Hashtag Marketing: Complete Guide to Using Hashtags

Hashtag marketing is on a roll.

Not talking about the casual act of plugging the pound sign (#) into every single one of your target keywords, but the premeditated, marketing aspect of it.

Hashtags are the lifeblood of every social media promotion campaign. They’re the closest thing to keywords, but for social media.

These useful little links make your content discoverable and easy to share, but only when used correctly.

Brands are big on them, and it’s for a good reason. 

What’s a Hashtag?

A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded with a hash sign #, and used within a message to identify a keyword or topic of interest and facilitate its search on a given social media platform.

In the same vein, hashtags make relevant information searchable. Brands use them to widen their reach and connect with people who share an interest in a particular topic. 

A Brief Overview of Hashtags: How did they Come to Be?

If it were not for Twitter, hashtags would be nothing more than the pound symbol or hash mark, #. 

It’s a revolution that started in 2007 when Twitter began using hashtags as a method for indexing related keywords for easy content discovery. 

Other social media would jump into the bandwagon soon after, transforming hashtags into an industry staple. 

It’s simple. Find the # simple on your keyboard (shift +3, on a US keyboard) and add it to a word or phrase (clear all spaces if it’s a phrase) and Voila! You have created a hashtag. 

This is the first-ever use of a hashtag (mark the date): 

It’s then that people started using hashtags.

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Here’s a simple breakdown of the hashtag evolution:

  • In August 2007, Twitter introduced the idea of hashtags. 
  • In July 2009, Twitter started embracing hashtag linking officially. It was official that users could use hashtags to search for tweets or discussions on any particular topic.
  • Come January 2011 and Instagram would jump into the bandwagon by incorporating hashtag support. 
  • February 2011, Twitter was used to start the Arab Spring uprising. #Bahran became one of the most used hashtags in the history of hashtags. 
  • Come October 2011 and Google+ would also hop into the hashtag bandwagon. It officially started linking all the hashtags in posts. 
  • In January 2013, about half of Superbowl ads included a hashtag. 
  • June that same year (2013), Facebook would also adopt hashtags as a way of grouping conversations. 

Now hashtags are synonymous with almost any social media network. 

Hashtags Basics

Before you go all gung-ho about incorporating hashtags into your marketing strategy, let’s first get acquainted with the basics and find out how they work:

It must Start with a Hash Sign (#)

If it’s a one-worded keyword, then just add the hash sign to the word, and that’s enough to convert it into a hashtag. 

However, if it’s a phrase (a keyword with more than one word), then you’re to ignore the spaces, punctuation, and symbols.

Examples:

Media will become #Media as a hashtag

Media One => #MediaOne

Digital Marketing Agency = > #DigitalMarketingAgency

Make Sure Your Social Media Account is Public

You can’t use hashtags on a private account. Your account has to be public for your hashtags to be accessed by people who aren’t following you.

Don’t String so Many Words Together

The general rule of thumb is that your hashtag has to be short. The point is to try and make it easy to remember, and one way to achieve that is by making it short – 5-word tops.

Make them Relevant and Specific

How you pick your hashtags can either make or break your social media campaign. 

Try to avoid picking an obscure keyword. Otherwise, social media users will have a hard time finding it.

The hashtag you choose must also be relevant to your line of business and specific enough to identify your business. 

Avoid Using too Many Hashtags

You’re allowed to include up to 30 hashtags on a single regular Instagram post and up to 10 on a story. 

There’s a lot of sense in wanting to include so many hashtags. But that only puts you at risk of coming off as spammy.

We suggest you try to limit the number of hashtags you use to three and at most five, unless otherwise. 

Why Use Hashtags? 

Hashtags are used as punchlines or commentary. But those on the marketing side don’t find that very helpful. 

That aside, here are four ways marketers can benefit from using hashtags:

Increased Engagement

Hashtags offer you a chance to participate in a social media conversation. You include them in the contribution you make. 

Not only that, hashtags make your post visible. When a random user searches for that discussion (using the hashtag of course), your post will be among those that they see. 

A Great Way to Build Your Brand

Branded hashtags are a great way to grow your brand and increase conversion. 

Learn from Cheerios and their #CheeriosHeartHuntSweepstakes campaign. It’s a simple campaign they started to encourage their followers to buy their products and create awareness around the brand by sharing Cheerios photos.

Support for Social Issues

It’s good to think beyond your business sometimes. Anything that affects people, affects your business as well. 

Using hashtags, you can mobilise your brand around an important issue and show concern. 

Your followers will appreciate you even more for being part of whatever is affecting them, instead of isolating yourself and only reaching out to them when marketing something.

For instance, you can take advantage of the hashtags used on International Women’s day (such as #IWD2020), to celebrate your women clients or some of the women that have been part of your success. You could even invite your followers to join you in celebrating each other’s mothers.

Another approach would be to rally your followers around a social issue.

For example, Bell (a Canadian Telecommunication Company) initiated the hashtag #BellLetsTalk to promote #MentalHealth Awareness in February 2020. 

Add Context to Your Posts

On Twitter, you’re limited to only 280 characters of captions, not more 

Writing long captions on Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn isn’t recommended either. With social media, the principle of less is more holds. 

A hashtag can help you contextualise what your post is all about. You don’t have to explain everything in words. Not when you can sum up everything in a simple hashtag link and let your readers connect the dots.

We can all learn from NASA. In July 2019, they celebrated their fiftieth anniversary and made a post about it on Twitter.

While you could have expected them to make a lengthy post detailing everything. They instead decided to upload an emoji post with zero text and used the hashtag #Apollo50th and #WorldEmojiDay to let their followers know what the post was about.

Help Social Media Users Find You

Hashtags position you to be found. By using a popular hashtag (such as #Travel), users that follow this hashtag should be able to find you. 

It presents itself as a great opportunity to help social media users find your products or brand.

For example, by using #travel on your Twitter or Instagram post; anyone who follows this hashtag is likely to stumble across your recent post while browsing through their feed, and that’s how you gain new followers. 

4 Social Media Platforms That Support Hashtags

Hashtags were first introduced by Twitter, and it worked well for them. Readability increased. Tweets started getting read by an even bigger audience. 

Companies also started to embrace hashtags.

Today, hashtags have become ubiquitous, and synonymous with almost every social media platform you can think of.

That being said, here are the 4 major platforms that support hashtagging:

Twitter

Twitter owns this particular arena. They introduced the world to hashtagging and perfected it over the years. 

Twitter hashtags are known for building wider connections than any other social networking site you can think of. 

Their hashtags carry the most potential. They can be used to filter and find relevant information. 

Example of popular hashtags on Twitter:

  • #McDStories
  • #Cairo
  • #InboundChat
  • #BusinessTime

Facebook

Facebook first foray into the business of hashtagging was in 2013.

Their hashtags can only filter posts by names of existing Facebook pages. Also, unlike Twitter, their hashtags are somewhat limited, considering they can only be viewed by people that follow you or like your page. 

Suffice it to say that they do not carry the same potential as Twitter hashtags, but quite effective when promoting your brand.

Examples of general hashtags common with Facebook:

  • #CommedyDay
  • #ThisIsWhyWePray
  • #CavsVsDub

Instagram 

Instagram also supports hashtags. 

Hashtagging on Instagram has even higher reachability than Facebook. Its reachability is only second to Twitter. 

General hashtagging terms commonly used on Instagram include:

  • #quotes
  • #qotd
  • #Instaquotes
  • #lifequotes
  • #Motivationalquotes
  • #Quoteoftheday

Google Plus

Google+ was among the first social media channels to jump into the hashtag train. They officially introduced it in 2011 when they automatically started to link posts with hashtags. 

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What Happens to a Hashtag When it’s Not Used Properly?

Hashtags will only work for you when used properly.

The first step entails finding the right hashtags. This calls for thorough hashtag research. 

Keep in mind that you cannot copyright a hashtag. So, regardless of what you do or what precautions you take, you cannot stop another person from using the same hashtags.

There are two ways hashtags can backfire on you:

  1. When you use a hashtag to increase your reach, but it ends up making your brand look bad
  2. An angry customer can hijack your hashtag and paint a negative image of your brand

Hashtagging is no easy business. It’s a line that you want to tread carefully, exercising caution every step of the way.

4 Twitter Hashtag Stats

Hashtags on Twitters represent a keyword or trending topic. Just including a hashtag in your message is enough to tie the post to a conversation. Users can find this conversation by typing the hashtag on Twitter’s search bar. 

Here’s what stats have to say about hashtagging on Twitter:

  • Using more than two hashtags can drop your Twitter engagement rate by 17%. 
  • Tweets with hashtags receive two times more engagement than those without.
  • Tweets with one or two hashtags have a 21% higher engagement rate than tweets with more than two hashtags (three or more). 
  • Twitter has also reported that just including a hashtag in your tweet is enough to increase its engagement rate by up to 100% for individuals and up to 50% for brands. 
  • Hubspot also found out that Twitters users are more likely to retweet a tweet with hashtags than one without. 

7 Types of Hashtags Every Marketer Needs to Know

Here are 7 common types of hashtags every marketer needs to be using:

  • Branded Hashtags

These are your signature hashtags, very specific to your organisation or brand. 

#MediaOne is an example of a Branded hashtag. It’s unique to our brand. 

KIFIA.ORG uses #KIFIA as its branded hashtag. It identifies its brand. And for their latest campaign, they had #WeNeedANMouse as their campaign hashtag. 

Learn to encourage your followers to use your branded hashtag every time they’re sharing something concerning your brand. 

The point is to have a way that the online community can use to find information about your brand. 

  • Descriptive or Content-reflecting Hashtags

Descriptive or topical hashtags are used when you’re sharing or posting a new piece of content on social media. They must directly connect with that piece of content and clue the reader in on what the content is about. 

For example, when we share this piece of content on social media, we might find it fit it include #hashtagmarketingguide. 

Content-reflecting hashtags aren’t specific to a brand. Nor do they need to be popular or trending. 

They’re pretty useful for companies that:

  • Participate in events
  • Sell physical products
  • Operate in a particular set location 
  • Publish posts on niche topics that don’t necessarily have to trend or merit a brand hashtag
  • Trending Hashtags

These hashtags make your post go viral.

When you include the hashtag in your post, you increase the odds of it “trending.” 

Every social media network has its own way of displaying trending topics. On Twitter, trending topics are displayed on the right-hand sidebar 

Facebook, on the other hand, displays theirs on their top-right corner of the screen. 

A trending hashtag can last for days or just a few minutes. 

The point is when you see a trending topic that relates to your business or line of work, seize the opportunity by also jumping into the conversation.

  • Chat Hashtags

Chat hashtags are popular with Twitter. People use them to discuss topics with other users that are also interested in the topic.

It’s a form of hashtag marketing that calls for a user to directly engage with an individual or brand.

These chats are usually held at a specified predetermined time, and mostly involving one user asking a question and the other chiming in with their contributions.

Chat hashtags are great for gaining brand exposure. The more your brand engages in these chats, the more people recognise it, and the more exposure it gets.

  • Call-to-Actions (CTA) Hashtags

CTA hashtags are created with one goal in mind – to encourage users to undertake a specified action. 

It’s a marketing concept that has proven to work well with social media. 

Call to Action hashtags usually start with a verb such as “talk” or “share,” followed by a few other words that give further instructions. 

Example

#ShareYourMentalHealthExperiences

#TalktoUs

#ShareACoke

They’re meant to encourage the online community to take appropriate action. 

Here are a few reasons social media users may be compelled to follow CTA hashtags:

  • The feeling that they’re contributing to a noble cause

Going with the mental health example, many users would be happy to follow the hashtag because it feels like it’s challenging the stigma surrounding mental health

  • When the action feels like fun

Social media users love fun. They’re more likely to participate in your discussion or follow a hashtag if they find it fun enough. Or who wouldn’t want to follow a hashtag that’s full of fun stories or captivating pictures? 

  • A sense of participation

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Users will want to take action just because they want to participate or be part of your project or challenge. 

  • Campaign Hashtags

Campaign hashtags are specific to every campaign or contest you run.

They have a start and end date. These hashtags may contain your brand name, but what’s more important is that they convey your campaign message or slogan. 

Before you utilise any campaign hashtag, you must first do some research and make sure you’re working with the right hashtag. 

In addition to that, you have to make sure nobody is using the hashtag. 

There are tools to help you out with the research. 

You also want to double-check the words you use and make sure they don’t carry any unintentional double entendre.  

Here’s a real-time example of a campaign hashtag:

  1. Event Hashtags

Event hashtags are exactly as it’s written on the tin – the represent events.

That means they have a start and expiry date. 

If it’s a regular event, you can recycle the same hashtag, with minor alterations, of course.

Brands use hashtags to create a conversation or some hype around the event. 

It’s a generally good idea to introduce the hashtag to your target audience long before the event starts. 

This should keep the event on top of your audience mind and encourage prospective attendees to help you share the post. 

How Many Hashtags Should You Use?

The number of hashtags to use on a single post depends on the platform in question. Keep in mind that there’s nothing like a one-size-fits-all hashtag marketing strategy for all social media sites.

In fact, with some platforms, you’re better off not using hashtags at all.

That being said, here are the number of hashtags to use on each social media platform:

Facebook: 1 or 2 hashtags, not more

With Facebook, you’re better off with 1 or 2 specific hashtags than a long list of them. You also have to make sure the hashtag you choose are relevant to the post you’re making, especially since Facebook users only use hashtags to discover relevant content and participate in a trending discussion. 

Twitter: 1 or 2 hashtags, not more

As we mentioned, using not more than two hashtags on Twitter has the potential to double your engagement rate. On the other hand, going overboard with these hashtags has been found to negatively impact your engagement rate. For example, using three hashtags in a single post could drop your engagement rate by 21% and exponentially so as the number of hashtags increases. 

Instagram: You’re allowed to use up to 30 hashtags on a single post. 

You can’t go beyond 30 or else the post won’t publish. To maximise your reach and engagement you’re advised to use as many hashtags as you possibly can. In other words, there’s no more harm in going a little overboard with these hashtags on Instagram – just  not exceed 30. 

Pinterest: 0 hashtags

In 2018, Pinterest also decided to introduce hashtag capabilities on the platform. However, it’s not yet fully established if pins with hashtags perform better than those without. 

We suggest you include keywords in your description and go slow on hashtags. 

LinkedIn: 2 to 3 Hashtags

Linkedin introduced hashtag capabilities not long ago. But unlike Pinterest, they created a searching method that also focuses on hashtags. Meaning, LinkedIn users can use hashtags to search for information. 

While there’s no limit to how many hashtags one can use on LinkedIn, we advise you to limit them to two or three, and if you must go a little overboard with them, then don’t go beyond five.

Hashtag Research: How to Find the Best Hashtags to Use?

Never use a hashtag without first researching it. It’s not just a matter of guessing and going with the first hashtag that comes to mind. You might even be required to conduct some little bit of A/B testing and go with the best-performing hashtag instead of something random.

You can start by researching the best hashtag within the platform you’re in. Try typing your primary keyword and weigh in on some of the suggestions made.

Here’s how you proceed with the hashtag research:

Step 1: Start Following Niche Hashtags

Trawl each social media platform for niche hashtags. This should help you see what types of posts are trending and what type of hashtags your competitors or industry influencers are using. 

You’re to look for these hashtags and follow them to see what type of topics are trending. This should also help you develop some ideas on relevant topics and subjects to write about. 

    • Look around for accounts that are similar to yours and analyse their hashtags. See if you can find any inspiration. 
  • Do this on every social media platform you’re on. For each hashtag, be sure to find out how many times the hashtags have been shared and used. 

Step 2: Google It

You can find great hashtags for your brand by simply Googling them. Just hit search engines and type “top used hashtags for your niche” and you’ll be provided with a long list of hashtags you can use. 

This is particularly important when you’re publishing a new post that doesn’t tie in well with your brand hashtag or regular hashtag. There’s no harm in visiting Google for some ideas or suggestions. 

That doesn’t necessarily imply that you should be using them the way they are. You can paraphrase or give them your own spin to make them unique. 

Here’s what you should be doing:

  • Google your keywords and try to find the most used hashtags in that particular topic
  • Filter the hashtags to choose the most appropriate hashtag for your topic. That’s another way of saying you should analyse the hashtags, and make sure they’re not only relevant to your topic, but also have a decent number of post shares. 

Step 3: Run them Into Google Keyword Planner: 

Not just GKP, but any other keyword research tool you can lay your hands on.

There isn’t much difference between keywords and hashtags, only that one works for search engines and the other one for social media. 

And like keywords, your hashtags also have to rank. 

Here’s what you should be doing:

  • First head to Google Keyword Planner.
  • Search the platform for the keywords you have. The next thing you want to do is head back to social media and find out how these keywords are performing.

Step 4: Start Monitoring Your Hashtags

Your work doesn’t end with you publishing your hashtag laced messages on social media. You’re to monitor every single one of these hashtags and find out how they’re performing. 

You have a long list of insightful tools to take advantage of. Some of them will clue you in on how popular some of these hashtags are, how they perform, and so on.

Others will even track the performance of these hashtags on your social media account:

Here’s what you should be doing when monitoring your hashtags: 

  • Use one of the tools we’ve mentioned below to identify or find the hashtags to use: Hashtagify, Keyhole, IQ Hashtag, SeekMetrics, and All-Hashtag. 
  • Filter the hashtags and select the ones that are most relevant to your post or business

Here are 5 hashtag monitoring tools you can use:

Hashtagify

Hashtagtify Hashtag Marketing Complete Guide to Using Hashtags

$19 to $249 per month

An excellent tool for finding out which hashtags are trending on Twitter. It’s a free tool, but with a lot of paid features that you might find useful. 

The tool has a lot of in-depth hashtag research insights.

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You can use it to find, research, analyse, and monitor your hashtags. 

Hashtagify has almost everything you might need to find out more about your hashtag list, from their popularity to their performance and the top influencers using them.  

IQ Hashtags

IQ Hashtags Hashtag Marketing Complete Guide to Using Hashtags

Two pricing options: $59 per month for regular users and $89 per month for pro users. They also offer a 14-day money-back guarantee in case you don’t get to like the tool. 

Hashtags only serve one important role – to extend your reach. 

IQ Hashtags was created with this in mind. It was designed to help businesses, influencers, entrepreneurs reach more followers organically. 

It’s able to do this by first helping you target the best-used hashtags that can help you increase your online exposure. 

Premium users can also use it to analyse hashtags and find out how they have been performing. 

Keyhole

Keyhole Hashtag Marketing Complete Guide to Using Hashtags

$149 per month

This is by far one of the best hashtag research tools online. Although primarily designed to track popular hashtags online, Keyhole is also an excellent tool for measuring the success or failure of your niche keywords. 

You can also use it to generate new hashtags for your posts and brand. 

All you have to do is visit the platform and sign up. You can then enter one of your hashtags and watch the tool work its magic and generate a long list of relevant and top-performing hashtags that you can use. 

All-Hashtag

All Hashtag Hashtag Marketing Complete Guide to Using Hashtags

Free

All Hashtag is a hashtag research tool specifically designed to work with Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. 

It can help you generate and analyse relevant keywords. 

It’s also pretty simple to use. All you have to do is visit the platform and enter your keyword into the search bar. You’re to then select what type of hashtag you want to use. 

For instance, you can select “Top” to find the most popular hashtags relating to your line of business or “Random” to be provided with a list of random hashtags. 

SeekMetrics

Seek Metrics Hashtag Marketing Complete Guide to Using Hashtags

SeekMetrics is a social media analytics tool that also doubles as a hashtag generator.

It’s a free tool that you can use to generate relevant keywords for your posts before sharing them on social media.

The tool boasts one of the most straightforward UI you’ll ever come across online. 

Hashtracking

Hashtags Org Hashtag Marketing Complete Guide to Using Hashtags

Hashtracking is a simple hashtag tracking tools for your events and online campaigns. 

Not only that. It can also track your tweets and retweets, and provide you with valuable data about the type of users contributing to your hashtag. 

Accompanying all this will be a series of data and graphics providing an in-depth analysis of the said hashtags. 

7 Hashtag Pointers to Observe

  • Don’t use the same hashtag on every single one of your posts. If anything, every post must possess its own hashtag, relevant and well-researched. 
  • The hashtag you use must be relevant to the topic in question. You also want to avoid using generic hashtags such as #goodday or #like4like. Such hashtags aren’t specific enough to reach your target audience. 
  • For LinkedIn, use two to three hashtags (and at most five) for a single post. For Twitter and Facebook, you should try to limit the total number of hashtags to two, and not more. 

For Instagram, there’s no harm in going all the way up to 30 hashtags. At the same time, you want to make sure all your hashtags are relevant and directly related to your topic. 

  • On Instagram, instead of adding all your hashtags to your captions, consider adding them to the first comment to keep the caption clean. 
  • If you’re making a post for a special event (such as holidays or news), then consider doing thorough keyword research to find out which hashtags perform best during that event. 
  • Review all your hashtags and find out how they’re working for you. Check their engagement rate and find out if they’re helpful to your marketing strategy. 

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