What Are Hashtags? Definition, Benefits, Best Practices, and Examples

Hashtags help you expand your reach and gain new followers. But what are hashtags exactly, and should you be using them too? 

In this beginner-friendly guide, we’ll discuss what hashtags are and how they can help your business grow. We’ll also explore some tips for creating effective hashtag campaigns that get results. You’ve probably seen them on most social media platforms — from Twitter and Instagram to LinkedIn and Facebook — but weren’t sure how to use them to their full potential. 

By leveraging the power of hashtags, you can increase brand awareness, cultivate customer relationships, drive traffic to your website, and much more — all while reaching far more people than conventional advertising ever could.

Key Takeaways

  • A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by the pound sign (#). It is used on social media platforms to categorize posts and help social media users find related content.
  • Hashtag best practices vary depending on the platform, but they should be short, concise, and relevant. Examples include #SmallBusiness, #FashionFriday, and #ShopLocal.
  • As a general rule, stick to a few hashtags per post rather than going overboard.
  • Use hashtags to boost post engagement, build relationships with influencers, create brand visibility and awareness, provide free promotional opportunities, and help target audiences find you.
  • To use hashtags effectively, you should know the social platform and which trends are popular among users, consider how many hashtags to use per post based on the platform, identify trending and industry-specific hashtags and branded tags, and use social listening tools.
what are hashtags

Hashtag Definition

A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by the pound sign (#). Hashtags are commonly used on social media platforms to categorize content within posts and help users find related content. When someone searches for a hashtag, all posts containing that hashtag will appear in the search results.

It’s important to note that hashtags are not case-sensitive, so #BusinessOwner would be treated exactly the same as #businessowner in a search query. However, capitalizing each word in a hashtag can help make it easier to read.

Hashtag best practices vary a bit between platforms. But overall, if a user searches for a term associated with a certain hashtag, all the photos, videos, comments, and other associated content will appear, making it easier to find that linked content on and across those platforms. 

Examples of Hashtags

Hashtags, in essence, describe topics or themes within the content being shared. Popular hashtags serve as a record for tracking certain conversations and postings that are associated with specific terms, words, or phrases — regardless of when they were posted. For example, popular hashtags for business owners might include things like:

  • #Smallbusiness
  • #ShopSmallSaturday
  • #Shoplocal
  • #Naturalproducts
  • #fashionfriday
  • #businesstalk

Benefits of Hashtags


Using hashtags appropriately can effectively reach your target audience and get your message out quickly and easily. From Twitter hashtags to trending Instagram hashtags, here’s an overview of the biggest benefits of using hashtags in your posts:

Boosts Engagement

Hashtags help boost engagement with your posts. By adding relevant and popular hashtags to your posts, you can reach more people and increase the chances of getting more likes and shares on your content. This is because hashtags make it easier for users to search for content related to a certain topic or theme. It also helps you connect with other like-minded people in your industry who may be interested in what you have to offer.

Start conversations among customers by asking them to share their experiences with your products or services and use a designated hashtag. This will create user-generated content that you can repost and share on your social accounts to increase your reach further.

Builds Relationships

Using hashtags, from Pinterest to Facebook posts, can also help build relationships with TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram influencers in your industry or target audience. By including their branded hashtag or mentioning them in a post, you’re improving your chances of connecting with them on a deeper level and even building potential partnerships in the future.

Creates Brand Awareness

Hashtags are excellent for increasing brand awareness and getting people to talk about your business. However, not just any old hashtag will do — use hashtags relevant to your industry and niche for the best results. You can also create a branded tag (e.g., #LoveMyAirBNB) that encourages people to share photos and stories about their experience with your business.

Adding relevant hashtags to a social media post can also help you boost brand visibility and recognition. This is because when users search for a particular hashtag on social media platforms, they will be exposed to all the posts that contain that hashtag — including yours! By leveraging popular hashtags in your industry, you will improve your visibility and draw greater attention to your brand.

Provides Free Promotional Opportunities

If you have a sale or event coming up, hashtags can be a great way to promote it. Create a new hashtag for your event and ask people to use it when posting about the event on social media. This will help generate excitement and get more people interested in what you have to offer.

Helps Your Target Audience Find You

If you want to reach a specific group of people, hashtags can be a great way to do that. Use relevant hashtags for your industry and audience to help them find your content. This will help ensure your posts and videos are seen by people who are interested in what you have to say.

Hashtag Best Practices

Before we get deeper into how to use hashtags for your business, here are a few best practices you should know.

  • Start with the hashtag symbol: Hashtags only work if you use the hashtag symbol (aka pound sign) first. Leave out punctuation, other symbols, and spaces. Examples: #BlackFridaySale, #TacoTuesday, #nutritiontips
  • Be concise: Long hashtags look clunky and are hard to read. As a general rule, keep it concise and never hashtag full sentences.
  • Set your accounts to public: If you’re using hashtags on a private account, your hashtags won’t show up in search results on that social media platform.
  • Be specific and relevant: To ensure your hashtags reach as many people as possible, be specific. For example, #DallasNightlife will be seen by people searching for nightlife spots in the Dallas area, which is a good thing. But #Nightlife is much broader and is less likely to reach a local audience.
  • Limit hashtag usage: If you go overboard by using 20 hashtags per post, it can make your account and business seem spammy.

hashtag strategy

How to Create an Effective Hashtag Strategy 

Crafting a hashtag strategy enables you to reach your audience and expand your visibility. For a hashtag strategy to be effective, you’ll want to have a comprehensive understanding of the platform itself — in addition to knowing which trends are currently popular among its users. 

Follow these tips to use hashtags effectively:

Know Where Your Target Audience Hangs Out

Start by getting a good feel for where your target audience actually spends most of their time online. When you understand your target audience, you can build a social media strategy that relates more to them. Members of Gen Z, for example, are heavy users of Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram, while millennial consumers are more likely to focus on Instagram and Facebook. You need a social media strategy that caters to the specific needs of your target audience and allows you to reach out to them more effectively. 

Consider the Platform

While it can be tempting to add 20 Instagram hashtags to your post, it’s not advised. Too many hashtags can seem spammy and untrustworthy — especially if they don’t relate to your brand. All traffic isn’t good traffic — your goal is to reach people who would be interested in your content, business, and products or services.

Pick and choose wisely. Here’s a look at how many hashtags you should use per post, per platform:

  • Facebook: 2–3 hashtags per post
  • Instagram: 3–5 hashtags per post
  • Twitter: 1–2 hashtags per post
  • YouTube: 3–5 hashtags per post
  • LinkedIn: 1–5 hashtags per post
  • Pinterest: 2–5 hashtags per post
  • TikTok: 3–5 hashtags per post

Trending hashtags refer to those being used frequently or seeing a sudden surge in popularity. On Twitter, these are usually called “trends,” while Instagram highlights them in a dedicated tab with specific search filters. These hashtags are often used to promote events, topics, and ideas that are more popular than others at any given time.

Trending hashtag examples:

  • #ShopLocal – encourages people to support small businesses in their community
  • #ThrowbackThursday or #TBT – a fun way to share nostalgic content
  • #MotivationMonday – inspiring quotes or messages to start the week off on a positive note
  • #FlashSale – promotes limited-time discounts or promotions
  • #WellnessWednesday – focuses on health and wellness-related topics, which can be relevant for businesses in that industry.

Stick to Relevant Hashtags

You do not need to appear in every search related to a popular hashtag, especially the ones that do not relate at all to your brand. If your business is focused on sports equipment, you might not want to engage in a trending conversation about a celebrity or address common issues in the fashion industry.

On the other hand, you may want to find ways to get involved in the hashtags that are trending on a larger level, like #Love, #Beautiful, or #PhotooftheDay. Get to know what type of content users are most likely to engage with and search for. You also want to know which types of content and hashtags bring them back to your page. Twitter users, for example, often want short-form, punchy content, while Instagram posts often need to focus more on the image than on the written content.

Incorporate Niche Hashtags

Niche hashtags have the potential to expand reach within that specific demographic. Many fandoms have their own set of hashtags, including hashtags that might not make sense to anyone outside that specific demographic. Specific hobbies, from photography to hiking, may also have their own set of hashtags. Research your niche to find hashtags to help you stand out on every social platform — or create your own and share it with your followers.

Niche tag examples:

  • #techstartup – for startups in the technology industry
  • #ecofriendly – for businesses that offer environmentally friendly products or services
  • #luxurylifestyle – for high-end luxury brands, such as luxury cars or designer clothing
  • #petsofinstagram – for businesses that offer pet-related products or services, such as pet stores or grooming salons
  • #travelgram – for travel-related businesses, such as hotels or tour companies

Try Branded Hashtags

Branded tags have two key purposes. First, they should cater to the interests of followers who already follow your brand and who are interested in learning more about it. Branded hashtags may, for example, include your specific brand name or taglines related to your brand. To create a branded tag for your business, be descriptive, concise, and catchy.

Branded tag examples:

  • #JustDoIt – Nike uses this hashtag to promote its brand and encourage people to take action.
  • #PutACanOnIt – Red Bull created this hashtag to encourage customers to share creative photos of themselves with a Red Bull can in unique places or situations.
  • #UnboxTherapy – Unbox Therapy is a popular YouTube channel that reviews tech products, and they use this hashtag to promote their brand and content on social media.
  • #TweetFromTheSeat – Charmin uses this humorous hashtag to promote its toilet paper products.
  • #RedCupContest – Starbucks uses this hashtag for their holiday-themed cup design contest every year, encouraging customers to participate and share photos of their cups on social media.

How to Find Relevant Hashtags to Use

Ready to start incorporating hashtags into your social media strategy? Here’s how you can find relevant and popular hashtags to use:

Check Other Brands’ Social Media Accounts

One of the most important hashtag tips you can follow is to keep an eye on other businesses in your industry. What hashtags are they using and sharing? You may not necessarily want to use the same hashtag as your competitor, especially when dealing with branded content. Still, you want to ensure you’re developing social media posts that follow those trends.

Follow Relevant Influencers

Many of today’s social media users enjoy following influencers: people who have a strong presence on a social media platform or platforms, and who are engaged with your target market.

Chances are, these influencers use key hashtags on their posts relevant to people in your industry. In some cases, you can work directly with macro- or micro-influencers as part of your marketing strategy. They will share your branded hashtags and even create social media posts about your content in exchange for your sponsorship. Their followers will then be more likely to engage with your brand.

Use Social Listening Tools

Social listening tools can help keep you abreast of the conversation and give you better insights into the type of content you need to create and share. Social listening tools like Hootsuite or Sprout Social can help you closely monitor tending hashtags across platforms.

Final Thoughts

Hashtags can make connecting with your target market and generating more attention for your posts and content much easier. Now that we’ve explained what hashtags are, you can take your content to the next level. Use the hashtag tips we’ve provided here to incorporate them into each post to further your reach.