Hashtags have become the buzzword of social media in the last decade.

What used to just be the “pound sign” or the way to display your favorite player’s number in the NFL, has now taken on a life of its own as a way to categorize social media posts. 

Today, it is my hope that I demystify what a hashtag is and help you better utilize them to grow on social media. 

What is a Hashtag?

A hashtag is a metadata tag that is prefaced by the pound sign or hash symbol, # (not to be confused with the pound currency sign). Hashtags are used on microblogging and photo-sharing services such as Twitter, Instagram and WeChat as a form of user-generated tagging that enables cross-referencing of content; that is, sharing a topic or theme.[1] For example, a search within Instagram for the hashtag #bluesky returns all posts that have been tagged with that hashtag. After the initial hash symbol, a hashtag may include letters, digits, and underscores. (Wikipedia

What does this mean??

In layman’s terms, a hashtag is the little tab at the top of your virtual file folders that signals to the technology what your post is about.

How do you use a Hashtag?

Hashtags are used to closely identify what your post is about.  Made popular first on Twitter, hashtags have become widely used across multiple platforms today. And EACH platform has its own restrictions and uses surrounding them. 

However, the simple use is this:  Make your post, and then hashtag away based on what your post is about.  Generally between 3-6 TARGETED hashtags are more than enough.  But many platforms allow you up to a certain amount.

  • Instagram: Up to 30 total on the post (Instagram recommends between 3-5)
  • Twitter: As many as you’d like (though the platform recommends 2) 
  • TikTok: As many as your caption space allows 
  • Facebook: As many as you’d like (recommendations from Facebook say 2-3)

What is a Targeted Hashtag?

Your favorite ‘grammers and bloggers and social media icons don’t post as many hashtags as they can think of.  And they also don’t make up hashtags, or get a lot of views just because their accounts are large.

I guarantee their growth strategy includes targeted hashtags.

A Targeted Hashtag is a marketing strategy that identifies key hashtags in your niche that have:

  1. Good Exposure
  2. Laser Focused Relevance
  3. On Trend with the Times
  4. Variation in Audience Size

Let’s break it down:

Good Exposure:

Have you ever started to type a hashtag out, and noticed right next to it some words that show how many times that hashtag has been used???!! 

Yeah, that number MATTERS.

If you post something with a hashtag that has 1.5 MILLION views, ranking at the top of that hashtag is going to be like a minnow swimming in the ocean.

BUT if you use a hashtag that has 1,000 views, you’re in a smaller pond, and suddenly being a minnow ain’t so bad.

There’s a catch though. And we’ll discuss it more in point #4– because the solution is NOT to use hashtags with limited uses and reach. And even more so, to use “shadow banned” hashtags.

Laser Focused Relevance:

Just like ranking on Google with keywords, you want to make sure the hashtags you are using are RELEVANT to what you are posting.

You don’t want to post a picture of a drink and use the hashtag #ilovedogs. You want to use ones that are related to the content of your post.

Hashtags for social media platforms work very similarly to keywords- in that they tell the algorithm how to index your post so that other users can find it.

And also similarly to keywords, if you have the WRONG hashtags (aka topics), people WONT click on your post because it’s irrelevant- and then your algorithm rankings will start tanking.  Nobody wants to tap on a picture of a cute puppy with #cutesie, only to find it’s a reel about cleaning your toilet. (You might be laughing, but people seriously try to do this!!) 

To determine keywords for a topic I always lean on my good buddy Earl:

  • Exact– Use hashtags that are the exact match of what you are talking about
  • Associated– Use hashtags that a synonymous with your niche that the post is talking about
  • Related– Use hashtags are sort of related, but maybe a slightly different topic or niche that works WITH your post
  • Location– Use hashtags surrounding the location of your post

How this might look in the wild:

For this example we will use a post where I packed a bag for Disney World for my kids.

Now let’s break down what hashtags to use:

E– Exact: #packingfordisney #momlifepacking #packingtipsandtricks

A– Associated: #disneyfamilyvacation #disneywithkids #disneytravelhacks

R– Related: #momlifeproblems #momlifetravel #travelingwithkids

L– Location: #disneyworld #orlando #magickingdompark

See how each category is relevant, but a slightly different variation??

This will ensure that your posts are hitting on similar niches for people who would enjoy your content, but are not yet looking for it.

On Trend with the Times:

Like the latest TikTok dance challenge, hashtags come and go with the times. #TBT to when TBT was a thing right??

Make sure that the hashtags you are using are up to date with current trends and events.

It’s OK to stop using a hashtag after a period of time because it simply becomes irrelevant.

And similarly it’s OK to START using a hashtag because it’s trendy.

One of the best ways to increase your visibility and reach is to jump on some of these trends and use the hashtags associated with them. For example (and I made this up, I have no idea if it’s a thing) you might use the #springmakeupchallenge for your beauty tutorials in April.

Trends can be found a variety of ways. Whether it be thru word of mouth, on the news, or you subscribe to my social coaching IG channel– where I deliver trending sounds, content ideas, and hashtags daily.

Variation in Audience Size

Variation in size is probably THE MOST IMPORTANT factor when it comes to a hashtag strategy. And that is because hashtags are how NEW people find you.  And if new people are not looking for a hashtag, they’ll NEVER find you.

Back in point #1- Good Exposure, I mentioned about being a big fish in a small pond.

Let me explain more.

You see, if you post something and use a hashtag that only has 1,000 people using it… that means there’s not a lot of traffic going through there. So your “discoverability” is going to be low. 

That hashtag might eventually “catch on” but it could take months, even years.

To combat this I always use a mix of audience sizes when it comes to hashtags. 

  • A couple with the small uses (under 5,000)
  • The majority with moderate uses (10k-75k)
  • A handful with large uses (100k+)
  • NEVER do I use a million+ hashtag. (and if I do, it’s only on a reel).

Utilizing the more average hashtags will rank up your discoverability, and you won’t feel like it’s feast or famine competing with the big guys. 

Final Thoughts:

Hashtags are an amazing way to categorize your posts so that your future followers can find you better and become your raving super fans.

And that will only come with a targeted hashtag strategy that is TAILORED TO YOU. 

What works for Sally the influencer over there, works for HER.

But it’s not guaranteed to work for YOU.

You can take ideas or inspiration from other influencers in your niche, but know that it’s the magic hashtag sauce you concoct with your personality and awesome posts that will encourage the followers to start flowing in. 

Got more questions? Drop them below!