Hashtags. They are well known in the social media world, but not always understood. Are we using too many, or too few? It can be hard to tell if a post will be seen or get lost in the sea of content. Let’s break it down.

What are hashtags?

Red circle with the phrase "the power of # hashtags" in the center

Hashtags started on Twitter as a way to index certain keywords to find relevant content. Simply put, #hashtags are keywords or phrases that social media users add to their posts to attract other users to their content. For example, if you post a photo at the beach, you may use the #beach to get your post on the beach page. Each hashtag leads users to a feed of content filled with posts that also have that specific hashtag attached to it. Anyone who adds #beach will have their post added to that feed. The tricky part is placing your post at the top of that feed. Understanding your platform’s algorithm is the key to winning that fight. Facebook and Instagram work in a similar way.

How do they work?

The first thing to understand are the rules around the hashtags themselves. Never use punctuation in your hashtag – that will break the hashtag completely. For example, #WendysChicken works fine, but #Wendys’Chicken will only register as #Wendys because the apostrophe breaks the hashtag.

Another rule is also to leave a space before the hashtag. If you were to post I#loveyou, that hashtag would not register. Only #iloveyou or I #loveyou would send the post to a keyword feed.

Finally, never use only numbers in your hashtags. Posting #11 wouldn’t likely get you anywhere, mostly because users who do not understand hashtags still think it just means number 11. Using  #number11rocks would be a better hashtag.

How can a user make the most of hashtags?

It is recommended by Twitter to use no more than two hashtags in a post, though you can use as many as you can fit if you want. Twitter offers a list of trending hashtags, so users can see which ones will garner the most attention at any given time.

Instagram categorized hashtags. These distinct types include niche, product or service, industry community tags, special event or seasonal, location, daily hashtags, relevant phrases, acronyms, and emojis. While you can use up to 30 hashtags, the recommended limit is 11. That being said, using 1-3 is considered optimal for your post to be seen but not tackled by the algorithm. To see which hashtags are trending, look up the ones you’d like to use and see

how many posts each keyword has. The more posts they have, the more trendy and searchable they are.

How do brands know which ones to use?

Choosing the best hashtag for your brand may sound like a daunting task. However, there are several ways to find out which keywords will work best to get your posts seen.

A great place to start is by analyzing the competition. Find a brand on Instagram that is a close competitor of yours (and hopefully one with high engagement). Take a look at what types of content they post and what hashtags they are using. If you share a similar brand and audience, they might give you some ideas as to what hashtags work best to target potential customers.

Another method is to see what hashtags your current followers are searching for. The cool thing about Instagram is that it shows you if any of your followers are following specific hashtags. If a substantial number of your followers follow a hashtag, that specific keyword is certainly a good one to use.

Branded Hashtags

Another option is to create your own hashtag for your brand! If you are a construction company, you could use, for example, #BuiltWithLove and encourage your followers to also use that hashtag in posts about you. By following the hashtag, you can easily view user-generated content about your brand, and you may even begin to trend if the hashtag is used frequently. For brands that are established but looking to grow on social, this is a good option.

Ultimately, the best way to use hashtags is to add 3 per post, make sure they are researched and effective. Putting time into crafting the perfect list of hashtags for your brand will be a vital part of your digital strategy. Using 2 trending hashtags and one branded hashtag per post is typically encouraged. Try out different combinations and see what resonates with your audience!

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