What are hashtags and how to use them on social media?

The hashtag symbol (#) was first used on Twitter in 2007 to help users filter and search for content, specific keywords, terms or phrases.

To do this, users would add a hashtag to words or phrases to search for and find content related to the search term on the Twitter platform. Since its inception, hashtags have become increasingly popular and are now used across numerous social media platforms to help individuals and organisations:

– Gain exposure
– Connect with like-minded service users, donors, the public and partners
– Produce specific marketing campaigns

However, although hashtags are a great way to navigate through the vast reams of content created daily, there are rules to using hashtags, and these can differ across each social media platform.

What are the rules of using hashtags and why?

First and foremost, when using hashtags, its best to remember that ‘less is more,’ unless you’re using hashtags on Instagram then fire away (use a minimum of ten hashtags and maximum of thirty).

Your intent when it comes to connecting with your audience matters.  If your content is littered with multiple random hashtags, your online audience will see that you are more concerned with getting exposure than their actual needs. You will be known as a spammer and in the long-run, spammers don’t create meaningful relationships online.

Twitter recommends user use no more than 2 hashtags per Tweet as best practice and LinkedIn recommends no more than 3.

Instagram is the only platform where using multiple hashtags work. This is because Instagram allows users to add 30 hashtags per post.

This doesn’t mean you have to use 30 hashtags every time you post, but you do have a bit more leeway and the types of hashtags you can use.

It’s all about balance.


How to use hashtags to connect with your audience

If you’re going to use a hashtag or a number of hashtags, do so with an audience in mind. If you’re looking to connect with online users interested in charity’s you should be creating content around the sector and peppering your content with the hashtag #charity, along with other charity-related hashtags, e.g. #volunteers #donations #community etc.


Don’t put a space between words in your hashtag, otherwise, the hashtag will be broken, and only the first word will be relevant. For example, your hashtag should look like this #SocialMedia and not #Social Media.

For clarity, you could choose to capitalise letters within your hashtag so they can be read with ease.

For example, your hashtag could look like this #SocialMedia and not #socialmedia.

Making it easier for your online audience to decipher information will always help you in the long-run.



Try and use different hashtags every time you post.

Duplication will give your audience the impression that you will be saying the same thing over and over again, which could result in a lack of interest in your posts; thus reducing engagement for your brand.

Trending hashtags

Refrain from adding hashtags from trending topics into your content, unless it is relevant to the content you are sharing.

If you are going to use trending hashtags, you better be a good storyteller who can make your content relevant to that specific hashtag, without coming across as conceited.

If you choose to ignore this advice, be prepared to be seen as inauthentic, inconsiderate (especially if the trending hashtag is related to tragic events) and desperate to obtain exposure.

This type of behaviour isn’t good for your reputation, so it’s best to avoid doing this in the first place.

 Creating a conversation around your charity

Creating and adding hashtags to your content with no plan in mind is like throwing mud and seeing what sticks.

The more you have thought about the hashtag and the ability it has to increase exposure for your charity, the more you will realise the importance of hashtags and their relevance.

A few things to think about when using hashtags for a potential campaign are:

  1. Do your research. Has it been used before and if not consider why that may be the case?
  2. Make it easy to remember and easy to spell – there’s nothing quite like putting people off taking action by making things difficult.
  3. Think about the hashtag you’ve chosen and how it looks and reads. The infamous #Susanalbumparty hashtags springs to mind in this case   (Google it if needs be,)
  4. When creating hashtag campaigns, think about how they could backfire and have a PR contingency plan in place to limit the damage – #WaitroseReasons handled this particularly well on Twitter (http://bit.ly/2YNGYji) 
Finding the relevant hashtags 

Believe or not, there are tools to help you find out which hashtags are good to go when it comes to using popular hashtags to increase engagement on your social media content. 

These tools can give you an idea of new hashtags to use on social media platforms to increase your exposure. Remember the ‘less is more’ rule, though, except when it comes to Instagram.

Brand Mentions 


All Hashtag


There you have it. A brief overview of hashtags and how to use them. Bet you didn’t think there was much to think about did you? 

Don’t worry, now that you’ve got some tips you can get planning, safe in the knowledge that you’ve thought the hashtag aspect of your social media strategy and campaigns through. 


If you want more help with getting your marketing right to increase fundraising streams,  my ‘Wake Up and Smell the Income coaching is for you .