What are Hashtags? & How to Find the Best Ones

You may have seen one or more of the following sentences on social media:

  • Morning! #MondayFeelings
  • Get the following info on #socialmediamarketing
  • Happy #NationalWaffleDay!

If you’re confused about why people are adding the pound or number sign in front of words, here’s why. The symbol in front of a word is what’s referred to nowadays as a hashtag.

A hashtag is a way for people on social media to discover, follow, and categorize a conversation they want to contribute to. They usually are attracted to using hashtags that they find are relevant to them and their interests. A hashtag is also an effective way for business owners to build up awareness of their brand, to promote their content, and to contribute to a conversation themselves.

If you want your business to stay relevant online, you are going to have to know a few things about hashtags. First, we’ll explain a bit more about how hashtags were really made. Next, we’ll lay out some ground rules about how best to use them. Then, we’ll talk about what you really want to know: how to find the best hashtags on social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for your business.

How the Hashtag Started

Hashtags originated from the pound sign itself in IT code within Internet Relay Chat (IRC) back in 1988. They were not formally adopted by Twitter until Chris Messina, a former Google employee who was inspired by IRC, made the proposal by using the first hashtag himself on August 23, 2007:

 

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

 

While the hashtag did not immediately catch fire on Twitter, almost a decade later it’s become a very popular tool for business’ social media marketing strategies. Hashtags can now be found on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+ to name a few.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Hashtags

  • Do use them! Hashtags are known to build engaged followers on social media.
  • Don’t use them inappropriately. Spelling matters a lot, and since there cannot be spaces added to the hashtag (otherwise it won’t work), you really need to double-check these before promoting them. Failing to do so will only result in terrible PR for your business!
  • Do target hashtags that matter to your business’s brand.
  • Don’t overuse them. A study has revealed that more than two hashtag words on Twitter and Facebook results in lowered engagement. Surprisingly, the opposite is true for Instagram; more hashtags in posts on that platform results in bigger engagement!
  • Do use them for holidays. Again, these holidays should matter for your business.
  • Don’t use a hashtag irresponsibly or for no reason. There are tons out there and many of them actually have a negative connotation attached to them, and many more are incredibly political! The message used with the hashtag matters, and once it’s online, it’s there forever even after you change your mind and delete the message.

How to Find Good Hashtags

All of the platforms we have mentioned feature a search bar on their website. You can use this bar to discover new hashtags you might not have thought of before, or to see if the one you want to create has been used already, and to what purpose.

That’s one way, but it is a very time-consuming strategy! The other way is to check Twitter. They daily update a sidebar on the left-hand side of their website which lists the day’s top trending hashtags. Even by briefly browsing the front page of Instagram or investigating the news feed on Facebook may net some good hashtags.

There is another, simpler way to find decent hashtags, and that’s through other software platforms. Buffer, Hootsuite, and SEMRush are all excellent software choices that enable you to find appropriate and useful hashtags. These tools can help you find these hashtags while you’re scheduling content you want to post on your business’s social media accounts.

You can also look up hashtags by using specific websites designed to analyze and inform you of the most frequently used hashtags. Sites such as Hashtags.org, RiteTag, and Hashtagify.me can also help you understand the hashtag’s popularity level.

When it comes to Instagram, it is so easy to find the best hashtags to include with your photos. Simply log in to Instagram on your computer or phone, click the search button, and immediately the top people, tags, and posts will appear in a list. Click on the ‘tags’ option at the top of the menu and then enter the phrase you’re curious about.

Under each hashtag is a number, and this is the number of photos with that hashtag included. The higher the number is (for example, 40.2M is higher than 305K), the more popular and widely searched the hashtag is. Keeping this in mind can help you identify which hashtags people on Instagram really love to use and connect with online. Plus, the more you use the hashtag, the more likely other people will find and discover your business and become a follower.

Something worth noting is that there are new rules about Instagram’s hashtags that have been introduced this year. People on Instagram now have the ability to follow the hashtags they like and unfollow those they consider to be spammy. Be aware of this next time you create new posts!

One good way to find a good hashtag is to create your own! This can be done if you know it relates to your brand and if you’ve used the above tools and found no one else is using it. We create hashtags as well! So long as you know it’s spelled right (always check your spelling before using a hashtag—we can’t stress this enough!) and it caters to your brand, feel free to use the ones you create. Sometimes playing around and getting creative can result in some great hashtags!

Daniela Torres

Daniela Torres is the founder and Creative Director of KIAI Agency Inc. With over 12 years of experience working as a journalist, press officer and graphic designer, Daniela is a brand strategist that has been leading design and marketing projects for multiple industries. She’s also the author of the book “Build Your Brand – The 10 essential steps before launching your business”.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to KIAI Agency Inc. and a clickable link back to this page.