Published at 16.03.2021

What once stood for a number has now become the hashtag for an entire generation, that little hash mark: #. No platform has coined the hashtag more than Instagram - except perhaps Twitter. But it's high time we took a closer look at him. So you'll also know where it came from, what significance it still has, and which hashtags have been used so often that they break all records.

The history of hashtags

What does hashtag actually mean? We've adopted the term so unquestioningly from English that hardly anyone thinks about what exactly it means. Upon closer inspection, however, this is not surprising. Because literally translated, hashtag means double cross mark. It would be a bit awkward to say that every time.

But it's ultimately true: the hashtag is used to put a double cross (= hash) in front of a term to mark it. Thus, it says something about the content of an image, text or video and at the same time becomes a means of communication: By clicking on the hashtag, you can find more content on the same topic.

However, the hashtag did not start its triumphal procession on Instagram, but on Twitter. There it was discussed since 2007 and ultimately 2009 properly integrated into the concept. Hashtags were used to relate topics to each other. No wonder Instagram followed suit a few years later. On Facebook, Pinterest and TikTok, too, hashtags are simply part of the game.

Do hashtags still work?

Hashtags are a much debated topic in the online marketing world. Some say you can't do without them. The others think hashtags are a phenomenon of the past. Who's right? No one.

There was a time when incredible reach was possible on social media with the right hashtags. But that has since changed. Algorithms are getting better at identifying what the content of a post is. Thus, they don't really rely on hashtags anymore.

But the basic function still remains: If you want to learn more about a topic, you can use the hashtag to do so. For content creators, this means they can use hashtags to make it easier for their followers to experience a topic. For trends, it's also still beneficial to use the appropriate hashtag - to potentially jump on said trend and benefit from the increased exposure for a topic. You can find examples of this below in the predictions for 2021.

The most used hashtags of all time

There are those little hashtags that few people actually use, like #homewithmydog. There are also hashtags that are used by larger groups without having widespread influence, like #moin. And there are hashtags that are so big that no one can see through them. These are the top 20 hashtags of the past few years:

  1. #love
  2. #instagood
  3. #fashion
  4. #photooftheday
  5. #beautiful
  6. #art
  7. #photography
  8. #happy
  9. #picoftheday
  10. #cute
  11. #follow
  12. #tbt
  13. #followme
  14. #nature
  15. #like4like
  16. #travel
  17. #instagram
  18. #style
  19. #repost
  20. #summer

As you can see, these hashtags are actually always completely generic. That's what makes them: Everyone posts something that fits these hashtags sooner or later. But to rank it more specifically: Number 20 on the list is #summer and this one has been used over 450 million times. Can you imagine what it looks like at #1? Over 1.8 billion times #love has been used.

Which hashtags will be used most in 2021?

Without a magic crystal ball, no one can know exactly which hashtags will be particularly successful in 2021. But with a little logic, some trends can already be guessed. For example, Corona-related hashtags will be around for a while. In 2020, there was #we'restayinghome or #stayinghomefor. With the easing of measures and (hopefully) a return to normal life, there are sure to be quite a few celebratory hashtags. The exact wording remains to be seen, but variants of #backatclub or #finallybackfootball are likely to gather momentum as things get underway.

Certain trends will also just continue. Cute animals, for example, or photo hashtags like #picoftheday and #photography. Also #mondaymotivation or #foodporn are so integrated into the daily Instagram life of many people that they will probably never lose their charm.

Political hashtags are sure to play a big role as well. After all, they've become part of every social or political change. #fridaysforfuture, #metoo and #blacklivesmatter have been the hashtags in recent years that not only provide a bit of context for an image, but connect people worldwide. This won't change in 2021 (thankfully), as the hashtag has become part of our everyday lives online. #isso.


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