Boost Your Business With Hashtags: The Ultimate Guide 2019

The role that hashtags play in Social Media is being underestimated quite frequently. However, in 2019 too, the popular combination of numbers, letters, and the # symbol are much more than just a pastime for bored Instagram and Twitter users. Put to good use, they allow for your content to be found, and further your interaction with your target group – two fundamental necessities in successful Social Media Marketing.

In this blog post, we focus on the role that hashtags play on various social media platforms. Additionally, we share with you some tips on how to find relevant hashtags and use them in a way that lets them reach their full potential for you.

Hashtags – A definition

The term “hashtag” is a compound of “hash”, the word for the # sign, and “tag”, as in the popular children’s game. The grouping of the # symbol with other letters and numbers was first introduced on Twitter in 2007, following a proposal by internet activist Chris Messina. Nowadays, hashtags are prominently featured not just on Twitter, but also on Instagram. Additionally, they are available on Pinterest and Facebook, as well as on YouTube, in a slightly different form.

How exactly they work, and which functions they fulfill, differs from platform to platform. There is one thing though that they share across platforms: They are used to tag posts in order to group them thematically. Users can find posts related to a particular topic by searching for corresponding hashtags and increase their own posts’ visibility by hashtagging them correctly.

How hashtags work on different Social Media platforms

When we talk about hashtags in Social Media, we usually center our conversations around Twitter or everyone’s new favorite, Instagram. However, in recent years, hashtags have become relevant on other platforms as well, which is why it’s useful to consider their role in various social networks.

How hashtags work on Instagram

Hashtag Guide: Instagram Hashtag #photooftheday
#photooftheday is among the most popular hashtags on Instagram.

Instagram seems to be on a winning streak. By now, the platform has one billion active users per month, and counting. Hashtags are an extremely important part of Instagram.

Here are the key factors for hashtags on Instagram:

  • You can use up to 30 hashtags for an Instagram post. Whether it makes more sense to go for the max, or limit yourself to a small number of hashtags, we will discuss later on.
  • You can use hashtags for Stories, too! Up to 10 per Story are possible.
  • For some time now, users have had the option to follow hashtags they are particularly interested in. Your big advantage with this feature: it allows for your content to show up in people’s feeds, even if they don’t follow you yet.
  • If you have a business account on Instagram, you can get data on how successfully your hashtags perform. This way, you can regularly adapt and optimize your tagging strategy.

How hashtags work on Twitter

With a bit over 300 million active users per month, Twitter falls far behind Instagram. However, it should be noted that statistics have shown that a lot more people visit the platform than actually tweet, or even just log in. In the US, Twitter is more popular than in German-speaking countries, which is not just illustrated by how much it is used by certain particularly enthusiastic tweeting politicians. Especially since Twitter enjoys considerable popularity among opinion leaders and multipliers, Twitter is useful for European companies too.

Considering that Twitter is the birthplace of hashtags, it’s hard to imagine the platform without them. Much of what applies to hashtags on Instagram is true for hashtags on Twitter, too. A considerable difference lies in the number of hashtags. While more of them may increase your success on Instagram, on Twitter it is advisable to stick to the motto “less is more”.

How hashtags work on Facebook

For quite some time now, hashtags have also been used on Facebook. However, in contrast with Instagram, they haven’t really taken off yet on Facebook. Experts disagree on whether it makes sense to use them at all. They do agree on the fact that you should definitely not overuse them: after all, there are studies suggesting that interaction decreases when the number of hashtags grows.

How hashtags work on Pinterest

Hashtag Guide: Pinterest Hashtag Sport
Pinterest has only been using hashtags for a short amount of time.

It is curious, but on Pinterest, hashtags are a rather new thing. How they can be used on other platforms is also how they can be used on Pinterest. Integrate relevant hashtags with the descriptions of your pins in order to make them detectable more easily. You should, however, note that Pinterest displays search results in chronological order when a user clicks on a hashtag. Therefore, it is of little value to add hashtags to older posts later on.

Did you know that Pinterest is 33% more effective than Facebook in bringing users to your online shop? Used in the right way, it is a gold mine for Social Media Marketing. In our blog post ““Pinterest Marketing 101: Everything Companies Need to Know”” you learn, how to have a successful start into the world of pinning.

How tags work on YouTube

To avoid any confusion: there are no hashtags with a pound sign on YouTube. However, there are tags without a hash, and those are highly important for your videos’ findability. If you want to maximize the number of users who will find your videos, be sure to use fitting tags.

These last paragraphs show clearly that hashtags are primarily used on Instagram and Twitter right now. Therefore, we concentrate on those two platforms in our Hashtag Guide.

Advantages of using the right hashtags in Social Media Marketing

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of how to make use of hashtags, we are discussing the one key question: Which advantages do hashtags have, and why is it so important to use them?

As a matter of fact, there are several reasons why Social Media Managers should learn about hashtags:

  • Greater visibility: Relevant hashtags will bring those users to your content, who are not already following you on a given platform. If you chose your hashtags wisely, you significantly increase your chances of reaching members of your target group or people who are interested in your company and services.
  • More interaction: A 2014 study that is still quoted frequently attests that hashtags lead to an average of 12,6 per cent higher engagement rates than is the case for posts without hashtags. It is of course up for debate in how far this still holds true in 2019. Nonetheless, experts agree that the right amount of the right hashtags can contribute considerably to creating more interaction with your posts.
  • More brand awareness: Brand hashtags, containing e.g. your company or brand name, can create a long lasting increase in brand awareness.

In addition, hashtags have advantages across platforms. For instance, this is true if you want to make events accessible from computers or smartphones by means of a Social Media Wall, or if you are running cross-media campaigns. In these cases however, what is true for Instagram and Twitter, still holds true here as well: Only the right hashtags will deliver on their promise. On the flip side, badly chosen hashtags can even have negative effects on your visibility and interaction rate.

Hashtags only make sense in combination with the right content. Learn about how to plan, create, and publish content in our e-book “The Art of Social Media Content Creation”. Download it now for free!

Tips on how to use hashtags

Just jumping into tagging head first is not a good idea. Instead, consider these tips on how to get the most out of hashtags.

The right amount of hashtags

Hashtag Guide: Fewer Hashtags, More Interaction
On Facebook and Twitter, less is more.

What’s the right number? The answer to this question depends on the platform:

  • On Twitter, frugality is a virtue. A new study shows that tweets with only one hashtag receive the most interaction.
  • The same study recommends 9 hashtags for posts on Instagram. However, a large-scale study by Quintly looking at 8 million posts, has concluded that the interaction increased if no hashtags were used at all. That is, unless it’s a profile with more than 10 million followers.
Hashtag Guide: Interactions for hashtags used in Instagram posts
Could no hashtag sometimes be the better choice? A Quintly study says so.

Whether more or less hashtags are ultimately better is actually rather hard to determine. Don’t get too worked up about the varying recommendations, because there are also cases of companies that are more successful with 8 or 12 hashtags than with 9. Your “lucky number” can only be found out by trial-and-error.

Avoid irrelevant hashtags

Especially on Instagram, you might be tempted to make use of many popular hashtags in order to increase your reach. However, if your content and the chosen hashtags don’t go well together, this tactic can definitely backfire. Users might be annoyed and click on “Don’t Show for This Hashtag” In case this happens too often, your content could even stop showing up for this hashtag all together.

Additionally, you want to attract not just anyone to your profile, but people who are part of your target group, and above all real people, not bots. That will only work if you use hashtags relevant to your target group.

Popular hashtags and niche terms – why you should be using both

Essentially, there are two tactics for choosing hashtags:

  • Popular terms: By using hashtags that are particularly popular on a platform, you increase your chances of reaching a large number of users. However, you also run the risk of having your content disappear among the plethora of content using the same hashtag. This is particularly likely with unspecific hashtags with millions of posts, such as #follow4follow. Additionally, you’re at risk of appearing dubious, because let’s be honest: begging for followers doesn’t come off very confident. Highly recommended popular hashtags on Instagram are, among others, #photooftheday, #selfie, or #contest. This is under the premise that your content suits the hashtags.
  • Specific hashtags: Opting for specific hashtags naturally limits the group of users who will see your post. However, this can play out to your advantage, since the people who are interested in niche terms and concrete hashtags are most likely potential future customers.

Which tactic works best? Ideally, you use a combination of both. In practice, this means that you should make use of both popular hashtags, in order to reach the maximum number of people, as well as specific ones, in order to reach your target group. Keep away from hashtags that are “too popular”, and stay up to date on hashtags that Instagram censors. Oftentimes, the platform restricts benign words such as #brain, #easter, or #publicrelations for a certain amount of time, if they have been reported as inappropriate by the community.

Use Brand Hashtags

Hashtag Guide: #justdoit
Nike’s #justdoit is an example of a particularly successful Brand Hashtag.

“Brand Hashtags” or “Branded Hashtags” are a special form of hashtag that is meant to be used for a longer period of time than Campaign Hashtags. Ideally, they significantly benefit the brand image. Brand hashtags come in various forms:

  • Variations of company and brand names
  • Claims
  • Slogans

Nike’s #justdoit is a an example of a great brand hashtag. Coca Cola’s #shareacoke on the other hand is an example of an outstanding campaign hashtag. It is key to decide on hashtags with a high recognition value, and avoid the possibilities of someone else recreating them, or your hashtags being confused with those of other brands. Usually, simply choosing #companyname will likely not lead to success, because it can only be found by users who already know your company.

Keep it short and sweet and avoid misunderstandings

Brevity is the soul of wit, and even more so of memorability. And your hashtag’s recall value is crucial for its’ success. Therefore, be sure to avoid long and elaborate chains of words, no matter if you feel the result is especially creative and entertaining. Additionally, pay attention to whether there are possible misunderstandings to be made by combining words. There are numerous examples out there of awkward ambiguities.

Pay attention to proper spelling

It goes without saying, but in practice, when writing a hashtag, a letter can get lost easily. As a result, the hashtag then doesn’t serve its purpose anymore. Also stay away from hashtags that are comprised of only capital letters – this can easily come off as aggressive. Emojis on the other hand can look creative and catchy.

How to find great hashtags

On both Instagram and Twitter, you have several options for finding great hashtags:

Find Instagram hashtags

In order to boost your content with relevant hashtags, you have the following options:

  • Use the search function in the app and enter words that are relevant to your company, products or campaign. If you then click on #, Instagram shows you a list of successful hashtags with this word.
  • If you click on a search result, similar hashtags are displayed in a narrow bar above “Top” and “Recent”.

Find Twitter hashtags

On Twitter, you can find a list of “Trends for you” right at the top of your profile page. The mobile version displays a total of 20 trends, the desktop version 10. They are based on your location, as well as who you follow on Twitter. In order to efficiently find popular hashtags that fit your content and target group, it can be useful to employ tools such as Hashtagify.

Tips for your search across platforms

In addition to platform-specific search functions, there are possibilities to find hashtags which work on different platforms:

  • Be on the look out for hashtags that your competitors or influencers are using successfully.
  • Analyze your own posts. Often, you will be able to identify particularly successful hashtags by doing so.

However, keep in mind that the world of Social Media is fast-paced. This is also true for hashtags.

Hashtags are even more important for smaller businesses than bigger ones

When taking a look at hashtags on platforms such as Instagram, it is evident that there are some companies that apparently pay less attention than others to using hashtags. Big companies such as AirBnB abstain from using hashtags at all from time to time. That’s not a reason to take that route too, though.

Sure, big players who are already extremely well-known may be able to afford to be a little sloppy here and there. However, this is not true for small and medium-sized businesses, which should definitely consider using hashtags consistently. By not using hashtags, you run the risk of having your content simply drown among the plethora of other posts your users see when they log on to their Twitter or Instagram.

With the right tool, your Social Media Marketing is even more efficient. Swat.io helps you with planning and publishing content, in customer care, and much more! You can also find out how your hashtag is performing. Request a free demo now and take your Social Media Marketing to the next level.


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About the Author

Carina Kröpfl

Carina Kröpfl is Content Marketing Manager at Swat.io, a Social Media Management solution that’s helping companies to improve their customer support & content management on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others. Swat.io is currently used by companies such as 3Österreich, Hitradio Ö3, ÖBB, Focus Online and Burda Intermedia.

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