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How To Use Hashtags On Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

If you’ve ever witnessed a person abusing the concept of hashtags in such a way that you feel reluctant to ever entertain using it for your brand, we’re here to persuade you otherwise. Hashtags are far from irrelevant - you just have to know how to use them.

And we’ll show you exactly how.

By Anastasija Petrevska, Content writer at Ranking Press

So What’s A Hashtag?

Or, alternatively, what’s the point of a hashtag?

From a user’s perspective, hashtags would be just another way of categorizing content that allows them to discover related content much more easily. In practice, however, thanks to a generally poor understanding of hashtags and ridiculous overuse, hashtags have been known to lead to piles and piles of social media content that’s either miscategorized or irrelevant. In other words, junk.

But when used the right way, they can be a powerful tool for reaching new audiences and keeping your brand relevant.

Are Hashtags Actually That Important?

  • Hashtags are an amazing way for social media users to explore content in a micro-niche that interests them, to filter through information or to follow conversations on a particular topic.
  • Businesses can use them to reach their target audience easily.
  • They are compelling to click on – as long as a particular piece of content catches a user’s eye they can easily go down the rabbit hole of filtering through the hashtag in search for more similar content.
  • Understanding the correlation between the number of hashtags and engagement rate for each social media network can be really rewarding for your reach.
  • You can use hashtags to source questions and comments about your brand and learn more about your brand’s image.

How To Create Your Own Hashtag

This, as I’m sure most know, is the same as using an existing hashtag, only with an extra step.

You simply type a phrase preceded by a “#”. You don’t put spaces if you want to create a multi-word hashtag, as a hashtag always starts with the “#” and ends with a space. In theory, anything can be a hashtag of course, but in actuality, you might want to use the economy of language for your hashtag phrase.

Now, how to use hashtags should be a very simple question, shouldn’t it?

But, while the basics can be summed up in those two sentences, there’s a long way between your average hashtag and an actually successful hashtag that takes a life of its own. We’ll explore what can make or break a hashtag next – so stay tuned.

If you’re using a brand new hashtag, once you post whatever you’re posting, clicking on your post’s hashtag should redirect you to an empty hashtag page, as your hashtag is the first of its kind.

How To Hashtag Without Being Overkill: #Hashtag Best Practices

How Much Is Too Much?

Too many hashtags lower engagement on some social media networks, so let’s consider what is most appropriate for each of these three social media giants separately.

Optimal Number of Hashtags on Twitter

There’s definitely been research that shows there’s a direct correlation between the number of hashtags and engagement rate on Twitter. It turns out that the sweet spot for Twitter hashtags is between one and two.

The Twitter Cheat Sheet, one of the most cited studies on Twitter engagement revealed that:

  • Tweets with 1 or 2 hashtags have 21% engagement rate than those who don’t.
  • But tweets with more than 2 hashtags show a considerable drop in engagement – 17%.

If we know Twitter’s context, we might guess as to why this is so – hashtag overuse has become something most social media users kind of associate with spam, and these results completely reflect that attitude.

One thing’s for sure, hashtagging it’s definitely worth it, and Twitter’s own research back this up:

Tweets with hashtags … can increase engagement almost 100% (2x) for individuals and 50% (1.5x) for brands.”

Optimal Number of Hashtags on Facebook

Now, Facebook is definitely an interesting example when it comes to hashtags – they’ve been there as a feature since forever but the trend of hashtagging has never really spread to this platform.

Consequently, the optimal number of hashtags on Facebook would actually be none – as it turns out that hashtag-free posts usually fare better.

Optimal Number of Hashtags on Instagram

Instagram is actually the platform that’s probably most forgiving when it comes to hashtag overuse.

On Instagram, the engagement rate grows in proportion with the use of hashtags, and the number of hashtags to use per post can go as high as 30. The optimal number, however, is somewhere between 9-11, so while you have more creative freedom with hashtagging on this platform, it’s still not worth it to go overboard.

Main Takeaway:

On Twitter and Facebook use hashtags as a sort of punchline, one that has the added benefits of being easily categorized and searchable.

Duplicate Hashtags

If by any chance you manage to create a hashtag that already exists, you risk confusing your audience – your customers might mistake your identity! Checking to see whether a hashtag already exists before you continue is the most basic of best practices.

Trending Hashtags

Using trending hashtags as a part of your SMM is a great way to help your business stay tuned to relevant conversations happening in real-time.

The thing is, whenever a hashtag is added, it gets indexed by the social media network in question, which means it becomes something that users can search and discover. Whenever someone clicks on it, they’re immediately brought to a page that serves as an aggregator for all the posts containing that same hashtag – letting them tune in to the conversations revolving around the hashtag as they happen.

Social media being the hectic, fast-pasted place we know it to be, hashtags can quickly gain momentum and become trending hashtags.

Trending hashtags are the most popular hashtags on a given network, generally speaking. But they also differ from each other as, thanks to social media algorithms, every unique user is presented with a unique set of trending topics, based on their particular tastes, interests, network of contacts – even their particular physical location.

Of course, each social media network has its own unique algorithms for the posts it displays on the hashtag aggregator page, as well as for trending hashtags – but the general principles are the same.

Everything that we’ve presented so far is neither particularly new nor difficult to understand. However, most businesses fail in practice, not in theory, and when it comes to trending hashtags, there’s something to be said about context.

How To Get Your Hashtag To Start Trending

  • Use Incentives

Using a hashtag without giving a potential scroller the incentive to click on it is one of the most obvious mistakes a brand can make. But what’s the proper incentive? It certainly isn’t “Tweet using our hashtag, we really want to make it to the trending page”.

  • Involve partners

Whenever you’re posting something in collaboration with another brand or an influencer, it’s definitely worth it to tag them for even more brand exposure

  • Make it memorable

Hashtags are all about the ease of use, so it’s important to make them easy to memorize (and spell) so they can gain momentum.  

  • Keep it short

Although this is closely tied to our last point, it deserved a bullet of its own. Don’t overcomplicate things – hashtags should be short and sweet, not difficult to read let alone remember. Remember, the more self-explanatory the hashtag, the bigger its success.

  • Promote your wannabe-trending hashtag on other marketing channels

A hashtag shouldn’t only be available on its native social media network. Instead, try to think about it as a tool you can use to cross-promote your branded content. If you want it to prompt conversations you can try adding it to your other marketing channels, such as emails, webinars and the like.

Hashtag Holidays

On Holidays, people tend to hashtag. And why not join in on those conversations?

With holidays, the most important thing you want to remember is that you need to stay on brand. Not all holidays make sense for your business, nor they should. Using holiday hashtags generically won’t do that much good – and audiences can see straight through it.

But, if a particular holiday makes sense for your industry, try to find a good way to incorporate it in your SMM.

Research first, make sure it’s a good fit. If you don’t, there might be consequences. Hashtagging #girlpower on Women’s Day would be taken badly if you’ve aired an ad revolving around sexist messages. Okay, that example might be a bit extreme, but you get the point, right?

Industry or Branded Hashtags

Now, brand hashtags or industry hashtags are an amazing way to tailor your posts. When it comes to branded hashtags you can go two ways:

  • Brand specific hashtags

A brand-specific hashtag is usually your actual company name or your brand’s tagline. You can use this as your own branded signature and keep conversations about your brand easily searchable.

  • Campaign specific hashtags

A campaign specific hashtag is a hashtag created for a particular marketing campaign.

This is meant as a method of short-term marketing focused around a particular line of products, a new launch, a company event.

However, research them first! You might think this is unnecessary, but if that’s your luck somebody might have used it before, and in a way that you don’t approve of or in a completely unrelated context.

Using Niche Hashtags

Niche hashtags are a great way to reach a target audience that’s close to your area of interest, particularly on Instagram, where you can be more relaxed about the total number of hashtags you use per post.

Some of these niche hashtags might not even be popular in the classic sense of the word (for example, a niche hashtag feed might have only a hundred posts), but they can have a tight-knit community of users who use them and revisit them frequently.

Use this type of hashtags only if they’re relevant to your posts of course, and you might see an unexpected jump in reach.

How To Use Hashtags On Twitter

When you hear the word “hashtag” mentioned, the network that first comes to mind is probably Twitter. Everybody has learned to navigate Twitter’s frantic universe through hashtags – Twitter’s stepping stones.

And although hashtagging has become somewhat second nature to Twitter users, when you want to use their power as a brand you have to ask yourself this: what is the best way to use a hashtag on Twitter?

Use Twitter Search

If you want to do your research of Twitter hashtags and the right keywords to make them work, (including what’s trending at the moment), you can always turn to Twitter Search. You can just type in a phrase to start searching, but if you want more specific options, Twitter lets you use twitter search operators that can help narrow down your search.

Twitter Fails And Hijacking Trending Hashtags

Hashtags might look simple, but they can easily backfire if you don’t think about hashtag etiquette. Let’s consider the following.

Some hashtags that start trending do so because a serious situation is taking place – so it might be worth it to research their context before you start using them randomly, as this can take turns you will not be able to foresee.

Making light of tragic or sensitive situations is the fastest way to public outrage – and to say that could hurt your brand would be a massive understatement – as the example of the Kenneth Cole fiasco clearly shows.

Take it in the words of Sam Biddle, an American technology journalist who in the aftermath of the #HasJustineLandedYet crisis wrote:

“Twitter is a fast machine that almost begs for misunderstanding and misconstrual—deliberate misreading is its lubricant.“

You should draw the line at people’s death – even earlier if you’re wise.

How To Use Hashtags On Instagram

Hashtags are such a big part of Instagram that it’s impossible to imagine the platform without them – and every serious Instagram marketing (and advertising) strategy should reflect that.  

Using Popular Hashtags

#nature #photooftheday #girls #instagood #lifestyle #life…

You might find yourself reaching for those popular hashtags that both annoy us and get ingrained in our minds, but there’s something to be said about caution.

First of all, whatever you do, don’t do it generally. Try to force yourself to only use hashtags that are relevant to your content. If you add in popular but generic hashtags to your posts, you can reach a gazillion of people exploring that particular hashtag feed, but, note that your posts will instantly drown in that same fast-changing feed.

Sign up to Amplifr and connect your Instagram profiles to receive best posting time predictions and measure your engagement rates and overall performance

Keep Track of Banned Hashtags

Unfortunately, the list of banned Instagram hashtags is ever-evolving but we just wanted to mention this as something you need to keep in mind. Why would a hashtag be banned from Instagram? Well, some hashtag feeds eventually get overrun with spam activity and banning hashtags is something Instagram regularly does as a means to fight spam, fake accounts, false activity, and bots.

Research Whether a Hashtag Is Banned

If you want to research whether a particular hashtag is banned, just search for it in the search bar (something you should be doing anyway before you include it in a post) If you click on the hashtags, scroll down the hashtag feed and reach its end where there’s a message saying that the rest of the posts are “currently hidden”, then that’s it – the hashtag is banned.

What Happens if You Use a Banned Hashtag?

To put it plainly – you’ll risk having your account shadowbanned, or you’ll see a decrease in activity, as Instagram will likely flag your account as spam.

What do we recommend instead?

Stick to hashtags that are relevant to your niche and research what hashtags your competitors are using.

And okay, you can spice it up with a couple of popular hashtags, but only if you’ve researched them first, and if they make sense for what you’re posting.

Also, there are some concerns when it comes to using popular hashtags on certain platforms, but we’ll explore in detail in the next sections.

A few more things you should keep in mind for Instagram hashtags:

  • Adding hashtags a long time after you’ve posted something is just ineffective.
  • Adding hashtags, and then deleting them to add new hashtags doesn’t bump up your post in these new hashtag feeds as it used to.

Nowadays, if you do this, your post will appear in those feeds, but it will still retain its original posting time. When it comes to popular hashtags – it’s just not worth it, your post will never see the light of day in a popular hashtag feed.

  • Using the same hashtag group over the course of 24 hours might get you shadowbanned, same as using banned hashtags.
  • As one more precaution against shadowbanning, you can avoid using repetitive hashtags.
  • If you want to add niche hashtags to an existing post, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. Some tiny super-niche hashtags have feeds with only a few hundred posts, so the audience there might still be able to easily find your post.

How To Use Hashtags On Facebook

For Facebook, the most established social platform for business, the golden rule of “less is more” definitely applies when it comes to hashtags. On Instagram and Twitter, you might get away with slapping tons of hashtags – although there’s definitely a higher limit. But on Facebook, it could be argued that using only a single, meaningful hashtag might work the best.

So, our advice would be to use only brand hashtags here, and avoid generic ones as they look out of place, and definitely stick to one hashtag per post at most if you do want to use them.

Two effective ways to use brand hashtags on Facebook would be for promotions or events, and they definitely need to be well thought out and central to your marketing campaign.

Another way you can use a hashtag on Facebook is if you want a tool that will allow people to easily follow a particular conversation. So, using a hashtag like #life, or #morning doesn’t really make much sense on Facebook.

So, Any Hashtag Takeaways?

Yes.

The general rule for SMM in 2019 is that you should use it as a means to facilitate meaningful engagement, meaningful conversations, and meaningful experiences for your audience. And that’s a good rule for hashtags as well – just use them in a meaningful way.

So, ready to start hashtag marketing?

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to hit us up on Twitter and Facebook

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