Business | March 31, 2021

How to use TBT (Throwback Thursday) to Boost Your Marketing

Daniel Ndukwu

There are countless ways to market your brand both online and offline. Some people get creative, but oftentimes, a bit of nostalgia is all it takes.

That’s where #TBT (Throwback Thursday) comes into play. It’s an opportunity for people to dig into the archives and share some of their favorite memories. Smart brands have cashed in on it too.

This guide will dive deep into what TBT is and how to use it to get better marketing results.

What is TBT?

Throwback Thursday, abbreviated as TBT, is one of the most popular social media hashtags.

If I were a betting man, I’d wager that you’ve seen it more than once in your social feeds. It’s a simple hashtag that people from every corner of the globe use to share memories with the rest of the world.

The images and videos shared are wide and varied.

Some people choose to share old high school photos that mortified them at the time.

Others share news from the exact day in history.

Brands that have been around for a while take advantage of it by sharing different points in their development through product photos or candid shots of staff.

Blake Lively TBT

Even though it’s popular today, no one really knows how TBT started. According to Time Magazine, the first #TBT post on Instagram appeared in 2011, and the subject was Hot Wheels. I guess they’ve been leading the way for years.


I digress.

Whether you’re a brand or a budding influencer, there are tangible benefits of using Throwback Thursday to power your marketing.

What are the benefits of using TBT?

  • More engagement

Who doesn’t love seeing us as babies without a care in the world and snot drooling down our noses? Nobody.

On a more serious note, candid photos from an earlier time of your evolution, either as a brand or an individual, tend to garner more goodwill. People will comment, share, and like the content more readily.

Part of this is due to the emotional vulnerability of sharing a post about a different time in your growth. This is especially true if there is a radical difference between then and now.

Emotional vulnerability makes it easier to connect with others because it shows them you’re human, just like them.

  • Better audience reach

Most social media platforms have some search function. You’re usually able to search for people and hashtags. Since TBT is so popular on social media, there’s an opportunity for you to connect with people who wouldn’t otherwise encounter your brand.

If what you’ve shared is interesting enough, it can become a sensation all on its own.

  • Leapfrog off trends for brand awareness

Just because you use #ThrowbackThursday or #TBT, that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to use other hashtags. You can pair the visibility of TBT with other related trends and push your brand to the forefront.

If you have an older image that ties nicely into a current trend, don’t be afraid to share it. Some brands have turned this into an art form and have the social following (and revenue) to show for it.

Qualities of a good TBT post

Not all posts filed under Throwback Thursday are what you or I would consider good examples. It’s not uncommon for people to try leapfrogging off the popular hashtag with irrelevant content.

This may do more harm than good so let’s look at how to make good TBT posts.

It’s actually a throwback

The first prerequisite is that it’s an old image, audio file, video, etc. Something from last month, while from the past, doesn’t qualify as a throwback.

How old should the content you’re posting be?

There are no hard and fast rules for this, and people have varying opinions. It should be at least two years old, but that’s cutting it close. Aim for 3 years or more, but you get bonus points if you can pull out something that’s truly retro. Think 20 years or more.

TBT example

The post makes sense for your brand

Another aspect of a good TBT post is that it makes sense for the brand you’re building. If you’re a personal brand and have a whimsical personality, a post about your high school sweetheart may not be the best choice.

Then again, if you can tie it into your brand, then it may still work. Try not to reach too hard to make associations where none exist. If it can be easily misunderstood, then it will be.

Someone with a personal brand could post old images of them just getting started. A fashion brand could share content related to an old collection.

Interesting in some way

Just because you hit it with the TBT hashtag doesn’t mean people will take note and interact with it. Just like your other posts, it should be interesting to your followers.

You know the formula you’re already following, so use it to vet potential TBT posts. If it doesn’t meet the standards you set for your other content, then move on to the next one.


As I mentioned earlier, it’s social media. Sharing is the currency, and if you want to expand your reach with Throwback posts, then the content should be shareable.

There are many ways to accomplish this. You can add a CTA asking for the share or post something that’s candid and makes people want others to see it.

For example, older pictures of individuals or something in your archive that hasn’t been shared before work well.

Qualities of a bad TBT post

Like there are things you should do to make sure your TBT post is successful, there are things to avoid. In addition to the list below, use your knowledge of the platform you’re promoting on to make the right decision.

Irrelevant to your followers or brand

Please don’t force it. If you don’t have content relevant to your brand, then posting it in the name of TBT can be more detrimental than you think.

Your followers will be confused and genuinely wonder if there was some mistake. If it doesn’t make sense for you or your followers, then skip it. There will always be another opportunity.

Focused on you alone

Yes, your throwback posts may place you as the subject, but they should be a way to stimulate conversation. For example, if you post an image of you in high school, add a comment asking people about their high school experiences.

If you post an old product collection, ask people what their favorite one is or if you should bring it back for a limited time.

Not really throwback

This is a big no. I mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. If it’s not at least two years old, then it doesn’t qualify as TBT.

Don’t force it to work because there will always be more opportunities. After all, TBT comes around once a week.

How to use them effectively

Include the TBT hashtag

I know I’m stating the obvious, but it’s required. When you’re interested in taking advantage of Throwback Thursday, be sure to include #TBT #ThrowbackThursday or both.

No matter how retro and awesome it is, no one will discover it in their hashtag feed if you don’t, well, hashtag it.

It should be done on Thursday

Avoid being cute here. The day you’re supposed to post is clearly stated in the name of the hashtag. If you post it on another day, people are more than willing to call you out on it.

If it’s necessary to post an older picture on a different day, then take advantage of one of these hashtags:

  • #MondayMemories
  • #TakeMeBackTuesday
  • #WaybackWednesday
  • #FlashbackFriday

They’re not nearly as popular as TBT, so I’d suggest exercising a bit of patience so you can capitalize on the reach the original hashtag brings.

Don’t overdo it

When you find something that works for you, it’s usually a good idea to keep doing it. That’s not exactly true in this case. You want to exercise moderation and only use it, at most, once a week. Even if you publish multiple times a day, only one of your Thursday posts should be TBT.

Ideas for your TBT posts

Retro images

Retro photos are a glance into what the world was like in a different era. For some, it brings back a sense of nostalgia from their prime. For others, it’s an entirely different culture.

Whatever group you fall into, retro images have a way of drawing us in and leave us wondering about the story behind it. If you can tell that story, don’t leave your audience hanging.


Past locations/offices

Businesses often start in humble ways and achieve incredible heights. Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple all started in garages around the country. A photo of those humble beginnings is sure to pique the interest of their fans.

While you may not have achieved as much success, your journey is still interesting. Part of that journey is where you’ve been. Share it with your followers and pair it with an interesting story about why that place was special to you.

Old locations

Old behind the scenes

Most of what you do as a brand or an individual happens behind the scenes. No one sees how hard the mother works to dress her kids up in the morning. Only a few people see what it takes to bring a new product to market.

This is your opportunity to give your audience a look behind the curtains and show how much effort it takes to deliver the end product to them.

Past customer feedback or longstanding relationships

Customer feedback has no expiry date. In fact, the older it is, the more you can say that you’ve made serving customers well a way of doing business.

Dig out old videos of customers giving positive feedback or even candid photos of your products in use. It’ll go a long way towards reinforcing your emphasis on quality.

If you don’t have that, you can showcase old relationships. These relationships can be between friends, suppliers, or even customers.

Vintage product line

Old product lines also work well with TBT. They give your audience a look at your evolution as a brand and what was in vogue at the time. You can spark engagement by asking people what they think of it and if you should bring it back for a limited time.

Pepsi TBT example

Old ads

If you’ve been in business for a while, you may have realized how quickly trends change. Those shifts are reflected in advertisements. Some of the ads that produced a lot of income for brands 50 years ago would be considered sexist today.

Like with retro images, old ads can be a glimpse into how the world was at that time because they reflect popular culture. If you have them, share them.

Past accomplishments

While it’s never a good idea to live on past glory alone, there’s nothing wrong with reminding people that you’re good at what you do. Throw out an old award or milestone now and then.

It shows that you’ve been there and done that but aren’t resting either. It’s a good reminder that you’re a trusted player in your field.


Throwback Thursday has the potential to be an important part of your marketing strategy when it’s used right. This guide has laid down a few ground rules that will improve your odds of success.

Once you’ve internalized them, the only thing left is to post content people love. Let me know how you’re using TBT in the comments, and don’t forget to share.

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