Everybody has seen their fair share of hashtags on social media. Hashtags, which utilize the pound or number sign (#) are a way for users to turn topics, keywords, phrases into clickable links in social media posts, revolutionizing the way we communicate online. While they have become a common practice for many years, there are certain guidelines that can help brands, businesses, marketers best utilize hashtags and powerfully reach target audiences.

The short answer is: You should be using hashtags. Hashtags, which started out as a phenomenon on Twitter, has now spread to other popular social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, Google Search. The widespread acceptance should give you a good reason to be using them. 

What does a hashtag look like?

“I could go for a PB&J sandwich right now.” #midnightsnack

Keep in mind that hashtags must be written as a single word without spaces, and with the # sign in front. Think of a hashtag as a query in a search box. Any user who searches for that matching query will be able to see your content. Hashtags are usually placed at the end of of the social media message, but can be incorporated into the messages as well. For example:

“Need help with incorporating #hashtags in your social media message? Keep reading!”


How do you find your right hashtag?

Including popular and trending hashtags can boost your messages to reach people beyond your followers. When you post a popular hashtag, you expose your message to everyone discussing or following that topic.

How do you find these popular hashtags?

A great place to start is on the Twitter website. Twitter offers the most legitimate and up to date on what’s trending underneath its “Tailored Trends” section located on the right side of your Twitter profile. This section will list the top 10 hashtags currently trending.

Hashtagify.me is a great place to enter in a topic or hashtag you would like to share information about. Hashtagify will pull up top hashtags related to that topic.


How to do you create your own hashtag?

One thing to note is that hashtags should be kept relatively simple, memorable, and as short as possible. This is especially important because of the limited character space on Twitter. Hashtags that involve too many words or phrases lose their effect.

Not only are hashtags most effective when short and concise, but they should also spark a conversation or point of topic. For example, Starbucks #sharejoy campaign inspires users to share joyful moments while enjoying a Starbucks drink. Tip: choose a phrase that no one else is using, contextual and easy to integrate into sentences. Take Under Armour’s #IWill campaign.


Can you include hashtags on every social media channel? 

Hashtags have become a very popular way to share content and distribute, but it’s not limited to just Twitter. Sites such as Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+ allow for hashtags. Google+ will even generate hashtags for you based on the words you write in your post. One thing to note is that you’ll see different results on every one of these social media sites when using hashtags. 


Hashtags on Twitter:

Hashtags on Twitter see 2 times more visibility than posts without hashtags. Actually, 1-2 hashtags (max) to a Twitter post to fully optimize your post. Be careful not to add more than 2 hashtags at a time or you could be seeing your engagement drop by 17% (Buddy Media)

According to Dan Zarella from Hubspot, who did a study on retweeting behavior, found that tweets with 1 or more hashtags are 55% more likely to be retweeted. For those looking for clicks rather than retweets, Twitter found that tweets without hashtags receive 23% more clicks.


Hashtags on Instagram:

There doesn’t seem to be a saturation point for hashtags on Instagram. In fact, users are encouraged to add 11+ hashtags allow you to get the highest engagement on this social site! By adding as many hashtags with keywords and phrases related to your brand, you have the ability to build a following within a short amount of time.


Hashtags on Facebook:

Early studies have shown that Facebook posts without hashtags fair better than those with a hashtag. Hashtags have not been on Facebook for every long, only first appearing in June 2013. Studies have suggested that there is zero positive effect on post engagement in Facebook. Still, it’s too early to tell. We recommend starting off with 1-2 or two hashtags in posts and see what results you get.


Hashtags on Google+

Google’s social network, Google+ actually generates hashtags for you, while also allowing you to add your own. You also have the ability to add hashtags within comments as well which can further your reach to your target audience. Suggested hashtags are already built into Google searches, so that  means your Google+ posts with hashtags alongside a user’s Google search results.


Hashtags on Pinterest

There are three things to know about hashtags on Pinterest:

1. Hashtags are only clickable in the Pinterest pin description. They are not effective if you put them in your username, “about” section or board titles.

2. Just like the other social networks, hashtags can serve as keywords to bring together similar pins together. However, Pinterest is most effective when you add your own, original hashtag. Popular hashtag typically generate too many results, most of which is not going to be related to your brand. Instead, we recommend adding an original hashtag that is unique to your brand. This allows you to keep track of your pins and monitor their effectiveness.

3. Don’t use more than 3 hashtags in a pin description or you’ll lose user interest. 

Have you started incorporating hashtags into your social media posts? What results have you seen? What would our recommend to others?