#Hashtag Best Practices by Platform

*This post was originally written and published on Brittani Wills Creative in 2018.

Oh, the hashtag. A symbol (#) that was once only referred to as the pound symbol by an entire generation, the hashtag has transformed how we view content on social media. When used correctly, hashtags make it easier for users to discover new and related content on social media platforms. Used incorrectly, they can negatively impact engagement rates. Hashtags can and should be used differently on each platform, too. From an analytical standpoint, the number of hashtags used per post can have major effects on how content is archived and viewed by users. 


Rewind to 2007 Twitter, and you’ll be able to see the first time a hashtag was ever used. Tweeted by former Google developer Chris Messina, he wondered if using the (#) symbol could be used to archive related content. Though it took a while to catch on, Twitter remains one of the best platforms to use hashtags on. Research in the last few years has shown that tweets with a maximum of two hashtags yield the higher engagement rates than tweets with three or more hashtags. Twitter is still the social media platform where hashtags are truly used to start and facilitate conversations among users, with some of the most popular ones being tied to television shows like #TheBachelor or #RiverdaleCW. (Can you imagine if Twitter existed when the series finale of Friends aired?! #SheGotOffThePlane!!!) 


Instagram is a platform where hashtags have really taken off! Not only do they help users find content they’re interested in, but they also inspire searches. With the ‘gram’s recently added feature of following hashtags as if they were profiles, users are able to easily see content they might not have found otherwise. In terms of engagement, it’s almost completely opposite from Twitter: Having fewer hashtags in a post garners less engagement. Posts with 8-15+ hashtags tend to hit the highest engagement points. Using a specific format for hashtags in a post also helps to declutter a caption. Using 1-3 hashtags in the main caption and then adding a large hashtag block makes a post cleaner and easier to read. 


In terms of hashtags, Facebook is an entirely different beast. Unlike Instagram and Twitter, most user profiles on the platform aren’t public. So, when people use hashtags on the OG social media platform they aren’t discoverable - which is the whole point of using hashtags. When users see hashtags on Facebook, they tend to only be from influencers and brands unless they’re within their network of friends. Until recently, hashtags were not clickable on the platform - so to find hashtagged content, it’s easiest to just use the search bar. 


While each specific social media platform has their own best practices for hashtag use, there are still some basics than can be followed across the board: 

  • DON’T use multiple words in a single hashtag

  • DON’T use hashtags to spam your follower base with unrelated content

  • DO use hashtags join and inspire conversations

  • DO use branded hashtags to help elevate businesses and campaigns

Hannah Rose Dominiak