The Truth About Hashtags: When, Where, How and How Many

I have been asked before about the right use of hashtags in the various social networks. It is a great question, and the answer is neither simple nor straightforward. The simple reason is that the best practice and what you can gain from it is different for each and every social network.

While some networks love hashtags others never really got friendly with them. In some networks, you cannot have too many hashtags in others more than two will lead to smaller success.
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History of Hashtags

The first hashtag was used in 2007 by Chris Messina. He posted a tweet

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With the idea of grouping discussions around the use of #word.

In July 2009 Twitter followed the idea and introduced the hashtag into the code, resulting in #hashtags being hyperlinked.

Other social networks followed the idea – much later, i.e. Facebook: June 2013

(More on the history of hashtags.)

How Hashtags work

Hashtags are a popular way of categorizing social media updates. The combination of the pound symbol # with a keyword are hyperlinked in social media allowing to search for and find relevant content related to the keyword.

This way hashtags make content discoverable and allow people to connect to other social media users interested in a given topic.

Before you get overexcited:

Do some research on keywords and hashtags related to your tag. There are tools to help you with this research, see the end of this post!

Here is an overview of how to use hashtags on the major social networks!

Twitter

While metadata tags have been around much longer and first people started these tags preceded by a „#“ years before, Twitter „officially“ adopted the hashtags in July 2009 and hyper-linked everything with a # in front.

Later Twitter went further by introducing trending topics and place the most popular hashtags right on their homepage.

How To Use Hashtags

Hashtags on Twitter are part of a tweet. Either included right into the tweet text – or added after the tweet text. Each #hashtag is shown in the color you have chosen for your Twitter profile. Thus the #hashtags are highlighted – and catch the eye.

On Twitter usually in a tweet is not enough room to add multiple hashtags AFTER the tweet text. Many hashtags are included right into the tweet text. That is why tweets with many hashtags get harder to read.

Best Practices:

Tweets with 1 or two hashtags get more attention than tweets with less or more hashtags.

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Image Source: Buffer Blog

Choose hashtags that have something to do with the topic of your tweet – no use to try to hijack trending hashtags when you have nothing to say about the topic. This will usually backfire.

Trending hashtags can give your tweets an extra boost and added visibility – but only if you can add to the discussion.

You can not only use hashtags in your tweets. You can also use hashtags in your Twitter bio to make sure people associate you with the right topics – and make your accounts get found for these topics.

Learn everything you need to know to grow your business with Twitter from the ebook “Grow Your Twitter Account Like A Pro!”

twitter-ebook

Facebook

Facebook was fairly late to adopt hashtags (2013) – and they never quite came into popularity. I often see people rather use hashtags to add some (fun) keywords rather than add hashtags in a marketing sense.

However, you still can use hashtags to try to get some more attention to your posts from people searching on Facebook for information.

How to use hashtags:

Simply add hashtags to your post text. You will have to do your homework and find the best hashtags yourself.

Best Practices:

Facebook is not Instagram. Do not get over excited with your hashtags and keep the number of hashtags per post below three. Data shows that too many hashtags can cause a serious drop in engagement and will hurt your marketing.

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Image Source: Social Bakers

Especially since the number of words you use in your posts is not limited on Facebook, you should not put the hashtags in the text of your post but rather add them at the end.

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Image Source: Postplanner, quote from Janet Johnson

A study from 2013 found that the use of hashtags may reduce the organic reach of posts on fanpages. If you want to make sure your hashtags help you to increase reach and engagement, you should watch your own numbers and make a decision based on that.

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ImageSource: EdgeRank Checker, Neil Patel

Instagram

Instagram lives on the use of hashtags. The right hashtags can drive engagement from people who have never heard of you before and will be the key to growing a targeted audience and engagement on your posts.

How to use Hashtags:

Add as many hashtags to your Instagram posts as you like. Make sure the hashtag match the content of your post. Instagram will help you find the best hashtags: if you start typing a hashtag, Instagram will provide you with some suggestions and the number of times this hashtag was recently used.

Best Practices:

The best hashtags are the medium popular ones. Too many posts on Instagram related to a hashtag and your post will get lost in the clutter – very few uses for a hashtag suggest that this hashtag is neither used nor searched for very often and thus cannot give you a lot of success.

Extensive use of hashtags on Instagram is not a problem. You should aim for several hashtags; 10+ hashtags is common practice.

If you do not want to clutter your post text with hashtags, use the „return“ key and push the hashtags further down in the description of your image. You can even post an update without hashtags in the text and add hashtags as a first comment.

Pinterest

The advice on using hashtags on Pinterest you can find out there is rather conflicting. Some say YES!!! Some say: Try. And some say: Don’t bother.

Pinterest supports hashtags. So if you find a hashtag in a pin description, you can click it and find more content related to this hashtag. Everywhere else on Pinterest hashtags are not clickable. That includes bios, board descriptions, and board titles.

Your hashtag search results can be filtered so that you can see only boards if you are specifically searching for boards on a topic. But according to Viralwoot, even this search is not very exact.

Not overly many Pinterest users seem to be very fond of hashtags, and the search results for hashtags return poor results – which may well be the reason that hashtag adoption on Pinterest is low.

How to use hashtags:The right use of a hashtag in social media is complicated and differs from network to network. Here is how to use hashtags in each network.

It is as simple as this: Add relevant hashtags to the descriptions of your pins.

Best practices:

As said before it is not clear if hashtags on Pinterest really have the power to give your pins an extra boost. If you want to go for it, keep in mind, that Pinterest itself warns its users that “having too many of them in your descriptions may negatively impact your ranking.”

YouTube

Hashtags on YouTube recently got a new boost when YouTube added Hashtag search earlier this year. That means you can now not only search for keywords and key phrases which will give you results sorted by secret algorithms based on ratings, relevance, and engagement.

Hashtag search will now also provide you with trending videos and some freshly added videos. Thus hashtags may have the power to give your new videos a boost.

How To Use Hashtags:

Simply add hashtags to the description of your video or in a comment. But do not neglect the use of keywords in your description for SEO reasons – you should make sure to use relevant keywords anyway.

Best Practices:

As with most other networks excepting Instagram, more hashtags will not give you more success. Be careful not to overload your video description and select a few very relevant hashtags.

Tools that can help you find the best hashtag

Finding the best hashtags is key to adding value by using hashtags. Do not simply go for random hashtags – invest some time and effort in choosing the best. On Instagram finding the best hashtags is by far easier since the Instagram app helps you find related hashtags and provides you with information on the number of recent uses for a hashtag. You can also use the search function on Instagram: Simply type a keyword and choose the tab „#“ for hashtag results.

For further research on great hashtags, there are tools you can use. Here are some you should take a look at:

What The Trend is a tool from Hootsuite media and provides you with the Twitter trends for the past 30 days.

Twitonomy can help you find hashtags for your Twitter marketing based on your tweets and the content you share via Twitter.

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Image Source: CoSchedule

RiteTag is a Browser extension that gives you instant feedback on your chosen hashtags as you type them. It works for Twitter and Facebook. RiteTag can also alert you to trends, and you can compare groups of hashtags.

Hashtagify.me is another tool that helps you find perfect hashtags for Twitter and Instagram. You can also set it up to send you email updates on trending hashtags.

Hashtagify lets you research the best hashtags connected to your brand – and monitor conversations related to a hashtag on Instagram.

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Sprout Social is not only a powerful social media management tools. You can also use it to find the best hashtags for your purposes.

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Image Source: Tintup

Keyhole is a real-time monitoring tool for keywords.

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  • http://hashtagify.me/ Jonah

    Hi Sussana. I’m Jonah from Hashtagify.me. Thanks for introducing us 🙂 It’s great to hear that you find our service useful! have a great weekend!

    Jonah

  • http://www.kristindrysdale.com/ Kristin Drysdale

    Great breakdown on the usage of hashtags by platform, Susanna! And thanks for including RiteTag’s browser extension. A few months or so ago we re-launched our extension and it does a whole lot more now. *We’ve also got an entire social media optimization kit (https://ritekit.com/), complete with CTA, automation, and a bomb composer that rides inside anywhere where you like to do your scheduling such as Buffer, Sendible, Hootsuite, etc.,

    Tweet to me at @kymaniKD if you’d like a demo. I’m happy to show you around!

  • http://annkroeker.com Ann Kroeker

    Quite useful–thanks for the info.

  • Jay McHugh

    thanks for sharing…..