This article was updated on: 03/16/2022
With over 4.5 billion active social media users across the globe, a strong and effective social presence is paramount to the success of any brand or organization.
Whether on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, TikTok or one of the many other emerging platforms, hashtags are an important and powerful tool to reach your target audience. When used correctly, hashtags can expand your reach, raise awareness, and help gain followers. Sounds easy enough, right?
Unfortunately, with so many brands and companies fighting for attention on social media, it can be quite difficult to break through the noise, which is where best practices for hashtag use come in.
Consistency, simplicity, and relevance are key when using hashtags. You want your audience to understand, relate, and be motivated to use your hashtag. Without eliciting those responses, your strategy will fall flat. Let’s dive into some dos and don’ts.
Hashtag Etiquette Tip #1: Give People a Reason
As a marketer, you should always be asking yourself why the hashtag you are choosing to engage with or create is related to your brand and/or a specific moment in time that your audience has a vested interest in.
A great example can be found with Wendy’s. The fast food chain is known for its edgy and irreverent persona on social, and with over 13 million followers, the brand began a #nationalroastday hashtag in 2018 to draw more people to its page and capitalize on the interest from consumers following reshare of a tweet at McDonalds in 2017, calling their competitor out for accidentally sharing placeholder copy. This has now grown into a social holiday with both consumer and cross brand interaction, garnering thousands of engagements and include brands like Cinnabon, 7-Eleven, Aflac, Velveeta, and many more.
The above is the perfect example of what best practices use of hashtags can do for you, but we want to be sure to highlight the things to avoid as well.
Hashtag Etiquette Tip #2: Avoid Hashtag Overuse
Avoid overusing hashtags. Hash tagging every word in a post can not only be very difficult to read, but also comes off disingenuous and messy. Hashtags should be short and easy to read. Similarly, hashtags including more than a couple of words are difficult to read and leave more room for error as your consumers are looking to join conversations. Below we have outlined the best practice recommendations, per platform, for hashtagging content.
- Twitter: No more than two hashtags per Tweet are recommended.
- Instagram: Three to five hashtags per post are recommended.
- TikTok: No more than five hashtags per video are recommended.
Hashtag Etiquette Tip #3: Keep Track of Hashtags Surrounding Popular Events or Cultural Moments
It is important to keep your finger on the pulse of current events, topics, and holidays to ensure relevance to your audience. From cultural events, big sporting games or even social, national, or international holidays, it is important to make sure you are tuning into conversations that are relevant to your brand and your followers.
Ice cream conglomerate Ben & Jerry’s makes staying on top of current, relevant conversations look easy. The outspoken brand is known for having a finger on the pulse of current news and event and not hesitating to join conversations many of its followers are active in using hashtags.
Some great examples are Ben & Jerry’s posts addressing climate news and sustainability. From posting about earth day to sharing information from the latest Climate Change Conference (COP26), or even informing followers of the detrimental impacts of pipeline expansions to Indigenous communities, Ben & Jerry’s is known for joining conversations by using existing hashtags such as: #COP26, #IndigenousPeoplesDay, #EarthDay, #StopLine3!, #BlackHistoryMonth, and more.
The use of relevant and existing hashtags can remove the pressure of developing a new hashtag and can lead to improved post performance. The above example from Ben & Jerry’s, utilizing the #EarthDay hashtag, resulted in an engagement rate of 3.8%, which is more than two times the industry average of 1.8%!
Hashtag Etiquette Tip #4: Choose a Hashtag That Fits Your Brand
It’s great to engage in active and trending topics when appropriate, but it’s also important to create and utilize hashtags specific to your brand to engage with followers and build stronger brand recognition.
Nike, one of the most well-followed brands with over 250 million followers across social, is one of many that has taken the dive into TikTok. One of TikTok’s nuances is its 150-character limit, including hashtags, for video captions. This limits what brands can say and emphasizes the importance of hashtag strategy, an area where Nike has excelled. Throughout the brand’s TikTok feed you’ll find posts with original hashtags such as #nikeyoga, #thereplay, and #airmaxday and hashtags that join existing conversations like #wellnesshub, #stitch, and #internationalyogaday. Nike also consistently uses the #breakitdown hashtag to walk viewers through dances, athletic skills, and functional fitness moves.
Hashtag Etiquette Tip #5: Proofread
As obvious as it sounds, proofreading is a key step to implementing any hashtag, as you may see on Instagram—many popular hashtags have misspelled counterparts, where thousands of people are trying to join the conversation, but due to lack of proofreading are falling short.
Hashtag Etiquette Tip #6: Make Them Easy to Remember
Just because you spent weeks crafting the perfect hashtag strategy for a campaign, doesn’t mean it will automatically be successful. You should keep followers front of mind throughout the entire creative process. One aspect of this is making sure a hashtag makes sense and is easy to remember. This requires putting some thought into the rationale of your hashtag.
A great example is Venmo. The money transfer platform recently executed several successful hashtag promotional campaigns on Instagram and Twitter. As illustrated below, by utilizing #VenmoMe and #VenmoItForward, Venmo has successfully drawn new followers to their platform and encouraged current followers to reshare posts over the last year for a chance to receive up to $500 straight to the selected winner’s personal accounts.
Remembering a hashtag doesn’t get much easier for followers than when brands utilize their name in the hashtag in some capacity. This is a great and simple example of keeping things simple, easy and branded. All of which are beneficial when looking to create a more engaged following and to draw new followers to engage with your content and share to further the reach of your strategy.
To the average individual or consumer, hashtags are seen as a way to share thoughts on common views, relate to cultural topics or moments, and express oneself. For marketers and advertisers, hashtags are a way to better reach your target, spread awareness and even increase engagements with your audience.
In summary, these are the most common cross-platform hashtag dos and don’ts for every-day users and marketers alike:
- Use them consistently
- Make them easy to remember (and to spell)
- Do your research
- Keep track of hashtag use surrounding popular events and current topics
- Give people a reason
- Hashtag every single word in your caption
- Expect people to use your hashtag without reason
- Neglect to educate on what the hashtag is and how to use it
- Use all caps
While the list above is by no means comprehensive or all-encompassing, it is a great starting point for those looking to maximize hashtag strategy while minimizing the headaches of the ever-evolving social media landscape.