Twitter entered the social media landscape in March 2006 and, just over a year later, the first hashtag was used. It was adopted properly in 2009 with Twitter automatically hyperlinking the tags, bringing together content belonging to a specific topic.
The hashtag has since appeared on other social media platforms with users simply adding the # symbol in front of a word or phrase to make their content easier to discover in searches and reach a larger audience. Businesses across the public, private and third sector have harnessed the power of the hashtag during campaigns, allowing audiences to interact during live events and join the conversation.
Now, 15 years on from the first hashtag, we take a look at its relevancy and recommended use across a selection of social media sites.
Whether you’re browsing someone’s profile or scrolling through your feed, the hashtag is very much visible – especially with the ubiquitous sidebar of trending hashtags when using a desktop device.
Usage has shifted over time. Gone are the days when you’d try to squeeze as many hashtags as possible into a 140-character message. Although the character limit has grown to 280, users are now considering relevance and consistency. Less is often more, which ties in with Twitter’s recommendation that best practice is no more than 2 hashtags.
Big brands have been able to add a little extra to their hashtags to really make their campaigns stand out. The branded hashtag advertising feature adds a custom emoji, also known as hashflags, after a hashtag during the campaign period. However, rumoured costs would put this option out of reach for many businesses.
Hashtags are an integral part of the Instagram experience and feed into the platform’s algorithm to categorise content. If your profile is public, your posts and stories will appear on the page for that hashtag. This expands your audience as people can follow hashtags, which means they can see your post in their feed even if they don’t follow your account.
Instagram allows users to include up to 30 hashtags in a post and caused quite a stir at the end of 2021 when its creators account recommended 3 – 5 as best practice. Ultimately, one size doesn’t fit all so we’d recommend playing around with the number you use to find out what works for your business. The search tool is also a really useful function to gauge the popularity of hashtags you choose.
The mobile app is the home of short-form vertical video content, and its primarily young audience are making the most of hashtags to amplify their own videos and curate their feeds.
Hashtags are included in video captions which are restricted to 100 characters so this will limit the number you use. The most popular hashtag is #foryoupage. The For You Page is the first thing you see when you open the app so using this hashtag has the potential to significantly increase your video’s exposure.
Businesses can also organically benefit from using trending hashtags or pay to set up their own Branded Hashtag Challenges to attract submissions and generate views.
LinkedIn only introduced hashtags in 2018 and they appear to be used less than on other platforms. As a professional platform, hashtags often need to be more ‘work appropriate’ so what may work elsewhere may not necessarily translate well to LinkedIn. However, using hashtags are a great way to establish credibility when networking and join conversations about relevant industry news.
You can search hashtags before using them to see how many people are following or using the hashtag– a great way to target niche audiences or broaden your reach. The general consensus is that 3 is the optimum number of hashtags for LinkedIn so choose your tags wisely!
Like LinkedIn, hashtags aren’t that prevalent on Facebook though their use has increased since its integration with Instagram. Similarly, a low number, 1 or 2 hashtags, is considered best for posting with user engagement dropping the more hashtags are used.
Businesses are better placed than individuals to use hashtags as pages are public and therefore posts will appear in that hashtag’s feed. Using a relevant hashtag can organically extend your content’s reach beyond your own audience which may help if your advertising budget is tight.
Need a little social media guidance? At Effective, we help businesses manage their digital media through many ways, including: