What Is Hashtag? [A Quick Guide]

by Teddy Mitova

#hashtag

If you’ve landed at least once on Twitter or Instagram, you must have seen this symbol # in people’s posts and tweets. People call it many names: number sign, pound sign, hash. Now social media users know it as a hashtag.

For instance, influencers are crazy about hashtags.

Meanwhile, some people will still wonder, what is a hashtag exactly? What does it do? Do I need it?

It’s a useful little thing, but only if used correctly. Otherwise, you might embarrass yourself and even lose followers (and potential customers if we’re talking about your business page).

Thank goodness you’re here then ‘cause now you’ll find out everything you need to know about hashtags – for free! Thank me later.

So let’s begin!

What Is a Hashtag?

Think of it as a label that helps you categorize things. It is also used to attract attention, to add humor, or to promote.

Hashtags are mainly used on social media. They came to life in August 2007 in the kingdom of Twitter when the wise wizard, I mean user, Chris Messina suggested the use of hashtags for groups.

It didn’t happen immediately, but soon people warmed up to the idea. Just two months later, journalists used the hashtag #SanDiegoFire to tweet updates on the topic. At that point, everyone finally understood how useful hashtags were.

This was the origin of hashtags. No mysteries or anything – just an idea that was in the right place at the right time – and it went viral.

Fun fact: The hashtag symbol (#) resembles the sharp or dièse symbol used in music (♯). Click To Tweet Doppelgangers!

Now that you know the meaning of hashtag, let’s see the full list of advantages of using hashtags.

Why a Hashtag? [Benefits of Hashtags]

Are you too lazy to add hashtags to your posts? Don’t be!

It’s quick and easy and can have many benefits, especially in digital marketing. For example:

  • hashtags make it easier for people to find your posts from the search bar when they search for specific hashtags
  • hashtags improve your clickthrough rates because they engage people (However, no more than 2-3 hashtags when tweeting – otherwise they have the opposite effect.)
  • they help with research when you want to find relevant content on a specific topic
  • hashtags turn into links to search queries – this will help lead more people to your post
  • hashtags can help your personality and sense of humor shine, and engage your audience more

To sum up, the careful usage of hashtags can help you attract your target audience and engage with it. They are basically free advertisement. Even if you’re posting just for fun, hashtags still bring that additional luster people appreciate.

But I know you’re burning with curiosity already, so no more waiting. Here is how to use hashtags.

How to Hashtag

So, how to write hashtags? Here are the main rules of hashtagging:

  • no spaces, punctuation marks, and special characters are allowed (Numbers get the green light though.)
  • keep hashtags as specific as you can, and remember – shorter is better
  • capital letters are fine, and pretty handy if you want to differentiate between words in a longer hashtag

Seems simple, right? It is, but there are some tricky bits you need to watch out for.

Let me explain what I’m talking about.

Proper Use of Hashtags

If you’re not too familiar with hashtags, there’s the possibility of embarrassing yourself or even losing clients. That’s why I’m here to help! You’ll find understanding hashtags easy soon enough.

Let’s start with the potential mistakes you need to avoid. Here’s how to use hashtags reeal smooth.

There are a few common mistakes most people make. Avoid them, and you’ll easily find yourself ahead of the pack. Here they are:

  • vague or too general hashtags
  • too long hashtags
  • too many hashtags in one post
  • redundancy (repetition of hashtags in one post)
  • using trending hashtags without understanding them
  • not capitalizing letters = more difficult to read
  • using the same hashtags every day (Show some creativity!)
  • using hashtags out of context

These are the main things to be careful about. Once you get the hang of it, you won’t even have to think about it!

Here you can read about some big brands’ hashtag successes as well as some fails.

Bonus tip: See the latest quick guides to hashtags for businesses – here and here.

Next, to take your expertise in hashtags to the next level, let’s look at the different kinds of hashtags.

Types of Hashtags

Hashtags are always used to organize things, but they are still used differently across different platforms.

Let’s see the different hashtag etiquette on various social media platforms first.

Hashtags on Twitter

Twitter is the motherland of hashtags, so it’s only natural to see hashtags everywhere there. Hashtags on Twitter usually denote specific topics of conversation.

You can go to the “Trends” sidebar to see what’s trending on Twitter and a suggested list of hashtags based on your tweets. Explore the trending Twitter hashtags and join in!

When searching for a hashtag, you can choose how to filter the results.

Lastly, don’t forget you’re only allowed a set number of characters per tweet. That’s why the rule of thumb is to keep your hashtags limited to 1 or 2 per tweet for optimal results.

If you can hashtag a word in your sentence, do it, instead of repeating it at the end.

Fun fact: Even the CIA uses hashtags.

Hashtags have quickly taken over the rest of the social media as well. Let’s see how they’re doing there.

Hashtags on Instagram

Twitter may have started the hashtags trend, but it’s Instagram that took the idea and ran with it. Everyone just looves putting those hashtags everywhere. Sprinkle some here, and there, and over there… We can’t get enough!

Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed – every time someone posts a picture, there must be at least one hashtag accompanying it. Probably more. Like 10 more. For example, if it’s a photo of the sea and the setting sun, you can add the following Instagram hashtags:

#sea

#summer

#sunset

#nature

#wanderlust

#beautiful

#relax

… You get the idea. And if you’re chillin’ with your partner, you can rub it in the face of all the single instagrammers:

#love

#truelove

#mylove

#bae

#loveyou

#him

#boyfriend

#forever

and so on…

Some people might laugh at you… but you do you! Don’t let the haters stop you, right?!

Now, seriously, that many hashtags might be a bit repetitive and unnecessary.

The point is, Instagram gives you much more freedom, and you can use at least 5 hashtags without anyone judging you. Actually, it would be weirder to use fewer.

But don’t go over the top – Instagram has decided 30 hashtags per post is more than enough. And besides, few people would read that much text.

By the way, on Instagram, there’s also the option of following a hashtag. Neat!

Anyway, let’s see if Facebook has caught up already.

Hashtags on Facebook

Nope. That’s all the internet has to say about using hashtags on Facebook.

hashtags on Facebook

Sorry. Now, seriously: Of course you can use hashtags on Facebook. The thing is, they’re simply not as popular. You won’t be considered any cooler if you use them.

But sure, give them a chance, especially if they’re related to your business. You can read more details here.

Hashtags on Tumblr

Hashtags on Tumblr work a bit differently. There’s a Tag section where you can enter tags that organize posts by topic. However, for your convenience, the hash symbol gets inserted automatically.

The other difference is that hashtags in the main body of a post are not transformed into links.

Hashtags on Pinterest

On Pinterest, it’s convenient to use hashtags to mark and search for content. You can simply click on the hashtag in a pin’s description to see results containing the same hashtags and pins with the same word or phrase in the description.

YouTube, LinkedIn, Flickr, and other social networks support hashtags too. You can read more about them here.

Now let’s see what general types of hashtags there are, and some hashtag examples:

  • business/industry – #webhosting ; #photographer
  • niche – #weddingphotographer
  • brand related – #Nike ; #JustDoIt
  • campaign (competition or a charity campaign) – #ShareACoke
  • topic/interests/hobbies/category – #astrology ; #cycling
  • event – #goldenglobes
  • news – #SanDiegoFire
  • special day/celebration – #WorldBookDay ; Christmas2019
  • location – #Glasgow ; #londonphotographer
  • emphasis – #OMG ; #lol
  • context – #stillhungry
  • community – #catstagram ; #bookstagram
  • weekly trend/hashtag game – #TBT (Throwback Thursday) ; #LifeLessonsIn5Words

Sounds fun, right? You don’t need to use all of them. Just choose what you like and suits you best. Gradually you can try to mix it up.

Let’s get down to business. You can find an exhaustive list of mainstream hashtags on Shopify if you’re thirsty for likes.

Wrapping Up

Do you feel pumped up to make the best out of hashtags already? Of course you do!

A warm welcome! You’re part of the hashtag culture now! Soon you’ll feel like you can’t live without hashtags. Posts and tweets will seem incomplete without them.

If someone now asks you “What is a hashtag?” you’ll be able to laugh and explain like a pro, throwing in some cool facts too.

And there’s more:

If you want to feel like a badass inventor, you can try to create a hashtag that doesn’t exist yet! Just to warn you, it might be harder than you think. Feel free to experiment!

Finally, now you know everything about hashtags to conquer the world of social media. Go get them!

#WinningInLife

Let’s recap with the FAQ as usual.

FAQ

What is a hashtag?

Here is the most literal way to define hashtag: It is a word or a phrase written directly after a pound sign (a hash) #, now better known as a hashtag sign. Hashtags are used to categorize posts and tweets to make them easier to find and follow.

What is hashtagging? / What does it mean to hashtag something?

Hashtagging something means creating a tag related to a post, using the hash symbol and a word or a phrase directly after it. 

How to hashtag?

It’s easy – just write this symbol # followed by the tag you want to attach. Keep it simple and short. It’s a good idea to capitalize different words, for example, #MeAndYou.

Can you use numbers in hashtags?

Yes, you can use numbers. Spaces, punctuation marks, and special characters are not allowed though.

Why do people use hashtags? / What is the point of hashtags?

Using hashtags has many advantages. Number one is they engage people more. Moreover, they help them find your posts easily and show them your personality and sense of humor.

Where are hashtags used?

Hashtags are used on all social media. They thrive on Twitter and Instagram, while Facebook is not a popular playground for hashtags.

How to use hashtags on Twitter?

Use hashtags on Twitter to search for specific content you’re interested in, and conversation topics you can join in. Add hashtags to your tweets so that people can find them easily.

Who created the hashtag?

Hashtag origins are easily traceable. Chris Messina is the person who first suggested the use of hashtags back in the summer of 2007.

How do I create a hashtag?

Writing a hashtag is easy – you just type this symbol # and immediately after you add a word or a phrase. Ta-daa!

But if you want to create an original hashtag that doesn’t exist yet, that’s a bit more challenging. Try to be creative and check with the search bar if the hashtag you’re thinking of already exists. Keep trying until you succeed! After all, what is a hashtag, but an idea waiting to be born?

Tip: You can see the current hashtag trends here.

Bonus tip: You can use a hashtag generator to help you stay ahead of the competition.

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