digital marketing
By Carrie-ann | Mar 15, 2015 | Social Media

How to Use Hashtags in Social Media

Twitter’s most distinctive and lasting contribution to social media is likely to be the advent, for social media purposes, of the hashtag. Now it seems ubiquitous across all social media platforms, but of course it wasn’t always that way.  Once you understand how they work, they can provide scope for branding and profile opportunities. As a small company, or a start-up, the social media sphere may largely not know your business’s name. But chances are they will care about some of your causes. This allows you to intercept searchers and have chats on specific topics your customers and suppliers are interested in.
Today, different social media platforms use hashtags in different ways. This leads to different opportunities.


Using hashtags on Twitter allows searchers to find tweets related to the hashtag. So much has been written about this, I am going to be brief. Hashtags can incorporate numbers and the underscore but not special characters. It’s my experience the well- judged use of hashtags increases engagement. Hashtags are also useful for taking part in Twitter Chats. Event hashtags work very well too and enable individuals to get exposure on a topic they may not otherwise.  Going to a conference? The savvy conference organiser will have set up a hashtag prior. Join in on Twitter. Including more than 2 hashtags in a tweet may be considered spammy.


There is evidence that using hashtags in Facebook posts also increases engagement and you have probably seen more and more people including hashtags in posts. Using hashtags on Facebook to search for content wasn’t always intuitive.  But now you can type in #cats and it will generate a list of related content since Facebook search now has a #Hashtag function. Effectively, #cats resolves to What makes one page rather than another appear at the top of the list?  Pages at the top of the list are not necessarily the most relevant. But rather could be due to Facebook’s ranking algorithm. The same list might appear if you click on a hashtag in your feed. Relevance may not be the main driver but, for example, the poster’s relationship to you on Facebook is likely to be a ranking factor.

Google Plus

It’s widely known that Google Plus’s take on hashtags has always been different from other platforms. Descriptive hashtags seem to work best in my experience, rather than those for specific events or locations (as an example).  In terms of format, there’s no spaces allowed in Google Plus hashtags and letters work best.  Searching by hashtag on Google Plus returns results that aren’t specific. Rather, search results are returned on a semantic or related basis and many not include your hashtag specifically. For example, the hashtag of #cats may return #littertray or #Simonscat. Results are also ranked in terms of popularity. There is an upside to this. The technology underpinning hashtags on Google Plus may expose your content to people who are outside your extended circles.


In terms of format, Instagram hashtags don’t support special characters but allow numbers and the underscore. You can add hashtags in the comments section after you publish a photo or add hashtags before publication. Consistent use of Instagram can increase your following rapidly especially if you participate in games or use a location. People are generally inquisitive enough to click on hashtags to see what other people are posting. Images work that way.


Hashtags are clickable on Pinterest but searching using a hashtag won’t return immediately useful results. Some of my clients do use Pinterest but typically for branding purposes. Promoting what you are up to on Facebook or Twitter is worth doing if you think your audience is on Pinterest.