For a long time, the hashtag symbol (#) was known simply as the "pound" symbol. Now, I could swear that the only time I hear it referred to as a pound symbol is when I enter my PIN number to pay my cell phone bill.
While hashtags wereoriginally made famous by Twitter, they're now used on many major social networks, including Facebook and Instagram. Let's explore what a hashtag is, why they're so great, and how they work on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
What Does 'Hashtag' Mean?
A hashtag is simply a keyword phrase, spelled out without spaces, with a pound sign (#) in front of it. For example, #InboundHour and #ChocolateLovers are both hashtags.
You can put these hashtags anywhere in your social media posts: in the beginning, at the end, or anywhere in between. (Read this blog postfor more instructions on using hashtags.)
These hashtags tie public conversations from all different users into a single stream, which you can find by searching for a hashtag, clicking on one, or using a third-party monitoring tool likeHubSpot's Social Inbox. Note that, in order for a post with a hashtag to appear in anyone's search, the post must be public.
What Makes Hashtags So Great?
Back in 2007 when hashtags were a brand new concept, Google's Chris Messina realized the value of hashtags right away.He wrote thatthe "channel" concept of hashtags satisfies many of the things group discussions do, but without inheriting the "unnecessary management cruft" that most group systems suffer from.
In addition, Messina wrote that they're easily accessible with the syntax on Twitter (and now on other social media networks), easy to learn, flexible, and works with current user behavior instead of forcing anyone to learn anything radically new. It also works consistently on cell phones -- whereas, for example, the star key doesn't.
A decade later, the hashtag continues to thrive. When used properly, hashtags are agreatway for individuals and brands to make their social posts more visible and increase engagement. They can give people useful context and cues for recall, aggregate posts and images together, and update a group of like-minded individuals on certain a topic in real time.
Hashtags are often used to unite conversations around things like ...
Events or conferences, like #INBOUND17 or #Rio2016
Disasters or emergencies, like #Aleppo or #PrayForNice
Holidays or celebrations, like #WorldNutellaDay or #NationalCatDay
Popular culture topics, like #GameofThrones or #PokemonGO
General interest topics, like #WinterWonderland or #ChocolateLovers
Popular hashtags, like #tbt or #MotivationMonday
The key is to use hashtags sparingly and only when they add value. Use them too much, and they can be confusing, frustrating, and just plain annoying.
How Hashtags Work On Twitter, Facebook & Instagram
Click on a social network below to jump to that section:
A Twitter hashtag ties the conversations of different users into one stream. If Twitter users who aren't otherwise connected to one another talk about the same topic using a specific hashtag, their tweets will appear in the same stream.
Here's what a hashtag stream on Twitter looks like -- we'll use#MotivationMondayas an example:
Most of the good stuff takes place in the center of this page. For the hashtag #MotivationMonday, you'll see there are a few ways to toggle the hashtag stream: Top (the default), Latest, People, Photos, Videos, and More.
Latest:A live stream of the latest tweets from everyone tweeting out that hashtag.
People:A list of top Twitter accounts to follow related to the hashtag.
Photos:A collage of photos included in tweets that use the hashtag. When you hover your mouse over a photo, you can reply, retweet, or Like the tweet with just one click. You can open the tweet by clicking on the photo.
Videos:A stream of tweets using the hashtag that have videos in them.
More:A dropdown menu that has a few great options to pick from, including "From people you follow" and "Near you." You can also save your search here by clicking "Save this search." To access it later, simply click into the search box on the top right of your Twitter home screen and it'll appear as a saved search.
On the left-hand side of the screen on the #MotivationMonday stream, you'll find "Related searches." This is especially useful if you're looking for unofficial hashtags for your own events and campaigns and others'.
How to Use Hashtags on Twitter
Want to get involved in the conversation, or even start your own? Using a hashtag on Twitter is as simple as publishing a tweet from a public account that includes the hashtag, like this:
As long as your account is public, anyone who does a search for that hashtag may find your tweet.
How to Find Hashtags on Twitter
There are a few ways to find hashtags on Twitter. If you already know the hashtag you want to search for, there are four main ways to search for it: a simple search, an advanced search, monitoring using a third-party tool, or typing it directly into the URL.
You can do a simple search using the search box in the top right-hand corner of your screen:
If you're searching for a hashtag but want to include more details in your search, try Twitter'sAdvanced Search. Here, you can search for tweets with specific words and phrases, written in a certain language, from certain accounts, near certain locations, published on certain dates, and even containing smiley :) or frowny :( faces.
For example, if I wanted to search for the sad #MotivationMonday tweets, I might search for the MotivationMonday hashtag with a frowny face, like so:
The results show up in a stream with different toggle options, just like our original hashtag search.
You can also use a third-party monitoring tool likeHubSpot's Social Inboxto monitor certain hashtags. These tools will put certain hashtags in a stream beside any other streams you've set up in the tool already.
Finally, you can search for a hashtag by typing it directly into a URL like so:twitter.com/InsertHashtagHere.So #MotivationMonday can be found attwitter.com/#MotivationMonday.
If you're searching for popular hashtags from scratch, the best place to look isthe trending topics baron the left-hand side of your homescreen. Popular hashtagged words often become trending topics -- which are topics so many people are talking about that they are a "trend." The topics bar will also show you if accounts you follow are tweeting about the trending topics.
By default, Twitter tailors these trending topics to you based on your location and whom you follow. If you want to change the location Twitter uses to tailor your trends, you can do so by clicking "Change" to the right of "Trends." In the window that appears, click "Change" again, and then enter in the location information you'd like Twitter to use instead.
Twitter's native "trending topics" is limited to only a few hashtags, so if you want to find more outside of trending topics and you don't know what to search for, consider using Advanced Search to browse tweets, or a third-party application likeTrendsmap.
Twitter Chat Hashtags
Along with hashtags for events, campaigns, and promotions, there are these unique things on Twitter called Twitter Chats. Twitter Chats are live Q&A sessions organized around a hashtag -- either on the fly, or at a pre-arranged time.
I likehow Buffer explains them: "Imagine a business networking event -- but without a dress code and with a keyboard instead of a bar. The same social customs apply -- courtesy and respect -- and it’s a great way to meet new people with similar interests."
There are Twitter Chats about pretty much everything, from marketing to personal finance to affinities for cats.
If you're looking for Twitter chats to engage in,check out TweetReports' Twitter Chat Schedule, which you can toggle by date, hashtag, and topics like writing, social media, and so on. You can also submit your own Twitter chats to be considered.
2) How Hashtags Work on Facebook
Like on Twitter, a Facebook hashtag ties the conversations of different users into one stream. But unlike Twitter and Instagram, where many people have public accounts and their posts can be seen by anyone, most people's Facebook posts and accounts are private. This means that even if individuals are using hashtags, they aren't searchable. The result? The hashtags you can search for on Facebook tend to be published by influencers, brands, and publishers, rather than by individuals.
Here's what a hashtag stream on Facebook looks like, using#MotivationMondayas an example:
Most of the good stuff takes place in the center of this page. For the hashtag #MotivationMonday, you'll see there are a whole bunch of ways to toggle the hashtag stream -- even more than we have on Twitter: Top (the default), Latest, People, Photos, Videos, Shop, Pages, Places, Groups, Apps, and Events.
Top:A stream of Facebook posts using that hashtag that have seen the most engagement -- which usually means posts from influential people or brands that have a lot of followers -- and your Facebook friends posting using the hashtag.
Latest:A stream of public Facebook posts using the hashtag, usually by influencers, brands, or publishers -- like a fitness guru posting an instructional workout video.
People:People on Facebook with a name officially associated with the hashtag. For a hashtag like #MotivationMonday, there are no results here.
Photos:A stream of public Facebook posts using the hashtag that have photos in them.
Videos:A stream of public Facebook posts using the hashtag that have videos in them.
Shop:Pages can now sell their products directly to Facebook users using this feature. For a hashtag like #MotivationMonday, there are no results here.
Pages:This tab shows Facebook Pages associated with or posting about the hashtag you've searched for.
Places:Places in the world with a name officially associated with the hashtag. For a hashtag like #MotivationMonday, there are no results here.
Groups:Groups with a name officially associated with the hashtag.
Apps:Facebook apps with a name officially associated with the hashtag.
Events:Facebook events with a name officially associated with the hashtag.
How to Use Hashtags on Facebook
To use a hashtag on Facebook, all you have to do is publish a Facebook post to your Page or timeline that includes the hashtag.
Be sure your post is public if you want people other than your Facebook friends to be able to find it. To make a Facebook post public, click on the button to the right of "Post" and choose "Public" from the dropdown menu.
Once you publish the post to your Page or timeline, the hashtag becomes a clickable link, which takes folks to the hashtag page. Here's what a Facebook post with a hashtag looks like:
How to Find Hashtags on Facebook
If you already know the hashtag you want to search for, there are two main ways to search for it: a simple search or by typing it directly into the URL.
You can do a simple search using the search box in the top left-hand corner of your screen:
You can also search for a hashtag by typing it directly into a URL like so:facebook.com/hashtag/InsertHashtagHere.So #MotivationMonday can be found at www.facebook.com/hashtag/MotivationMonday.
If you're searching for popular hashtags from scratch, the best place to look is the trending topics bar on the left-hand side of your homescreen. (Note: This is currently only available in English inselect countries.) The articles and hashtags Facebook shows you are based ona number of different factors, including engagement, timeliness, pages you've Liked, and your location.
While most trending topics on Twitter are mostly hashtags, this is not usually the case on Facebook. You'll see that none of the trending topics below are hashtags:
3) How Hashtags Work on Instagram
An Instagram hashtag ties the conversations of different users into one stream, just like on Twitter and Facebook. If Instagram users who aren't otherwise connected to one another talk about the same topic using a specific hashtag, their posts will appear in the same stream.
Here's what a hashtag stream on Instagram looks like -- again, using#MotivationMondayas an example:
Notice the user interface on Instagram's hashtag stream is much simpler than those on Twitter and Facebook. There are three things you can do from this page: Scroll through related hashtags, look at the Top Posts, and browse Recent Posts.
Related Hashtags:All related hashtags (like #dontquit, #getmotivated, etc. in this case), which users can scroll through sideways.
Top Posts:The nine posts using that hashtag that have seen the most engagement -- which usually means tweets from influential people or brands that have a lot of followers. This is limited to nine posts.
Most Recent:A live stream of Instagram posts from everyone posting that hashtag.
How to Use Hashtags on Instagram
Want to get involved in the conversation, or even start your own? Using a hashtag on Instagram is as simple as publishing an Instagram post from a public account that includes the hashtag, like this:
As long as your account is public, anyone who does a search for that hashtag may find your Instagram post.
When you write a new post and start typing in a hashtag using the # symbol, Instagram will actually suggest hashtags to you based on their popularity. Check out the suggestions I got when I typed in the incomplete hashtag, #Motivation:
How to Find Hashtags on Instagram
If you already know the hashtag you want to search for, the only way to search for a hashtag on Instagram on your mobile device is through a simple search. You can do a simple search by clicking the magnifying glass at the bottom of your screen, which brings you to the "Explore" tab. From there, type the hashtag name into the search box at the top of your screen, and toggle your results by "Tags":
If you're searching for popular hashtags from scratch, the best place to look is in Instagram's "Explore" tab. Here, you'll find popular posts liked by people whose posts you've Liked, or posts that are Liked by a large number of people in the Instagram community.
Go to the "Explore" tab by clicking that magnifying glass at the bottom of your screen. Check out posts there to browse trending hashtags by scrolling down.
What About Using Hashtags "in the Wild"?
Although hashtags were born and work best online, you can point people to them in real life. Try placing hashtags in relevant and well trafficked public locations -- like in pictures or posters, menus, stickers, and so on -- to encourage people to search for that hashtag online.
What other hashtag tips do you have for Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram? Share with us in the comments.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in February 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
How to Use Hashtags on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram
It’s the start of another year, which means you’re probably back in the office after vacation, hard at work on yourNew Year’s resolution. And if you’re a marketer, you may also be fine-tuning your strategic plan for success in 2017.
But before you finalize yoursocial media strategyfor the year, it’s important to look at what’s ahead to ensure that you're allocating your time and efforts appropriately. In this blog post, we’ll dive intowhat happened in 2016, what we think social media managers should expect in 2017, and how to plan for these changes.
While there are a ton of streaming sites and platforms out there, both Periscope and Facebook Live are among the most popular -- and they have the numbers to prove it.
In its 2016 annual recap, Periscope noted that users watched110 yearsof live video every day using the app. And just this New Year’s Eve, live streaming on Facebook reachedrecord-breaking numbersaround the globe:
In addition to Facebook Live and Periscope,InstagramandTwitterlaunched their versions of live video streaming in November and December 2016, respectively.
So where should you be planning to focus your live streaming efforts in 2017?
Good question. First and foremost, you’ll want to consider where your audience already spends time on social media -- and try to connect with them on those networks.
As for what to broadcast, there are a lot of brands out there that are nailing this strategy across several use cases. For example,many brands are using Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to live stream events.This approach aims to keep your followers engaged with your brand by bringing an event they otherwise might not be able to attend directly to their screens.
At INBOUND 2016, HubSpot shared Facebook Live interviews with speakers so our followers who couldn’t join us in Boston still had the opportunity to learn from the experts:
Brands can also use live video for customer service by hosting Q&A sessions and product demonstrations.These videos drive engagement because hosts can ask for comments, questions, and feedback from the audience.
Brands can also stream multiple live videos in a series, providing more opportunities for engagement, which Facebook said happens at a rate10X higherwith live videos. Here’s an example of a weekly series from Allure, where hosts demonstrate and review a new type of lipstick and ask the audience for questions and what they want to see in the next installment:
This year, keep an eye out for new features rolling out to the different live streaming platforms to amp up your video strategy. For example, Facebook Live is launching360-degree capabilities, which would be a neat way to record a crowded event, a beautiful landscape, or a behind-the-scenes tour.
(Read more about successful strategies for Facebook Live inthis blog post.)
2) Brands will lean on messaging apps more than ever.
If you’re only thinking about messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat as alternatives to traditional text messaging, think again -- messaging apps are used by4 billion users worldwide, and there’s tremendous opportunity for brands to leverage this presence.
More specifically, many brands are using messaging apps to communicate one-on-one with customers, which is completely changing the way customer service gets done. These apps provide a faster and easier way for customers to get the assistance they need, rather than being placed on hold or waiting for a returned email. Deploying messaging for customer service is morescalable and cost-effectivefor businesses, and by providing a better experience for the customer, brands can solve their problems quickly and retain them more easily.
For example,Hyatt uses Facebook Messengerfor 24-hour customer service, where guests can make reservations, ask questions, and get recommendations for their trips:
HubSpot Vice President of Marketing,Meghan Keaney Anderson, predicts thatmessaging appswill eventually become a part of every online interaction. “Maybe we shouldn't be thinking about messaging in terms of apps at all,” Anderson notes, “but rather as an evolving infrastructure.”
So far, Anderson’s theory is well-supported by the stats: A quarter of all apps that are downloaded are abandoned after just one use --except for messaging apps. In 2017 and beyond, marketers should anticipate less social networking and more messaging for instant, real-time connection with audiences.
3) Social media ecommerce will become a powerful avenue for sales.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest offer ways for users topurchase productsfrom directly within their apps, andSnapchatstarted testing and rolling out ecommerce features in the spring of 2016. Check it out below on Instagram:
According to asurvey from Aimia, 56% of consumers said they followed brands on social media to browse products for sale, and 31% of online shoppers say they’re using social media specifically to look for new items to purchase.
Brands should leverage these shopping habits when thinking about their social media strategy for 2017. People come to social media to interact with interesting content, so instead of sharing a photo of a product on Instagram with a “Buy Now” call-to-action, share gift ideas and product trends (24% and 16% of survey respondents relied on social media for these,respectively) and encourage online shopping without directly asking for it.
Another idea? Product demonstration videos on social media. According toresearch from Animoto,4X as many customers prefer to watch a video about a new product, so share them on social media to encourage online shoppers. Here’s an unconventional “Will It Blend?” product demonstration from Blendtec to get the wheels turning:
4) Virtual reality will find its way into more and more marketing experiences.
Virtual realityis still new to the marketing scene, and in 2017, we predict the market will get even more popular. What's unique about virtual reality is that it encourages engagement by offering an immersive, memorable experience unlike any other medium -- and brands are quickly recognizing that value.
For example, TOMS uses virtual reality to shed light on the mission and impact customers are having. Its mission, “One for One,” refers to its pledge to match with each pair of shoes purchased a new pair for a child in need around the world. While visiting children who received new shoes during a trip to Peru, TOMS shot the following 360-degree virtual reality video to create a firsthand account of the impact this initiative is making:
What’s so great about this video is how transportative it is. Most customers might not be planning a trip to Peru, but all of them can see the direct impact of their purchase. The experience is improved when they use a VR headset or viewer, but the video is still viewable on mobile or desktop devices, so the brand can effectively share its story.
This year, video streaming will represent almost75% of all internet traffic, and since audiences wantmore video content, brands should continue experimenting with different formats -- including virtual reality -- to see which audiences respond best to.
5) Ephemeral content will continue to find its place and purpose.
HubSpot Social Media Marketing ManagerMarissa Emanueleartfully coined the term “Frankenfeatures,” which are born when a social media platform launches its own version of another platform’s successful feature.
One example? Snapchat started theephemeral, or disappearing, visual content sharing trend, andInstagramrecently launched a similar disappearing video feature -- but with the ability to share live ephemeral video, too.
We’re not suggesting that you abandon professional photography and marketing video production, but ephemeral content on Snapchat and Instagram is a great way to showcase the “other side” of your brand’s personality with authentic, unscripted, unpolished content. Content ideas forephemeral storiesinclude:
Contests and giveaways
“Takeovers,” or when a different user chooses what content to share
Daily or weekly video series
Announcements or product reveals
“The most important part of ephemeral content is to be human. This is a unique opportunity to show an unpolished, lighthearted side to your brand, so don’t be afraid to share content that’s humorous or otherwise 'flawed' in some way," urges Emanuele.
(For more ideas on how to brainstorm ephemeral content ideas for Snapchat or Instagram, here’s a roundup of some of thebest brands on Snapchatright now.)
6) Many brands will make the shift from Snapchat to Instagram for Stories.
Instagram introduced itsStoriesfeature in August 2016. After just two months,BuzzFeed Newsreported that Instagram Stories were experiencing 100 million daily active viewers -- this represents two thirds of Snapchat’s total user base, period. For this and other reasons, Emanuele predicts that brands will start transitioning fromSnapchattoInstagramfor sharing Stories (photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours).
At600 millionusers, Instagram offers a vastly bigger audience thanSnapchatat 150 million users. And because Facebook owns Instagram, Instagram advertisers can target based on Facebook and Instagram insights, which means there is a bigger target audience on Instagram than Twitter.
Not to mention, Instagram lets users publish photos and videos in a permanent portfolio in addition to ephemeral Stories, so users can more easily share content with their friends.
BrandFire CEOAdam Padilla agreeswith Emanuele's prediction, also noting the adoption of Instagram by a larger number of celebrities and public figures, and a slicker Instagram interface.
Despite its rapid growth andsheer volumeof content being shared, Snapchat offersfewer means of measurementand analysis for social media marketers, so Instagram may offer greater ROI in 2017.
7) Mobile advertising will grow more competitive.
In 2017, marketers should expect greater investment in mobile advertising. Here’s a rundown of what that will look like on some of the largest social networks:
Facebookis the behemoth when it comes to social media ad revenues, bringing in more than$7 billionlast year -- 80% of which came frommobile ads. Facebook’s News Feed algorithmic changes now prioritize content from friends and family first, so the75% of brandson Facebook that pay to promote ads will have to get creative and designvisual, engaging adsto get noticed first.
Twitter’sad revenue isincreasing, especially in the mobile format, and in 2017, they’ll likely continue experimenting with visual content, such as sponsored hashtag icons andstickers, to provide a variety of ad options to users.
As we’ve discussed previously in this article,Snapchat and Instagramwill be competing for a lot of attention this year, and advertising revenue will be no exception. Where do they stand in terms of developments? Well, Snapchat recently launched a new advertising API that makes it easier to buy ad space, in addition to a greater variety ofvideo ads and sponsored filters. Instagram, on the other hand, is doubling down on ecommerce with the introduction ofShoppable Instagram, a feature that lets users buy products directly by clicking on a CTA in the app.
According to anAdweeksurvey among millennial Snapchat and Instagram users about their experiences with ads, the results are roughly split -- with a few noteworthy distinctions. While a greater percentage thought Instagram ads were more memorable than those on Snapchat, more millennials loved Snapchat ads than Instagram ads:
In short: Marketers should experiment with ads on different platforms to see which perform better among their audience and take advantage of the cool new features each rolls out.
What’s Next for Social Media Managers?
Social media is constantly changing, and one prediction we didn’t include above is to prepare for anything. And if you’re not sure where to get started with your social media plan, don’t worry --we’ve got you covered.