Hashtags Don’t Work For You Unless You Do This

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Social Media Marketing Lessons From A 9 Year Pro 3

Have you ever wondered how much hashtags actually matter when it comes to content? Social media marketers everywhere are often asking themselves, and each other, this same thing.

Should we use them? And if we do, how many?

Hashtags have been a part of social media for years, making an impact on Twitter and Instagram and eventually making their way to Facebook and LinkedIn. Even though hashtags are commonplace both professionally, and personally, (#SundayFunday, anyone?) it’s important to ask ourselves, “what’s the purpose?”

Are they actually expanding the reach of our content?

Our friends at Trust Insights recently put out a report breaking down the impact of hashtags and we all know data doesn’t lie!

Below we’ll review the findings from their report and share some hashtag best practices.


First, let’s dig into Trust Insight’s report. They used Machine Learning to look at the stats from over million posts on both Facebook and Instagram and then used these stats in order to find if hashtags actually had an impact on the reach of the content shared.

Facebook Posts and Hashtags

Trust Insights collected 1,799,355 Facebook posts from 10,963 Facebook Pages with a median number of 213,148 fans/connections from January 6 – February 15, 2019. The pages were selected based on the recommendations of top Pages to follow by Crowdtangle (a Facebook company).

The mean number of hashtags used was .2577 per post, while the median was 0 and the maximum number of hashtags in one post was 124.

What matters most to get Facebook reach/views?

Their findings: “Using the gradient boosting machine learning method, we determined that post length had the highest relationship to reach, followed closely by shares, and then subsequently by the various types of reactions. Hashtag count played no statistically relevant role in Facebook post reach.”

Instagram Posts and Hashtags

Trust Insights collected 1,590,037 Instagram posts from 33,637 Instagram accounts with a median number of 233,406 followers from January 6 – February 15, 2019. The accounts were selected based on the recommendations of top Instagram accounts to follow by Crowdtangle (a Facebook company).

The mean number of hashtags used was 3.141 per post, while the median was 1.0 hashtags per post, and the maximum number of hashtags in one post was 93.

What matters most to get Instagram views?


Their findings: “Using the gradient boosting machine learning method, we determined that comments had the highest relationship to Instagram post views, followed by the size of an account’s following, and then likes. Despite a higher usage of hashtags on Instagram, they still had no statistical relationship to views, indicating that they do not substantially contribute to discovery.”

Now that we’ve seen the data behind the impact of hashtags, let’s take a look at some best practices for when we are using them.

Event Marketing

If there’s one time when hashtags do add immense value, it’s events. ​Hashtags can be a great way to promote events and invite participants to engage in the surrounding conversation. An important note is to build momentum before, then keep it going during and after the big day in order to maximize your results.

When choosing a hashtag to use, be creative and use your brand or event name in the hashtag to keep it as relevant and focused as possible.

Having a unique hashtag will enable participants and those interested in your brand to talk about the upcoming event among one another, further building anticipation and engagement.

During the event, make sure to keep the conversation going. Have your social media manager post tweets, quote speakers, post videos, take pictures of the event, share pictures of attendees, retweet, and basically act as the ambassador of the event.

And don’t forget to add the hashtag to all posts and updates.

Without a hashtag for your event, tracking the engagement and sentiment across platforms could be an impossible task. With a hashtag, it’s much easier to search.

Make it Niche

Have you ever seen someone post a photo and hashtag every word under the sun, including #sun?

#Girl #Happy #Friend #Vacation #Heels …

This just makes you look like you don’t know what you’re doing (#sorrynotsorry). Many people use hashtags to help their content become more discoverable. But using the word #happy, for example, is not going to do much for your strategy. At the time of writing this article, there were 516,167,089 posts with the hashtag #happy on Instagram. You’re content is not going to be seen, it will get lost in the crowd.

If you truly want to be seen, try using hashtags that are more specific.

If you’re selling a product or service, hashtag the region you’re in. Make it niche. #OrlandoWeddingPhotographer is much more likely to actually bring in a sale than #Photographer or #ProfessionalPhotgrapher. Think about the purpose of your content, and make sure the hashtag supports it, rather than takes away from it. People want to buy from people who look like they know what they’re doing.

A few months ago I thought about dying my hair from solid brown to a style called ombré. For the men reading this, that’s when the bottom of your hair is slightly lighter than the top of your hair. Before making a decision, I searched the hashtags #nycombre #ombrehairnyc #ombrenyc to find different salons and stylists in the city where I live who offer this service. Ultimately, I decided not to go for it, but I did a deep search through a few different Instagram hashtags in order to find what I was looking for and make a decision.


While hashtags shouldn’t be the backbone of your social media marketing strategy, they are a great support system. Hashtags are an easy way to add humor and personality to your content. Or, if you know your core audience uses a specific hashtag, it’s a great way to find them online and join in on their conversation.

Hashtags can have meaning. Just think of the impact the #MeToo movement has had. A hashtag was the catalyst for uniting so many women on social media and sharing a powerful message. Hashtags are a great way to find your tribe and feel a sense of belonging when social media can oftentimes feel overwhelming.

Final Thoughts

Hashtags don’t hurt, but they also don’t necessarily help. If you’re feeling hashtag happy, by all means, go for it. But, keep in mind, you’re not adding immense value to your content by #just #adding #a #bunch #of #these. Have a purpose!

Image + Data Source: Trust Insights


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Brooke B. Sellas is the in-the-trenches Founder & CEO of @HelloBSquared, an award-winning social media, advertising, and social media customer care agency. She's also the author of Conversations That Connect -- a book all about social listening and social media customer care. Brooke's marketing mantra is “Think Conversation, Not Campaign” so be sure to give her a shout on the socials!
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