When it comes to hashtags, there seem to be three schools of thought: those who love them, those who don’t really understand them, or those who’ve tried and didn’t love them.
If you fall into one of these last two categories, this blog post might help! Hashtags may seem confusing, or not worth the time, but hopefully, after reading this post, you’ll be able to walk away with some next steps to confidently start using hashtags in a strategic and effective manner on your social media platforms.
So, where did hashtags come from?
Hashtags actually date back to 2007 Twitter (practically the Ice Age in terms of the social media timeline!), and were created as a way to create channels that served the purposes of “contextualization, content filtering, and exploratory serendipity.” Essentially, hashtags were intended for groups on Twitter to be able to view content exclusive to their interests by simply clicking on the hashtag link, much like they operate today.
(If you want to read more about the origin of hashtags, this article and this article are interesting reads.)
So while not much has changed as far as the original purpose of organizing information and connecting interests, the way they are currently utilized both by users and across various platforms has changed drastically in the last few years. In order to take a look at the current function of a hashtag, we have to consider them on the platform by platform basis.
Starting with one of the most popular platforms for businesses, hashtags may at first seem unnecessary on Facebook, but this actually isn’t true. Believe it or not, there is a thriving culture of hashtagging on Facebook (as long as you know how to use them correctly).
Hashtags are most effective on Facebook when utilized to unite a cause or are tied to a specific event. For example, while using industry-specific hashtags, such as “#realtorsoffacebook” probably won’t gain your business any broader attention on the platform, using a hashtag such as “#SanDiegoRealtorsConference” could be another story. Attendees of this event are much more likely to both use and peruse through this hashtag.
Another great example of this is the #TapsAcrossAmerica hashtag that recently was very popular. Many people across the country came together to record videos in honor of our military veterans. You can see how effective this was by
So if it makes sense to unite with others through a cause or event, it’s worth using this sort of hashtag on Facebook! When used cohesively, a hashtag on Facebook can be empowering and share common objectives.
Perhaps one of the most hashtag saturated platforms after Twitter, hashtags can almost be considered the lifeblood of Instagram. In fact, numerous studies have shown that businesses that don’t use hashtags have such low visibility, they are almost as unfindable as accounts set to “private”!
Clearly, hashtags on Instagram are one of the best ways to make sure new followers can find and follow your account, so it’s critical to not only use hashtags but to use the right ones. Which begs the question, how do you find the right hashtags that will get you in front of the right followers? Here are our two hacks for finding the perfect hashtags to use:
1) Do your research. Which hashtags are other accounts in your industry using?
2) Go down the rabbit hole. Click on a relevant hashtag to go to the hashtag “channel.” Here you will see a “Related:” subtitle with a list of relevant hashtags that might be a good fit for your business.
However you find your hashtags, you do want to make sure the content tied to those hashtags is relevant to what you are sharing, and that there are between 1,000 and 500,000 pieces of content tied to that content. Any less than that and not enough people are using it to see your content. Any more and your content will be buried almost instantly beneath hundreds of other content being shared.
To summarize, with a limit on how many hashtags you can (and should) use, you want to make sure every hashtag you use is ultra-relevant, highly visible, and serving the correct purpose.
In comparison to the other platforms, LinkedIn is relatively new to the hashtag game. Similar to Facebook in their purpose, hashtags are less effective with industry or product-specific hashtags, but quite effective in bringing together content and users over shared causes and events.
So that #SanDiegoRealtorsConference hashtag we mentioned earlier? LinkedIn is probably the MOST effective place to use this sort of tag, because unlike Facebook, LinkedIn actually shares related posts onto your feed based off of those hashtags you use and follow. That’s Linkedin doing its job at helping professionals connect, whether it’s through their resume-like profile pages, or uniting industry professionals through event-related hashtags!
Of course, we couldn’t end this blog post without talking about Twitter, the originator of the hashtag. Much like Instagram (or perhaps the other way around), the use of hashtags on Twitter are a way to unite followers behind common interests and beliefs. Hashtags also play a tremendous role in what is trending on Twitter.
And just like Instagram, it’s important to tag your content with ultra-relevant hashtags so you’re content gets in front of the right customers. This is a great link to help you find the right hashtags for your content: https://twitter.com/search-advanced.
As one small side note before we wrap up, we thought it was also relevant to mention that people are increasingly using hashtags for entertainment and connection (rather than purely engagement-seeking purposes) when adding humor to their posts. A great example of this is the recent trend of #COVIDHairDontCare. While this trend doesn't necessarily serve any business purpose, it is still entertaining and a good way to both lighten the mood of a social media post and build a sense of togetherness through community.
With all of that being said, we hope that by now you can see the difference using hashtags can make and why your strategy with hashtags should be tailored to each platform. While not using hashtags can prevent your business from being discovered, if you can implement even a few whenever you post, you can drastically improve your brand's findability, loyalty, and engagement with your followers. All pretty good things to have, if you ask us!