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How and Why to use Hashtags in 2020

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Hashtags can help your business reach new target audiences and increase engagement, but if used incorrectly or without a clear strategy in mind, they can become ineffective. Here is a guide on how to create, use and understand hashtags.

What is a Hashtag?

A hashtag is denoted by the # symbol and is used to index keywords and/or topics on social media channels. Use the hashtag symbol (#) before a relevant keyword or phrase, and you have created a hashtag. This function was originally created on Twitter but can now be used on almost all social media channels, including Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and TikTok. A hashtag allows people to easily follow topics and/or brands they are interested in on their social feed.

How do Hashtags work?

It’s good practice to include hashtags in your social-media post copy (i.e.: #explorealberta). This creates a link your followers can click on. By clicking or tapping on a hashtagged word, users will see all the other posts that include the hashtag. Users on such platforms as Instagram and LinkedIn can also follow hashtags. If your brand uses a popular hashtag, the followers of this tag will be able to see your hashtagged posts in their feed, exposing your content to new audiences.

Why are they important?

Think of hashtags as a way of connecting your brand’s social-media content to a specific topic, event, theme or conversation. They are a way of bringing together all related social-media content, making it easier to discover posts about specific topics. For example, if you’re in the ski business and your goal is to increase engagement on your content and reach more followers, you should include not only your own brand’s hashtag (we’ll get to that!) but also trending ski hashtags. By doing a quick Google search (i.e.: what are the best ski hashtags to use?), you can find pages of results showing #skiing, #skiingisfun, and #ski are some of the most commonly used hashtags in that category. If these hashtags are added to your post copy, there is a chance your posts will be discovered by potential ski enthusiasts!

The Changing Nature of Hashtags

As social media changes, sometimes overnight, hashtags continue to evolve. By watching how users interact with content, social platforms continue to develop new ways to deliver more curated content user feeds. Because of this, the need to follow and use hashtags isn’t as great as it once was. Hashtags are still a great brand-identifier tool and help curate content for your own business needs. But stick to the rule of “less is more” – one or two are great, but you may want to rethink your strategy if you’re on your 100th hashtag.


Don’t know where to start? If you are hoping your content will be discovered by more users but are unsure of which hashtags to use, the best place to start is by looking at your competitors, influencers and other brands in the same space. Take travel, for example – research hashtags big travel influencers use (for example, #travel, #instatravel and #travelphotography). If the content on that hashtag feed aligns with your content, that hashtag should be a great fit.

Creating your own Brand Hashtag

A brand hashtag can be an important identifier for your business. It is important to use trending hashtags in your content to further the reach and engagement of your posts, but it is also equally important to have your own brand hashtag. A lot of thought and consideration should be put towards creating your brand hashtag because this can be used as a source of curating content for your business. Take Travel Alberta, for example, we ask people to share their Alberta content using the #explorealberta hashtag. Now, with close to two million posts to that hashtag we have endless amounts of content to curate.

A branded hashtag is a great opportunity to help start conversations, which can range from a consistent brand hashtag used in every post or  a time-specific hashtag used for contests, to a hashtag used to help support or create awareness for social issues. Consider marketing offline too if you want to increase the chance of customers using and sharing your hashtag. Entranceways, ticket stubs or any focal point within your operation is a great opportunity to list hashtags and social media handles, making them readily available for your consumers to share.

Basics of Creating a Hashtag

  • Start with #, followed by your keyword or topic. Note they do not work if you use spaces, punctuation or symbols
  • The best hashtags tend to be relatively short and easy to remember
  • Make sure your hashtag resonates with your brand and is relevant to your line of business
  • Do your research and make sure the hashtag you want for your brand doesn’t already exist for a different topic or company
  • Ideally, your brand hashtag won’t have a year attached to it. Make sure followers can use it year after year

Looking for more tips and resources for your marketing and business activities? Visit the new Learning Portal.