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On the surface, Instagram hashtags may not seem all that important anymore, but according to recent studies, Instagram posts with at least ONE hashtag got 70% more likes and 392% more comments than those without hashtags.
Whether you like it or not, hashtags lead to more engagement. And, I know you’re a smart cookie, so I won’t bore you with more details, but engagement is the #1 way to beat the algorithm and grow your Instagram these days. However, while increasing that number next to your name may be fun, it’s really just a vanity metric. If you’re using Instagram for your brand or business, it’s not just about seeing that follower count grow but attracting the RIGHT people to your account. People who fit within your niche and become fans and loyal customers!
This can all be achieved with HASHTAGS! #PrettySweet, right?!
Below, I’m going to give you the ultimate guide to Instagram hashtags, so you can attract the RIGHT people to your platform. I’ll answer those burning questions you have like: How many hashtags should I use? Which hashtags should I use and when? How do I find the right hashtags for each post? And more!
Let’s find those RIGHT followers for you…the ones that fit under the description of YOUR dream customer, and help grow your brand.
Tip #1: Niche it down!
Generally speaking, the narrower the scope of any given hashtag, the more likely users are to be engaged with topics posted within that hashtag! When someone adds tags to their posts that are just the massive, general ones, it looks thirsty and sleazy. Along with that, there are SO many posts within these larger hashtags, that it’s almost a guarantee that your photo won’t be seen!
Think about hashtags like you would keywords. The larger or more popular the hashtag, the lower your reach will be!
For example: To find your sweet spot and reach a highly targeted audience, zero in with very specific, niche hashtags. If you are eyeing stationery lovers, for instance, the hashtag #Stationery will place your post in a broad feed with some 4.6M others. Using #StationeryLovers will narrow the search results to 49.2K posts, giving you a greater chance of exposure and conversions!
Tip #2: Research, research, research!
Discovering the right hashtags can be an overwhelming but necessary task. Hashtags make your posts discoverable, so keep it simple by following these two steps:
One: Write out your main categories when it comes to your brand or business. For example, mine are: watercolor, calligraphy, design, education, and business. Now, within each of these brackets, I have sets of hashtags saved in the Notes app on my phone. Finding these hashtags doesn’t have to be all that difficult. Just open the Explore page, and type in whatever category your post might be about (keep it on topic!). Once you click on a particular hashtag, you’ll see related, more focused hashtags appear at the top. Continue to do a few minutes of research and gathering by clicking on related tags…you’ll be surprised what you might find!
Remember, keep your hashtags focused and related to your particular niche! Saving sets of hashtags in your notes or somewhere on your phone will make it SO much quicker for future posts!
Two: Research your competition and leaders within your industry! What hashtags are they using and how many? Are they using the full 30, or less? What’s the number of posts within each of their hashtags? Do your own testing on sets of hashtags and see how they perform for you! Just because some work for you competition, doesn’t mean it will for you!
And, bonus tip, don’t use the same set of hashtags for each post! More on that later.
Tip #3: The 15-10-5 rule!
Instagram has a 30 hashtag limit on posts. Am I suggesting you use all 30? Not necessarily! What works for some accounts may not work for yours! I typically switch it up and use anywhere between 20-30 hashtags per post and follow the 15-10-5 rule. Which, would be adjusted depending on how many hashtags you’re using…but here it is:
- 15 of your hashtags should be in the “midsize” range (use your number of followers as a benchmark for the # of posts within a hashtag…in my case currently, that’d mean I’m looking for hashtags with around 180K posts.)
- 10 hashtags should be used for reeeally narrow and specific or smaller sized hashtags. If you’re targeting stationery lovers, think #watercolorstationery, which has just over 1K posts!
- Lastly, 5 hashtags can be reserved for the larger hashtags. But, don’t think too basic with this and just #stationery…Dig deep into themes, and even time-relevant posts! For example, if you post on a Tuesday, you could do a before and after post of your original watercolor piece, next to the finished stationery product, and tag #TransformationTuesday (14.3M). The chances of getting seen on these hashtags are slim, but there is the occasional and random hit, so it doesn’t hurt! And remember it’s all about engagement! The higher your level of engagement is, the more likely it is you’ll appear under the “Top” column within a hashtag!! Which is goooood.
Tip #4: Test and tweak!
Remember back to tip #2 where I talked about categories and saving hashtags? Don’t just find your group of hashtags and call it a day! What works on one particular post may not work on a similar one the following month. Keep testing and tweaking to get the best results!
Make sure you’re analyzing your Insights within Instagram (if you have a business page), or you can use apps like Plann or Later to see how your posts and tags are performing!
Whew! That was a lot. And that only scratches the surface! I know Instagram can be frustrating or confusing at times, and hopefully this helps you navigate hashtags with a bit more ease! It’s so helpful having a clear plan and strategy when it comes to social media and business.
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Thanks for all your insight. It is much appreciated.
I have been experimenting with hashtags more these days, as the organic reach of each post is to only 10% of my followers.
I’ve noticed the bigger hashtags in my stories work well (went from 30 story views to 300 +story views)
but as you say it takes a lot of experimenting and adapting.
Thank you for a well written insightful article!!
Thanks for your great tips! Learning a lot!