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How to Use Hashtags Effectively

How to Use Hashtags Effectively

If hashtags seem like an inexplicable mystery to you, it’s time to set things straight! As a marketing consultant, I’ve come across a noticeable amount of people frustrated with hashtags. They are either overusing them, underusing them or not using them at all. The good news is that hashtags are not that complicated, it just seems that way. Let’s clear up the confusion and boost your engagement!


Hashtags always start with #, followed by a string of text. Think of them as a way to connect your content to a theme, topic, place, etc. The hashtag was born on Twitter on August 23rd 2007, but quite rapidly spread to other platforms. Today, there isn’t a single social media network that does not use them in some way.

The Big Five

I like to think of hashtags in five categories. You should always maintain a healthy mix between hashtags from each category in your social media posts.

Branded hashtags are self-created for your business. It can be as simple as your company name, tagline or a hashtag for a specific campaign you are launching. For my social media course promotion, I always use the branded hashtag #SocialNeverSleeps, which represents the name of my course. 

Specific hashtags correspond with the distinct content of your post. Imagine you’re running an accountancy firm, and you surprised your staff with delicious doughnuts! You would definitely use #doughnuts as a specific hashtag. 

Category hashtags are a lot broader! Think of elements related to your industry as a whole. In my case, some good examples would be #MarketingConsultant, #SocialMediaNews or #SocialMediaMarketing.

Trending hashtags are essentially really popular hashtags, they’re being used extensively to discuss a specific topic, event or theme.  For example,  #ThrowBackThursday is a weekly reappearing trending hashtag. On a more serious note, recently the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter has trended due to the tragic death of George Floyd. Alternatively, a prime illustration of an event-based trending hashtag – a sad one indeed – is #Beirutblast, referring to the tragedy of August 4th.

Location hashtags are eminently straightforward. If the content of your post took place in Beckenham, #Beckenham links your content to that part of town. 

Platform Guidelines

It’s very important to remember that each social media network has a different standard for hashtags. Rather than boring you to death with pesky details as to why the algorithm of Mark Zuckerberg’s prodigal child generates different results than YouTube’s, I’ll lay out key guidelines so that you understand what works were.

Instagram – Up to 30 hashtags on newsfeed posts, up to 10 hashtags on Stories and I recommend only up to 10 on IGTV posts.

Twitter – 1-2 hashtags

Facebook – 1-2 hashtags

LinkedIn – Up to 5

YouTube – 3-6 hashtags

Stick to these ground rules to gain more engagement across platforms.

Prepare and Reflect

I strongly recommend you prepare your hashtags before scheduling or publishing your post. Create a spreadsheet of what hashtags are related to your industry and business. Keep in mind that high-density tags (with more than 500k posts) are more competitive, compared to medium to high-density tags (100k – 500k posts), medium density (20k-100k posts) and low density (5k -20K posts). Try to aim for an 80/20 low-high mix to get more engagement. Do not copy-paste the same hashtags into each post. Filter and test which ones work for you.

I also advise you to look at which hashtags your competitors are using. You can definitely pick up some good ones that will help you reach more people.

After a week or so, analyse how well your post’s hashtags are doing. A third-party management tool such as or Buffer usually has more quality insights into how well you’re doing, but you can already learn a lot from in-app analytics. Reflection is just as important as performance, there’s always something to learn.

I hope these insights will help you and your business in the future. If you would like to learn more about this topic and social media marketing in general, make sure to check out my Social Never Sleeps Course launching September 21st and upcoming ‘Instagram For Business’ workshop on September 8th.

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