If you often stay up at night worrying about your brand visibility and online presence, you’re not alone. It’s soul-crushing to see your posts and tweets get drowned among a million others and not get any engagement. Something is clearly going wrong with your social media strategy, and we’re guessing it’s your hashtag game.
It’s 2022, and let’s just say, hashtags are not going anywhere. Believe it or not, those little blue things can flip your brand’s fate.
That’s why it’s time for you to catch up and start leveraging hashtags to boost your online presence. If you’re a hashtag newbie and have no clue about how to get started with using them, don’t worry!
In this guide, we will explore everything about hashtags- how they came into trend, why they’re so important, and how to use them effectively on two primary social media platforms- Twitter and Instagram.
Let’s dive right in!
What is a hashtag?
A hashtag is simply referred to as a phrase that is typed without any spaces in between and has a # symbol attached to it. For example, #sorrynotsorry and #throwbackthursday are popular hashtags.
But where did hashtags actually come from? Well, before 2007, the # symbol was pretty much used while typing numbers and was known as the ‘pound’ symbol.
But on the historical day of August 23, 2007, Web Marketing Specialist Chris Messina came up with the idea to use the symbol to group related tweets together.
Since then, the symbol grew so much in popularity that it began to be known as the ‘hashtag’ symbol and is now widely used on almost all popular social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
I’m sure all the history behind hashtags makes you wonder- what’s so great about them?
Well, the main purpose of hashtags is to string together similar types of content into a single place. If two or more people who don’t follow each other online talk about something using the same hashtag, their content will be shown under a single stream.
This is why hashtags are a great way to find and connect with like-minded individuals from all over the world. You can just search for a hashtag about something you’re interested in and find people who are already talking about it.
Hashtags are also often used to start conversations around certain events, stay updated on trends, and spread awareness about important issues.
Even with all these uses, the importance that hashtags hold when it comes to increasing brand engagement and visibility online remains unparalleled. This can be seen from some statistics below:-
- Tweets with hashtags have a 55% higher chance of being retweeted. Not just that, brands that use hashtags in their tweets witness a 50% increase in their engagement.
- Even though hashtags were originally popular on Twitter, other platforms have also shown their love for them. Recent statistics suggest that an Instagram post with at least one hashtag averages 12.6% more engagement.
- But, as the saying goes, too much of anything is bad.
Hashtags are great when used in an appropriate amount, but extremely annoying when overused. Studies have shown that tweets with more than 2 hashtags might often get 17% lesser engagement.
Your use of hashtags can either make or break your brand value online.
That’s why it is important to know how to use hashtags effectively on different platforms. You need to have good knowledge about them along with a solid strategy in place.
Let’s check out how hashtags can be leveraged for skyrocketing your engagement on Twitter and Instagram.
Hashtags on Twitter do the task of bringing tweets from different users under one umbrella. Two people who are not following each other can use a common hashtag and their tweets would be tied into a single stream, provided their account is public.
You can add hashtags anywhere you want- at the beginning, middle, or end of your tweet, and even in your retweets and replies.
How do you find popular hashtags on Twitter? Well, there are a couple of ways.
- Search bar: The most basic one is to just use the search bar and type in the hashtag you have in mind, and you’ll be able to see tweets from all the people who are using that hashtag.
For instance, searching #throwbackthursday yields the following results:
There are a couple of options that you get on this page.
- Top– It shows you the tweets having the most engagement (likes, retweets, replies, etc.)
- Latest– It shows you the latest tweets from everyone using that hashtag.
- People– It shows you a list of top accounts to follow related to that hashtag.
- Photos– This tab shows you a collection of tweets that have pictures and are using that hashtag.
- Videos– You guessed it- all the tweets that are using that hashtag and have videos in them.
- Advanced search: If you have more specific requirements, you can use the advanced search option on Twitter.
It is an amazing tool that lets you search for tweets with specific hashtags and keywords, or from specific accounts and locations.
You can only use it when you’re using the browser version of Twitter, though.
- Trending tab: If you don’t have a hashtag in mind and just want to know the popular hashtags being used on a particular day, you can click on the ‘Trending’ button on your home screen.
It gives you tweets about topics that are being talked about the most in your location.
I gotta say, Twitter really went all out with their hashtag search options!
Now that you know the basics of using hashtags on this platform, let’s look at the best tips and hacks to follow while using hashtags so that you can leverage them to the fullest.
- Don’t get too generous:
Twitter itself recommends using no more than 1-2 hashtags per tweet for best results.
- Leverage Trends:
Know which hashtags are trending by going to the ‘Trending’ tab on your profile.
Use your creativity and hop on the bandwagon by tweeting something relevant while using that hashtag. It will get your brand in front of the right people and help you boost your organic reach.
- Analyze your competitors:
Monitor which hashtags your competitors are using and how many they’re using in their tweets. Analyze their best posts with the highest engagement rates and try to carve out a similar strategy for your brand.
- Tread carefully with Twitter ads:
If you’re thinking of using Twitter ads to gain clicks, take a step back with hashtags. Twitter data suggests that in case of advertisements, tweets without a hashtag get 23% more engagement than ones with it.
- Stand out from the crowd:
Create your own hashtag promoting your brand and encourage people to tweet using it. The best way to do this is to give people an incentive and let them join in on the fun.
For instance, Domino’s Pizza UK ran a campaign a while ago, asking people to tweet using the hashtag #LetsDoLunch. This would get them an immediate discount on their Tuesday Pizza order.
The campaign went viral in no time, with people tweeting in hopes of getting discounts on their pizzas.
- Consistency is key:
Once you start using hashtags, use them consistently. They expand your reach much beyond your followers and help your brand stay connected to what everyone else is talking about. This helps you get more leads and brand exposure.
Now that you have an idea about how to use hashtags on Twitter, let’s go to our next platform- Instagram.
Instagram introduced hashtags in January 2011, a few years after they became popular on Twitter.
Although Instagram doesn’t provide as many hashtag options as Twitter does, it is still beneficial to make the right use of hashtags to increase the visibility of your posts.
Working out hashtags on Instagram is much simpler than it is on Twitter.
- Explore tab: Just go to the explore tab by clicking on the magnifying glass at the bottom of your profile. Type the hashtag you have in mind, in the search bar. It will look something like this-
- You will also be able to see the number of posts that have been made using that hashtag. Tap on any one and you will be taken to the hashtag stream.
Here, you have three main tabs:
- Top– The first tab is for the top posts. It contains posts that have garnered the most engagement with that hashtag.
- Recent– The next tab is of the recent posts, which shows the most recent posts that have been made using that hashtag.
- Reels– There is also the third section now that features Reels. Here you can scroll through all the reels that have been posted using that particular hashtag.
- Follow hashtags: A while ago, Instagram also introduced the feature of following hashtags.
- You can now go to any hashtag and click on the follow button at the top of your screen.
When you follow a hashtag, you will start seeing posts having that hashtag pop up in your main Instagram feed, without having to follow the people posting them.
- As long as your account is public, using a hashtag in your post makes it potentially visible to everyone who comes across that hashtag.
This is a great way to reach a much wider audience that goes beyond your followers.
Now that you’ve got Instagram hashtags figured out, let’s look at some ways for brands to make the most use of them!
- Keep it simple:
Instagram is quite generous when it comes to the maximum number of hashtags it allows in a post, the number being 30.
But, just because you can use so many of them, doesn’t mean you should.
The best practice is to use 3-5 hashtags per post, which, if you really want, you can stretch up to 10. Anything more than that is just plain annoying and spammy.
- Experiment with Stories:
Don’t limit yourself to just posts, include hashtags in your Instagram stories. Stories using a particular hashtag are displayed on top of the hashtag page and are a great way to reach a wider audience.
- Run a campaign:
Similar to Twitter, you can run a fun hashtag campaign on Instagram as well. Just come up with a creative hashtag that represents your brand in some way, and promote it as much as you can.
You can also collaborate with influencers having a massive following. Get enough people to jump on the campaign and post their own inputs using that hashtag.
Engage with them and repost their pictures. Before you know it, your engagement rates will be shooting through the roof!
- Don’t be lazy:
Don’t copy-paste the same hashtags on every post to save time and effort. Not only does it land you in Instagram’s bad books due to it being against community guidelines, but it also ruins your credibility as a brand.
- Don’t be lazy (part 2):
I don’t think this needs to be said but don’t use spammy and hackneyed hashtags on your posts. You know, the ones that shamelessly ask for followers and likes. #follow4follow, #like4like, anyone? Yikes, #blocked.
- ‘Top Posts’ is where it’s at:
Use the ‘Top posts’ section to leverage a hashtag to the fullest.
If you search for an industry-related hashtag, chances are that the top posts will be from your competitors.
Analyze the posts and see what’s working for them. Is there a specific style of posts they’re using? How many hashtags do they have? How long are their captions?
Use this analysis to improve the quality of your posts.
- Niche down:
Don’t just type in the first hashtag that comes to your mind and use the most popular one out of the suggestions.
Often, niche hashtags are better than general ones. They are more likely to bring you in front of potential customers.
For instance, if you’re a kids’ fashion brand, just using the hashtag #fashion will drown your post among millions of other posts having that tag.
But using a more specific hashtag like #fashionforkids will bring you in front of the right audience who have a higher chance of getting converted into your customers.
If you’re struggling to get your posts in front of the right people online, stepping up your hashtag game can make a lot of difference.
Hashtags are a great way of bringing out the human side of your brand and connecting with people beyond commercial purposes. It also helps your brand stay up to date with trends online and access a larger market.
So, what’s the wait for? Include hashtags in your marketing strategy and use this guide to reap their benefits! I also have a fun task for you: Think of a hashtag that represents your brand in the best way and drop it in the comments below. Happy ‘#’ Hashtagging!
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