By now you’ve heard of hashtags, but maybe you’re not sure what exactly they are, why you should be incorporating them in your social media strategies, and how to use them to your advantage.

So, what is a #hashtag?

A hashtag is a word or phrase in the text of a social media post preceded by the pound symbol (#). It connects your content to a specific topic, theme, or conversation.

Hashtags were first used on Twitter as a way to identify and group together related tweets. Now they are commonly used on all social media platforms as a way to index your content and expand your reach.

Caption: The first-ever use of the hashtag.

Think of hashtags as your social media SEO; tiny, clickable links to immediately find relevant content from endless sources within a single platform.

Ok, but why should I be using #hashtags?

Hashtags can (and should) be used strategically in your content to help increase engagement, build your brand, and make your content discoverable.

Including a hashtag in your post ensures that you’re part of the conversation. It also plays a critical role in developing interest in your social media accounts, ultimately growing your social following and increasing your visibility.

Social media end-users (consumers, clients, prospects, leads, etc.) use hashtags to find, filter, and connect with brands and content that are relevant to them and their needs. Using the right hashtag will enable you to connect and engage with these users based on a common theme or interest and extend brand awareness beyond your followers.

Tip: Users can follow your hashtags even if they don’t follow your profiles.

How should I use hashtags?

There are countless ways to use hashtags for your business and your brand. Here are some things you should consider before adding them to your posts.

Quality

Not all hashtags are created equal.

It’s important to learn about a hashtag’s performance before you include it in your post.

Some questions to ask:

  • Is this hashtag trending?
  • How many followers does the hashtag have?
  • Is this hashtag relevant to my content? My followers? My brand?
  • Is it a “bashtag?” (a mean-spirited hashtag that shouldn’t be used)
  • Is it too vague?

If you’re not sure, try clicking on the hashtag on your chosen platform and see what other types of content it’s being associated with. You can learn a lot from competing businesses and other companies using the same hashtag.

Researching your hashtag before you use it also ensures that you’re not engaging in the wrong conversation.

Two tools that I use when researching a hashtag are RiteTag and Hashtagify.

Quantity

Each social media platform has a unique algorithm for hashtag use, and the number of hashtags you use can either help or harm how the algorithm disseminates your content.

The numbers for each of the four major platforms used by businesses:

  • Twitter: 1-2. It’s important to only use the most important hashtag(s) in your tweet. You only have 280 characters per tweet. Don’t waste valuable space with unnecessary hashtags.
  • Facebook: 1-2. The best strategy is to use one popular hashtag and one hashtag relevant to your brand/content. Using too many hashtags on Facebook will dilute your content in all of the “noise.”
  • Instagram: 10 or more, but no more than 30. Ever wonder how those Instagram celebrities and influencers grow their followers by the thousands almost instantly? Hashtags. Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post, however, it’s suggested to hover around 10 for maximum engagement.
  • LinkedIn: 3-5 hashtags. LinkedIn encourages users to follow hashtags so that relevant content gets posted in their feed, but more than 5 hashtags may get your post marked as spam

It’s important to adhere to these numbers because once the algorithm is working against you, it’s difficult to get your momentum back.

Brevity

“Brevity is the soul of wit.” – William Shakespeare

Not only do long hashtags take up valuable space in your character count, but #NoOneWantsToReadALongHashtag.

It’s important to keep your hashtags short. Consider using abbreviations where appropriate.

Instead of #MassachusettsPolitics use #MApoli

Instead of #NewYorkCity use #NYC

Accessibility

If you must use a long hashtag, make it easier to read and use “camel case” by adding capital letters at the beginning of each word. #CamelCaseHelps!

#alllowercaseishardtoread vs. #AllLowerCaseIsHardToRead

Additionally, an underscore can be used to add space between words in a hashtag. An underscore is the ONLY symbol or special character that can be used in a hashtag. You can also use underscores in hashtags to create different segments for your content. For example #RealEstate_NY #RealEstate_Boston #RealEstate_LA.

Customize

A custom hashtag can leverage your brand, strengthen your connections, and promote your content. Furthermore, it allows users to follow your custom hashtag, curating their newsfeeds to show relevant posts.

Conferences, special events (ie: weddings), companies, and brands will often use custom hashtags to keep the conversation around a specific topic in one place.

Now you are armed with the knowledge you need to get started on your hashtag strategy. But if you’re still feeling compelled to use hashtags like Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake did in 2013, don’t hesitate to reach out to the LISI team. We are happy to help guide the way.