Hashtag use on social media used to be so simple. Hashtags were solely a “Twitter thing”, and despite having the same uses on Twitter as they do today, the old 140 tweet character limit didn’t allow you much space to go crazy with hashtags even if you wanted to. But then as more time went by, hashtags began to show up on Instagram and Pinterest, then (occasionally) on Facebook, and now can be found on LinkedIn and YouTube, too.

So, what are hashtags, why do people use them, and what are the best ways to put them to use for your small business?

Let’s take a look.

Social Media Hashtag Best Practices

Social Media Hashtag Best Practices

What are Hashtags?

A hashtag is a word or phrase following a # sign. There are no spaces between words in a hashtag, and capitalization is irrelevant.

A couple examples of a hashtag could be:

  • #dogs
  • #dogsofinstagram
  • #ilovedogs

Why Do People Use Hashtags?

Hashtags serve 3 main purposes.

  • To be functional
  • To be funny
  • For branding purposes

You may use hashtags for 1 or all 3 of these reasons, and mix the purposes of your hashtags within 1 post.

Social media platform users can search for content on the platform by hashtags or follow specific hashtags to see content posted by any account that is publishing posts with those hashtags. So when you are choosing functional hashtags for your small business social media posts, you want to make sure you are using hashtags that are relevant both to your content and to the people you are trying to attract.

For example, if I’m writing social media posts about a Facebook ads blog post I wrote, I might use hashtags like: #FacebookAds #FacebookAdvertising #FacebookAdTips #FacebookAdStrategy. This is because these hashtags represent my content and are hashtags that someone searching for Facebook ads help may search by.

Funny hashtags can be made up on the fly or you can search for popular funny hashtags to use, too. 

When you are using a hashtag for branding purposes, you’ll want to be consistent with its use and particularly careful that it reads OK as 1 word. A famous example of a branded hashtag gone wrong is America’s Got Talent winner, Susan Boyle, whose team chose the hashtag #SusanAlbumParty for her album release.

However, when capitalization is removed, it looks like this: #susanalbumparty.

Not exactly the same type of album party, right?

You’ll also want to do some research and check out the brand hashtags you are thinking of using on all the social platforms where you have a presence. What might be the perfect hashtag for your brand or campaign might already be in regular use by a different company on at least one social platform.  

At this time, these major social media platforms use hashtags: Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Putting Hashtags to Use (the Right Way)

Here are some tips for using hashtags for your small business social media posts. They are listed in no particular order.

  • Varying a hashtag by just 1 character makes it a different hashtag with a different use count and mix of post results. To use Instagram as an example, the hashtag #dogs has been used in 93 million posts, and the hashtag #dog has been used in 232 million posts. That’s more than twice as many uses of the singular #dog hashtag vs the plural #dogs hashtag.
  • Typically, you’ll want to place your hashtags at the end of your post or caption.
  • Research your hashtags before posting. The “right” hashtags to use will vary by social platform and the specific content of each post, and you won’t use the same exact set of hashtags for every post. If you do, you’ll only ever have the chance to have your content discovered in searches for that limited set of hashtags.
  • The best and easiest way to research hashtags is to enter the hashtags you think you want to use into the search bar on the platform where you’re making that social post. So, if you want to look for the best hashtags to use for a Pinterest pin, then conduct your hashtag research in the Pinterest search bar. You’ll see that many social platforms will autosuggest possible hashtags to use once you begin to type your hashtags in the search box. Instagram will show you the number of posts made with each hashtag, but the other platforms won’t. Either way, it’s important to evaluate the types of content/posts that populate with each hashtag you are thinking of using. You might find that some hashtags you thought would be great to use actually pull up posts and content that doesn’t really align with the post you are prepping to make. And if that’s the case, you know that the hashtag isn’t a good one to use. 
  • You don’t want to use all very popular hashtags or all very specific hashtags. Popular hashtags get the most use, but also are the most difficult to stand out in. Specific hashtags aren’t used nearly as often, so they are less popular, but it’s also a lot easier for your post to stand out. Think of it as a “big fish in a small pond” mentality.
  • The best hashtag “mix” is going to be a blend of very popular hashtags (high use), very specific hashtags (low use), and moderately-popular hashtags (mid-range), plus any brand-specific hashtags that you have.
  • Hashtag use on Facebook is (very) little to none. Usually, the only and best hashtags to use on Facebook are brand and/or campaign-specific. Most Facebook posts don’t have any hashtags, and if they do, there are only 1-2 per post.
  • YouTube will show a few hashtags above the title of your video when it’s being viewed. Those hashtags shown above the video title are the hashtags you put in your video description.
  • Two to three hashtags per post are a good number for Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
  • Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post. Obviously, that’s a lot, and many times, it would be hard to come up with that many hashtags that truly are a good fit for your post. What most Instagram hashtag use studies say is 7-10 hashtags per post is considered ideal.  

Hashtag use and best practices has definitely become more involved and more strategic. Gaining a baseline understanding of the Whats, Whys, and Hows of hashtags will help you to use them more effectively for your small business social media goals.

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