Have you ever seen the “hashtags” sketch with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake? The one where they had a conversation as if they were on Twitter? During the whole bit, they trade off saying a few words and then insert a “hashtag” phrase. 

They made it funnier by making the hashtag or pound sign with their hands each time they said the word.

Most social media users use hashtags the same way. They insert them randomly into posts and captions.

Today, we’re going to go over what hashtags mean in social media. We’re also going to talk about creating your unique hashtag strategy. And, we’re going to talk about using mentions or the “at” sign.

Basic Strategy Behind Using Hashtags

Twitter made hashtags popular because as a user, you could join a particular conversation by using a hashtag. I’m no expert on Twitter, but I have learned a few things about how to use hashtags on social media.

Like Twitter, Facebook allows you to use hashtags in posts and captions. You can search for a hashtag, but you cannot follow.

Instagram allows you to “follow” a hashtag so that it shows up in your feed. For example, I follow CTE-related hashtags like “#CareerTechEd” and “#IAmCTE” as well as “#FCSTeacher.” 

Whenever someone uses that hashtag on a post, it may show up on my feed. This has helped me discover some amazing CTE programs as well as teachers. 

Most of the time when I share a post in my stories, it is because it came across my feed from one of the hashtags I follow.

Which hashtags you should be using and when is what leads us to our next point: your strategy.

Generating and Using a Hashtag List

Instagram will let you use up to 30 hashtags per post. Since I’m usually in a hurry and I also like to batch my posts, I like to create a list of hashtags that I can copy and paste. 

For all these suggestions, consider using a hashtag generator like MetaHashtags or Ingrammer. These allow you to see how popular the hashtag is as well as what others are posting using the hashtag. 

The last thing you want to do is use an inappropriate-for-school hashtag on accident.

Here’s what to think about when adding hashtags to your list:


While it’s great if you get a follower in another country–that’s not why you created your account. 

You created your account to showcase and celebrate your students and increase your enrollment. Right?

So your focus and strategy need to be in getting your posts to be seen by the “right” social media user.

Come up with some location-related hashtags like your city, county, or neighborhood. Make sure you are also using your district and school hashtags.

Program or Course Related

Next, consider program-related hashtags that you can add to this list. These hashtags could be based on what you teach, your CTSO, or national associations. Some examples would be #STEMEducation, #SkillsUSA, or #AWS.

These hashtags won’t get you local visibility, but they could get your program recognized on a larger scale. 

Someone may be following a hashtag you are using and it could open doors for you in the community for donations or grants.


Finally, make sure you add hashtags to your posts that are related to what is happening in the photo. These should be unique to each post and I add them in after I know what my image is going to be.

Some examples could be #StudentsWorking, #HighSchoolFoodPresentation, or #StudentMockInterview.

Adding Mentions to Your Posting Strategy

Want to increase your visibility in your school and district? The easiest way is to create posts and stories that they can quickly and easily reshare. Do this by using mentioning them (using the “at” sign.)

Using mentions is different than hashtags because you are targeting a specific account.

On Instagram, it will alert that user that you have mentioned or tagged them. It then makes it easy for them to reshare your post or story. All they need to do is click on the alert in their direct messages.

I’ve mentioned before in Episode 17: 3 Things to Easily Promote Your Program This Year, giving your school and district content to post will make you their best friend.

Be cautious with using brand-specific mentions as it could look like you are getting sponsored by a particular company. Influencers often use this strategy to get sponsors and bring attention to their accounts.

Check with your local PR or social media manager if you have any questions about policy.

In the end, if you are using Instagram, hashtags, and mentions are a great way to increase your visibility. You should be using them with every post you make.

Remember, your goal is to increase visibility and enrollment by celebrating students and your program. Use hashtags and mentions that meet those goals and edit out all the rest.

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