How to Use Throwback Thursday (TBT) to Grow Your Brand on Social

Social media trends come and go along with their corresponding hashtags. Now you can barely find any new content related to the #icebucketchallenge or people doing the mannequin challenge. Through all this, there’s one hashtag that has remained resilient to the test of time (and rightfully so), and that’s the #tbt or #ThrowbackThursday hashtag.

This hashtag remains a classic and hasn’t really gone out of trend even if its popularity may have dwindled a bit. So it’s the perfect way for brands to grow their reach and provide their audience with interesting new content. In this post, we take a closer look at some of the main reasons why brands should use the #tbt hashtag and how they can creatively leverage it in their content creation.

How to Use TBT (Throwback Thursday) to Grow Your Brand on Social:

What is TBT or Throwback Thursday?

TBT is an acronym for “Throwback Thursday” and is popularly used as a hashtag on social media. As the name suggests, the hashtag is used on posts that “throw back” to something from the past. This may be a picture showing a younger version of the content creator, for example, or an old TV advertisement that was popular several decades ago.

The #tbt hashtag can be used to accompany a wide variety of content formats. It can be anything from a photo or a video to even an old audio recording. Some may even use it with a text post describing a past event or recalling a personal memory–whether positive or negative. You can typically find the hashtag being used across Twitter and Instagram by all types of users including brands and organizations.

The History of Throwback Thursday

Like all internet trends, the Throwback Thursday trend also had to start somewhere. The origin of this trend can be traced as far back as 2006, although the exact source varies depending on whom you ask.

Some credit the origin of the trend to an artist named Saxton Moore who used the phrase as a title of his blog post in which he recreated several vintage cartoon characters. Others credit it to Matt Hill, who created a blog for sneakerheads and came up with weekly features, one of which was titled “Throwback Thursday.” But considering how Saxton Moore’s blog post was originally published in January 2006 while Matt Hill’s weekly features started in July of that year, the oldest use can be credited to Moore.

Why Brands Should Use #TBT

The #tbt hashtag has been extremely popular among everyday social media users and celebrities alike. They use it to post childhood photos and content that induces nostalgia. So why should brands jump in on the bandwagon? Here are a few main reasons why brands should consider using Throwback Thursday to their advantage.

Reasons Why #TBT is Essential for Brand Marketing

Expand Your Reach

As you can expect, using a popular hashtag like #tbt or #ThrowbackThursday is a great way to improve your visibility as your post can show up in related search results and Explore pages. This stands true across all the leading social media platforms where hashtags are used.
On Instagram, for example, more than 500 million posts have been created using the #tbt hashtag. Not to mention the millions of posts that use some variation of the hashtag. These numbers suggest that the hashtag is still very much popular among social media users and could potentially lead to increased visibility and reach when used correctly.

Drive More Engagement

Throwback Thursday posts are a way to give your audience insider access to your brand’s history and background. And people love being able to go behind the scenes and getting glimpses into the past, which means they’re likely to engage with the post.

Moreover, you can create more opportunities for engagement by asking questions or giving prompts that will encourage your audience to leave a comment on your post. For example, you could ask them to play a fun game of spotting what has changed in your brand logo since.

Get Weekly Content Ideas

Running out of things to post? One of the biggest challenges with social media marketing is coming up with fresh content ideas consistently. The challenge becomes even more apparent on days when you just feel uninspired. Throwback Thursdays help fill that gap in your content calendar by always giving you a backup option even when you run out of ideas.

You can make it a part of your weekly publishing schedule. Or you could dedicate one or two Thursdays a month for this type of content. Either way, #tbt could be a source of inspiration for brands that want to create original and high-quality content on a regular basis.

Have Some Fun

Finally, your brand could just have some fun with #tbt. Even if you don’t necessarily gain something from it, sharing Throwback Thursday posts is a great way to keep things fun and lighthearted. You get to show your brand’s playful side, which may be the key to building a bond with your audience.

7 Creative Ways for Brands to Use TBT

Now that the benefits of Throwback Thursday for brands have been established, you may be eager to start posting. Here are a few ideas to inspire your brand’s TBT posts.

Exploring Innovative Applications of #TBT in Brand Promotion

1. Show Before and After Comparisons

Want to show your audience how far your brand has come and what improvements you’ve made so far? Take the opportunity to make before and after comparisons so people can follow your brand transformation over the years. For example, you could share side-by-side images of your first team and your current workforce. Or you could share a picture of your first office followed by your current location.

This is exactly what Sony did when they shared how their camera products have evolved over time. The brand put a little twist to the #tbt trend with “Throw Forward Thursday” and presented an image of an older camera transforming into the modern Action Cam Mini.

Similarly, HubSpot shared a GIF comparing the differences in their website in a 10-year span. They compared their website from 2010 to their website in 2020 to see how much things have changed in just a short period of time.

2. Share Old Ad Campaigns and Brochures

A glimpse into how your brand advertised its products is an excellent way to tug at the heartstrings and give your followers their weekly dose of nostalgia. You get to show your audience what was in trend “back in the day” and what kind of messaging your brand used to have. This is particularly effective for brands that have produced vintage ads and brochures that people can really associate with the past.

For example, Ford shared a series of classic brochure covers from the seventies, eighties, and nineties as a #ThrowbackThursday post on Instagram. As you can expect, the post received more than 25,000 likes and hundreds of comments from people who had fond memories of those days and feel nostalgic about the company’s classic truck designs.


3. Mark a Milestone

Got a milestone to celebrate? This should be the perfect opportunity to create a Throwback Thursday post. Whether it’s an anniversary or a birthday or even some other noteworthy occasion relevant to your brand, share a #tbt post so your fans can celebrate with you. Marking a milestone shows your audience how far your brand has come, and it’s a great way to remind them of your brand’s legacy.

You could take the opportunity to mark a certain number of years since your first offices opened or since the release of a specific product, for example. That’s exactly what Microsoft did in the following Tweet celebrating 30 years since the launch of Windows 3.0.

4. Share Past Locations/Offices

Showcasing places from the past is another excellent way to create a sense of nostalgia and make use of the Throwback Thursday hashtag. Sharing photos of your past locations as they were back in the day could bring back fond memories. For instance, it might get someone to remember the beauty salon where their mom took them for their first haircut or the ice cream parlor they frequented every Friday evening after school.

Even if you’re sharing photos of locations that are too old for people to remember, it’s the essence of the image that will stir up feelings of nostalgia. Take, for instance, how the U.S. Postal Service shared the following black and white photo of their Post Office in Shawneetown, Illinois. This helps people picture what the place looked like way before they were born, creating an opportunity to learn something new.

5. Share an Old Product (or Announce Its Return)

One of the most popular uses of the #tbt hashtag is for showcasing products from the past. This is a great way to dredge up fond memories of people’s childhood or products that made a huge impact in their lives. As such, you can expect to get tons of engagement, especially from people who remember using those products.

For example, Nintendo decided to share a photo of classic NES controllers using the #tbt hashtag on Twitter. To create more engagement opportunities, the brand even asked people which controller has the best buttons. As you can expect, the Tweet got plenty of replies from people who had fond memories using those controllers and wanted to cast their vote based on their personal experiences.

Sometimes, sharing a photo of an old product serves a purpose beyond throwing back to the past. It can even be an opportunity to announce its return (if your brand is reviving an old favorite). A Throwback Thursday post would be the perfect way to make your announcement as you’ll get to ride the coattails of an already popular hashtag.

For example, when Pepsi decided to revive the classic Pepsi Blue from the early 2000’s, the brand shared a #tbt post on Twitter to make the announcement. Along with a photo of the new product, they wrote a caption about throwing it back to 2002 and included a hashtag saying #PepsiBlueIsBack. The post received thousands of likes and comments from people who were excited about the announcement.

6. Share Fun Facts and History

A Throwback Thursday post could even serve as a way to share fun facts and pieces of history to educate your audience. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a long and boring history lesson. Instead, keep it fun with a brief recap of something that happened in the past. But make sure you find a way to keep the fact relevant to your brand.

For example, Heinz Ketchup shared the following fun fact about the first drive-in opening in New Jersey in 1933. They concluded the lesson with a message about how drive-ins quickly became an American classic just like the brand’s ketchups. Note how the fun fact is accompanied by a fun and relevant original graphic to keep things interesting.

7. Recognize People from Your Brand’s History

Brands don’t just come to life on their own. It’s the people behind the brand that give it life and turn it into something memorable. That’s exactly why you should use your #tbt posts to recognize the people that have contributed to your brand’s history. Whether it’s the person who founded the brand from the ground up or the first few employees who contributed to the brand’s success–they deserve the recognition and acknowledgement.

Southwest Airlines shared the following throwback photo from 1985 when their then-CEO and founder served customers drinks on an inaugural flight. This helps to humanize the company while sharing a bit of its history.

Driving Brand Growth with TBT Posts

From what you can see so far, it’s clear that Throwback Thursday posts give you the perfect opportunity to get creative with your brand’s content and drive more audience engagement. It can help to humanize your brand and tap into people’s nostalgia to build a stronger connection with them. We’ve even provided you with several ideas to start leveraging the #tbt hashtag. Now it’s up to you to get started and drive brand growth with creative TBT posts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do people still use TBT?

TBT was a trend that soared in the mid-2010s, and although the popularity has dropped slightly, it’s still very much in use among social media users.

What are the rules for Throwback Thursday?

The main rule for Throwback Thursday is to post something from or related the past–whether it’s an old photo, video, or text describing a past event. Additionally, the post must be accompanied by a the #tbt or #ThrowbackThursday hashtag.

What does hashtag TBT mean?

The hashtag #tbt stands for Throwback Thursday and involves a post throwing back to something from the past.

Is TBT used only for Thursday?

As the name suggests, TBT or Throwback Thursday is only used on Thursdays.

What is the usage of throwback?

A throwback is used to give the audience glimpses of the past or recall a past event.

About the Author
Jacqueline Zote is a freelance writer and content producer. She writes for leading blogs in the digital marketing space. Her areas of expertise include influencer marketing, social media marketing, social media management, and content marketing.