What is a Hashtag?

A hashtag is a metadata tag typically used on social media for cross-referencing topics and themes in their content. A # symbol marks a hashtag. Hashtags are used in search engines to find content belonging to specific themes or topics. Users use hashtags in their content, so other users can find them when they look up a particular hashtag or topic. 

Chris Messina first introduced hashtags in 2007 on Twitter.  Messina is a blogger and is referred to as the ‘inventor of the hashtag.’ He introduced hashtags as a way for users to search for related content easily, even if they did not know a specific search protocol.

A Brief History of How Hashtags Came To Be

The Oxford English Dictionary added the term ‘hashtag’ to its database in 2014. However, hashtags did not initially become popular. In 2007, during the San Francisco fires, Twitter users used hashtags to spread awareness about the fires, aid and calling for action. Users realized that hashtags were a quick and easy way to categorize topics and boost visibility for issues they wanted to gain public attention. 

Hashtags have since become staples of content sharing on social media sites like Twitter and Instagram. Twitter’s algorithm uses hashtags, among other things, to establish local and international trends in the “Trending” section. 


Hashtags follow a specific format to function properly. Typically, a hashtag is a word or phrase without any spaces. Adding spaces terminates the hashtags. Let’s elaborate on the format of a hashtag with an example. 

For example, you want to add hashtags related to the 2019 Winter Olympics. There are several ways you can write out the hashtag. 

  1. #WinterOlympics2019
  2. #Winter #Olympics #2019
  3. #WinterOlympics #2019

Singular hashtags generally trend more because they’re more focused and streamlined. If you were to click on winter on its own, it would direct you to the winter Olympics if the topic is trending; additionally, it will direct you to tweets or posts about winter in general.

What NOT To Do

Some social media platforms have a cap on how many hashtags you can use under a post. If you exceed the limit, your post won’t go through. Sites like Twitter discourage the use of excessive hashtags that are not related to your tweet. Additionally, Twitter discourages using hashtags without any supporting content. Both of these practices can result in your account getting suspended or getting filtered out of search results. 

Uses of Hashtags

Hashtags have many uses that have made them such a popular metadata tag on and off social media. Here are some of the most popular ways Hashtags are used. 

1. Trending Topics

Hashtags are used on social media platforms to get important issues and topics trending. When a hashtag is used in tweets by multiple users frequently, Twitter’s algorithm turns the subject into a “Trend” on the site. These trends can be local on the “Trends For You” section or international trends where users worldwide tweet about something. 

2. Raising Awareness 

Users can use hashtags to raise awareness about important causes. In 2020, users worldwide turned Black Lives Matter “BLM” into a global trend across social media to raise awareness against police brutality in the USA. 

3. Promoting Businesses 

Businesses can use Hashtags to promote their brands online. This follows the same method as getting a topic to trend on Twitter. Brands often invest time and money into getting their campaigns trending on social media platforms to boost visibility and conversions.

The Bottom Line

Hashtags are a staple on social media for many reasons. They help apps categorize content and make it easy for users to find the content they’re looking for. Additionally, hashtags can be used to get topics trending, raise awareness, and even promote your businesses.