What Is A Hashtag
A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by a # symbol used to categorize information on social media; they help content get discovered within a platform’s search feature.
I like the way Hootsuite describes it: “It serves as an indication (for users and algorithms) that a piece of content relates to a specific topic or belongs to a category.”
How Do You Use a Hashtag
Using a hashtag is simple. The easiest way to appropriately use a hashtag is to think about your post and share a hashtag (or two, or three) that describes the content. Easy peasy, right?
Alternatively, you can hashtag something in a cheeky way when you’re calling out a phrase or expression for emphasis. Hashtags like #justsayin or #AintNobodyGotTimeForThat are not really hashtags that folks will use in search, but they are a cute way to emphasize your point. #AmIRight
What Are The Benefits of Using Hashtags
The primary purpose of using a hashtag is to expand the reach of a post. A hashtag categorizes content, allowing the algorithm to understand the post. The algorithm will use that information to share your post with people who engage with similar topics. The hashtag also makes the post searchable on the platform so that someone who is looking for “social media tips” can search #socialmediatips and see your post.
Remember, you don’t always have to use a hashtag. One of our clients uses social media as a way to share information with members of their community. Although all of their content is public, not everything needs to appear in search. On those posts, we may not use any hashtags at all.
Figuring Out The Right Hashtags To Use
This, my friends, is the million-dollar question. There’s no one answer to this except experimentation. Because hashtags trends and algorithms change every day, a hashtag that may have brought you tons of great reach weeks ago may no longer work as well.
I like to have a cache of hashtags related to the different types of content I publish. Then, depending on the platform, I’ll publish a mix of those hashtags using both broad appeal and niche ones. A great tool to use is Hashtagify. Hashtagify can be a little clunky (even on the paid plan), but it gives you some great information when you can get it to work.
I used Hashtagify to show me how different hashtags related to our content and industry worked on Instagram. From what you can see, hashtags such as #socialmediamarketing and #digitalmarketingagency had broad appeal. If I only used those hashtags, my posts would be buried among the millions of posts using those tags. But a hashtag like #SEOOutsourcing may be too small as if it’s only been used 84 times. So I use a mix of hashtags – small, medium, and large-and then evaluate how the post performed later.
None of the platforms do a great job of telling you which hashtags get you the most reach. This is where experimentation comes in. You can try posting again with the same hashtags and seeing if your post receives similar reach, or you can try mixing up the hashtags – deleting some and adding others – to see how subsequent posts perform.
Which brings us to our next question:
How Many Hashtags Should You Use
Honestly, that number changes daily per platform. I’ve seen posts do well on Facebook with no hashtags and have limited reach with four hashtags. Again, this is why experimentation is critical. Last I heard (summer 2021), optimal hashtag amounts were as follows:
- Twitter: 1-2
- Facebook: 1-2
- Instagram: 5-10
- LinkedIn: 1-2
- Pinterest: 1-5
So we’ve mentioned that hashtag usage requires some experimentation, and there are many RIGHT ways to use hashtags. But there are some hashtags don’ts that we want you to be aware of also.
What Not to Do When Using Hashtags
- Don’t be cute and try to use another symbol to signify a hashtag. Hashtags always start with a # sign.
- Don’t use punctuation. Hashtags also won’t work if you use spaces and symbols, but emojis are ok.
- Don’t use hashtags if your posts are private. If you are using a hashtag because you want your post to be searchable or part of a larger conversation, your account must be public.
- Don’t use too many words or phrases. K.I.S.S. – Keep it short and simple. Although hashtags like #AintNobodyGotTimeForThat are cheeky, they aren’t really doing anything for your reach. Too many words and the hashtag becomes hard to read and understand.
- Don’t use words or phrases that social media users would not use as a search term. Although we may have clients or potential clients that would look for our posts under #NewWhy, not many people would look for #NewWhySocialPosts. Using overly specific hashtags is only helpful when categorizing information as part of a campaign.
- Don’t go overboard. Limit the number of hashtags to the recommendations above. Your account may look spammy with too many hashtags, and the algorithm may penalize you.
- On Instagram, don’t put your hashtags in the comments. On most of the platforms, the hashtags work best when they are in the body of the post.
So there you have it—your crash course in hashtag usage. So go forth, young padawan, and get to posting (and hashtagging). Don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun with it!