How to Use Hashtags in Your Tweets on Twitter

Confused by this whole hashtag thing? Follow these tips!

An image of a sign that says #Hashtag.

 Carol Yepes/Getty

Anybody who is remotely familiar with Twitter—even as a non-user—probably knows on a basic level that "hashtags" are a pretty big trend on the platform.

If you're thinking about joining Twitter or learning more about how to use it, here's what you'll want to know about using hashtags in your own tweets.

What Exactly Is a Hashtag, Anyway?

A Twitter hashtag is a pound sign (#) combined with a keyword or phrase, with no spaces between any of the characters. Hashtags automatically turn into links on Twitter, so they're highlighted and clickable. When you click on a hashtag, you're taken to a page on Twitter showing a feed of tweets that contain that particular hashtag.

Twitter hashtags are used to streamline relevant topics by keyword or phrase by grouping them together to make it easier to find and follow tweets from people who are talking about the same thing. Unfortunately, tweets containing hashtags often unnoticed.

Here are some tips on how to maximize your tweet exposure using Twitter hashtags to attract more followers, more retweets, more likes and more mentions.

Twitter's character limit is now 280 characters (formerly 140 characters). Although you can fit more into your tweets, hashtags still take up space in you character limit, so keep this in mind when crafting your tweets.

Check the Trending Topics Directly on Twitter

The easiest method you can use to get your tweets in front of the eyes of potentially thousands of people is to look at the trending topics that are currently listed on Twitter.

Twitter lists ten of the top most popular worldwide trends in the left sidebar on the web and on the Discover tab on the mobile app, which you can access by tapping the magnifying glass icon to pull up the search function. Depending on how you have your account setup, you may also be shown tailored trends or regional trends around your location.

Incorporating phrases or hashtags from these lists gives you the best chance of getting your tweets seen by lots of people immediately. Those phrases or hashtags are trending for a reason, and the fact that they’re trending means that lots of people are talking about those topics and probably following the real-time stream of tweets come in.

Twitter’s most popular trending topics are usually about current news topics, television shows and sporting events that are airing or celebrity gossip that breaks.

Take Advantage of Hashtags.org

If you want to dig even deeper into Twitter hashtag popularity and go beyond what Twitter displays directly on the web, you can look at Hashtags.org, which is a tool that allows people to search for hashtags and how popular they are.

Right on the site’s front page, you can see a list of some of the most popular hashtags being used. For example, in the business category, #jobs and #marketing are a couple of popular terms. In the tech category, #iphone and #app are popular as well.

Searching for or clicking on a hashtag or searching for one will show you a 24-hour trend graph based on a 1-percent sample, displaying the times of the day when it was most popular. You can also see a list of related hashtags to see how you can gain even more exposure with your tweets.

If you liked this site, you may be interested in checking out others that specialize in tracking Twitter trends. Try looking at other hashtag tracking sites like Twubs in addition to Hashtags.org.

Don’t Overdo It

There are many Twitter users out there who often like to cram in as many hashtags as they can in just one tweet. With just 280 characters and a tweet that has five or six hashtags—sometimes with a hyperlink stuck in there as well—it can look pretty messy once it's out there. It also gives the impression that you may be trying to spam everybody.

Nobody wants that, so sticking to just one or two hashtags per tweet is the safer way to go. You can always send out a similar tweet after or later on and experiment with other related hashtags.

According to a report from Buffer, tweets with hashtags see double the engagement than tweets without hashtags—and those with one or more hashtags increase their chances of being retweeted by more than half. Having said that, tweets with more than two hashtags start to see their engagement drop. So if you're going to include hashtags in your tweets, stick to one or two at the very maximum.

Be Interesting and Descriptive

Again, you probably already know that you have limited room to work with on Twitter with the character limit, but tweets that are centered around interesting topics and get straight to the point while including a bit of humor or strong personal opinions often do very well.

Try not to use too many abbreviations in your tweet for the sake of trying to save room. Too many short form words can make it almost unreadable. Proper spelling and grammar shouldn’t be overlooked on Twitter most of the time, even though it’s quite tempting.

Try including photos and videos in your tweets. Social network users of all kinds love visual content, and posts with visual stuff often get noticed more than than posts without them. Unlike hashtags, photos and videos don't take up any extra space of your character limit, so you can freely add them without worrying about how they might impact the length of your message.

Keep Experimenting

If you’re tweeting links, you may want to use a URL shortener that tracks how many people click on your links, like Bitly. Activity on Twitter also goes through a series of peaks during the day, so your tweets are more likely to be seen around 9 a.m., 12 p.m., 4 or 5 p.m., and around 8 or 9 p.m.

Social media can be pretty unpredictable, so you may experience a lot of reactions from a tweet with a hashtag and then nothing with another one right after it. But if you keep experimenting with your hashtags and tweeting style and timing, you’re bound to get a good feel for what works.