How and when to use hashtags on each major social network

19th November 2021

This quick guide will get you started with how and when to use hashtags on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Youtube. After reading this article, you will have the knowledge to develop your own hashtag strategy. 

What are hashtags?

A hashtag is a word or phrase within a social media post that is prefixed with a hash # symbol. Social media users add hashtags to posts to highlight a keyword or topic and allow other users to search for it.

Examples you may know: #instagood #love #fbf #nofilter

The primary use of hashtags is to collate related content. For example, if a user clicks a particular hashtag such as #imlovinit from McDonalds, all related content will be collected in a stream and shown to that user. Usually, the freshest content with the most engagement is shown first. If a particular hashtag topic gets enough engagement it can become a “trending” topic and even go viral. But why are hashtags so important for social media marketers?

First ever Tweet from former Google employee Chris Messina.

Why are hashtags important for an effective social media strategy?

Hashtags were invented in 2007 by former Google employee Chris Messina. While widespread adoption took a few years, social media agency RadiumOne estimates that nowadays 75% of people on social media use hashtags. More importantly, social media posts with hashtags get more engagement than those without: Tweets with hashtags had 2 times more engagement than those without, and 55% more Retweets; A post with at least one Instagram hashtag gets on average 12.6% more engagement than posts without.

While using hashtags is as simple as adding a #” sign to a word or phrase with no punctuation, there are some tricks and tips should be aware of. Used correctly, hashtags will boost your social engagement and make your content more relevant and findable.

Hashtag best practices

Here are a few best practices for using hashtags on social media:

  • Research has found that posts with between one and two hashtags perform best on Facebook and Twitter. 
  • But on Instagram things work a little differently: The same study found that around 10 or 11 hashtags seems to be the magic number before engagement drops. 

What is most important is that you make your hashtags specific to the audience you want to engage with. The more targeted your hashtags, the more engagement you will get.

Before adding a hashtag to your posts, do some research. Use a hashtag analytics tool like Talkwalker or Hashtagify to identify what are the most used terms related to your content. There are many options to choose from, and some are specialized in specific social media platforms. You can also do some qualitative research by looking at the top posts from your competitors or relevant personalities in your industry and see what hashtags they’re using.

How to use Twitter hashtags

Twitter hashtags are used to join a conversation topic, or start one of your own. Look out for trending topics to join as these get lots of engagement. But don’t overdo it! Limit your posts to one or two hashtags. Remember: mention someone with the @ and use hashtags for topics of conversation.

How to use Instagram hashtags

Instagram is a visual social network. Insta hashtags collect all photos with the same # in one stream. You can search for a hashtag in the search bar or by clicking on one in a post. There are different theories as to the ideal number of hashtags to boost engagement. We recommend experimenting to see what works for you. It’s not uncommon to see posts with 10+ hashtags (current limit is 30 #s per post) but any more than that is probably pushing it.

How to use Facebook hashtags

Whereas Instagram and Twitter profiles are mainly public, most Facebook users have private profiles. This means that their posts and thus their hashtags are not discoverable. So most public hashtags are used by influencers and brands. Similarly to Instagram or Twitter, clicking on a hashtag will bring up related posts tagged with that hashtag.If you are running a Facebook campaign, try creating your own hashtag so users can discover similar content like Porsche did in this campaign.

How to use YouTube hashtags

Now you can add hashtags above the title of your videos. To do this, add up to three hashtags to your video description and you should see them automatically appear above the title. This allows users to perform one-click searches. Create your own hashtags for your content so when users search they only land on your videos. You can also use hashtags when you comment  – this links to all content tagged with that hashtag.

Final hashtag takeaways

Each social network has its own hashtag norms. The trending hashtags and the optimum number will not be the same. Social media tools like Metigy can take the guesswork out of your hashtag strategy. Learn how Metigy can streamline and automate your social workflows today.

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