Twitter hashtags: How to find and use the right hashtags

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If you’re not yet using Twitter hashtags to their fullest potential, you could be missing out on a lot of prospective impressions and engagement. In other words, it could be a missed opportunity to attract a relevant audience on the platform. So even if you know what to Tweet, you might not get optimum visibility for your Tweets without the right hashtags.

This guide will explain how and why Twitter hashtags matter for your brand, how to find popular and relevant hashtags and when to use them for marketing. Let’s get started.

Why are Twitter hashtags important?

Hashtags are a combination of keywords or phrases preceded by the # symbol, excluding any spaces or punctuations. For example, if you put the # symbol in front of the words “social media,” it becomes a hashtag #socialmedia.

Hashtags help group Tweets and conversations around a similar topic so people can easily find and follow what interests them. So when someone clicks on or searches a specific hashtag, they will be able to find all the profiles and public posts that use that hashtag. For instance, if I search for #homecooking, I can see plenty of posts of home-cooked meals.

Trending Twitter search results for #homecooking

Hashtags essentially make your content searchable and grouped into relevant topics. By using hashtags to join in on subjects like industry discussion or Twitter trends, it will appear when people search that hashtag. You can become visible to a wider audience outside your following and boost the discoverability and reach of your content.

What are Twitter trending hashtags?

Engaging with trending Twitter hashtags could also help you attract a highly relevant audience that is interested in what you have to say. Some might discover your products through these hashtags, while others might start following your brand.

What does it mean for a Twitter hashtag to become “trending?” Twitter trends are found on the “What’s happening” sidebar on desktop, or the search tab on mobile, and show the topics that are currently picking up momentum and driving the conversation on Twitter. These topics, news stories and popular hashtags are selected based on global trends, regional ones, or related by the Twitter algorithm to an individual’s own interests, depending on user settings.

One reliable source of Twitter hashtag ideas are the regularly occurring hashtag holidays that frequently enter the ranks of the top Twitter hashtags when the occur. We’ve created a full yearly calendar of hashtag holidays you can easily slot them into your publishing plans.

Beyond these more predictable top hashtags, Twitter trends emerge rapidly around the day’s news, events and even memes that unexpectedly gain viral traction.

While jumping in on popular hashtags and conversations is recommended, be sure that you fully understand the meaning of a given hashtag and vet its relevance to your brand voice and identity before firing off a Tweet. Just as brands have found themselves co-opted by groups looking to distort their message, hashtags used in evolving trends can quickly take on additional, unexpected connotations.

That’s why using hashtag search and research tools can help you efficiently and effectively incorporate hashtags into your upcoming content–read on for ways to find top Twitter hashtags.

3 ways to research Twitter hashtags

Besides knowing when to use Twitter hashtags, you need to find which hashtags are popular. One way to do that is with a hashtag tracking tool like we offer at Sprout Social, but here are three other ways to find valuable Twitter hashtags:

1. Native Twitter search

Twitter comes with a native search feature that lets you keep up with the latest hashtags. From your Twitter dashboard, click on the #Explore tab. Then select the“trending” tab to get a list of the topics and hashtags currently trending in your region.

How to find the Twitter trends list

You can also find a list of popular topics and hashtags personalized according to your interests. And you can check out the most popular topics in different categories such as sports and entertainment. Ultimately, since these are the top trends across a wide audience, it can be hard to hone in on the specifics that your brand audience may be interested in. That’s where a more powerful tool comes in.

2. Sprout Social

To create a more relevant list of trending Twitter hashtags, make the most of Sprout’s social listening tools. The Twitter Trends Report lets you view topics and track hashtags that people use frequently when mentioning your brand. You can even get comprehensive hashtag analytics for each of the hashtags that are mentioned in the Trends Report including frequency by day, or by people and brands mentioning or talking about you.

Sprout Social Twitter trends report and hashtag analytics

Using social listening tools helps you hone in on the specific conversation your brand audience is having.  It’s one thing to hop on trending hashtags for visibility, but you’re much more likely to drive longer term value such as brand loyalty and conversions with Twitter hashtags that are highly relevant to your audience’s interest. For example, a bakery chain might have some cute photos to share on #NationalPetDay, but they can actually drive audience awareness, product discovery and conversion with eye-catching and appetite-tempting images on #NationalDonutDay.

Conducting this research doesn’t have to be a time-consuming addition to your social media marketing efforts–check out our list of 40 ways to use social listening for inspiration on targeted, efficient ways to start using these powerful insights.

3. Trendsmap

Trendsmap helps you tackle the limitations of the native Twitter hashtag search function by showing you the latest trending hashtags as well as letting you explore their performance over time. It also gives you a detailed perspective about certain topics, allowing you to see the most popular Tweets and accounts related to them.

How to use Twitter hashtags for your brand

The key to Twitter hashtags is to use them correctly rather than just blindly using them and hoping for the best. This is especially true for those running brand social media accounts as it requires taking a calculated approach for proper hashtag marketing.

Check out when you should use Twitter hashtags for your brand:

1. Tweet about events and conferences

Make the most of Twitter hashtags to join in on conversations around popular events (#Oscars) and industry conferences (#SocialMediaWeek). Better yet if your brand is making an appearance or a relevant contribution to an event, you can use these hashtags to share news about your participation.

See how Billboard uses the #Grammys hashtag in the following Tweet to create a discussion around the event.

2. Celebrate holidays and notable days

Use Twitter hashtags when celebrating a national (#Thanksgiving) or global holiday (#EarthDay) with your community. In addition to highly significant and important holiday, you could join in on the fun with lesser-known celebrations such as National Pancake Day or National Emoji Day. Be sure to make the most of celebrations that are highly relevant to your product.

Take, for example, take the popular burger chain Five Guys posting about #NationalBurgerDay.

3. Promote brand campaigns

The best time to use Twitter hashtags is when you’re promoting your brand and its products. This could be through a hashtag for a certain marketing campaign or even a hashtag for the product itself. You could also create a branded hashtag campaign to collect user-generated content and drive even more visibility around your brand.

For example, Social Media Examiner uses the #SMEchat hashtag to promote its Twitter chat.

4. Connect with pop culture trends

Twitter is a conversation hub, especially on pop culture topics. So if you decide to join in on those conversations, using a relevant hashtag for the topic will help your Tweet get some visibility.

See for example how the official Wendy’s Twitter uses the Animal Crossing: New Horizons hashtag #ACNH in the following Tweet.

Keep in mind that your brand doesn’t need to get involved in every pop culture topic. Social media crises can happen even when you think your Tweet was on par with the topic. Make sure you understand the topic before you post.

5. Join a weekly trend or challenge

A lot of the major Twitter hashtags involve weekly challenges and trends, such as #ThrowbackThursday, #MondayMotivation, etc. So if you ever decide to join in on these challenges, don’t forget to make use of the relevant hashtags.

Check out Subaru retweeting something for #FeelGoodFriday.

6. Support a cause

In an era of socially conscious consumers, it’s become crucial for brands to stand up for a cause. According to the Sprout Social #BrandsGetReal survey, 70% of consumers feel that brands should take a stand on public issues.

And when showing your support for a cause, use Twitter hashtags to gain more visibility. Ben & Jerry’s has been exemplary in this aspect, as covered in our recent Social Spotlight. See how they used #StopHateforProfit in the Tweet below, for example.

7. Join the discussion on relevant topics

Even when you post about general interest topics (#nature, #marketing, etc.), including a relevant hashtag will help you gain more visibility among an interested audience.

See the use of hashtags like #ethicalfashion and #sustainablefashion in the following Tweet from the UK brand Pretty Polly, for instance. By using those general interest topics, they’ve expanded their audience beyond their local market.

Twitter hashtags for your marketing strategy

Effectively using Twitter hashtags frequently comes down to striking a balance between original branded hashtags and joining the conversation on relevant hashtags. This gives you options in your publishing strategy and content planning: will you focus on pre-planning content around a campaign hashtag, or do you want to gain visibility through popular Twitter trends and events like existing hashtag holidays?

Either way, hashtags are a powerful avenue to brand recognition and success. Have you noticed how fast food brands like Wendy’s created their own hashtags and made them go viral on Twitter? The brand used their #WendysBreakfastBattle hashtag to Tweet scorching roasts about its competitors. Read more about their viral hashtag campaign and more in our 2020 Sprout Social Index and for inspiration on your next campaign.

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