Many people don’t fully understand what hashtags are for, where they work best and what other benefits they can bring to your social media pages and profiles, and in turn, your website/blog and company. This post will answer all those points and give you best practise ideas so you can ensure you are know how to use hashtags properly on social media.

Watch the video: “#Hashtag” with Jimmy Fallon & Justin Timberlake

What is a hashtag?

Put simply, a hashtag is a ‘#’ character put before a keyword which in some cases makes that word clickable, or relevant posts using a particular keyword become searchable.

Hashtags can also be used to highlight particular words, add comedy or sarcasm to your social media posts and also to collate certain posts together in hashtag channels (more on that later).

Lowercase or Capitalised hashtags?

There are many different opinions on this, and no wrong or right answer.

In terms of good user experience, I find it’s better to capitalise words when you are writing more than one. For example: #HappyNewYear is easier to read than #happynewyear. You don’t need to worry about being case sensitive as the social media platforms display search results for all case scenarios regardless of what case type users searched with.

The choice really is yours, just make sure your are consistent with your hashtags in terms of design and spacing between each hashtag.

Where do hashtags work?

Not all social media channels support hashtags. I’ve seen many people trying to use hashtags on LinkedIn for example. Hashtags don’t work on the desktop version of LinkedIn so it’s not a good idea to use them on that social channel. They do work on the LinekedIn mobile app, but as they don’t on desktop, I’d advise avoiding using them altogether on that channel.

Below is a list of social media channels where hashtags do work. For this post, we’ll focus on the main four hashtag players, but bear in mind, hashtags do also work on Pinterest and other social media channels. Just how to use hashtags on our focus channels is explained lower down.

1. Instagram

2. Twitter

3. Facebook

4. Google +

How to use hashtags on Instagram

As you know, Instagram is a very visual social media channel, and it can be greatly enhanced when you know exactly how to use hashtags.

1. Hashtag keywords in your post. This will allow Instagram users to search for those hashtags and find your post as a result

2. Use hashtags underneath your post with the aim of helping more people find your post and getting more likes as a result

3. Use hashtags to collate your relevant posts together. For example, if you’re doing a series of Instagram posts about a particular topic, you can bring them all under one roof using the same hashtag on each post. Just make sure it’s unique so that no one else’s posts end up in your channel. E.g. #WebVibesSocial would bring any Instagram posts I did about social media all in to one hashtag channel.

4. Get your users to use your branded hashtags for their own posts. For example, I could start a trend asking my followers to hashtag their images with #LoveWebVibes. That would mean I could search for images using that hashtag and regram the best ones. This not only gives you more content for your posts, it also allows you to engage with your community and make them feel connected to your brand.

5. Joining other trending hashtags. Keep an eye on trending hashtags and try to piggy back the buzz around them.

Although Instagram’s organic channel (unpaid) isn’t the best social media channel for driving traffic to your website, it is great for branding, generating buzz and supporting your digital marketing mix. With good hashtag usage like this, you can really maximise your potential there.

How to use hashtags on Twitter

Hashtags on Twitter don’t necessarily work as well as they do on Instagram for generating more likes, comments and re-tweets, but they do enhance your posts and are definitely worth using.

1. Hashtag keywords in your post. This will help Twitter users find your content and highlight the main message in textual posts.

2. Use hashtags to collate your relevant posts together. As described for Instagram, you can use unique hashtags to keep a series of relevant posts together under one hashtag channel. When users click on these unique hashtags, they will be served a page full of related Tweets.

3. As with Instagram, you can get your Twitter followers to use a hashtag you created with their own Tweets. This way you can run competitions and engage with your community by selecting the competition winners from the best Tweets which used your hashtag.

4. Joining other trending hashtags. This can be put to very good use on Twitter. Find out what’s trending and join the conversation, but only if it’s relevant to your brand.

How to use hashtags on social media - iMac on desktop

How to use hashtags on Facebook

Facebook is a slightly different beast when it comes to using hashtags. Unlike Instagram or Twitter, you don’t get many users searching for particular hashtags to find content. I’m not a huge fan of using hashtags on Facebook. However, if you really want to use hashtags on this social channel, go for it. Just use them with a bit less frequency than it’s sister Instagram, and alternative platform Twitter.

1. Hashtag keywords in your posts. I’m not suggesting you do this for every Facebook post as I truly believe it’s not necessary. However, if there are particular words you really want to highlight in the post, go for it. It won’t really bring much more reach to your posts, but it will draw your followers’ eyes to the main topic and could increase the potential for click throughs. Although contrary to that, the more hashtags you create in your posts, the more options you are giving users to click somewhere other than where you want them to actually click… the post itself.

2. Use hashtags to collate your relevant posts. The same applies here as it does for Twitter and Instagram. Create hashtag channels and always have access to related posts which you can use to keep organised, re-share or even use as an outreach tool. For example, if you were selling shoes, and you wanted to push your red shoes to fashion bloggers, you could use a hashtag #RedShoes on specific Facebook posts to collate all your red shoe posts in one channel. Then you could send the hashtag channel link to fashion bloggers with a message about how you are looking to work with them to promote your red shoes.

3. Get your users to use your branded hashtags for their own posts. As previously mentioned, this is a great way of running competitions, engaging with your community and getting more brand reach for your company.

4. Joining other trending hashtags. Again, this strategy can be used to good effect on any social media channel where hashtags work. Better still, try and join trending conversations in real time (as they happen) such as live events, TV shows and film releases etc.

How to use hashtags to increase visitors to your website

How to use hashtags on Google +

Truth be told, Google + is probably my least favourite social media channel. Its effectiveness for anything other than hiding your content in a corner cupboard of the Internet, is nothing short of poor. However with my glass half full I say through gritted teeth, hashtags can be used on Google +.

Its effectiveness for anything other than hiding your content in a corner cupboard of the Internet, is nothing short of poor

To understand how to use hashtags on Google +, refer to the strategy above for Facebook as the same things apply here.

Some companies do better than others on Google + and it really does depend on your industry and offering, but I wouldn’t recommend spending a huge amount of time on this channel, as no one else is. But it is a good idea to post your content there. If nothing else, it can send signals to Google and get your content indexed quicker.

So now you know how to use hashtags, you are equipped to attack your social media strategy with best practise so you can reap the benefits of your social campaigns.
If you have any other great ideas for hashtag usage, please let us know in the comments below.