• Richard Forbes

Hashtag Etiquette

Updated: Mar 3, 2021

No matter which social media platform you use, hashtags are a vital resource to increasing visibility and growing channel engagement rates. If you’re stuck with the viral trends and unsure of how to manage your own hashtags, here are some tips that can help you.

What is a Hashtag?

The pound symbol (#) on your keyboard is more formally known to denote numerical values. However, social media vernacular allows you to group common thoughts together using this symbol followed by a short word or phrase.

This was first used by Chris Messina, a marketing specialist who, because of Twitter’s message brevity, suggested a form of organization. Since then, the use of social media and hashtags have grown extensively.

Hashtags are a way to connect social media content to a specific topic, event, theme or conversation. They also make it easier to discover posts around those specific topics, as platforms allow searches by hashtags. They’re not just for Twitter anymore, either. Hashtags are effective on other social media platforms too.

Why Use Hashtags?

Increase Page Engagement

Including hashtags in your posts inserts your brand in a conversation happening on that social media platform. Most importantly, it makes your posts visible in that conversation. This can lead to greater engagement, boosting your brand’s social media engagement through likes, shares, comments, and new followers.

Build Online Brands

Creating a branded hashtag can be an effective way to promote your business and drive the conversation. For example, we put #SparkItCreative on all of our posts to group and quickly access all SparkIt Creative content. By creating commonly used hashtags, your brand can own a phrase and connect with audiences.

Support Social Commentary

Now more than ever, audiences are looking for brand’s to comment on social issues and stand for change. Using a hashtag that’s connected to an issue beyond your brand is a way to mobilize behind an important cause or issue. For example, #EachforEqual and #IWD2020 were used across social media platforms, including LinkedIn, on International Women’s Day.

Brands can also create a branded hashtag that also shows its connection to a social issue. For example, the University of Florida uses #GatorsWearMasks to voice support to those protecting themselves during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Promote Yourself

On Instagram and LinkedIn, accounts can follow both other accounts and hashtags. Using a few popular hashtags can be another way to help new users find your brand. For example, if you use #travel on your Instagram posts, someone who follows that hashtag will see your recent post in their feed. You might gain some new followers this way.

Hashtag Basics

  • They always start with # but they won’t work if you use spaces, punctuation or symbols.

  • Make sure your accounts are public. Otherwise, the hashtagged content you write won’t be seen by any non-followers.

  • Don’t string too many words together. The best hashtags tend to be relatively short and easy to remember.

  • Use relevant and specific hashtags. If it is too obscure, it will be hard to find and it won’t likely be used by other social media users.

  • Limit the number of hashtags you use. More isn’t always better. It actually looks spammy.

What Hashtags to Use?

The most popular hashtags out there aren’t necessarily the best hashtags.

For example, the hashtag #followme has more than 535 million posts on Instagram. Hashtags that solicit likes don’t engage your followers and don’t add any meaning to your social media post. They also look really spammy. And you don’t want that.

But don’t ignore popular hashtags, either. For example, #throwbackthursday or #flashbackfriday or other daily hashtags can be fun ways for your brand to join a wider social media conversation.

As of July 2020, some of the most popular Instagram hashtags of all time include:

#love (1.8 B)

#instagood (1.1 B)

#photooftheday (816 M)

#fashion (833 M)

#beautiful (673 M)

#happy (587 M)

#cute (578 M)

#tbt (542 M)

#like4like (518 M)

#followme (535 M)

Of course, popular hashtags differ depending on what social media platform you’re using. On LinkedIn, popular hashtags include #leadership and #productivity.

While there are millions—even billions—of posts using popular hashtags, they’re relatively universal. They aren’t specific to an industry or a theme. And don’t say a lot about your brand.

So, use these popular hashtags sparingly.


1. Monitor social media influencers and competitors

2. Use third-party analytics

3. Monitor trending topics or hashtags

4. Use social media listening tools

5. Find related hashtags

Analyze past successful hashtags

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