Brand awareness and loyalty

How to Use the Right Hashtags for Your Business (AKA Hashtag Marketing)

  • 14 Minutes
Hashtags are an easy, free, and quick way for your business to get found on Instagram. Here's how to use them in your future posts.

How to Use the Right Hashtags for Your Business (AKA Hashtag Marketing)

If you’re putting a ton of effort into your social media marketing, you want to make sure that effort doesn’t go to waste and that potential customers can find you on whichever platform you’re using.

That’s where hashtags come in. An effective hashtag strategy is an important piece of your overall social media strategy. A hashtag strategy involves more than posting up a weekly #throwbackthursday post. It’s the key to making your brand discoverable, as well as generating meaningful connections with your audience.

In this guide, we unpack:

What is a hashtag?

Thought a hashtag was just a fancy number sign? Think again! Hashtags are essentially keywords that are used to organize digital content on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. They typically involve a combination of letters, words, numbers or emojis preceded by the “#” symbol Depending on the platform, you might see people utilize one or two hashtags in their content up to 30 at a time.

How hashtags are used for business

Organize content

One of the most common uses for hashtags is to organize social media content by topic or niche. Hashtags can help your content reach new audiences who may be searching for a specific hashtag.

For instance, if your customers are looking for inspiration for their next home renovation project, they might follow hashtags like #homerenovation or #diyhomedecor to find relevant content. If they’re looking for new outfit ideas, they might check out #fallfashion or #styleinspiration.

Results of hashtag fall fashion

Hashtags can even help boost your SEO by helping your content appear in the search results when the user searches for a particular topic or keyword on social media. There’s no excuse not to use them if you want to increase your content’s discoverability.

Boost brand awareness

When it comes to organic reach and engagement, the power of hashtags is undeniable. For example, it’s been shown that Instagram posts with hashtags get 12.6% more engagement than those that have none.

If you’re a social media marketer, you know that platform algorithms can be frustrating. At times, it seems like the content you’re putting out on your social networks is disappearing into a black hole. It’s important to create as many opportunities for exposure as possible to gain visibility and attract new followers. Especially if you’re a small business with a limited budget.

On Instagram, using a certain hashtag could cause your content to land on a user’s “Popular” page or the relevant hashtag Story. Users can also follow specific hashtags. This means if a user is following a hashtag you use in a post, you increase your odds of landing directly on their feed.

Tap into trends and support social movements

Hashtags are an easy way to spot what the trending topics are across social media networks. Keeping up with what your target audience is talking about should be an important part of your marketing strategy. How can you sell your product or service to someone if you don’t know what their interests are?

We’ve all seen the power of trending hashtags. Also referred to as “hashtag activism”, social media users and brands can show their support for a cause by using certain hashtags to raise awareness or encourage action.

Remember when the #ALSIceBucketChallenge took over the internet? Individuals and brands took to social media to share videos of themselves pouring buckets of ice water over each other’s heads in support of the cause. At its peak, the challenge generated more than 70,000 tweets per day with the hashtag. Created by a group of ALS organizations in the US, the campaign was a huge success and raised over $220M for ALS worldwide.

Social media platforms like TikTok and Twitter even take care of the work for you by featuring trending hashtags on their Search pages (don’t worry – we won’t tell your boss if you take the credit).

Examples of business hashtags

Encourage your followers to engage with you and build community

Aside from helping get the word out about your brand to potential new customers, hashtags are also a fun way to engage your existing brand audience.

Cheerios did a great job of this with their #CheeriosHeartHuntSweepstakes giveaway campaign. The contest encouraged their audience to share photos of Cheerios with a heart in the middle. Hiding these heart-shaped Cheerios inside their products was a fun way to encourage customers to buy their cereal and share their finds on social media.

Cheerios Instagram campaign

Get creative with it! Include a branded hashtag on your packaging that customers can easily share or on your PR packages that you send to influencers. Check out how makeup brand Benefit incorporates their #BenefitClubPink hashtag into their packaging:

Club Pink packaging displaying their brand hashtag

Types of Social Media Hashtags

Before you create your own hashtag strategy, you need to understand the different types of hashtags that exist in the social media world.

Ideally, you should be using a combination of each type for each post to maximize brand visibility. It’s also important to make sure that above all, the hashtags are relevant to your content – more on this below!

Trending Hashtags

These are popular hashtags that are being used most frequently by people on the platform. They tend to change often, especially on fast-moving social platforms like Twitter and TikTok.

Trending hashtags are a double-edged sword. While they typically get a high volume of search traffic, they can also be a bit crowded. Many accounts are likely using these hashtags to try to gain visibility for their content.

Additionally, these hashtags won’t always be relevant to your niche. Choose wisely before using them.

Branded Hashtags

Creating a hashtag that is specific to your brand is a great way to organize your content and make it easy for your followers to find. Brand-specific hashtags can also make it easier for you to, a) find fan content that you might want to feature on your page or b) find people you want to connect with.

Here are a few brands that are killing the branded hashtag game:

Fitness clothing brand Fabletics encourages their customers to share feel-good pictures of them in their clothing with the hashtag #myfabletics.

Results of my fabletics hashtag

Another great example of a branded hashtag is Redbull’s #PutACanOnIt campaign. Inspired by the iconic Redbull branded Mini Coopers, fans shared hashtagged pictures of their Redbull cans next to Minis, trucks, bikes, motorcycles, planes, people, and even dogs!

Person holding Red Bull can above a Red Bull mini car

Content-Specific Hashtags

Content hashtags are those that directly relate to the type of content you post. For example, if you’re a bridal shop posting a Reel with different wedding stress styles, you might use the hashtags #reels or #weddingdresses. If you provide tutorials for Adobe Photoshop, you might use #photoshoptutorial.

Check out how Brooklyn’s famous Lael Cakes does it:

Lael Cakes Instagram

Industry-Specific Hashtags

These are hashtags specific to your business’s niche or industry. Often closely related to content-specific hashtags, they can be a great way to increase your business’s visibility to your target audience.

For example, if you sell clothing, you may want to use #womensclothing or #plussizedfashion. If you sell sales software, you could use #salespeople, #salesteam, or #softwaresolutions.

If your business has an eCommerce component, check out our guide to the best hashtags to use for Instagram eCommerce.

Local/Geographic Hashtags

Get friendly with the locals! If your business is localized to a certain location, popular local hashtags can help you reach potential customers in your area.

Take the Big Apple. Popular New York City hashtags include #newyork #newyorkcity #newyorklife #newyorkarea and #newyorkbusiness.

How to perform hashtag research

When it comes to hashtags, it’s all about relevancy. Using the wrong hashtags for your business is not only a waste of time, but it can even harm your brand image and make you look unprofessional and inauthentic.

Here are some tips to laser-focus your hashtag research:

Do an audience review

Keep in mind that your audience on social media may not be your audience IRL. You can also look at the hashtags your target audience is using on their personal pages. Then, consider using those or related hashtags in your posts.

Check out the competition

Check out your competitors or other accounts that successfully reach a similar target audience that your business is after to see what hashtags they’re using. Then, think about related hashtags that apply to your content.

Use the search feature

Most social media platforms now allow you to search which hashtags are popular or trending in your niche. You can also use the search bar to find hashtags similar to ones that your business is already using.

Search results for hashtag nitro coffee

Use a hashtag tool

To save time and staff hours, try using a hashtag research tool. Once you’ve created a hashtag strategy for your business, hashtag tools can also help you track your posts to see which hashtags are working best and which aren’t.

Now we might be biased, but Sked Social is one of the best tools out there when it comes to hashtags. In addition to being an all-in-one Instagram platform, they have a powerful hashtag recommendation feature that appears when you add at least one hashtag to your caption or first comment. This makes the scheduling process seamless so you can conduct your research and then optimize and schedule your post.

There are also tons of other hashtag research tools out there, such as Hashtagify, Ritetag, or Keyhole. You can also view a more comprehensive list we put together here.

Keep a list of hashtags

If you aren’t using a tool to save your hashtags, try storing them in an Excel sheet or note somewhere. You can easily pull from your list, depending on the platform and piece of content posted. Try and break them out by category to ensure you’re getting about a mix of trending, content-specific, industry, branded, and location tags across your posts.

Need a bit of extra help with hashtag research? Check out our full guide on how to perform hashtag research for Instagram.

Best practices for hashtags

It helps to experiment when it comes to your hashtag strategy. However, there’s also a right and a wrong way of doing things. Here are our top Hashtag Commandments:

Do:

  • Keep your hashtags short and simple. Especially branded hashtags. They should be memorable and easy for your followers to use.
  • Make sure your business account is public. You can use all the hashtags in the world, but if your account is set to private, customers still won’t be able to find your content

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  • When creating a branded hashtag, make sure it’s not already taken. You don’t want to divert business to one of your competitors.
  • Use a handful of different types of hashtags. Ideally, you want a blend of the types discussed above, with the most attention given to the ones in your industry or niche specifically, as these are most likely the place where people will discover your brand.
  • Mix it up! While you don’t have to use a completely new set of hashtags for each post, try to spice things up occasionally and try something new. Who knows – you might even reach a new audience.

Don’t:

  • Use spaces, symbols, or punctuation in your hashtag.
  • Over-hashtag. Nobody likes a caption filled with hashtags on every second word. It can be hard to read, make you look unprofessional and frankly, a bit annoying.
  • Unknowingly use hashtags that have a double meaning. For example, Italian power company Powergen Italia had a rough time connecting with the English-speaking community with its hashtag #PowerGenitalia – awkward.
  • Post messy-looking captions. Try adding a few spaces below the copy and your hashtags or try adding them into a comment instead. (Pro-tip: Sked Social automatically lets you stash and schedule your hashtags in the first comment space to keep your captions clean and clear).
  • Use the same hashtags every time. While it makes sense to use your industry or niche hashtags more frequently, it’s still good to try new things so you can see what works and what doesn’t.

Recommended number of hashtags

Instagram

When it comes to Instagram feed posts and Reels, the platform allows you to use a maximum of 30 hashtags per post (and won’t penalize you for doing so).

While some people have mixed opinions on using all 30, we recommend using 30 every time to get the maximum reach from your post. Just make sure they’re relevant and you aren’t grasping at straws trying to hit the 30 mark.

You can also use up to 10 hashtags in your Instagram Stories.

Facebook

Facebook hashtags can be used to turn topics and phrases into clickable links in your posts on people’s timelines. This helps people find posts about topics that interest them.

To ensure you’re staying on topic, avoid using more than 1 or 2 hashtags per post.

TikTok

Compared to platforms like Instagram, your TikTok video captions are a lot more constrained. With only 100 characters, you must be selective about how much of that will be text vs. hashtags. To be safe, we recommend keeping it somewhere around 5.

Twitter

Like TikTok, your tweets are also highly limited in character count. Keep it short and sweet. According to Twitter, the best practice is to add up to 2 hashtags per tweet.

LinkedIn

While it doesn’t have a set limit of hashtags that you can use, remember: LinkedIn is primarily a platform for businesses and professionals. You want to avoid looking unprofessional with cluttered or spammy captions.

When it comes to LinkedIn hashtags, less is more. Try to keep it between one and five hashtags per post.

YouTube

Now that Google has acquired YouTube, videos are shown not only inside the platform but also across Google search results. According to Google’s Hashtag Use Policies, using more than 15 hashtags in your video title or description can lead to limited visibility and/or removal of the video from uploads or search. This is because the more tags you add, the less relevant they become for viewers who are searching for them.

Monitoring and Reporting

You can’t improve if you don’t know how you’re performing. Take some time each week or month to look at your post data and determine which hashtags appear to be working and which you can ditch.

Remember that spreadsheet you created before for your research? Once a hashtag has been used several times and you’ve determined it isn’t getting the desired reach, remove it from your list and find a new hashtag to replace it with.

Sked Social shows you best-performing hashtags and reports on overall post-performance. You can also save top-performing tags to quickly add them to future drafts or scheduled posts.

Try Sked Social’s free 7-day trial now.

You can also go into your Instagram data and look under Impressions to see how many accounts you’re reaching with your hashtags. Keep in mind you need an Instagram Business Account to access Insights.

Summary

Learning how to use hashtags effectively for your business makes a huge impact on your social media marketing efforts.Take some time to think about the different ways that your business can use hashtags. Whether it’s boosting awareness or engaging your customers through a fun hashtag campaign, your hashtag strategy should always align with your marketing goals.

Make sure you clearly understand the different types of hashtags that exist. Then, use tools to experiment, research and continue to optimize your strategy.

Curious about what Sked Social’s Hashtag tool has to offer for you? Try Sked Social’s 7-day free trial and experience the ease that comes with auto-posting content.

Photo of Photo of Kyra Goodman

Kyra is a Junior Marketing Manager and "Spicy Meme Master" at Sked Social who loves to create content. Born and raised in Hawaii, her favorite things are traveling, yoga, beaching, coffee and baseball. Connect with her on twitter at @kyra_n_goodman.