The Ultimate Guide to Using Hashtags on Social Media in 2023

Hashtags have come a long way since their humble beginnings on Twitter in 2007. These days, they are a ubiquitous feature across all major social networks and an indispensable tool in any social media marketer‘s toolbox. When used strategically, hashtags can significantly boost the reach and engagement of your social media content.

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll cover everything you need to know about using hashtags effectively on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and beyond. We‘ll explain the basics of how they work, share tips and best practices for formatting and finding hashtags, provide inspiring examples of successful hashtag campaigns, and highlight eye-opening data on why hashtags are so impactful.

Whether you‘re totally new to hashtags or consider yourself a tagging pro, this post will help you step up your hashtag game in 2023 and get even better results from your social media efforts. Let‘s dive in!

Hashtag Fundamentals

Put simply, a hashtag is a keyword or phrase preceded by the "#" symbol, without any spaces or punctuation. On most social networks, clicking a hashtag will bring up other posts that have used the same tag.

When you include a hashtag in a post, it makes your content discoverable to anyone searching for or following that hashtag – even if they don‘t follow your account directly. In this way, hashtags allow you to expand your audience beyond your existing follower base and get your content in front of new eyeballs. They are a key tactic for increasing your organic reach on social.

Hashtags also make your content more searchable over time. Unlike regular keywords, hashtags are typically clickable and indexable – meaning your tagged posts can continue attracting engagement long after they are originally shared. Well-chosen hashtags can put you in front of your target audience at the precise moment they are searching for related content.

Additionally, hashtags are useful for categorizing social media posts and joining trending conversations. On networks like Twitter and Instagram, hot topics and breaking news often have associated hashtags that quickly start trending. Including these in your relevant posts is an opportunity to ride that wave of popularity and attract attention.

Many brands also create their own custom hashtags to promote campaigns, events, or ongoing conversations with their community. This is an effective way to encourage user-generated content, collect posts about a topic in one place, and build buzz around your brand messaging.

Now that we‘ve covered the fundamentals, let‘s look at the specific best practices, strategies, and examples for the top social networks.

Twitter Hashtags

Hashtags first originated on Twitter, so it‘s fitting that they are used more heavily there compared to other social networks. According to research from Mention, 75% of social media users on Twitter use hashtags, compared to just 30% on Facebook and 59% on Instagram.

The anatomy of a clickable hashtag on Twitter is simple – it‘s just the "#" symbol followed by a keyword or phrase, without spaces, like this:

Clicking that hashtag on Twitter will bring up a feed with other recent tweets that have used the same hashtag. You can also find hashtags using Twitter‘s search bar.

Some other key tips and best practices for using Twitter hashtags effectively:

  • Research shows tweets with hashtags get 2x more engagement than those without, and tweets with 1-2 hashtags have 21% higher engagement than those with 3+ tags. So use hashtags consistently but sparingly – 1-2 per tweet is the sweet spot.

  • Make sure your hashtags are highly relevant to the topic of your tweet. Forcing a popular but unrelated hashtag comes off as spammy.

  • Keep hashtags concise and easy to remember. Capitalization doesn‘t matter but it can make multi-word tags more readable, i.e. #SocialMediaMarketing vs. #socialmediamarketing. Avoid punctuation or special characters.

  • Jump on trending hashtags when you have valuable content to add to the conversation. Tools like Hashtagify and Trendsmap can help you find real-time trending Twitter hashtags to join.

  • Come up with a short, unique branded hashtag to promote your campaigns, events, Twitter chats, and other initiatives. Encourage customers and fans to use the tag to collect user-generated content.

  • Don‘t hashtag the same word or phrase repeatedly or use irrelevant hashtags – this is considered hashtag spam and Twitter may penalize you.

Some inspiring examples of brands creatively using Twitter hashtags:

  • Coca-Cola‘s #ShareACoke campaign encouraged fans to find and tweet using the hashtag for a chance to get their name on a Coke bottle. User-generated tweets with the tag generated over 340,000 tweets.

  • Charmin‘s #TweetFromTheSeat hashtag embraced bathroom humor and got people talking about the brand in a playful way, generating over 11,000 mentions.

  • Esurance launched a giveaway contest hashtag #EsuranceSave30 that went viral and racked up over 2 million entries and 200,000+ new followers for the brand.

Facebook Hashtags

Facebook added hashtag support in 2013, but they have not taken off to the same degree as on Twitter and Instagram. Still, savvy marketers can get good mileage out of Facebook hashtags when used strategically.

Hashtags on Facebook work much the same as on Twitter – just include the "#" symbol before a word or phrase in your post. When clicked, a Facebook hashtag will bring up a feed of posts containing that hashtag.

Keep in mind that due to Facebook‘s privacy settings, many individual users‘ hashtagged posts won‘t be publicly searchable. The hashtag feeds you see will mostly contain public posts from brands and publishers.

A few tips for getting the most out of hashtags on Facebook:

  • Posts with 1-2 hashtags see 593 average interactions, compared to 416 for posts with 3-5 hashtags, 307 for posts with 6-10 hashtags, and 188 for posts with more than 10 hashtags. Like on Twitter, less is definitely more when it comes to hashtags on Facebook.

  • Use hashtags on Facebook for tagging content about niche or specific topics, rather than broad or generic keywords. Think #WorldCup2022 rather than #sports.

  • Searching for hashtags on Facebook can be a great way to conduct audience research and find user-generated content to repurpose (with credit). See what your target customers are talking about.

  • Create your own unique branded hashtags for Facebook contests and campaigns. Hashtags aren‘t as popular on Facebook, so having a distinct tag makes it easier to track.

Some standout examples of Facebook hashtag campaigns:

  • Lay‘s #DoUsAFlavor contest asked fans to suggest new chip flavors and vote for their favorites using the hashtag. The campaign drew over 14 million entries.

  • L‘Oréal Paris used the hashtag #WorthAsking to spark conversations about gender equality and women‘s empowerment. The tag garnered significant attention and press for the brand.

  • KitKat created a dancing Facebook video ad with the hashtag #BendTheRules to promote its new flexible chocolate bar. It got over 28 million views and 6,000 shares.

Instagram Hashtags

Instagram is probably the platform most synonymous with hashtag usage these days. According to research from Mention, 83% of Instagram posts contain at least one hashtag, and posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6% more engagement than those with none.

Adding hashtags on Instagram is easy – just include the "#" symbol in front of keywords or phrases in the caption of your post, or in the comments. Hashtags in your bio are now clickable as well.

Clicking an Instagram hashtag will open a page showing all the top and most recent posts that have used that hashtag. You can also find hashtags using Instagram‘s search bar.

Here are some key strategies for effectively using hashtags on Instagram:

  • Research from Track Maven found that posts with 9 hashtags get the most engagement on Instagram. Other studies have suggested 11 is the magic number. The max limit per post is 30. Using 3-5 super relevant tags is a safe bet.

  • Mix popular/trending hashtags with more niche ones to broaden your reach while still keeping your tags relevant. Do hashtag research with tools like Focalmark to find the most effective tags.

  • Use hashtags to indicate the topic or theme of your post, describe what‘s pictured, convey your brand identity and personality, and explain the emotional tone or intent behind your post.

  • Develop a custom branded hashtag for your business and include it on your profile and in posts to establish it. Encourage your followers to use it too. Keep it short, distinctive, and easy to spell.

  • Don‘t use generic hashtags like #followme or #likeforlike, and avoid using the same long list of hashtags on every post. Tailor tags to each individual post.

  • Hide hashtags to keep your caption looking clean by burying them below your caption copy, putting them in the first comment, or camouflaging them with line breaks.

Some great examples of brands using Instagram hashtags effectively:

  • Herschel Supply Co. uses a branded hashtag #WellTravelled to encourage fans to share photos of their adventures with Herschel gear. The tag has over 1.9 million posts.

  • Lululemon rallied fans around the impactful hashtag #thesweatlife to build a community promoting healthy, active lifestyles. It has over 500,000 uses.

  • Airbnb‘s #LiveThere hashtag inspired users to share authentic travel photos and stories and helped shift the brand‘s image. Posts with the tag reached over 300 million people.

Key Hashtag Statistics

Need more convincing on the power of hashtags? These statistics paint a compelling picture:

  • Tweets with hashtags get 100% more engagement than those without. (Twitter)

  • 70% of the most used hashtags on Instagram are branded. (Mention)

  • Clicks on hashtags account for 43% of all social referral traffic. (Rebrandly)

  • Over 11 million hashtags are used each day on Twitter alone. (Omnicore)

  • Instagram posts with at least one hashtag have 12.6% more engagement than those with none. (Agorapulse)

  • 73% of brands on Instagram use hashtags in their profile bio. (Rebrandly)

  • The most popular hashtag on Instagram, #love, has been used over 2 billion times. (Statista)

  • Using 1-2 hashtags per tweet can boost engagement by 21%. (Buddy Media)

  • Instagram posts with 9-12 hashtags get the most engagement. (Track Maven)

It‘s clear that hashtags remain a key part of an effective social media strategy in 2023, especially on Twitter and Instagram. With their ability to boost organic reach, categorize content, inspire user-generated posts, and rally fans around brands and campaigns, hashtags are a powerful tool that all social media marketers should have in their arsenal.

Hashtagging Into the Future

As social media continues to evolve, so too does the use of hashtags. We‘ve seen the rise of new hashtag-centric platforms like TikTok, where popular hashtags like #foryoupage and #foryou garner billions of views.

Visual search is becoming more prevalent, and already over 130 million Instagram users engage with shopping posts each month. In the future, hashtags could play an important role in making products and posts more discoverable as social commerce grows.

We may also see further segmentation of hashtags, with more granular and specific tags used to better categorize the sea of content being posted to social media every day. More advanced AI could be applied to better detect the use of hashtags and interpret their context and relevance.

But regardless of what changes may come, it‘s likely hashtags will remain a staple of social media culture. Savvy brands will continue using them to expand their reach, express their voice, and engage their audiences in creative ways.

The ultimate keys are to use hashtags purposefully and strategically, to keep a pulse on the latest trending topics, and to analyze your results to continually refine your approach. Happy #hashtagging!