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When to Use Hashtags (& When to Leave Them Out)

May 23, 2017
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Ever contemplated the do’s and don’ts of hashtagging? From Twitter to Instagram and Pinterest to Facebook, hashtags, formerly known as the pound sign, should be used with caution and optimized differently for each platform.

There is an unspoken list of rules to follow in order to succeed and present your brand in the most efficient and credible way. Below are the top laws of #hashtagging:

Be Specific

Use words that really speak to the community you are trying to reach. The more specific your hashtags, the more targeted and passionate your audience will be, and ultimately, the more views and engagement your content will receive.

Related: Debunking the Most Common Social Media Marketing Myths

For example, if your product includes a line of dog treats, a hashtag like #puppies will result in a plethora of puppy pictures that are overwhelmingly on the internet, are likely being posted by both dog owners and non-dog owners, and will easily result in your content being lost in the noise. Instead, a hashtag like #dogmom will better target female dog owners who are extremely active in caring for their dogs and more likely to be interested in such a product.

Be Aware Of The Platform You’re Using


Hashtags are beneficial to use on Instagram because they can introduce users to your account and content. Using the right hashtags can further expose your post to the respected niche audience. For Instagram, keep hashtags hyper-focused.

To discover what hashtags are relevant to your industry and your audience, do a little research into what your competitors use for hashtags, what your industry’s top influencers hashtag, and use Instagram’s search bar to search a keyword in order to uncover potential others within the following posts.

With this platform, it is highly suggested to hashtag the photo in a comment below your main caption. For a bit cleaner look, you may want to pre-write your hashtags using a series of dots (as shown below) in a secondary comment on the post. This will keep your caption clear but allow you to use as many hashtags as you’d like

However, that does not mean that you should try to fill in 30 hashtags, which is the maximum on this platform. You want to attract your niche audience, not spammers. Between 4 and 5 hashtags will help gain engagement, and even as much as 11 hashtags is still considered safe for Instagram, but don’t overdue it! Use the most relevant hashtags and keep it clean.

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Users have less patience with hashtags on Facebook, so you’ll want to minimize your use here to around 1 to 2 hashtags per post and remember, you do not have to hashtag every post. One of the most beneficial ways to use hashtags on Facebook is to utilize them for a special campaign you are driving or for a timely event. This is especially the case considering hashtags are very rarely searched on Facebook by everyday users.

Related: 4 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do on Facebook

Since your goal on Facebook is to be shown on the NewsFeed landscape, your main focus should be to remain eye catching and free of clutter (i.e. too many hashtags). 


Your amount of characters is limited and crucial. Your post will lose it’s value by being cluttered with hashtags. However, this network is the standard “King of Hashtags,” so you will still want to use 1 to 2 per post and keep them of the utmost relevance. Make sure to utilize trending hashtags when relevant to your post and engage in the conversation thereafter.

You’ll want to establish a brand hashtag in order to gain awareness and get people using it. If this hashtag is already created, make sure you are adding value to the conversation. If this hashtag has not been created, make one that is easy to understand and that will interest people who are not already following you. Twitter is for conversing, so you’ll want to make a hashtag that will be used and conversed with throughout tweets. Keep in mind that your brand hashtag does not necessarily need to include your brand name.

The left-hand side of Twitter on desktop will show you currently trending hashtags – get involved with those viral and relative conversations!  Also, getting involved in a Tweet Chat and using hashtags that relate to the chat can be a great way to get more brand exposure.

Ways To Use Hashtags


Using hashtags for contests is a great way to not only track the contest, but also spread awareness of it as well. It will keep the entries in the respected area of the network, allowing competitors to see other entries and for viewers to learn more about your brand, thus showcasing the high interest in what you are providing. 


Creating a hashtag for an event can help build momentum as the event approaches. It also serves as a great way to collect posts/photos that are using the event hashtag throughout the live event. Lastly, users who are not able to attend the event will be able to virtually experience it and be more enticed to commit to upcoming events.


Creating a hashtag relevant to your brand will help build a following for the hashtag. It can also serve as a way to boast about something that makes your brand or company unique.

For instance, as an agency that truly values it’s employees and work-life balance, PDM has an annual president’s club trip, in which employees are rewarded for reaching their yearly goals with a company trip (most recently Hawaii)!

Related: 4 Social Media Posts to Boost Engagement

With this unique aspect of the company, PDM created the branding hashtag #pdmprezclub to showcase the goals and efforts of the employees, the acknowledgement of this effort, and the experiences that employees get to bond over. To look at the big picture, this hashtag illustrates the agency’s values, which are not only spoken, but also acted upon. 


Using trending hashtags will showcase your brand within that hashtag’s feed. It can introduce you to new users interested in such keywords and keep you within the trending conversation.

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