Jan 8, 2022

How to Use Hashtags Effectively on Social Media

Written by Clodagh O’Brien

When it comes to promoting your brand on social media, hashtags are a great way to drive views, likes, and shares. Previously known as the pound sign (#), the hashtag is a way to make your content discoverable to a captive audience.

Hashtags were first widely used on Twitter, but they have become commonplace on other social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and TikTok. Mastering the hashtag gives you a powerful way to engage your audience and increase your social impact at no cost other than the time it takes to do some research and pay attention to trends.

Used correctly, hashtags help people interested in your topic to find you and help expand your influence and followers.

What is a Hashtag?

A hashtag is a word or keyword phrase preceded by a hash symbol (#). It’s used within a post on social media to help those who may be interested in your topic to be able to find it when they search for a keyword or particular hashtag. It helps to draw attention to your posts and encourage interaction.

What Do You Do with Hashtags?

When using a phrase as a hashtag, you spell it out without spaces, such as #usinghashtags. It can include numbers but not symbols or punctuation. The hashtag can be placed at the beginning, middle or end of your social media post or comment, and it allows what you have written to be indexed by the social media network. With this strategy, people who are not your fans or followers can still find your content.

If you need some guidance on how to research keywords to feed into your hashtags, check out our infographic for five easy steps.

What Does a Hashtag Mean on Social Media?

While it sounds simple to place a hashtag in front of your keyword, there’s some other basic information that’s important to know when you are trying to be found by using hashtags.

Using them only makes a difference in your social media strategy when done the right way. Here are some general tips:

  • Don’t get carried away using a hashtag every couple of words. The number of hashtags that can be used depends on which platform you are using. But in most cases, one to three hashtags can have more impact than a lot of them.
  • Keep hashtags short and memorable rather than trying to use a lot of words in one tag. Remember #BlackOutTuesday being used successfully as part of the Black Lives Matter movement in America in 2020?
  • Don’t try to choose hashtags that are too clever or obscure. If you choose a tag that no one is going to search for, it won’t benefit your marketing as it won’t be found!
  • Use hashtags that are detailed and specific as this will lead to better results than broad or general ones. Broad terms are not likely to be searched, and if you use them, your content will probably get lost in a sea of unrelated content.
  • Don’t try to force hashtags into every post. Instead, use them when they add value and are likely to stimulate conversation and interaction.
  • Hashtags can not only attract members of your target audience but can also be used to research your competition. Search using hashtags, and you will uncover relevant content related to your topic.

Why are Hashtags Important?

Hashtags are important on social media as they enable your content to be found by the right people. Using relevant hashtags helps your content to be found and helps drive traffic to your content so that you can boost views, likes, and shares. The key is finding the right ones that match your content and appeal to users.

How to Find Effective Hashtags: Start with Influencers

There can be a fine line between hashtags that are too general and hashtags that are too complicated or can’t be found. A good place to start to determine what hashtags are effective is by paying attention to what hashtags influencers in your niche have chosen and are using.

The chances are you have a good idea who the influencers are that are capturing the attention of your audience, but if you are brand new to a niche, how do you find them? For a particular niche, the influencers are the people whose voices are most trusted and listened to, such as celebrities, famous bloggers, and YouTube users. There’s also a great bank of B2B influencers that you can use to create marketing impact, just make sure they are relevant to your business.

A great tool to use to identify influencers is BuzzSumo. Using this tool, you can find the top content, bloggers, publications and writers in your niche. Follow the top influencers, and notice the hashtags they use regularly to tap into relevant keywords and trends.

How to Use Hashtags Effectively on Social Media

Once you identify relevant influencers, you should use an influencer tracker tool to keep a list of important factors such as social channels used, specialty and relevance to your brand.

Other Research Tools for Finding Hashtags

Other research tools are specifically geared to narrowing down information about hashtags. Look into the following tools for help in identifying effective hashtags in your niche:

  • RiteTag offers instant hashtag suggestions in real-time engagement.Hashtagify.me is a tool that allows you to search for popularity and trends of hashtags.
  • Keyhole provides you with a free search function and gives you real-time data on a range of factors.

Remember to search for keywords related to your content on social platforms to see what hashtags come up. In addition, be sure to use social listening tools to understand what users are talking about and any trends that you could relate to your brand.

How Do Hashtags Work?

The point of using hashtags on social media is that you are indicating to a follower/user and algorithm that your content relates to a specific topic or category. Ultimately, it helps users to find relevant content easily across platforms so your content is discoverable to a wider (or niche) audience. 

How to Use Hashtags on Twitter

Using relevant hashtags on Twitter can increase your engagement, as long as you don’t go overboard. One or two hashtags per tweet should suffice. When you use a couple of hashtags and specifically ask your followers to retweet, this can result in even more engagement.

How to Use Hashtags Effectively on Social Media

The use of hashtags on Twitter will make your post accessible when people search for your tag. It can also help you to find conversations to get involved in. For even more impact on this platform, research trending hashtags. Check out this list of Twitter hashtag research tools and one specific to researching Twitter trends is Twitonomy.

How to Use Hashtags on Facebook

When you’re trying to get more exposure for your Facebook posts, using hashtags may help as they can boost organic reach. On Facebook, it’s important not to use too many hashtags. Usually, it’s recommended to only use one or two. More than that will make you seem unprofessional and could annoy those reading your posts.

You can find relevant hashtags to use by simply typing a keyword into the search bar.

How to Use Hashtags Effectively on Social Media

It may also be worth going back to your top-performing Facebook posts and reposting them with relevant hashtags. This not only reuses old content that resonated with your followers but may attract new ones that have an interest in your product or service.

How to Use Hashtags on LinkedIn

On LinkedIn, people haven’t always used hashtags, but they work on this platform the same way as any other. As of yet, LinkedIn doesn’t allow clickable hashtags in the body of the articles so you’ll need to use hashtags in the body of your post to get your article discovered.

One to three hashtags are usually recommended for LinkedIn. These can be added using the ‘Add’ button under ‘Hashtags’

How to Use Hashtags Effectively on Social Media

The use of hashtags on LinkedIn can get your posts in front of people outside your network. Let’s say you have 500 LinkedIn connections, posting without a hashtag limits your content to that network. However, if you use a hashtag such as #PPCMarketing, you may triple the number that sees it driving up your post engagement and credibility.

How to Use Hashtags on Instagram

Using hashtags on Instagram can increase reach and drive engagement. So feel free to use up to ten or eleven relevant and popular hashtags for Instagram Stories to reach the widest audience possible.

You can use as many as 30 hashtags on a regular post on Instagram. You probably don’t need to use that many, but it’s good to know that using more is acceptable here, so you can experiment.

See this example from ModCloth to get an idea of what type of hashtag could work.

How to Use Hashtags Effectively on Social Media

Use the search box to see what hashtags influencers or competitors use to engage on Instagram. Since this is the best platform for multiple hashtags, try a wide variety and use them on posts, photos and comments.

How to Use Hashtags on Pinterest

Hashtags are a great way to help people find your content based on keywords on Pinterest. Posts using hashtags are also put in chronological order so the platform puts the latest content first; helpful for fresh content you want to get seen instantly.

The image below is an example of the Pins that came up for the hashtag #digitalmarketing.

How to Use Hashtags Effectively on Social Media

Use one or two hashtags that are relevant to your topic. On this platform, broad terms aren’t likely to do any good. Use hashtags that are unique or specific to your topic particularly if you use Pinterest for Business.

If you’re looking for inspiration, check out these 3 inspirational Pinterest campaigns.

How to Use Hashtags on TikTok

TikTokers use hashtags on their videos to categorize content. These hashtags are also clickable meaning that your content will feature alongside other relevant videos. Like the other social platforms, using hashtags on TikTok helps to increase reach and helps the TikTok algorithm to decide which users see your content on the all-important ‘For You’ page.

The limit for captions on TikTok is 100 characters, so keep within that limit for any hashtags. That’s plenty of room to allow you to experiment to see what works. Try to mix it up by using popular and niche hashtags to get the most reach.

Be aware that hashtags on TikTok change frequently so you need to keep your eye on the ‘Discover’ page to see what’s trending.

How to Design a Hashtag Strategy

Choose specific hashtags whenever possible, because the more specific you can get, the more likely you are to attract a targeted audience. Using capital letters at the front of each word, although not required, clarifies what you are trying to communicate.

Your competition is probably already using hashtags in their social media strategy. How successful are they at engaging your mutual audience? Pay attention to how much or how little they use hashtags and what the response is.

There are no definitive answers when it comes to which hashtags you should use or how you should approach your strategy. A successful hashtag strategy starts with knowing your audience and taking the time to be familiar with what works on each platform. Beyond that, you will continue to learn what works (and what doesn’t) by using hashtags as part of your social media strategy and analyzing your results.

Hashtags are a great tool for communicating with your followers as well as increasing engagement and attracting new customers.

Use Hashtags to Become a Social Media Superstar

Whether you’re new to social media or a seasoned veteran, DMI’s certified Social Media Marketing course will help you understand the ins and outs of social media networks. From Facebook to YouTube and TikTok, you will understand how to drive engagement and extend reach. You will also learn how to devise a successful social media strategy and create engaging social content (hashtags included!) 


Updated 2022

Clodagh O’Brien
Clodagh O’Brien

Clodagh O'Brien is a content creator and strategist. Over the last 12 years, she has created and managed content for many SMEs and global brands. She's passionate about digital marketing and the impact of technology on culture and society. You can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.  

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