The Power of Hashtags and How to Use Them

Hashtags are powerful. Yet, a lot of people don’t know how to use them. Do you have a grandparent with a smartphone who doesn’t know how to use it outside of its basic functionality? Hashtags can be a little bit like that. While they’re most popular on Twitter and Instagram, hashtags are also used on Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. But what exactly are hashtags, why are they used, and how do you use one (or ten) in your social media marketing?

A Simple Search Engine

Hashtags are, in a sense, search engines. When you use a hashtag on social media, it becomes a link to related content with the same hashtag. So #bestdogever is linked to content and social media posts from others who also think their dog is the best. dog. ever. (Don’t get Katie and Victoria started about their pups…)

These hashtags can be one word, or full sentences – typically used more as satire than as an actual hashtag. Being a proud #dogmom, you might find yourself using hashtags like #dog, #labrador, #bestdogever, #adoptdontshop, #whosagoodboy or maybe #whosthebestdoginthewholewideworld (which actually as a handful of public posts!)

One way many businesses use hashtags is to tag their location. For example, here at Elevate we like to use #lansing, #lansingmi and #lovelansing, which is a local hashtag has picked up some steam. Using location hashtags can be a way to gain more local interaction.  And vice versa, as a business, you can search these hashtags to connect with other local businesses, and even potential customers.

Another way businesses use hashtags is to use industry specific tags. We use hashtags like #socialmedia #websitedesign #marketingmonday #smm #marketing #digitalmarketing…. You get the idea. There’s a slew of great hashtags out there you can use to connect with other industry professionals or people who maybe looking for profiles like yours to follow.


Finding Hashtags

There are many tools out there like and RiteTag that give hashtag suggestions based on one you provide. There’s also a cool tool called Trendsmap that shows what topics are trending in your area. If you’re a small business trying to gain more of a local following, utilizing these trending topics as hashtags (if they’re relevant – gotta keep true to the brand) is a great way to grow your following.

Additionally, you can search hashtags manually. This route might take more time and lead you down a rabbit hole, but you can find some interesting things along the way! If you want to search for hashtags the best way to start is by searching Instagram (for example) for a hashtag you know, then click on other hashtags within posts that catch your eye.

Using Hashtags Properly

There is indeed a difference between #bestdogever and #best #dog #ever. You see, #bestdogever links to a single search – for best dog ever, but #best #dog #ever links to three separate hashtags – one for best, one for dog, and one for ever. While #ever has over 6.3 million posts on Instagram, not many of them are for the best dog ever. To get even more crazy, #best has over 60 million posts, but again – this is a mess of a hashtag full of posts that aren’t really related to one another. Simply put: avoid separating your phrase with hashtags between each word. Singling out each word and making them their own hashtag makes them lose their effectiveness.

As we mentioned, some of the hashtags have an insane number of posts attached to them. When you think through your social media strategy, you will want to figure out which hashtags to use and which hashtags will help reach your target audience. Using location hashtags will certainly help but you may want to avoid using hashtags with 60 million posts connected to it. Instead, use a hashtag that has 2 million or even a 100,000. Something we typically recommend is to use a handful of industry specific hashtags, a few location-centric hashtags, and some generic hashtags. Figuring out which hashtags to use is something that will take ongoing monitoring and trial-and-error.

As a side note, for Instagram, you can include up to 30 hashtags. We recommend using 15-20 if you are trying to build your following. For other platforms like Facebook and Twitter, we recommend using 4-5 hashtags. The fewer hashtags you use, the cleaner your posts appear, but the fewer people may see your content.

One other important thing to note: hashtags only help your content be seen if your content is public. If your profile is private, your hashtagged content will not show up to the public. If you want to utilize hashtags to facilitate growth, you need to keep your profile public.

All in all, hashtags are a super powerful tool to help your profile get found. When used properly, they can connect you to an awesome following – and help you find awesome profiles to follow! If you need help brainstorming what kinds of hashtags fit your marketing strategy and brand, send us a message to get started with a brand development session today.