What are Hashtags and How to Use Them

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That little hashtag symbol on our phones has dramatically changed the way social media and digital marketing works in the span of just over a decade. If you want your brand, business, or blog post to thrive on the internet, using one or more hashtags is crucial. But if you’re new to the world of social media, it can be difficult to figure out exactly how hashtags work, and which trending hashtags to use for your posts. Below, the team at Kiopi breaks down everything about the infamous hashtag: what it is, how it started, how it works, how to use it, and so much more.

What Are Hashtags?

Let’s break this word down: the hash sign is the pound sign. Tag refers to a metadata tag on social media. Metadata tags are specific keywords and terms that describe a piece of digital media – like pictures and videos – and allows people to find this specific type of digital media again just by searching the tag.

So: the word hashtag is defined as a metadata tag – most frequently used on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram – that allow people to search specific types of social media content. Hashtags can include numbers, letters, and underscores.

Where Did Hashtags Originate?

The pound symbol has been around for a long time, often used in the information technology (IT) system. 

The hashtag, though, is much more recent. Chris Messina is the inventor of the modern-day hashtag. He posted the world’s first hashtag in this tweet on August 23, 2007:

“How do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?”

The First Hashtag

Messina’s goal was to use the hashtag so that Twitter users could easily find specific user-generated content without spending hours searching for it. Twitter didn’t adopt the hashtag immediately after Messina’s tweet. But within the same year, more and more Twitter users began using the same hashtags, especially when talking about a particular event, like the San Diego, CA forest fires in 2007. Later, the use of hashtags became incredibly popular and normal on the Twitter platform, especially when the Iranian election protests of 2009 and 2010 occurred.

Now, when any major event is occurring – whether that’s in politics or pop culture – you can definitely find trending hashtags about it, especially on Twitter. Some examples of really popular hashtags on Twitter over recent years are: #BLM and #MeToo. Meanwhile, one of the most popular Instagram hashtags of all time is #ThrowBackThursday.

What’s the Purpose of a Hashtag?

The purpose of a hashtag is to find more social media content about the same topic. You can type hashtagged content into the search bar of a social media platform or simply tap on the hashtag to find related hashtags and posts.

How Social Media Hashtags Can Help Your Business

In this day and age, using trending hashtags is crucial for growing an online business or brand. Below, we explain the top reasons why it’s so important to include a few hashtags in all your social media posts.

What's the purpose of a hashtag?

Increase Engagement

Firstly, using both trending hashtags and niche hashtags can help you increase your page’s engagement. If there is a specific conversation or trend happening that you want to take part in, including a hashtagged keyword can be the best way to draw other users in. You may find that using the most popular hashtags in your posts and tweets will bring in more followers, likes, shares, and comments.

Find Your Target Audience

Did you know that several social media platforms – like Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok – allow you to follow hashtags? This allows users to see content about a specific topic that they’re interested in. If you’re trying to grow your brand or business, you could use this feature to your advantage. If you use a good mix of popular hashtags and niche hashtags, your target audience can find you easily and follow the hashtags that you frequently use. That way, your content will frequently pop up on their feed.

Build Brand Awareness

One of the best ways to build brand awareness on social media is to create and use your own branded hashtag. For example, many brands will create a branded hashtag with their industry or company name or a tagline. Some of the most popular hashtags used by big brands include: #ShareACoke by Coca-Cola, #MyCalvins by Calvin Klein, #IceBucketChallenge by the ALS Association, and #LikeAGirl by Always. Every time someone uses a new hashtag that you created, they will not only increase your engagement, but they will also spread the word about your product or service.

Reveal a Sponsored Partnership

Maybe you have noticed over the last few years that every time a social media influencer works with a brand in a paid sponsorship that they clearly advertise that sponsorship through hashtags and specific wording on their post. That is because disclosing a paid sponsorship on social media posts is now required by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as of 2019.  These sponsorship hashtags serve the same purpose as all other trending hashtags: to increase brand engagement, brand awareness, and allowing the brand to find their target audience.

Show Support for Social Issues

Lastly, some of the most used hashtags in history have allowed social media users to engage in tough political and social conversations. As previously stated, hashtags became popular on Twitter mostly due to real-world events and tragedies. A simple hashtagged word like #BLM now has the power to raise awareness and start conversations with millions of people across the world.
How Social Media Hashtags Can Help Your Business

Instagram Hashtags

Listed below are some of the most popular Instagram hashtags of all time:

Just because these are the most popular Instagram hashtags of all time, doesn’t mean these are the best hashtags to use for your posts. A lot of these hashtags won’t add any meaning to your post, and because they have millions of posts beneath them spanning back years, you likely won’t reap any of the benefits of these hashtags either.

There are also plenty of popular Instagram hashtags specifically reserved for businesses, including:

The best Instagram hashtags to use are those that are currently trending and those that are relevant to your Instagram post. You can also use hashtags to help you organically grow Instagram accounts

Twitter Hashtags

Trending hashtags on Twitter change literally on a daily basis. That’s because when some huge national/international event happens, people tend to go to Twitter to talk about it, instead of Instagram, for example. Twitter is basically a place for status updates and opinion, which is another reason why trending hashtags change on a daily basis. There is even a section on Twitter – under the search bar – that allows you to see the trending hashtags of the day.

Need a better way to post to Twitter? Try looking into a free tweet scheduler

Listed below are some of the most popular Twitter hashtags through the years:

Facebook Hashtags

You can use hashtags on Facebook, but it’s not as common as other social media platforms. Some of the only people who use hashtags on Facebook are those with businesses or those who are talking about a major event. The popular hashtags listed above are pretty universal across all platforms, so you can use them on Facebook too.

Tips for Creating the Best Hashtags for Your Brand or Business

Creating the best hashtags for your brand and business is like a science. You want to use the perfect balance of unique, trending, and relevant hashtags. Here are some tips:

  • Watch what hashtags – and how many hashtags – your competitors are using on their popular content.
  • Keep track of what Twitter and Instagram hashtags are trending across the whole platform and within your specific industry. You can use tools like RiteTag which will recommend relevant hashtags – and how many hashtags – to use after you type in your caption and upload your picture into the site.
  • Use a social listening tool like Kiopi. Kiopi can start tracking and analyzing trends on social media regarding your specific campaign, company, or industry. You can use this information to come up with the best branded hashtags for your posts.
  • Look at your social media analytics and figure out what’s working: is it the hashtags? The caption? The picture? Or all of the above? Use this information to create future posts that will create similar results.
Tips for Creating the Best Hashtags for Your Brand or Business

No More Haphazard Hashtags… Post Consistently with Kiopi

Nowadays, using the most popular Instagram hashtags to grow your brand and business is a science. It’s so hard to figure out what will work – and won’t work – especially without some professional guidance. Luckily, there are plenty of people, accounts, and services out there that can now only help you use the best hashtags in every single post, but can help you measure performance, schedule posts, plan content for the month, and so much more. Kiopi is one of the best social media tools for businesses because we can do all this and more. Don’t believe us yet? Try out a 14 day free trial today.