Hashtags on social media: do you know how to use them?

Today, I want to talk about hashtags. Those simple additions you see in social media posts that are designed to enhance discoverability are actually quite complicated when you scratch the surface.

2018 Update: Over the years hashtags have become a crucial part of social media. Recently I’ve decided to refresh this older blog post with some new updates to social channels and the best practices.

So what is a hashtag?

In a nutshell, hashtags are searchable keywords used on social platforms, which allow users to easily filter interesting content out from the social media noise.

It’s simply a word or phrase preceded by a hash sign (#). For example, #AreYouReady, #marketing and #love are all examples of hashtags you might see online.

A marketing campaign might use a specific hashtag so that its followers can more easily keep up with associated posts. Coca-Cola’s #ShareACoke campaign is a great example of how a brand created a frenzy around one of its products and generated a ton of user-generated content on social media using hashtags.

If used correctly, hashtags are powerful marketing tools!

How are hashtags used on the different social media platforms?


Twitter loves hashtags! You see tweets with hashtags all the time and there’s a good reason for that.

Not only do hashtags in tweets help them to be categorised and more easily located via Twitter’s search facility, but they also appear as actual clickable links in the tweet itself, which when clicked show other tweets that contain the same hashtag.

Twitter users who want to see more tweets related to a topic that interests them can quickly and easily do so by clicking the hashtag. That’s why including relevant hashtags in your posts can get your extra exposure. However, while there is no limit to the number of hashtags you can include in a tweet, I (and Twitter) recommend no more than two.

Don’t do this:


Instagram can sometimes seem like a hashtag jungle. That’s because some users absolutely cram their posts full of hashtags!

Hashtags are the main ‘discoverability’ feature on Instagram and users will use as many of them as possible to appear with new searches and to reach new audiences. Instagram has 30 hashtags per post limit to, but before you add 30 random hashtags to your next update think about how much value you are adding by including them. Sometimes, it can look a bit spammy and actually detract from the overall post.

There are two ways you can add hashtags to your Instagram posts:

  • directly into the post copy (you can even separate the actual text and hashtags with a series of dots, to create more space)
Hashtags in the description – separated by dots
  • or into the first comment (this approach is inspiring more engagement as it shows that someone has already commented on it)
Hashtags in the first comment

There’s no difference in reach between these two approaches, but if you want to measure your results and clicks on hashtags, I’d recommend you add them into the photo description.

At the end of 2017, Instagram has launched ‘Follow Hashtags‘ feature, that allows users to see posts including their favourite hashtags directly in their main feed. This means that people don’t need to follow your account to be able to see some of your posts that include a particular hashtag! That’s really powerful for building loyal community as well as being able to get discovered by new users.

Instagram Stories NEW!

Since introducing Instagram Stories in 2016, they have quickly become the most popular feature of Instagram and they caused a huge wave of new users joining Instagram (and even abandoning Snapchat for Instagram). Since then Instagram hasn’t stopped introducing new features to allow users to be more creative with their Stories and hashtags couldn’t be overlooked.

There are two ways you can add hashtags to your Instagram Stories:

  1. you can use a #Hashtag sticker, which will allow you to use 3 different styles (you can have max 1 sticker in each Insta Story)
  2. You can add multiple hashtags to your text and use any font style and size you want.
1. How to add hashtags on Insta Stories; 2. Two ways to use hashtags in Stories; 3. Follow Hashtag


First and foremost, you shouldn’t, in my opinion, use hashtags on Facebook. Now people may say “but it doesn’t hurt”. The reality, however, is that it actually might.

According to a 2016 report from BuzzSumo, which was compiled following analysis of more than a billion Facebook posts from over 30 million brand pages, posts without hashtags experienced greater reach than those with hashtags added.

So, next time you’re wondering whether to add any hashtags to your most recent Facebook post, think about what you want to achieve. If it’s for a competition you’re running then go for it, but I wouldn’t bother for normal posts.

LinkedIn NEW!

Whether you should use hashtags on LinkedIn is still open to much debate. Some people say you should, others say not to bother.

In 2018, LinkedIn introduced few new hashtag related features. At first, they started ‘forcing’ people to use hashtags in their posts and later on they introduced ‘Follow Hashtag’ feature that enables users to discover new content much easier. 

Use no more than 3-5 hashtags per LinkedIn post and be sure to keep them relevant to the topic, industry or purpose at hand.

Advanced hashtagging

Even though the platforms are changing over time (and with them the way we use hashtags on them), the main rules stay the same:

  1. Have a hashtag strategy! Understand what keywords and phrases people use to search for your product/service. 
  2. Think twice before using a hashtag! Before you use a hashtag, make sure to research what results are associated with this hashtag. 
  3. Go more in-depth! Focus on long-tail, specific and branded hashtags over simple words that can have multiple meanings!

When choosing hashtags, try thinking in terms of keywords. Would you search for ‘tips’? What kind of results might you get out of this really broad search term?

The best hashtags are long form, specific and clear. For example, if I click on #temporary in a tweet, what kind of results will I get? Will they be relevant to ‘temporary staff recruiting’? Probably not.

If you’re not sure what hashtag to use, do a search and see how the hashtag is being used by others (if at all) and what results it is associated with. If you can’t think of any good hashtags, it’s better not to use any at all.

Don’t be like this:

How do you use hashtags? Do you have any specific tips you can share?