Hashtags as a Search Tool


Learn how to use hashtags as a search tool.

Hashtags have become a familiar sight across the internet, particularly on social media. However, many businesses aren’t using hashtags to their full potential.


What are Hashtags?

Created by researchers – not Twitter – to search for topics and themes hashtags are a common feature on social media networks, but you may also spot them elsewhere on the internet.

Essentially a hashtag is just a word or a phrase with a hash (#) symbol at the beginning. Hashtags are used to label information so that similar posts can be found or grouped together. For example, the hashtag #guide can be used to label posts that provide explanations of different topics. Some hashtags are very general but others are more specific. For example, many brands and events will promote their own hashtags so that everyone who mentions them is helping with marketing.


How are Hashtags used?

Hashtags can be used whenever someone is writing a post on a site such as Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, of Tumblr. Users might indicate where they are, what they are doing, or how they feel with their hashtags. It’s common for popular hashtags to develop that can be used to connect posts on a particular topic. Sometimes these hashtags have been created by a brand or organisation, but in other cases they gain popularity more naturally. For example, the hashtag #YOLO spread by itself while most brands will choose and popularise their own preferred hashtags.

Anyone who is using a social network such as Twitter or Instagram can add hashtags to their posts. Choosing the right hashtags can be particularly important for businesses:

  • Creating a memorable and recognisable hashtag for your brand (or for a special offer or event) can make it more visible on social networks and enables you to see who is talking about you
  • Using popular or trending hashtags can help your posts to reach more people and shape your brand image, although it can backfire if you use these tags inappropriately
  • Your content can be easier for people to find when you use the right hashtags


Using Hashtags as a Search Tool

The reason why hashtags were created is that they enable posts to be indexed and searched by topic. The hash symbol identifies a word or phrase as a tag that describes the content of the post. You can usually click on the hashtag to find other recent posts using the same tag. Sites like Twitter also enable you to see which hashtags are currently the most popular or to search for posts with a particular tag.

Being able to search for hashtags can be very useful for businesses. You can use hashtags as a search tool to:

  • Identify trending topics and ensure that your posts are part of that conversation by adding the most popular hashtags to your content
  • Find out what people are saying about your business by searching for posts mentioning your brand’s hashtag
  • Follow the latest developments in your sector by searching for posts on relevant topics
  • Learn more about your audience’s interests by searching for hashtags that are often used by your followers or key influencers


5 Hashtag Tools for Businesses

Hashtags can be very useful for businesses, but it is important to use them correctly. You don’t want to make the mistake of choosing a hashtag for your brand that is often misspelled or already associated with something else. It’s also essential to ensure that you’re using the best hashtags on your posts in order to reach people and to make sure that you aren’t using trending hashtags incorrectly as this can generate negative publicity.

Here are 5 useful tools to help you use hashtags for your business.


Hashtag tool – Hashtagify

Hashtagify provides easy to understand information about hashtag popularity and use over time to help you choose hashtags and monitor performance. There is a basic free option and paid plans start from $19 a month.

Hashtag tool -Trendsmap

Trendsmap is a free and simple tool to see either which hashtags are trending in your area or to search for a specific theme. It’s particularly useful if you’re running a local or regional business. You can zoom in to the level that is appropriate for your business. As well as hashtags you’ll also see which users are posting in your area, which could help you to identify local influencers. The paid version makes it easier to search. It’s also easier to look at on a desktop screen!

Hashtag tool -Tagdef

Tagdef is a free hashtag dictionary that you can use to check their meaning. You can ensure that you’re using hashtags correctly and check whether a hashtag already has another meaning before you start using it for your brand or event. So whilst it’s not a hashtag finder, it defines what others have termed the hashtags.


Hashtag tool -Tagboard

Tagboard is a tool for identifying and curating hashtags across different social networks including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Prices start at $500 for a year. when this was a free tool I used it to search for an undergraduate marketing module I was teaching to gauge the use amongst students. It was easy to use with good visuals, but as an infrequent searcher, I’m not sure the $500 a year is a good investment. These days it’s manly aimed at large scale events to people can watch others being tagged at the venue.

Hashtag tool -Ritetag

Ritetag quickly suggests hashtags that might be a good fit for the text or image you want to post. Suggestions are based on the latest trends and you’ll get advice on which options will give the biggest boost to your visibility. Costs $49 a year.


You can also search tools like Twitter for specific hashtags as this example searching for coffee illustrated:

Are there any other hashtag tools I should have included? If yes let me know @AnnmarieHanlon