How to Use Social Media Hashtags

hashtag etiquetteThese days, it seems that no matter what social media network you use, you’re exposed to the art of hashtags. Hashtags, as you probably know, are “pound signs” and look like this: #. They are used as a prefix in front of a word, topic, or event, and while they’re all used in social media for basically the same reason, the etiquette varies by the network.


Decades ago, the hashtag symbol was used on occasion in information technology language, however, Twitter is considered the first social media network to have popularized the idea of tying them to topics (circa mid-2009). When you create a Twitter profile, you’ll see a list of “Trends” on your newsfeed page. These are the topics or events that are currently hashtaged the most. For example, during these past Winter Olympic games, you would have seen topics like #Sochi2014 or #Olympics2014 as a trend.

Just like the other social media networks that use hashtags, when you click on a hashtag topic on Twitter, you’ll be taken to a collection of tweets (or posts, in other social media cases) about that topic.

How to Use Hashtags

According to Twitter’s Help Center, good hashtag etiquette calls for one or two hashtags. Any more than that and your tweet becomes overcrowded and annoying to read. When you post a tweet with a hashtag in it (say #TGIF), the tweet will fall into the general trend of #TGIF and will be viewable to other Twitter users who search for #TGIF.


You can also create your own hashtag, which is a great idea for digital marketing. Businesses can use hashtags to promote sales, new products, or their own company-related topic to gain more exposure on Twitter.

Common Topics

Because Twitter is a fast-paced social media network, you’ll find that hashtags are often used to discuss events that are happening at that moment. For instance, Twitter users love to tweet about the television shows, sports, and news that they’re watching. Twitter is also often used to keep up with the latest in the music industry.

  • Use 1-2 hashtags
  • Topics: TV, sports, news


Google+ began in early 2011, however, it took until the fall of that year for hashtags to catch on. Now, like Twitter, you can find a list of trending topics and also a list of “What’s hot.” When you click on the “Explore” tab at the top of your profile, you’ll find a list of categories like #ArtandDesign or #Technology in the “What’s hot” section and topics like #TravelTuesday or #LinkBuilding in the “Trending” section.

How to Use Hashtags

Unlike Twitter, Google+ posts don’t have a 120-character limit, which means you can use more hashtags without going overboard. Also, because Google simply bolds hashtags instead of changing them to a different color (like Twitter), they don’t stand out as much and you’re free to use a few more. Including popular hashtags in your post (or creating your own) gives you more opportunity for exposure.


Common Topics

According to BGR, a mobile and tech news site, many Google+ users are people who work in the IT, Internet, or computer services industry. Many of these users are also in decision-making positions (such as Guy Kawasaki or Larry Page). Therefore, trends tend to be political, tech-related, and news-related.

  • Use 1-8
  • Topics: politics, tech, news


Instagram was fairly quick to add the use of hashtags to its photo-driven network (circa early 2011). Because Instagram is more of a personal network than a network of information, there is no area of trending topics to click on. There is, however, an “Explore” button where you can search for a certain hashtag and find a collection of photos with that hashtag. Many people use this area to search for photo-worthy things like #sunsets or #classiccars.

How to Use Hashtags

The Instagram network is one of the few whose members use and allow many hashtags per post (perhaps because posts contain little content to begin with). After your photo’s caption (if you include one), feel free to add a handful of hashtags that have to do with your photo (such as #Philly, #fitness, etc.) – just don’t go crazy or your post will look “spammy.”


Common Topics

While other social media networks let people express their humor or creativity through writing, Instagram lets people express their creativity through photography. This means that many users search for things like nature, travel, cars, tattoos, and more.

  • Use 3-15
  • Topics: nature, travel, cars


Facebook has been in the social media spotlight for years, but it only just recently adopted the art of hashtags (circa mid-2013). While Facebook users don’t embrace hashtags nearly as much as other social media platforms, there is still a place for them. Like other platforms, there is a (recently introduced) area for trending topics; many of them are based on what’s being shared more than hashtags themselves.

How to Use Hashtags

Because hashtags aren’t too prevalent on Facebook, many people use just one or two after their post or status update. You can also create your own hashtags to promote your brand and bring awareness to things like business events or projects.


Common Topics

Instead of topics, Facebook users often use hashtags for humor or as short statements that support their content. For example, if someone were to post a funny story or video, they would probably include #funny or #hilarious.

  • Use 1-3
  • Topics: statements


Pinterest is another photo-driven social media network, however, unlike Instagram, hashtags aren’t as prevalent on Pinterest. Pinterest users can use the “Interests” pull-down in the upper left-hand corner to find categories like “Health & Fitness”, “DIY & Crafts”, or “Photography”, or use the search bar to find something specific like “St. Patrick’s Day” or “cupcakes.” With each one, you’ll find a collection of pins that have to do with your search.

How to Use Hashtags

When Pinterest users pin a photo or a linked image, they often describe what it’s about in the caption, which makes the need for hashtags minimal. However, using hashtags can’t hurt – just follow the etiquette of Twitter and only use one or two. Also, don’t use hashtags that repeat your caption (i.e. “Check out these great DIY curtains! #curtains”)


Common Topics

According to MarketingCharts, women are four times more likely to use Pinterest than men, which means the majority of Pinterest topics are ones that appeal to females. These include things like recipes, fashion, beauty, tattoos, and more.

  • Use 1-5
  • Topics: fashion, beauty, recipes

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