#Too #many #hashtags?

30 January 2019

How many hashtags should I use?

Ah, the humble hashtag: a simple nexus of four crosshatched lines. And yet it’s one of the biggest cultural, semiotic, and taxonomic revolutions in communication since the dawn of HTML.


It started in 2007, when Twitter user Chris Messina suggested using the hashtag as a way for people to easily find themed content. Over a decade on and emblematic of the rise of social media, hashtags are now an indelible part of our symbology, our advertising, and our everyday communication.


But, when it comes to our social media posts, the eternal question is how many hashtags should you use?


The answer depends on the medium.


How many hashtags should I use on… Twitter?


We’re going to keep this one simple – use hashtags sparingly on Twitter. Ironically, having been popularised on this platform, using hashtags on Twitter gets very spammy very quickly.


Try and keep their use on Twitter as part of a wider social conversation. Find hashtags that are: 1) popular and current, 2) that your peers are using, and, 3) that your readers are searching for – and hashtag accordingly.


But don’t utilise all three in one post. Stick to one, two tops. Anything else will seem like you’re trying too hard.


Because no one wants to read this…


Example of a hashtag-heavy Twitter post


How many hashtags should I use on… Instagram?


Hashtags may have been born on Twitter, but they reached adulthood on Instagram.


Prevailing wisdom says: don’t use lots of Instagram hashtags. You’re allowed up to 30 but using that many looks desperate. So, stay cool and stick to between five and ten.


Turncoat wisdom says: definitely use more than ten… if you’re seeking to grow. If you want to play it cooler, sure, go with four or five. Or none, if you don’t need or care about reach.


If you want to grow your Insta audience effectively, you should aim for at least a dozen hashtags, choosing those related to your industry, what you’re posing, and the more popular public conversations.


And if you want to hit the big 3-0, go for it. As this detailed dissection of hashtag use by Agora Pulse concludes, throwing out 30 hashtags per post is a good way to get more likes.


Hey, you can always dial it down once you’ve got the audience you want, right?


How many hashtags should I use on… Facebook?


What with Facebook’s ever-changing algorithm making it more difficult to promote organic content, it’s tempting to turn to hashtags to increase visibility. And you’d be right to do so.


FB posts with hashtags are found in their search engine by people not following your page or profile – ideal for when you might not have the budget to put behind a paid Facebook campaign or boosted post.


Like with other channels, use FB hashtags to participate in popular conversations, public events, or as a kind-of strapline to promote your campaigns.


How many hashtags should I use on… LinkedIn?


As the ‘business social channel of choice’ (my words, no one else’s…), LinkedIn has a more tolerant approach to hashtags than, say, Twitter. The whole point of LinkedIn is to promote your skills and your work, so no one’s going to call you out for using three, four, or five of them.


Just be careful not to clog your posts with them – and plonk your hashtags in at the end, Instagram-style, where it looks cleaner and doesn’t disrupt the reading experience.


When selecting your hashtag, use LinkedIn’s handy search bar that shows how popular it is. And be sure to take a look at the posts of those people you admire and find out what hashtag communities they’re part of – and then join the conversation yourself.


Final thoughts.


A quick by-platform breakdown to finish things off:



Keep the hashtags to a minimum so as not to appear spammy. Twitter users are a tough crowd and don’t respond well to such tactics. As a marketer, you should respect that and find other ways to grab attention.



Those hashtags you didn’t get to use on Twitter? Whack ‘em in Instagram, where they’re synonymous with the visual, promotion-oriented nature of the platform. If you’re worried about using too many, space them away from your caption or dial them back once you’ve got the following you want.



Following Facebook’s algorithm changes last year, FB hashtags are as important as ever. But, just as with Twitter, be careful not to over do it. Marketing spam is just like real spam: to be avoided.



There is a natural affinity for marketing and sales techniques on LinkedIn, so users are more forgiving – but you should still maintain a light touch. Between one and four is the sweet spot.


In the end, though, hashtags are just a tool to promote a message, they’re not the message itself. The best way to ensure a strong following and an engaged audience is to produce brilliant content that gets people talking, sharing, and interested in what you do.


And if you get that right, you might not need any hashtags at all…