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Hashtags may appear as a bizarre combination of words and phrases put together with the # sign before it, but they are vital for expanding your online visibility – if used properly of course. 

Do you still find yourself perplexed about the significance of hashtags?

Why are you seeing them in (almost) every post across social media platforms?

How many hashtags are too many?

Let’s get these concerns straightened out. In this article, discover how hashtags are meant to be used and why you should start using them for your online presence.

It all began when Chris Messina tweeted in August 2007, proposing the use of # (the hash or number sign) to tag topics of interest. Two years later, Twitter started hyperlinking hashtags so that when you click on a hashtag, you are redirected to the search result page showing all tweets bearing the hashtag.

Read more about the history of the hashtag here: Looking back on 10 years of the hashtag

Now fast forward 12 years, popular social media channels have adopted the use of hashtags although the level of success is varied. They have simplified the search for posts and contents with a specific theme as well as helped monitor online discussions. So, what’s in it for you, your brand and business?

What are “the hashtags” for and why use them?

From a marketing and user point of view, hashtags improve your social media visibility.

Increase social media views and grow your followers

A study carried out by Simply Measured showed that posts with at least one hashtag have about 12.6% more engagement than those without.

Take Instagram for instance, this visual-centric platform creates a gallery of photos and videos for every hashtag.

The more hashtags you use, the more galleries your images and videos will appear in. These maximise the number of views and user engagement.

Expand your brand reach outside your network

Making your profile and posts public will allow the whole world to see it.

Your post with hashtags will display in the search results and galleries.

People who are not your followers, but are otherwise interested in the topic will be able to view your post.

If it garners a massive amount of engagement, it will be on top of the lists and trends.

If you need more help, there are 10 ways to get traffic to your website.

Promote your brand, product or services and events

Are you launching a new product?

Why don’t you use social media to enhance your marketing efforts?

Get the online community buzzing about your newest product.

Keep the hype up and draw people into your social media page and/or website using product-specific hashtags.

Create a unique hashtag that can spark the interest of your target audience.

For your upcoming event, design catchy hashtags for your teaser posts to build suspense.

Play the ‘anticipation game’ and get everyone hooked to the event.

Read more about how to use hashtags for events: How to use event hashtags successfully

Search popular topics and follow conversations

Fishing around for products and services that can add more value to your customers?

Looking for trending topics and contents that can help you pump up your digital marketing strategy?

Or are you tracking what social media users say about your offerings?

You can gather data on social media through hashtags.

Find out what your audience love and address their pain points.

Build community awareness

If your business is supporting local charitable programs and nonprofit social responsibility campaigns, utilise the official hashtags of the event to spread the word in your network.

Apart from increasing company involvement and spreading positive attitude (and good vibes!), you are also gaining marketing experience.

Inspire, join the conversation and bring value to the community, don’t just post industry-related content.

How to use hashtags properly on social media

The purpose of hashtags is generally to simplify content discovery, making information searchable and accessible on social media. However, each platform has different rules for using hashtags. Too many and irrelevant hashtags can seem spammy and can hurt your brand’s good name.

Customarily, hashtags must not contain any spaces – even in hashtags with multiple words. You can capitalise the letters to improve readability but you cannot use punctuation marks or it will break the tagging. On the other hand, if your hashtag is part of a sentence, you can use a comma, period, question mark or other punction marks to improve the grammar.

Twitter

To reiterate, hashtags on Twitter are used to index keywords or topics. Popular hashtags are displayed in Trending Topics.

Tweets with hashtags are 33% more likely to get retweeted than tweets without hashtags.

You can use as many hashtags as you want but it’s recommended to use no more than two hashtags. Tweets with one hashtag are 69% more likely to get retweeted than those with two.

Instagram

Each hashtag gallery on Instagram has two sections: “Top” for the most popular ones and “Recent” for the freshest posts bearing the hashtag.

Although this platform is tailored for hashtags, you are only allowed to use 30 hashtags in every image or video post.

To help you spruce up your Instagram story, posts and ads, take a peek at our favourite Instagram apps for both iOs and Android.

Facebook

Do hashtags matter on Facebook? Yes.

It may look like that hashtags are not actively used on Facebook compared to Twitter and Instagram, but they function just the same.

Hashtags turn words and phrases into clickable links, giving you access to relevant topics and public conversations.

When you click a hashtag, you will find a feed of public posts (including posts of your friends and followers) that contain such hashtag. You can even see some related hashtags at the top of the page.

LinkedIn

Hashtags maximise your exposure on LinkedIn and build up your network.

The platform proactively promotes hashtags to their users when posting updates and publishing an article.

You can type in the hashtags in the search box to look for relevant topics and articles.

There’s no limit in using hashtags also but it’s advisable to include no more than five hashtags in a single post. Before you select your hashtags, find out what hashtags LinkedIn influencers in your niche are using and explore popular hashtags (see screenshot below).

Apart from hashtags, learn how to enhance your LinkedIn profile to represent yourself and engage online in a way that can help achieve your professional goals.

YouTube

Hashtags are used on YouTube to look for videos for topics that you’re interested in.

You can insert up to 15 hashtags in your video post. They can be added either in the title or description, or both.

Users will be able to click the hashtags in the video title. Be warned that over-tagging and the use of unrelated hashtags may result in the removal of your video.

Pinterest

Hashtags in Pinterest – which may not be as frequently used compared to other social sites – have a slightly different function.

When you click on a hashtag, you will discover related Pins with the newest Pins at the top.

You can only use hashtags in the pin description because hashtags located in the account and board descriptions and board titles are not clickable.

Not more than 20 hashtags per Pin is highly recommended.

If you are unsure of what hashtags to use, these apps can help you narrow down your choices:

Download our Social Media Channel Update Checklist. 

In conclusion, people on social media use hashtags for content discovery – to search for hot topics, trends and relevant contents.

A good rule of thumb: Use hashtags that align with your social media post, campaign and marketing.

To play it safe, you should be mindful of the best practices in using hashtags in most popular social networking channels. And most of all, develop an effective social media strategy.

Tell us what you think and share your social media tips in the comments below.

Johanne See

Johanne is a writer, DIYer, and foodie who loves dogs, good reads, tech, and nature.

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