To hashtag or not to hashtag? That’s the question frustrating social media marketers today.

The short answer: Yes, definitely use hashtags. Hashtags are an essential asset in your digital marketing toolbox.

Hashtags impact the overall performance of social media content. Forward-thinking brands use them with specific goals and intentional strategies in mind—whether they’re making their product go viral or leveraging hashtag analytics.

Unfortunately, the confusion surrounding hashtags prevents some marketers from using them to their full potential. This is further complicated by experts who negate the benefits of hashtags or dismiss them as irrelevant.

A screenshot of a Sprout Social LinkedIn poll. The poll reads, "In your opinion, do #hashtags make an impact on content reach? Why/Why not?" The possible answers are Yes and No. 1,277 votes were cast.

In this article, we break down everything you need to know to hashtag with confidence. We explore what hashtags are, how to use them and examples of ways brands are successfully ushering in the new era of hashtags.

What is a hashtag?

Hashtags are words and numbers following the # symbol that categorize and track content on social media. You can add hashtags to social posts, bios and comments on most major platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Pinterest.

Sprout Social Twitter Hashtag

What is the history of the hashtag?

So, where did the hashtag come from? The first hashtag debuted on Twitter in 2007 from a product designer named Chris Messina.

“I designed the hashtag to thwart any one social network from becoming the dominant gatekeeper. Think about it: The hashtag is one of the few superstructures that spans across all social media platforms.

Only hashtags allow similarly-interested folks to find each other—whether they’re on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, Reddit or elsewhere. It provides a glimpse into what an interoperable, decentralized social web could be like.” — Chris Messina, Inventor of the hashtag

It's likely Chris didn't realize how ubiquitous hashtags would become. We've written more about each network at these posts: Facebook hashtags, Instagram hashtags, TikTok hashtags, YouTube hashtags and Twitter hashtags.

What is the hashtag symbol?

Many social media users and marketers immediately recognize the # symbol as a hashtag, but its official name is an octothorpe. The term was first used in 1971 when telecommunications companies introduced the # symbol to the touch-tone dialing keypad.

However, depending on how you use it, the symbol is called many different names. Before its use on social media, it was most widely known as a pound or number sign (example: #2 pencil). Musicians also use the symbol to distinguish a sharp note (example: F#), while copy editors use it to denote adding a space.

In the early days of the internet, chatroom users referred to the symbol as a “hash,” a word borrowed from programmer culture. That’s where Messina was inspired to repurpose it on Twitter. Since then, the term hashtag has dominated modern popular lexicon.

What is the purpose of a hashtag?

Given the sophistication of today’s social media algorithms, it might be difficult to remember the chaotic social feeds of the early 2000s. Users had limited control over what content they saw and were frustrated by too many uninteresting or irrelevant posts.

Hashtags were invented to help bring order to the social media user experience. Hashtags group together similar conversations to help people find content that matters to them. Once a hashtag is published, it becomes a clickable, searchable link.

A screenshot of the Tiktok page highlighting videos with the hashtag #summervibes. 5 video thumbnails are shown with images ranging from watermelon to pool parties to mountains. The hashtag has 13.4 billion views.

For example, when you click on #SummerVibes on TikTok, you can see all videos published on the platform using that hashtag. You can also see the top videos and overall popularity of the hashtag.

What is a hashtag used for?

While organizing feeds was the original purpose of hashtags, their use case has evolved. Now, they empower users to amplify their message. Hashtags have become so powerful they can fuel entire hashtag campaigns and be the spark that ignites social movements (example: #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter).

Hashtags aren’t always a force of social change—some viral hashtags are just plain fun. Like #Gentleminions, a TikTok challenge turned cultural phenomenon that led to record-breaking box office numbers for the Minions franchise.

For brands, hashtags can help social marketers reach niche audiences and build community. We discuss that more in a post about creating your own hashtag.

According to Messina, “Many more people are interested in finding their community—or growing the one they already run. Hashtags provide a tried and true method across nearly every social media platform.”

Hashtags also help social marketers create viral campaigns, increase brand awareness and reach their business goals.

Why should you use hashtags?

Hashtags are powerful tools for growing your online presence. Regardless of which social platform you use them on, here are three ways hashtags can benefit your business:

Increases engagement

You can use hashtags to participate in larger conversations or trending topics, which can increase the reach of your posts, spark conversations and attract even more attention.

For instance, let's say you’re a sports brand that wants to join in on the conversation around the FIFA World Cup. You can use relevant hashtags such as #WorldCup and #FIFAWorldCup to participate in the larger conversation around the event.

This will help your posts appear in searches and feeds related to the World Cup, increasing your visibility and potential for engagement.

You can also monitor these hashtags and engage with users who are using them. Like and comment on relevant posts, share user-generated content or even run a contest or giveaway using the hashtags to encourage engagement.

But be careful — including spammy, irrelevant, generic and too many hashtags can do more harm than good. Choose your hashtags wisely to reach like-minded audiences, and make sure your content is worth engaging with.

Do you need proof that your hashtag strategy works? There are hashtag tracking tools and hashtag analytics tools that help showcase the ROI of your hashtag use.

Makes your brand easier to find

Hashtags are a great way to increase brand awareness. They let you categorize your content so anyone interested in that particular topic can easily find it.

For example, let's say you run a skincare brand and you create a post about your new moisturizer product. By including relevant hashtags such as #skincare, #beauty and #moisturizer in your post, you're essentially tagging your content with those keywords.

Users who are interested in skincare products or searching for those keywords can find your post (and brand) by searching for those hashtags.

You can also include branded hashtags to help people who are already aware of your brand to easily find specific posts and pages.

Adds additional context to your posts

Hashtags connect your posts to specific topics or themes, making it easier for your audience to find, understand, relate to and engage with your content.

For example, if you're sharing a new recipe you've tried, including hashtags like #recipe can help make your post searchable and differentiate it from other non-recipe food posts.

Similarly, if you're attending a conference or event, using the event's official hashtag can help your post get seen by other attendees and people following the event online.

Hashtags are also useful if you’re sharing creative visual content, and want to add the right context without writing long paragraphs of text.

How to find which hashtags to use

Just because a hashtag is popular doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for your brand. For example, there are hashtag holidays almost every day (days like #NationalHotdogDay or #SiblingsDay).

Before using a new hashtag, determine your goal (example: increased engagement).

After you have an endgame in mind, start digging into hashtag research. Here are a few ways to find the right hashtags for your brand.

Use a social media listening tool

Tools like RiteTag and Sprout Social’s Listening can help you identify relevant conversations by tracking keywords associated with your brand.

A screenshot of Sprout Social's Listening tool. In the screenshot, there are words in a word cloud like #coffee, morning and drinking. At the bottom of the page, related keywords and hashtags are listed and analyzed.

By monitoring these conversations, you can find out what hashtags are being used by your target audience and what topics they’re interested in.

Sprout also lets you track the performance of the hashtags you’re already using by analyzing the number of mentions, engagement and audience sentiment. This is helpful for knowing whether you’re using the right hashtags or need a change of strategy.

Research trending hashtags

Take advantage of trending hashtags to attract more attention to your posts.

Using popular hashtags is also a great way to come up with creative ideas for new content. Plus, it helps your brand become part of a larger community and join the conversation.

So, how do you find trending hashtags in your niche? You could start with a hashtag tracking tool or by natively researching existing popular and relevant hashtags across apps. Use these hashtag types for inspiration:

  • Product or service (example: #Pretzels)
  • Industry or community-specific (example: #BookTok)
  • Timely or seasonal (example: #NYE)
  • Location (example: #Dublin)
  • Acronyms (example: #SMMs)

Turn to your social media platform’s trend-specific page to find these.

On Instagram, for example, you can browse the Explore page to see which posts are rising in popularity. Take note of the hashtags they’re using and consider hopping on the bandwagon if they align with your brand.

Other ways to find trending hashtags include using hashtag research tools and keeping track of events, holidays and special occasions.

Review your competition

Studying your competitors’ online strategy is a clever way to find relevant and effective hashtags for your brand.

Start by identifying brands that are similar to yours in terms of offerings, target audience and overall brand image. Then, analyze the hashtags they’re using in their posts, as well as the ones in their bio or profile description.

Look for common themes or topics that are relevant to your brand. Evaluate the engagement level on their posts and shortlist hashtags you might want to “share the space” with.

Don’t forget to track the performance of any competitor hashtags you use in your own posts. Hashtags working for your competition may not work for your brand.

In that case, it’s best to understand your own brand voice, audience and niche, and use more targeted hashtags that resonate with your customers.

Tips for using hashtags

Despite the benefits of hashtags, some marketers are unsure how to use them strategically.

For example, if your goal is to reach a specific audience, adding popular hashtags (example: #ForYouPage) to your posts might cast too wide of a net and fail to connect you with the right people.

To perfect the art of hashtagging, you should conduct research, use hashtags thoughtfully and analyze your results.

Here are some tips for using hashtags to their max potential.

1. Create branded hashtags

You might find creating your own branded hashtag is the best way to reach your goals. Branded hashtags increase visibility, clicks, mentions and overall reach.

Make sure to use your branded hashtag consistently across all of your social media channels. And encourage your followers to use it when they share content related to your brand.

For example, Rare Beauty — Selena Gomez’s makeup brand — started the hashtag #rareroutine to encourage customers to share their beauty routines using Rare Beauty products.

Instagram posts using the hashtag rareroutine

You can also consider running a social media campaign or contest using the hashtag to further promote your brand.

For most brands, using the right mix of popular, niche and brand-specific hashtags is the sweet spot for exposure and engagement.

Above all, it’s most important to identify hashtags that will help your brand stand out from your competitors and contribute toward your unique goals.

2. Use relevant hashtags in your social content

Once you identify which hashtags you’re going to use, it’s time to start adding them to your content. With hashtags, the general rule of thumb is less is more. Avoid stuffing your posts full of hashtags. Not only could this deter people from reading your message, it could also lead the social platform to categorize your posts as spam.

In general, stick to a few hashtags that are relevant to or describe your post. To determine exactly how many hashtags you should use, follow the best practices of each social platform. Keep reading to learn more about platform-specific best practices in the next section of this article.

When you write your copy, customize your hashtag placement according to each platform’s guidelines. Keep in mind that hashtags are hyperlinks. Adding them to the bottom of your captions, descriptions or posts works best to prevent people from clicking away.

3. Analyze and report on your hashtags’ progress

Tracking your hashtags is the most critical thing you can do to make sure they’re impacting your social performance. Monitor key metrics on a regular basis, including:

  • Popularity: How many people are using the hashtag?
  • Reach: How many people see the hashtag you’re using?
  • Interactions: How many people engage (like, share or comment) with posts that include the hashtag?
  • Users: Who is seeing the hashtag?

You can find some of this data in the native apps. If you want to automatically generate and visualize it in one place, use a tool like Sprout Social.

In Sprout, there are multiple ways to track the performance of your hashtags. For example, you can use social listening to find out how frequently people are talking about your topic, what related terms they’re using and the sentiment around the topic.

A screenshot of Sprout's Listening feature. In the image, related hashtags and keywords are analyzed for volume and sentiment.

Use data to determine which hashtags work well and which ones don’t. Continue to experiment and test new tags to avoid using the same hashtags on every post—this could register as spam. Instead, keep your best performing hashtags on rotation and try out new ones often.

Using hashtags on different social networks

When using hashtags across your social presence, don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. Tailor hashtags to suit each platform. Here are up-to-date hashtag best practices you can follow to supercharge your content and grow your reach.

How to use hashtags on Instagram

There are a number of benefits to using hashtags on Instagram. According to Instagram’s Creator Community, IG users should “think of hashtags as a tool that provides context about your post and supports delivering content to people who are interested in a particular topic.”

The Creator Community also lays out these guidelines:

  • Only use 3-5 hashtags at a time
  • Use hashtags in your posts, comments and Stories
  • Only use hashtags relevant to your community and brand


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How to use hashtags on Facebook

Facebook has steered away from giving explicit best practice advice since introducing hashtags in 2016. This has led some brands to shy away from using them, while others include them in every post.

Based on our research, follow these steps to make hashtags on Facebook work for your brand:

  • Only use 1-2 hashtags
  • Use hashtags in your posts, comments and Stories
  • Use timely hashtags since many users turn to Facebook for news and events

A screenshot of Black Wolf Nation's Facebook post for 4th of July. The image shows a Black Wolf Nation shampoo bottle photoshopped into an artistic depiction of the American Revolution.

How to use hashtags on TikTok

Some cite TikTok as the ultimate hashtag success story. And there’s no denying the impact hashtags have on growing your reach in the app.

To help your TikTok grow to its fullest potential, use these hashtag best practices:

  • Only use 3-5 hashtags
  • Use hashtags in your videos and Stories
  • Stay on top of emerging, trending hashtags and use them thoughtfully
  • Avoid using #ForYou, #FYP and #ForYouPage. If you do use them, proceed with caution.

How to use hashtags on Twitter

Hashtags are baked into Twitter’s DNA. Twitter users turn to the platform to catch up on what’s happening and hashtags make finding the latest content easy. Twitter makes it even easier by displaying trending hashtags and keywords on the homepage.

A screenshot of a portion of Twitter's homepage. The header reads "What's happening" with the days top trending stories listed underneath.

Use these hashtags tips to help your content perform well on Twitter:

  • Only use 1-2 hashtags
  • Use hashtags in your Tweets, Retweets and Replies
  • Use community-focused hashtags (example: events, conferences, holidays)
  • Join current conversations by using popular hashtags and jumping on trends (if it’s a good fit for your brand)

How to use hashtags on LinkedIn

LinkedIn users follow and interact with hashtags that are relevant to their job or industry. Tap into your audience’s go-to hashtags when creating your social content.

A screenshot of the #workingparents hashtags on LinkedIn. The hashtag has 1,196 followers.

LinkedIn is also a great place to roll out your branded hashtags, and encourage your team members to use them too.

When using hashtags on LinkedIn, consider these best practices:

  • Only use 2-3 hashtags
  • Use hashtags in your posts and on your company page. Note: Hashtags in comments or articles don’t show up in people’s feed.
  • Mix well-known and niche, branded hashtags

How to use hashtags on YouTube

Use hashtags on YouTube to help people find your videos. Hashtags boost your searchability and organize your channel, which encourages viewers to stick around.

To encourage more video views, optimize your hashtag usage with these guidelines:

  • Only use 3-5 hashtags per video
  • Use 1-2 hashtags in your title and the rest in your description

How to use hashtags on Pinterest

Pinterest helps create a personalized experience by sorting all Pins into categories. People look for “pin-spiration” for everything from holiday decor to muscle cars, so adding niche hashtags to your posts make it easier to reach the right audience.

A screenshot of "Today's Inspiration" on Pinterest. The page includes six images with text overlayed. "Get a taste of these clever wraps" over an image of a veggie wrap, "Astrology nails for every zodiac" over an image of color nail art designs inspired by astrology, "Your phone's full screen potential is here" over an image of lock-screen options, "Celebrating Bastille Day" over an image of people eating a charcuterie board with a lot of french bread, "These luxe pet styles have purr-sonality" over whimsical images of cats and dogs dressed in human outfits and "Queue up your summer playlist" over an image of a person tuning an old-fashioned radio.

Use these hashtag tips to help your Pins be seen by your intended audience:

  • There isn’t official Pinterest data to support the number of hashtags you should use. Use your own discretion and, remember, less is more.
  • Use timely hashtags since users are often on Pinterest to gain seasonal ideas
  • Make sure your hashtags are relevant to your Pin

Hashtag examples to spark your next big idea

Now that you know how to use hashtags across platforms, here’s our round up of the best ways brands and creators use them.

1. Reference an internet trend

When Casper heard about #GoblinMode—the latest internet trend that celebrates lazing around—they quickly got in on the fun. As a brand known for selling state of the art mattresses, rest and relaxation is part of their ethos.

Casper Twitter Example

If you see a new trend that aligns with your brand, use it to inspire your next Tweet. Don’t forget to use the trending hashtag.

2. Use a hashtag for your Q&A

Orgain hosted a live Q&A event and posted their responses to Twitter using #OrganicSummer. The hashtag made it easier for their audience to follow along and engage with their content. It was general enough that it reached a lot of people, but specific enough to attract the right audience.

A screenshot of multiple tweets by Orgain. The tweets contain tricks for healthy eating. The attached images are bright and colorful images of Orgain products.

Are you hosting or participating in an event soon? Be sure to use that event’s hashtag in your promotional content. If there isn’t a hashtag yet, create one.

3. Combine branded and general hashtags

Jenna Kutcher, host of the Goal Digger podcast, is known for her online marketing savvy. In her LinkedIn posts, she uses hashtags that are specific to her brand (example: #GoalDiggerPodcast) and general hashtags her audience might use (example: #Entrepreneurship).

A screenshot of Jenna Kutcher's LinkedIn post. In the post, she shares information about the latest episode of the Goal Digger podcast.

If you’re looking for inspiration for your branded hashtag, consider using the name of an existing campaign, tagline or content series your brand currently uses. The keywords are already associated with your brand, so they’ll be a natural fit.

4. Tag your location

Myles Apparel knows their customers are just as nature-obsessed as they are. Which is why tagging their Instagram images with #Donner makes sense. Donner Summit, California, is a highly-Instagrammable location made for outdoor enthusiasts.

A screenshot of an Instagram caption by Myles Apparel. The image uses the hashtag #donner.

If you’re at a location that’s significant to your audience, add it to your post or Story as a hashtag.

Start using hashtags in your content strategy

The hashtag isn’t dead. In fact, it’s more vital to the success of your content’s performance than ever. By delivering content with the right hashtags, you can forge relationships with your community, build brand awareness and reach your goals on social—and beyond.

Need help determining which hashtags are right for your brand? Use our worksheet to uncover the hashtags that have the greatest impact on your content.

Frequently asked questions about hashtags

Are hashtags worth using?

Hashtags are still relevant and absolutely worth using. If you want quantifiable proof that hashtags have an impact on your social posting strategy, learn more about how to use hashtag analytics.

How can I use hashtags on Instagram?

The easy answer is to include them in your posts and comments, buf if you’re looking for more information we suggest you check out our entire article on Instagram hashtags for brands.

How can I use hashtags on Facebook?

While we briefly covered how to use hashtags on Facebook in this article, if you’re looking for more information we suggest you check out our entire article on Facebook hashtags for brands.

How can I use hashtags on TikTok?

Hashtags are critical for TikTok. So much so that we wrote a separate article on how to use hashtags on TikTok.

How to find trending hashtags?

The two main ways to find trending hashtags are to go to each social network’s unique ‘explore page’, or to use a hashtag tracking tool.

Each has its own benefits and shortcomings. While visiting each social network to find hashtags is free, it’s time-consuming and you won’t necessarily see the hashtags most relevant to your brand.

Hashtag tracking tools can aggregate the most popular hashtags across all networks. You can also pair hashtag tracking with hashtag analytics tools to find the most relevant hashtags for your particular company.