If you use Instagram, you'll be very familiar with the hashtag. A great way to help your posts reach a larger audience, hashtags have been around for a while. But are they still relevant? And which ones should you use, when? We've got the answers.
How do hashtags actually work?
Hashtags are a combination of letters and numbers (and occasionally emojis) that have the # symbol placed in front of them. They're an easy way to categorise your Instagram posts and make them more discoverable by users.
They're essentially labels that sort your content so that it can be found by users who are looking for it. For example, if a user is looking for peanut butter, your post will pop up in this search if you've used the #peanutbutter hashtag.
This is all part of Instagram's algorithm that is designed to give users what they want. Using hashtags, Instagram can not only categorise your content, but it can also suggest it to people who have searched for similar content or hashtags.
Using hashtags incorrectly can do some serious damage to your follower count and overall post reach, so it's important to know how to use them properly.
How and where should you be using hashtags?
Using Instagram hashtags properly isn't an extreme sport, but it does require some savvy thinking.
Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post, but trust us, you're only going to annoy people if you go nuts and use all 30 hashtags in your posts. Not only does it look messy, but we can bet that not all of them will actually be relevant to your brand. Instagram themselves recently advised that using between 3-5 hashtags per post is enough - think quality, not quantity.
There's been much debate about where to position your hashtags in a post. Some people believe that adding them into the caption is better, while others maintain that hashtags should always be in the comments to avoid diluting your message.
Instagram has also chimed in here, confirming that either option is effective, so it's really up to you. We would recommend that if you are going to use hashtags in the comments section, do this as soon as your post is published, otherwise you risk them getting lost amongst other user comments.
Now that you've got an idea of how many to use, and where to put them, it's time to figure out which hashtags are right for your brand. You could just use the ones that Instagram suggests, but spending some time doing a bit of research will help you build a stronger hashtag database. This is where a good social media content strategy comes in handy.
How can you bring hashtags into your content strategy?
The key here is research, research, and more research. Look at the hashtags that are being used by your competitors, your audience, and your industry. This will give you an idea of the kind of words or phrases that are most commonly used to find businesses like yours.
We've created a helpful list of top hashtags across different industries to get you started. You can thank us later!
Instagram does offer some insight when it comes to figuring out which hashtags to use. Using the search tool, you can type in a hashtag and Instagram will show you how many posts feature that hashtag. There's also a related hashtags feature where you can see similar hashtags that might help you get a bit more specific.
You can also look at creating a branded hashtag. This is definitely an option if you're running a promotion, or you've got a slogan that differentiates your brand. You can share this hashtag with your followers and encourage them to use it across their own stories and posts so it gains more traction.
For example, if you're a fashion retailer, you can incentivise your customers to post pictures of themselves wearing your clothes and using your brand hashtag by entering these posts in the draw to win a discount or prize.
It's important to check that the hashtags you want to use aren't banned or associated with something you really don't want to be associated with. Oh, and don't use hashtags like #followme and #like4like - not only does it seem spammy, but Instagram will see it a mile away and you might end up in some #hotwater.
You should also check how your hashtags read when the words or phrases are grouped together. You don't want to end up like Susan Boyle's 2012 album launch where the hashtag was #susanalbumparty....
The next time you're creating your content strategy, do your research. Add in some hashtags that you'd like to use, and plan out how you will use them to build engagement. Then you'll be ready to hit the ground running.
If you're having trouble, or you just need a fresh pair of eyes, give us a call. We'll be more than happy to help you out!