Before social media hashtags were simply the pound sign on our phones, but today they have become one of the most popular ways to categorize content on social sites from Twitter to Facebook to LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest. It gives users and content creators the ability for their audience to discover content, and it allows you to find relevant information from other people and businesses. Even more importantly for social media marketers, hashtags can be used as a tool to track conversations about your brand, company, or event. They’re easy for users to engage with and ultimately bring awareness to whatever message you may be spreading. Overall, knowing how to properly use hashtags will be necessary for your success on social media.

So, to ensure that success, here is a list of best practices when using hashtags:

  1. Make sure it’s unique

With the amount of content circulating the internet on a daily basis it’s important that you check the hashtag you want to use isn’t currently being used by someone else first. Creating a unique hashtag will make it easier for you to track your efforts and will keep your message from being misinterpreted by your audience. What seems like a harmless hashtag to you could be mixed into a controversial topic if you’re not careful. If the hashtag is already being used it’s always best to think of a new one instead.

  1. Be Specific

Like all the other content you produce on social media, hashtags should be catered to suit the needs of your audience and should bring value to their social media experience and lives. In specifying the hashtags used you are more likely to engage with your specified audience, and the more likely your social media marketing efforts will be noticed.

Let’s say you’re the social media manager for a company that sells used cars. Instead of hash tagging each post with the obvious #usedcars it would be better to use a more specific tag, one that is unique to the voice of the company you are representing. Be deliberate in your hashtag use and remember if the hashtag doesn’t bring value then it might be best to leave it out. Which bring us to our third tip…

  1. You don’t have to hashtag everything

Although hashtags may be one of the easiest ways to create reach and a following on your social media sites, people are wary of accounts that use too many hashtags that aren’t relevant to the overall brand posting the content. A good general rule of thumb would be to use less hashtags then there are words in your captions.

However, depending on which social media site you are using there are ways around this. On Instagram because there’s a 2,200 character limit a good trick when you are trying to increase your number of followers and engagement is to include a lot of hashtags (the max being 30) on a post but where the audience won’t immediately see it. People generally seem to dislike seeing a long list of irrelevant hashtags attached to the main caption, but this strategy works because the hashtags are hidden at the bottom. Think of those hashtags as tags that will make your content easily discoverable by people who could benefit from seeing your message.

  1. Cater hashtags to each social network

Every social media site uses hashtags in a unique way so it’s important that your hashtags reflect that. There are also different guidelines depending on the platform (here are Twitter’s  and Instagram’s created by Hootsuite) even though the functionality of the hashtag is consistent across each network – tagging and discovering information. Twitter has a 280 character limit and generally hashtags are used to add to an ongoing trending conversation or topic. On Instagram and Facebook, where things are a bit more visual, hashtags should be specific to the picture/message of your post.

  1. Track your hashtags

Test out hashtags on different posts to figure out which one’s bring the most engagement and awareness to your brand’s content. Ask yourself, which one received the most retweets? Which one did people click on the most? Was there any negative backlash? Knowing which hashtags are the most effective will save you time in the future and will impress your client.

Following these practices will help your overall social presence and will strengthen your content and campaigns. Are there any hashtag tips that you’ve found helpful? We’d love to know about them.

Disclaimer: A lot of this information came from Hootsuite, to learn more about best practices for hashtags visit: