To Hashtag or not to Hashtag on Social Media?

Do people still use hashtags on social media in 2024? They certainly do. But perhaps not everyone is aware of the most efficient way to use them.  I wasn’t either until I looked into it. Until then, I either underused them or overused them. Sometimes, I didn’t use any at all, and that’s OK too.

What is a hashtag?

It is a word or a combination of words made up of letters, or a combination of letters and numbers, preceded by the “#” pound symbol (also known as octothorpe).  For example, #stilllife #stilllifeart, #localart613. Words can be capitalized, so it’s easier to read, such as #StillLifeArt but it’s not necessary. Hashtags are used in social media at the end of a text caption in a posting.

Short history of Hashtags

The first hashtags appeared on Twitter (now X) in 2007, thanks to a suggestion by web marketing specialist Chris Messina, to enable the grouping of related tweets and to allow people with the same interest to find each other.

Today, hashtag use is not limited to tweets on X, but it’s also used on major social media networks, such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

So why should you use hashtags?

Let’s say, you are a runner and you want your posts to be visible to people with the same passion. You may use hashtags like #running or #MarathonRunning or #LoveToRun.  Hashtags are searchable, so if someone, and not necessarily one of your followers or friends, searches for “running”, your post will also come up in the search. 

If you are a content creator or a business owner, you can promote yourself, your brand, and your products by creating branding hashtags. For example, being an artist, I often use my own branding hashtag #ErikaFarkasArt or #portraitartist.  If I want to promote a certain painting, I might use the painting’s medium and the subject for hashtags, such as #oilpainting or #seascape.

How many hashtags should you use?

It is really up to you how many hashtags you use, if at all. For maximum efficiency, use three or four, but try to not use more than five.

According to Stacy Jo Dixon, Statista researcher from the United Kingdom, specializing in internet-related subjects with special emphasis on social media: “A March 2022 report found that Instagram posts containing three to four hashtags had an average impression rate of 3.41 percent, making this number of hashtags the most effective in terms of user impressions. User engagement decreased when more than five hashtags were used. Posts containing between 17 and 18 hashtags had the least amount of engagement, indicating that overuse of hashtags on the platform can have a detrimental effect on engagement. “

I often see posts with 10 or more hashtags on social media. In my opinion, these posts are not very professional and may give the impression of being spammy. Therefore, the overuse of hashtags can actually have a negative impact on your posts.

A word of caution:  try not to use too many very popular hashtags, as this will make it challenging for your content to stand out. When you add a hashtag on Instagram or Facebook, when you mouse over the hashtag, you can see how many posts used this particular hashtag. Then you can decide if you want to use it or not.

Are there any tools to help me generate hashtags?

There certainly are several free tools to help you come up with relevant hashtags. One of them is SocialChamp’s Free Hashtag Generator, powered by AI. You can customize it for each social media network, such as Instagram, Facebook, X, etc.

Some people avoid using hashtags because they find them annoying or cumbersome. That’s perfectly fine. Using hashtags is not mandatory, and your posts will still be visible to your friends and followers. However, if you’re looking to increase visibility, enhance your social media presence, and reach a specific audience, I highly recommend using hashtags in your posts.

Do you use hashtags in your social media postings? If you don’t, why not? Please leave me a comment below.

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