Hashtags have become an integral part of social media. They’re used on every major social media site except LinkedIn, and they’re also used on many smaller social sites, like Vine. If you’ve been limiting your hashtag use to Twitter, it’s definitely time to step out. There are nine other networks that let you search and sort information by hashtags.
|Network||Search by hashtag?||Click on hashtags?||Number of hashtags to use per update|
|Yes||Yes||Up to 9|
|Flickr||Yes||Yes||Up to 7|
Let’s take a look at each of these sites, and discover some best practices for using hashtags on social media.
No Hashtags for LinkedIn
LinkedIn tested hashtags for a bit, but abandoned them in 2013. However, if you search for a hashtag on LinkedIn, you will get back results, just like if you had used the keyword in your hashtag.
Word to the wise: If you’ve been posting the same social media update to Twitter, Google+, Facebook and LinkedIn, it might be time to stop. Posting updates with hashtags on LinkedIn may make you look bad.
Hashtags on Twitter
Twitter is hashtag central. Sure, hashtags work on many platforms, and they are definitely worth using on all those platforms. But hashtags are a part of Twitter’s DNA, though they were not actually born there. The hashtag’s first use was on the Internet Relay Chat (IRC), way back in 2000. Hashtag use on Twitter didn’t really take hold until into 2007.
Hashtags look like this on Twitter, as I’m sure you already know:
Hashtags are clickable on Twitter, which means if you click one you’ll get a listing of tweets with that hashtag. Just don’t use too many hashtags in a single tweet. Twitter best practices recommend no more than two hashtags in a single tweet. If you want to improve readability, you might also want to use CamelCase – notice that the #ContentMarketing hashtags are slightly easier to read than #contentmarketing. Hashtags are not case-sensitive, so using caps to clarify your meaning isn’t risky.
If you want to track and analyze Twitter hashtags, you’ll never run out of options. There are dozens of tools that let you leverage Twitter hashtags to your advantage. (See this blog post for suggestions.)
Hashtags on Facebook
Hashtags on Facebook didn’t happen until 2013. Even now, hashtags are more likely to be used by brands than people. And while hashtags do help with engagement on Facebook, they’re not used anywhere near as often as they are on Twitter. Facebook experts generally admit hashtags aren’t used as widely on Facebook as they are on other platforms, but most experts still recommend using them. Just use them judiciously.
But other experts say hashtags aren’t worth the trouble on Facebook. They point out that hashtags could even hurt you, and there’s data to back this up. A research report by Edgerank Checker published in 2013 showed hashtags actually suppressed reach and engagement on Facebook. Facebook has changed a lot since then, and I’m still seeing heavy hashtag use on Facebook. So maybe some marketers have found hashtags aren’t so bad.
Facebook gurus do agree on this: Don’t use more than one or two hashtags per update. Any more than two has been shown to reduce engagement, and that’s according to more than one report. Social Bakers did a study in just the last few months that found hashtag abuse can cripple a post’s interactions.
Hashtags on Instagram
Want to know why some marketers use hashtags on Facebook? It’s to integrate with Instagram.
Instagram is extremely hashtag friendly. People add hashtags to the caption of their images or videos, and they use them freely – it’s not uncommon to see ten or more hashtags attached to an image.
And the reason marketers are using hashtags on Facebook for Instagram reach? Simple: if an image gets shared from either network, the other network will pick up those hashtags. That means you’re basically doubling your hashtag reach. So if you want a bit more exposure and cross-pollination between the two platforms, definitely start experimenting with hashtags on Instagram and Facebook.
You can, of course, search by hashtag on Instagram. And you can click on any hashtag to see similar photos. Hashtags are really the best way to group images on Instagram, so that’s why the hashtags fly so freely. Just make sure they don’t fly too freely. Here are two reports on hashtag use on Instagram. Both show that much more than 7-9 hashtags starts to suppress engagement. Here’s a graph showing Piqora’s research:
And here’s a quote from Social Bakers’ 2014 Instagram study:
Posts that used hashtags had an average engagement rate of 5.31%, while posts that did not averaged an engagement rate of only 2.95%. While all the best campaigns made use of hashtags, engagement rates dropped by more than 50% if there were more than 10 hashtags per post.
Hashtags on Google
Google+ beats Facebook in terms of hashtag functionality. Click on any hashtag on the Big G’s social network and you’ll see a box in the upper left corner of the page listing similar hashtags (like the box with the blue banner below). The rest of the page will show posts with the same hashtag you clicked.
Google+ also offers autofill for hashtags, which is a nice way to find relevant hashtags as you type. Google+ is so into hashtags, in fact, that it will automatically add one to your posts.
There is an additional benefit to using hashtags on your Google+ posts: Sometimes they come up when someone searches on Google.com.
Hashtags on Pinterest
You can use hashtags on board descriptions, but most sources say it doesn’t help rankings much. Hashtags work best in Pinterest descriptions. They are clickable, so once you click a hashtag in a pin like this:
You’ll see a page like this:
And yes – you can follow that topic on Pinterest. Note that there are 2,000 people following this hashtag topic on Pinterest right now. However, most of the pins under this topic don’t actually have #WordPress hashtags. They include the word “WordPress” in their titles or descriptions, though.
The biggest thing to remember here is that Pinterest is evolving, and evolving fast. Should you include hashtags in your pins? Definitely – but just one or two. And be ready for their functionality to change. In fact, expect it.
One great way to use hashtags on Pinterest is if you’ve got a series of pins and want to tie them all together. This is especially effective if they don’t all work on one board. A hashtag is a way to basically create a content campaign. This is something you could also do across other social media platforms.
Hashtags on Tumblr
Tumblr’s hashtags can have a space between words. So a hashtag like “#internet marketing” will work on Tumblr. Any other site would see that hashtag only as “#internet”.
Tumblr is also a little different because it calls hashtags “tags.” You can add tags to your Tumblr post by just entering keywords into the “tags” area near the bottom of the post creation screen. Tumblr will convert them into hashtags, and add the hashtag symbol for you.
Like most of the other networks, Tumblr’s hashtags are clickable. Click one and you’ll be brought to a page of posts with that hashtag. You can also search by hashtag.
Hashtags on YouTube
Most hashtags on YouTube are found in the comments. According to a few older resources, hashtags used to be clickable, but my tests while writing this article found no clickable hashtags on YouTube.
You can search by hashtag on YouTube and it will give you different results than if you searched with just the same keyword (so “#EmailMarketing” is different than “email marketing”). When I was running different tests for search results with and without hashtags, the results for # searches always showed videos with smaller view counts. So hashtags do appear to be influencing the search results. Another interesting result? Hashtag searches were more likely to bring up videos from other countries and in other languages.
One place hashtags seemed to have the most power in search on YouTube is in the video titles. Here’s what I got back for a search of “#DigitalMarketing”:
For the time being, I can see adding two or three hashtags to each video in the comments section, but I’m not entirely sure I’d go so far as putting them in the title of a video. Yes, hashtags in titles do appear to show more often if you’re using a hashtag to search … but how many people are searching with a hashtag on YouTube?
Hashtags on Vine
If you add a hashtag to a Vine, it will show up when someone searches for that hashtag. But it’s also true that if you search for the word without the hashtag, Vine will suggest tags for you. For example, when you type in “marketing” you get suggested tags.
Hashtags on Flickr
Flickr lets you search by hashtag, and it will give you different results than if you search by keyword. For example, when I searched by “cute puppies” I got this:
When I search by “#CutePuppies” I got this:
Almost every image on Flickr uses hashtags. They’re just called tags. You can see the tags for each image in the description area:
If you click one of those puppy tags, you’ll get an even different selection of cute puppies:
Confusing? Maybe. (But still cute.) You can also add a username to Flickr descriptions, just like you were on Twitter: @cutepuppies. Just in case you want to message the person lucky enough to have that account.
Now that we’ve run through the ten platforms that use hashtags (for now), how about a tool to tie them all together? If you want to see hashtag performance across a number of platforms all at once, Tagboard is definitely the tool for the job. It’s also very pretty with its Pinterest-like design. And it’s free.
So that’s the run-down on hashtags across the web. Use them at will, but always in context, and not to much.
If you want more help achieving your social media marketing goals, the resources in this toolkit will give you a clear methodology for building a social marketing program, distributing social content, and generating social media leads.