Hashtags first became a thing when Chris Messina, best known for advocating open-source software, added a pound sign next to “bar camp — making it #barcamp” in an August 23, 2007 tweet. The premise of the hashtag was simple. He wanted a way to organize tweets so they could be searchable. The idea, needless to say, took off.
Today, people use hashtags across multiple social media platforms. Hashtags help us connect with others who might be interested in the same ideas and topics. From a user standpoint, hashtags are used to categorize content, allowing the discovery of new or related content to be easily accessible. On most networks, if you use a hashtag and the account is public, then anyone who searches that hashtag can find your post. Once a hashtag picks up enough momentum, then it becomes “trending.”
Since its introduction in 2007, the term “hashtag” has been added to both the Oxford dictionary and Scrabble dictionary. So, hashtags are here to stay! Because of this, it’s important to know how to use them correctly.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how to use hashtags on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Like all things social media, these rules can quickly change and adapt to user demand. Keep an eye on what others are doing, and always, always experiment with new techniques.
A quick note about hashtags:
- A hashtag must be written as a single word, without any spaces.
- You can include numbers in a hashtag, but punctuation and special characters (like $ and %) won’t work.
Facebook may be the giant of social media, but it’s not necessarily the hashtag king. To find hashtags on Facebook, all you need to do is start typing one into your search bar and Facebook will suggest fitting hashtags for you. After hitting search, you can scroll through the results to see posts where that hashtag was used.
While the hashtag search cool can be handy, most people still don’t use hashtags regularly on their Facebook posts. This can be credited to “Facebook etiquette tradition” or the fact that multiple hashtags on a post can appear crowded and clumsy to the reader. For this reason, it’s best to only use one, maybe two, hashtags on a Facebook post. If your brand or business has a “go-to” hashtag, then just use that one. Or, if your post is about a specific event or movement, then include that hashtag. Otherwise, use hashtags sparingly on Facebook.
While it’s best to be conservative with hashtags on Facebook, it’s wise to be liberal with them on Instagram. Studies show that the more hashtags used on Instagram, the more engagement. Of course, you only want to use hashtags that speak specifically to your content. Don’t spam your audience with unnecessary hashtags. Make your hashtags relatable and useful for searching. A good trick, too, is to include relevant hashtags at the end of your post. Let your copy be the main focus and your hashtags be secondary.
The “home of hashtags,” Twitter is perhaps where hashtags get the most leverage. Because characters are limited, hashtags used correctly can get more eyeballs on your content. When crafting a tweet, make sure hashtags are relevant and concise. Don’t overload your content with hashtags, burying your message in the process. It’s wise to search your hashtags beforehand, too. Make sure there’s a conversation already surrounding your hashtag. That way, you can jump into the conversation and hopefully spark engagement. Research shows two to three hashtags are best. Of course, that number can fluctuate, though. Remember, your content should always remain a top priority. The hashtags are just there to provide a secondary boost for engagement.
LinkedIn introduced hashtags in 2018 — making them one of the newest players in the hashtag game. Hashtags operate the same way on LinkedIn as the other social media platforms mentioned above. However, it’s important to keep in mind the “tone” of LinkedIn. Since this is a business-oriented platform, hashtags should take on a more buttoned-up personality. Still, keep hashtags to a minimum here, but also make sure they are professional and relevant to your business. For example, if you’re sharing a blog that is relevant to your business field, pick one or two hashtags that relate to that topic. And, as always, search the hashtag beforehand to make sure there’s existing engagement.
Happy hashtagging, folks!