A common question we receive from our clients is, "Are we using too many hashtags?" or the inverse "Are we using enough hashtags?" Since we hear these questions so often, we decided to write a blog post about it. As one of our company values is education, we feel it is important to help our clients better understand what we do and why we do it.
What are hashtags?
A hashtag is usually a word or phrase preceded by the #symbol. Hashtags can also include emojis. Hashtags serve as clickable links to search for other posts using the same hashtags. Some social media tools provide post feeds filtered by hashtags to see all posts using a particular hashtag.
An example of a hashtag could be #foodies. An Instagram search of this hashtag shows 27.3 million posts all using this tag. Someone interested in discovering new food enthusiasts could search this term to see who is posting.
How many hashtags should we use?
Every social media platform has different standards when it comes to using hashtags. Additionally, some platforms have size restrictions on posts that reduce the number of hashtags you could conceivably use. It is best to look at this question per platform.
Twitter: Twitter is where hashtags were born and where the practice became a regular part of internet culture. Initially limited to 140 characters, today's Tweet character limit is 280 characters. You might think this extra room means more opportunities for hashtags. However, Twitter recommends that you use no more than two hashtags per Tweet.
Facebook: Hashtags haven't caught on with Facebook users the same way they have on other platforms. However, that doesn't mean we shouldn't use them. An often-quoted study by Social Bakers showed that using 1-2 hashtags on Facebook results in the highest engagement while more hashtags reduced engagement. This study is a few years old, and we have seen brands start to use more hashtags in their Facebook posts. We recommend sticking to the 1-2 hashtags on Facebook, but feel free to experiment. Just keep your hashtags relevant and within the natural flow fo your post.
Instagram: Instagram is the social media platform, where we receive the most questions about hashtag usage. Because the best practice for Instagram is different from other social media channels, our clients are often confused by what they see as mixed messages on hashtag usage.
Another popular study from Social Bakers showed that Instagram posts with more than 10 hashtags had the most reach. Further research and experience showed that using all 30 hashtags significantly increases Instagram posts' reach bringing new followers. However, this can also look spammy and reduce engagement. A rule of thumb is only to use relevant hashtags, mix them up between posts, and try not to use the same number every time. Many brands claim an average of 11 hashtags works the best for them. Still, depending on which social media expert you may be reading, the recommendation is anywhere between 1 or 2 to use all 30. We like to experiment and pay close attention to our post-performance.
TikTok: TikTok is a relatively new social media platform, and we find that discovery is still a challenge. Using hashtags help people find and follow your account. Because Tik Tok is a video sharing website, captions are limited to 100 characters. This limit severely restricts the number of hashtags that can available for a post.
Pinterest: Pinterest initially recommended not using hashtags at all and then reversed their position in 2017. Pinterest currently recommends no more than 20 hashtags per pin. Twenty hashtags can look spammy, and many social media experts recommend no more than 1-5 hashtags per pin.
Snapchat: Unlike other social media channels, Snapchat doesn't use hashtags. You can post a hashtag, but it won't be clickable or searchable. Since hashtags have become a part of our culture, some Snapchat users like to include a hashtag to express a feeling or classification for a snap.
What Hashtags Should We Use?
The choice of hashtags is highly dependent on several variables. To be effective, hashtags must be relevant to the post, not over-used, not under-used.
Hashtags that arent relevant are considered spammy. Accounts that use spammy hashtags can find less engagement and will not be as effective in attracting new followers.
Hashtags with a large number of posts may seem like a good target for your posts. However, if the tags are overused, your posts could get lost in the thread.
Underused hashtags simply don't have a lot of posts or users. The purpose of a hashtag is to be seen by the relevant audience. If the hashtag is underused, then you likely won't see much benefit from using it. We often see this when clients insist on creating many custom hashtags that others never pick up.
Instagram classified hashtags into nine categories, and we believe these same categories exist across all social media platforms. The categories are
Product or Service: These tags indicate a product or service offering. For example, we would probably include the hashtag #SocialMediaMarketing when we post this blog to social.
Industry Niche: These tags indicate a particular niche in your industry. An example would be #InstagramMarketing
Industry Communities: Social Media is by its nature social, so you should not be surprised to learn that communities of like-minded people exist on the various social media platforms. You should join and participate in the communities (or 'tribes') relevant to your business. This means posting with the appropriate community hashtags and engaging with posts by other members of the community. #MarketersOfInstagram
Special Events / Seasons: These hashtags can refer to real holidays or seasons (#Christmas2020 or #Winter2020) and less known events such as 'National Days' such as #NationalSocialMediaDay.
Location: Hashtags that include a location. For example, a post relevant to people in a particular neighborhood or city such as South Tampa could use the hashtag #SouthTampa
Daily: There's probably multiple hashtags for every day of the week. A weel known example would be #ThrowBackThursday in which we post old photos or posts. Some Daily hashtags are specific to a particular audience such as #MarketingMondays.
Relevance: Relevance hashtags are relevant to the post and can indicate an activity #EatingVegan or a community expression such as #agencylife.
Acronyms: Because of character limitations, many popular hashtags utilize acronyms such as #TBT for #ThrowBackThursday or #YOLO for #YouOnlyLiveOnce.
Emoji: Not all social platforms accept characters or Emojis in their hashtags. Those that do allow you to use emojis in your hashtags such as #sunglasses or emojis by themselves such as #
We hope that this guide provides some insights into the usage of hashtags. If you found this post useful, feel free to share it. If you do, here's a hashtag you could use. #SocialMediaTips