What are hashtags and how to use them

by | May 26, 2020

Reading Time: 3 minutes


Hashtags might sound complicated, but they are actually really simple. You don’t need to apply for one, you just need to add the # symbol in front of a word or group of words.

Hashtags were first used on Twitter, in 2007; now you can use them on most social media platforms.

It’s the use of a hashtag that makes a topic ‘trend’. You will often spot these on your social media homepages, but also if you visit www.hashtags.org.

Hashtags help to group conversations, give context to your message plus they help you and your content to get found…. because the # turns words into a clickable link. Clicking on a hashtag will take you to a list of posts containing the same hashtag.

Which means hashtags are also a great way to find information and users to follow.

Using hashtags

  • The key thing to remember is that the word/phrase must be written without spaces eg #Ilovehashtags.
  • Use uppercase and/or lowercase letters if you wish – they will not affect the results of using a hashtag.
  • Do not use punctuation – commas, exclamation point, question marks, apostrophes full stops or any other special characters will not work.
  • It’s OK to use numbers.
  • Be as specific as you can with the hashtags you use – it will focus your efforts and your posts will get greater reach and engagement with the right people.
  • Keep it simple. Think about what people will be searching for.
  • Do a quick search before you decide to use a hashtag for an event or promotion (see below).

Pro tips:

For Twitter, one to three hashtags per Tweet is acceptable. Watch this video to see how crazy you will sound if you go overboard on hashtags: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vQJx9bwVlQ

Instagram, however, is all about hashtags. You can use up to 30 to support and describe your photos, and can search/follow by hashtags, as well as users. It’s useful to use a mix of specific and popular hashtags on Twitter.  Tag O’Matic is a great app that integrates with Instagram (also available for iOS). Enter a single word and Tag O’Matic will search among the most trending hashtag and choose the better ones related to yours.

Hashtags for events and promotions

Hashtags are excellent for events and promotions. If you’re running either, make sure you include a hashtag in all promotional material, offline and online. Get people talking about your event or participating in your promotion.

If you want to get a report on the performance of your event / promotion hashtag, visit: https://www.tweetbinder.com/

Hashtags for social media listening

If you’re looking to understand the conversations happening on social media, monitoring hashtags related to your products/services, industry, competitors and keywords will help you discover a wealth of information. It’s easy to set up columns within Hootsuite for listening. For a small monthly fee BrandMentions keeps you up to date with everything important in your market and anything connected to your company, providing real-time alerts straight to your inbox.

Be careful!

But be careful with hashtags – don’t just use any word or phrase. Carefully think it through and use a keyword that is relevant and either links a post to something topical, or provides context to the rest of your post.

A quick search through www.twitter.com/search will lead you to a list of hashtags that have already been used in the past or are currently active, if you find an existing conversation on the hashtag you’re considering… you might want to go with something that is not used so frequently.

If you need more inspiration, check out hashtagify.me to find which hashtags are relevant to you, your business and your subject matter.

Only get involved in a trending topic if it’s relevant. Jumping on the bandwagon for something that’s not really relevant to you and your business can backfire. It will hurt your credibility.

Note: you cannot legally stop anyone on social media using your chosen hashtag unless they are found to be using it to directly compete with your own products. You can trademark a hashtag if you can demonstrate why you need to do so. Twitters’ trademark policy says “using a company or business name, logo or other trademark-protected materials in a manner that may mislead or confuse others with regard to its brand or business affiliation may be considered a trademark policy violation”.

There are of course some fun examples of hashtags going wrong, so I will just leave you with these…

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