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How to use hashtags on social media

Maybe you’re already throwing a few hashtags into your posts, or maybe you’ve avoided them entirely. Either way, it’s important to know how they work and what they can add to your brand’s social media presence. There’s no exact right or wrong way to use hashtags, but following best practices and coming up with a strategy can help your business reach more people on social media!

What is a hashtag?

A hashtag is indicated by a # followed by a word or phrase, without any spaces. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn use these tags to sort posts. Users can search by hashtag and all the posts incorporating that word or phrase will show up in the search results. To take advantage of hashtags, make sure your social media accounts are public. Otherwise, you won’t show up in search results unless the searcher already follows you.

Instagram search results for hashtag wordpressdeveloper   Twitter search results for hashtag wordpressdeveloper

Why use hashtags?

Hashtags are incredibly beneficial to businesses because they help you reach more people on social media. If you use the right hashtags (more on that in a minute), the people you reach will likely already be interested in the product or service you provide. With a strong social media strategy, more exposure for your brand means more engagement with your posts and products, which translates into a positive brand community and, eventually, more sales.

Hashtags are especially important for growing your brand on Instagram, where search results are based strictly on people, tags and places. On Twitter and Facebook, searching is a little more dynamic. The content of your statuses, links, videos, etc. displays in search results, making hashtags less essential. On Instagram and LinkedIn, users can even follow hashtags, just like they would follow users.

Some brands also use hashtags to add an element of humor. These tags aren’t searched for, but they do help followers get to know your business’s personality! We love following Ralph the Corgi (and his “corgi bro George”), partly because of the clever tags their human adds to their adorable photos.

How do you use hashtags?

As a business, you want to be using hashtags to reach new people and grow your brand, just like an influencer or blogger would. You also want to engage (like, comment, repost, share to your story) with users who are using the hashtags you do. These people likely have similar interests to you and might really like your products.

As a business, it can be tempting to skimp on hashtag research. We know it takes a lot of time to find a collection of hashtags that really fit your brand. Tools like Tagdef can help you learn what a tag really means so you don’t look tone deaf. Context matters, and if your post stands out like a sore thumb in a hashtag’s search results, your brand could suffer.

Using hashtags haphazardly or using the wrong hashtags can hurt your brand’s image and reach. Social media platforms are constantly making changes to make their platforms safer and more enjoyable for users. Without realizing it, you could be using hashtags in a way that seems spammy to either a platform’s algorithm or users who then report you. This can limit your exposure on social media!

Hashtag Best Practices

To make sure your business reaps as much benefit as possible from hashtags, make sure you follow best practices. Every social media platform is a little different. However, there are some guidelines you should follow no matter where you’re posting.

  • Remember that every social media platform uses hashtags differently. Don’t employ the same strategy across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Research how your competitors are using hashtags across platforms and take note of the brands you think are doing a great job incorporating tags.
  • Take the time to find a few dozen hashtags that closely relate to your company. While generic hashtags like #summer can result in lots of likes, these people probably aren’t super interested in what you’re selling. Instead, focus on tags that reach communities who are more likely to become followers and customers.
  • Consider creating a hashtag for your brand for both you and your customers to use. This makes it easy for potential customers to search for your work on social media. You can also sift through the hashtag to find user-generated content to share to your own profiles.
  • Reach a broader audience of potential clients with different clusters of hashtags, instead of focusing on just one. Instagram makes researching clusters easy with “Related” hashtags. You also want to choose tags with varied popularity, with the exception of tags with millions of posts. Consider:
    • Location: #buffalove, #explorebuffalo, #newyorkonly
    • Industry and Product: #wordpressdevelopment, #digitalagency, #designbrands
    • Community: #makersgonnamake, #lightandairy, #craftnotcrap
    • Branded: #parkwaydigital, #discoverWP, #Adobe_DreamBig
  • Take advantage of hashtag holidays like #NationalDonutDay on June 1st. Only post for these holidays if they relate to your brand and are in line with your style guide. These holidays give you an opportunity to reach a wider audience with a post that showcases your business’s personality.
  • Vary the hashtags you use. Repeatedly using exactly the same hashtags, especially ones that don’t relate to your brand, looks spammy to both real users and social platforms’ algorithms.
  • Continue to research hashtags every few months. What was once a great way to reach people can now be overrun by spam accounts or no longer relate to your business. Use a spreadsheet to organize your hashtags and add new discoveries.

Using Hashtags on Instagram

If you’re still unsure if you want to utilize hashtags in your social media strategy, the best place to start is Instagram. Hashtags are most important here, because of how limited searching is. Load your post up with as many hashtags as you see fit (up to 30), as long as they relate to your business.

Instagram post insights displaying impressions via hashtags

With an Instagram Business Account, you can track how many people saw your post because of the hashtags you used. This is a great way to get a quick look at which types of hashtags bring the most people to your images and can guide your hashtag marketing strategy going forward.

Instagram allows you to use hashtags within your bio and Stories as well. This can further increase the number of accounts who get to know your brand through Instagram!

Hashtags are great for finding inspiration too. Looking for #tattooideas or #funnyanimals? Type into the search bar and you are greeted with thousands of images to spark your imagination.

Using Hashtags on Twitter

Hashtags originated on Twitter, but they’re not as important here as they once were. Twitter’s search capabilities are much more than they once were. However, hashtags are ingrained in the culture of Twitter and you’ll still see them regularly. They’re especially useful for sorting group discussions, which are known as “Twitter chats.”

The tricky part of using hashtags on Twitter? They have to fit within the 280-character limit, meaning you won’t be able to fit as many as you would on an Instagram post. However, we recommend you use just a few tags here anyway. In fact, “tweets using more than two hashtags see a significant drop in engagement.”

On Twitter, it’s easy to see which hashtags are trending. Consider taking advantage of the ones that relate to your brand with real-time tweets that add to what’s happening right now.

Using Hashtags on Facebook

Hashtags aren’t widely used on Facebook. Facebook itself doesn’t have many guidelines on how to use them on the platform. You will see them here, but it’s more often to add humor, incorporate a branded element or celebrate a hashtag holiday.

Like Twitter, less is more when it comes to hashtags on Facebook. It’s more common to see hashtags within a post, rather than at the end, which you’ll see on Instagram and Twitter. While Facebook has a fairly long character limit, the ideal post is less than 50 to 80 characters, so using hashtags can take up valuable space.

Using Hashtags on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the latest social media to incorporate hashtags. Here, users can follow specific tags (this is a new feature that’s rolling out slowly) and use them to search for relevant posts and articles. Because this is such a new feature, our best advice is to experiment on LinkedIn with what works for your brand on Instagram or Twitter, at least for now!