A hashtag, as per Google’s definition, is “a word or phrase preceded by a hash sign (#), used on social media websites and applications, especially Twitter, to identify messages on a specific topic.” In other words, a hashtag and the word or phrase used after it categorise content into separate groups, which makes it easier to discover for users.

Where can you find them and use them?

If you ask someone ‘where would you find a hashtag?’ most people would reply with Twitter or Instagram, but hashtags are more widespread than many of us think.  Although the use of hashtags may be more successful on some platforms than others, you can use them on the following sites:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube
  • KickStarter
  • Flickr
  • Google+

How do you create a hashtag? 

Luckily, hashtags are extremely easy to create and you don’t need specialist knowledge to use them! Simply type the hashtag symbol and then follow it with your chosen word or phrase - you don’t need to put a space between the hashtag and word, it should flow like #this. Hashtags can literally be any word or phrase depending on why you want to use them and what your aims are.

Why should you use hashtags?

Why would you want to miss the opportunity for your posts to be seen by other people? If you need help thinking of hashtag ideas, then you can use tools like hashtagify.me to search for hashtags and see which ones are popular with users on Twitter and Instagram.

Hashtags allow a user to find content that they are interested in, which means more engagement for you and your posts. If your content is reaching more people that are interested in it, then they are more likely to share, comment on or like your content. You may even get more followers as a result of it. So, if your aim is to increase your engagement levels on social media or reach more potential customers – then hashtagging is one way to go. They are also a good way of researching topics within your community so use them to find out what people are talking about in particular hashtag threads and discover other hashtags that are connected. . .

Hashtagging and engagement

So… how many hashtags should you use and when do we stop? Well, this depends on the platform. Since hashtags are most popular on Twitter and Instagram, let’s focus your efforts there.

According to Twitter, two hashtags is the best amount to use on their platform otherwise you risk looking like a spammer! [Can you put a tweet this in]

Hashtagging on Instagram is something that I’ve been experimenting with lately on our By This River Instagram account. Thanks to a very useful blog by Buffer, I discovered that the hashtagging method on Instagram is pretty much the complete opposite to Twitter. To show increased levels of engagement on Instagram, studies have shown that 11+ hashtags work best – and we can confirm this is the case.

When we first started up our Instagram account in September we only used few hashtags, around 2-3. In October, I finally experimented with 19 hashtags and our likes increased from barely scraping 5 likes, to a huge 31 likes. Using hashtags has helped us to increase the number of likes and comments on our posts, as well as increasing our followers to around 80 in our first month.

However using lots of hashtags doesn’t come without its drawbacks, we seem to get a lot of spam followers who unfollow you after a few hours and aren’t the type of people we want to reach on social media.

When to hashtag?

There is no set time frame as hashtags are used and searched every day – you may have noticed the trending section on your Twitter app -  however you should  definitely jump aboard the hashtag train for big events. Trending hashtags seem to pop up around holidays, celebrations and days of the week. Use these to your advantage to get your content seen and reach even more people. Here’s a link to Sprout Social’s hashtag holiday guide, some of these are national days in America however some of the other events could still be relevant to your business, such as International Day of Charity or Small Business Saturday..

So, that’s it! Your complete guide to hashtags – what they are, where you can use them, how to create them, why and when you should use them. Feel free to leave us a comment below or tweet us @ByThisRiverUK to carry on the conversation!

Enjoyed this post? Why not read our 10 tips on creating a visual library

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About the author: Katie Clarke

Katie Clarke joins us fresh from college as a digital marketing apprentice.