What is the Purpose of a Hashtag?

One second, the “#” sign was a pound symbol. The next second, it gained a new identity and turned into the infamous “hashtag”.

You’re probably wondering: How/when/why did this happen? What is the purpose of a hashtag? And why is everyone using them?

Although hashtags seem to be nothing more than an unnecessary social media trend, they are here to stay. Now, both businesses and individuals use hashtags to organize communication, make content discoverable, or simply add voice and context to a caption.

Whether you’re a self-proclaimed Instagram expert or you still call a hashtag the “pound sign”, you’re in the right place. Today, we’re starting with the basics. What is a hashtag, anyway?

What is a hashtag?

The hashtag originated on Twitter in 2007 and has now been integrated on platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. Regardless of which platform they are posted on, hashtags are characterized by a “#” symbol followed by a word, phrase, or group of words. This word or set of words can contain no spaces or punctuation.

Hashtags are a simple and practical way to organize content across different social media platforms. In a way, hashtags create several micro-communities of similar content.

For example, on New Year’s Eve this year, if you were to post a picture, you could put #newyears2018 into your caption. When used in this manner, this tag now becomes a searchable link. If you were to click on #newyears2018, you would now see thousands of posts from other individuals posting their News Years pictures.

How do hashtags apply to me?

So, now that we know what a hashtag is, how does this apply to you? Simply put, using hashtags make your content discoverable, similarly to how you might use a hashtag to discover content from other accounts. If you post a New Years picture on your page without a hashtag, only your followers will see it. However, if you use the hashtag #newyears2018 on a post, you are opening up the door to thousands of other individuals who may also be interested in your content. Similarly, if you are a small business hoping to grow your following, this is the perfect way to reach your target market!

Hashtags can also be found to discover the content of other accounts. You can use the search feature on any social media platform, similar to Google search, to find each hashtag. For example, try searching #dogsofinstagram (trust me on this one – you will be entertained for hours). This functionality allows you to engage with content that is relevant and interesting to you.

How do I find hashtags?

Thinking of hashtags to use is easier than it sounds. For example, if you’re at an event, odds are, this hashtag will be printed on banners, pamphlets, or even the t-shirt that you are racing in! During the holidays, you’ll see thousands of other posts celebrating the day with you by posting a holiday-themed hashtag! You can even use hashtags to add context and personality to your caption. For example, “New Monday. New Week. New Goals. #MondayMood” or “National Taco Day? Don’t mind if I do. #YesPlease #LetsTacoBoutIt”.

Use your creativity and have fun with it!

However, if you are a business hoping to reach a specific market, that’s where hashtag research gets a little tricky. After identifying who would like to reach, we recommend creating a hashtag list. To do this, you can refer to your competitors, look at what influential individuals are doing, or use the “search” option on Instagram to look for tags.

When it comes to quality hashtags, it’s important to get specific. A good rule of thumb is to use hashtags with at least 2,000 pictures, but less than 1 million. For example, if you are a luxury dog treat company posting about your latest products, using the hashtag #dog won’t quite cut it. Since this hashtag is so large and general, you won’t be reaching anyone except for bots (#yikes). Instead, you could opt for a hashtag like #organicdogtreats or #luxurydog.

Next Steps

Now that you have an answer to  “What is the purpose of a hashtag?”, it’s time to get to work! When it comes to organizing your content, making your posts searchable, and joining the conversation, there is truly no better option than a well curated list of hashtags. So, with that being said, on your next social media post, try adding a few. Don’t be too serious about it – they’re not as intimidating as they seem!

Are there any beginner-level hashtag tips that we missed? Let us know down below in the comments!

Chelsea Evans is a Digital Marketing Manager at Markitors, specializing in Social Media Marketing and SEO Content Creation. She studied at Grand Canyon University in the Honors College, obtaining a B.S. of Marketing with a minor in Entrepreneurial Studies. Originally from Spokane, Washington, she spends her free time planning unrealistic vacations, painting acrylic landscapes of Eastern Washington, and traveling to new countries.

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