How to use hashtags on social media to maximum effect

How to use hashtags on social media to maximum effect
19th September 2019
written by James Purves

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Are you looking to get noticed and up your social media game?

The origin of the hashtag symbol is said to date back to Roman times and the abbreviation of the Latin term ‘Libra pondo’ (Pound weight) more commonly known as lb. But in recent history it has taken on a very important role as a literal ‘tag’ and method of categorising/organising open- source ‘public’ content created and consumed on social media networks.

They are now an integral aspect of promoting posts and content shared online and their usage appears to be more important than ever especially if you want to increase reach and engagement.

Instagram use hashtags as a means for users to describe the content they upload/post so that content can be found, followed and so that it will appear in the ‘Explore’ feature (This is the little magnifying glass icon) which shows a tailor-made feed populated with content based on trending posts and the things it knows you will like. Like other social media networks who use tags to get the right content in front of the right faces, it requires the content to be tagged correctly in the first place. It would be like trying to do a dot-to-dot without the numbers – content dotted all over the place and difficulty to see the bigger picture. Hashtagging your content means you can join the dots.

So if you’re new to using hashtags or want to use them more effectively, here’s some tips and hints to think about to how to maximize their effect.

For the purposes of this article we’re talking about Instagram.


Using popular hashtags is a good way to put yourself in the mix with current trending content so keep up-to-date with what these are and how they change throughout the year. Do your research and use online resources which document the most popular hastags like


Search the hashtag before using it to make sure it is relevant and appropriate. Also it’s worth checking grammar usage and to make sure predictive text hasn’t altered your words or added any spaces. You can also use emojis in hashtags too!


Whilst using popular hashtags is useful, there’s a whole world of possibilities out there to dive into. Why not think of some quirky/ unique hashtags to start new trends, promote a campaign you are running and/or engage new followers e.g. #2minutebeachclean a beach clean initiative who’s popularity has grown and spread thanks to the circulation of the hashtag.


They are likely to achieve some initial ‘likes’ but less likely to gain followers or genuine engagement in the long-term.


Users can ‘Follow’ hashtags so that they see more of this content so it’s worth choosing ones which describe your account, business and audience. Take a look at industry leaders, influencers and brands in your niche for inspiration on hashtags for your community. Try to be specific, not too wishy washy and always relate to the message/image you are posting.


Targeting everyone won’t work, think about hashtags which speak to and describe your target audience – think about who they are and what they want to hear/ see. E.g. if your focus is on exercise make sure you use positive tags like #motivation #fitnessmotivation #fitnessjourney #letsdothis.


User-generated content campaigns can be a great way to drive participation and gain followers. So why not run an image share campaign or competition which encourages users to embrace the hashtag and share their own photos using it. Using the hashtag to collect entries is a helpful and free way to run an online competition whilst generating followers, expanding your brand’s reach and gaining future marketing material (images) which you can share and repost.


Instagram will allow you a maximum of 30 hashtags per post. Other social media networks benefit from less hashtags like Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and Twitter who suggest 1-3 hashtags per post. Avoid repeating the same hashtags all the time as it can be seen to look ‘spammy’.


On instagram you’re trying to tap into a passionate, like minded community of followers so think about your target audience, what they like and what language they use, whilst also staying true to your brand.


Join over 25 million other businesses and sign up to Instagram business. This will gain you the ability to check on your account’s growth and analyse how posts are performing. This can help you optimize your hashtag strategy and narrow down what works for you and your business.


Tag your stories and they’ll appear in the ‘Explore’ feed and therefore be discoverable to the whole world of Instagram users. The story feature is rapidly increasing in popularity as users become more used to how it works and more confident uploading content.


Instagram have launched IGTV in a bid to rival Youtube. Users are able to upload videos of up to 1 hour rather than 60 seconds and hashtags feature strongly as a means of discovering and following this video content. Have a think about how your business could use this service and consider some quirky ideas for video content relevant for your business and target audience.


Next steps…

Try it out! Enter into this new hashtag universe and make sure you’re sharing the best content to make the right impression.

Hashtags, when used correctly, are a good way to build your brand pressence online. If you can start a hashtag that is unique to you and encourage users to jump on the trend and use it as part of their posts you can really boost the reach of your brand. Running competitions and promotions through these targeted hashtags can be a fun way to get audiences involved.

They are not only great for building your brand and increasing engagement though. Hashtags are a great tool for not only finding all the posts around a certain event, theme, mood but are unrivalled in being able to be found for all of these important topics too. If you want to be part of the conversation and join in with useful, engaging content then you need to make sure that your posts can be found using relevant hashtags.

Finding the popular hashtags that mean something for your topic or business is a great way to reach those beyond just your loyal following. By using the hashtags that your target audience use and may follow through Instagram, you can give your posts the best chance of making it in front of the audience you want to tap into. 


Watch this space… next time we’ll be looking at how to take this further and increase your Instagram following on top of this new engagement.