product or service you are offering, there is likely a hashtag for it, and a wide variety to choose from.
To find out more about boosting online engagement, or to discover our other resources on digital marketing and social media, you can visit our Digital Marketing Services page, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.