You’ve probably seen #TBT or “Throwback Thursday” before.
Maybe it was an embarrassing yearbook photo from a high school friend.
Maybe it was a an Instagram post from your mom of that vacation you took last year.
Maybe it was even just a tweet about an awesome party that happened a few months ago.
TBT is an incredibly popular hashtag used by basically everyone—your aunt, influencers, celebrities, and first ladies.
— First Lady- Archived (@FLOTUS44) January 29, 2015
For brands, TBT is a great opportunity to build engagement, increase awareness, tell stories, and just have a little fun with social media.
That’s why we want to show you what exactly TBT is, how it works, and how to use it for maximum impact.
Let’s get to it.
Bonus: Download a free guide to discover which hashtags to use to boost traffic and target customers on social media. And then learn how you can use Hootsuite to measure results.
What does TBT mean?
TBT stands for Throwback Thursday. People use it when sharing old photos and videos of themselves for nostalgia.
It doesn’t just have to be photos or videos either. Users can share texts of memories or audio recordings.
While commonplace now, the origins of #TBT are a bit of a mystery. According to Vox, one of the first uses of the hashtag appeared in 2006 when a blogger named Mark Halfhill used it for his sneaker blog.
The first #TBT post on Instagram, according to TIME, was a shot of Hot Wheels toy cars shared by guy named Bobby in February 2011.
The hashtag has since taken on a life of its own and become one of the most popular hashtags on social media. At the time of writing, there are 488 million posts on Instagram with the hashtag #TBT.
That’s the history of TBT—but why should you care?
Why you should be using #TBT
#TBT is one of the most popular hashtags across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. That means when you use it, you’ll be able to accomplish three very crucial things:
1. Increase engagement
Twitter found that brands that used hashtags more saw a 50% increase in engagement in their tweets when compared to those who did not use hashtags.
2. Increase audience
Many users tend to follow different hashtags—and #TBT is no exception. That means when you use it, your post will show up in their feed, thereby introducing your brand to an entirely new audience.
3. Improve brand awareness
#TBT gives you an opportunity to share exactly who your brand is and where it came from. You can tell your brand’s story by sharing old photos and videos while introducing your business to new people.
In short, you have lots to gain by experimenting with the hashtag.
How does Throwback Thursday work?
Throwback Thursday can be used in a variety of formats—but they all have one thing in common: They call back to an event or moment in the past.
As long as you adhere to that rule, your content should work.
Some common formats are:
— Oxford University (@UniofOxford) August 4, 2016
And while you can post any old photo or video and put a #TBT on the post, there are a few best practices you should keep in mind when using the hashtag:
Photos must be shared on Thursday
This is a no brainer, but it is a crucial element of #TBT success. While you can leverage similar hashtags such as #FlashbackFriday (for more, see below), #ThrowbackThursday is MUCH more popular. And let’s be honest: #FlashbackFriday only exists because some people forgot to participate in #TBT.
It should include the hashtag #TBT, #ThrowbackThursday, or both
This is hashtag use 101, but it’s important to note that your image won’t show up in #TBT searches if you forget to tag it.
It has to be old
While you can post a #TBT post from a relatively recent moment (e.g., a party a few weeks ago), a true #TBT post throws back to a noticeably different period. For a brand or business, it needs to harken back to a different time (think decades rather than mere years). A good rule of thumb for great #TBT posts: The best Throwback Thursday posts are of pictures and videos from before the Internet was popular.
Stick to one per week
This is less of a hard and fast rule. You can just use your judgement—but the common wisdom of the internet suggests that it’s best, for ultimate impact, to keep it to one nostalgia-inducing snap per week.
For more on the power of hashtags in your marketing campaigns, be sure to check out our article on daily hashtags and how to use them.
Variations of the TBT hashtag
There are a few variations of #TBT that you can post on other days of the week—a few of which we’ve already covered!
There is also the hashtag #Latergram and #OnThisDay—which isn’t specific to any day of the week.
Typically, #Latergram is used on a photo or video of an event that happened relatively recently (within the past few weeks), and is used primarily on Instagram. However, you could probably get away with it on other social media sites.
#OnThisDay is for the anniversary of certain events you might want to harken back to, like a building opening, or a product launch.
Though you can use any of these hashtags, it’s best for spreading brand awareness and engagement if you just stick with #TBT. That’s because Throwback Thursday is the most popular variation of the trend by far, and is one of Instagram’s most popular hashtags.
Throwback Thursday ideas
Now that you’re up to speed on what #TBT’s all about, it’s time to integrate it into your social media marketing strategy.
If your brand has a history—great. Share it.
If you’re running social media for a fledgling business, that’s okay, too. Approach #TBT as an exercise in creative thinking.
Your business’ physical location can be a great place to start for #TBT. You might even have archival footage of your location’s various forms through the years.
Throwback Thursday photos of your location could feature blueprints, construction photos, or even a shot of the building from some other point in its history.
— NY Public Library (@nypl) June 26, 2014
You could also think about your location more broadly as the city, town, region, or country that your business is located in—a step that widens the pool of available content significantly.
Heck. Even if you don’t have a physical location and your business exists solely online, you can still get in on #TBT. After all, websites had to start somewhere.
— Google (@Google) September 20, 2018
Your employees are the backbone of your business. So why not have a little fun sharing behind-the-scenes pictures or videos of them?
These could be fun pictures of them at work, old photos of the business’ original employees, or pictures of the company founder.
— Wells Fargo (@WellsFargo) October 24, 2013
These pictures are great because they also humanize your brand as well as help boost engagement. You’re showing your followers that, hey, there are people behind this business just like them.
— Google (@Google) July 26, 2018
Your employees can also provide old baby photos of themselves to share for some fun, light-hearted #TBT posts. This can help boost engagement and lets you look at more adorable baby pictures during the day.
Perhaps there’s no better way to engage your customer through #TBT than by showcasing the customer themselves. So celebrate them with a throwback to customers of yesteryear.
These should be pictures or videos of customers interacting with your brand. They can be visiting a business location…
— Wendy’s (@Wendys) December 12, 2013
…using your product…
— Caterpillar Inc. (@CaterpillarInc) July 31, 2014
And if you can find shots of customers from back in the day who are still loyal to your brand, all the better!
4. Product or service
Your product or service is a great area ripe with potential #TBT content. How has your product changed over the years? Do you have photos of a prototype or blueprint of it?
— Levi’s® (@LEVIS) July 10, 2014
Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box too—especially if your product is a little too new for there to be old photos of it.
If that’s the case, what is an example of an earlier but different version of your product? Do you make apps for mobile users? You can probably find funny archive photos of people using vintage phones.
Do you have a fitness coaching service? Find old photos of the weird exercises people use to do in the past.
With a little bit of digging, you can find an engaging and entertaining way to showcase a “throwback” photo of your product.
Old, vintage marketing materials can be fantastic #TBT material.
That’s because they are often great nostalgia-filled and delightfully kitschy products of their time.
Ad-focused throwbacks could be printed (or even video) ad materials such as old posters…
— U.S. Army (@USArmy) April 9, 2015
— Eddie Bauer (@eddiebauer) December 24, 2015
…and TV or radio commercials.
These are great opportunities to tap into people’s sense of nostalgia. Choose the right #TBT advertisement and you’re sure to get a ton of engagement and comments about when and where people first saw certain commercials or advertisements.
Big events can frequently give you great #TBT material.
Think about upcoming events connected to your brand that have a history, then check out the archives to see if there’s a shot of that event from back in the day. Bonus points if your business has been involved in the past and has visual proof that you can share.
Events are also a good opportunity to combine hashtags by digging through the relevant archives for a specific date and create an #OnThisDay or #ThisDayInHistory-style #TBT (for example: #OnThisDay in X year, X thing happened). Just don’t forget to add your #TBT hashtag as well!
#TBT is also a perfect opportunity to celebrate milestones your business might have experienced in the past and the present.
For example, when the New York Times Magazine, released their first story in VR, they celebrated by tweeting out the news along with their first story that included pictures.
— NYT Magazine (@NYTmag) November 5, 2015
This is a great example of how you can draw parallels with modern day milestones to old ones for perfect #TBT material.
The milestones don’t have to be about your product or service either. They can even be something like when you got your 100th employee, or when you moved into your current location. Whatever works, as long as it’s a milestone that occurred in the past.
Do more with your hashtags
If you’re interested in learning more about hashtags—and how to use them effectively—be sure to check out our articles on the topic below:
With Hootsuite you can set up streams to monitor hashtags—including #TBT—and see how effectively you’re using them. Try it free today.