If you’re using Instagram for marketing, hashtags are an essential part of how you engage with your audience. For new businesses or smaller businesses just starting out with Instagram marketing, getting hashtags right can make or break your social media campaign. That’s why I put this guide together, to walk you through exactly how to use hashtags on Instagram.
We all know how to use hashtags as an Instagram user but for those on the other side of the equation, a little more planning is needed. This page will help you with that.
Why you should use hashtags on Instagram
You should use hashtags on Instagram because the audience uses them. Whenever we look for things on the network, we use hashtags to search for them. Whenever something is promoted on Insta, hashtags are used to identify them. They are a key way to ensure your posts are found.
How do hashtags work?
Hashtags work exactly the same as keywords. Whenever you build a web page, you have certain keywords that describe that page that your audience will use to look for that page. It’s the same here. The hashtags you select should be relevant to the post and be the words your audience would likely use to find them.
You begin a hashtag with the ‘#’. For example, say you have created a post about a delicious fat-free yoghurt you have invented. Were your audience to search for such a thing, they would likely use words like ‘#fatfree’, ‘#lowfat’, ‘#yoghurt’, ‘#cleaneating’, ‘#cleaneats’, ‘#feelinggood’, ‘#superfoods’ and others. All are relevant to your post and do not mislead the audience.
How to come up with relevant hashtags
One of the most difficult things to do when social media marketing is to identify hot hashtags that are relevant to what you’re marketing. Instagram has an API you can use to help identify top performing hashtags. Some websites feature the top hashtags on a monthly basis, like our own ‘The Top Instagram Hashtags [June 2019]’.
You can also check with keyword tools such as this website or on Instagram itself. Use the search function in Instagram to search for alternative hashtags. Enter a term into Instagram search and the app will present you with a bunch of hashtags it thinks are relevant. Pick the top performers and use them. Also use Top and Recent at the top of any hashtag page to see related hashtags for extra inspiration.
Another effective way to identify what hashtags to use is to see what your competition is using. Competitor analysis is an important way to keep up in your industry and outperform them. Don’t copy what they do, but look at what they are up to and see ways to go one better.
Managing and using hashtags
Unless you’re paying for a social media marketing platform, the easiest way to track hashtags is to use an Excel or Google Sheets spreadsheet. Set up a spreadsheet with a category column and a hashtag column and begin building a collection of hashtags for each category. You can then feature some or all of them in your Instagram posts.
When it comes to using hashtags, there is one strict rule you must always live by. Hashtags must always be relevant. Never mislead the audience. Never try to fool them with a trending hashtag that links to something unrelated just to get a visit. This is not how you gain a following.
Every hashtag you use must be relevant to the post you’re promoting. It must make a promise that your post delivers on and not leave your audience feeling fooled or disappointed. Engagement is about delivering on promises and offering value in one form or another.
While not a rule as such, studies have shown that 9 hashtags within a single Instagram post is the optimum.
Mix popular with niche hashtags
Using hashtags in Instagram is the same as using keywords in SEO. You can use popular hashtags as they get a lot of traffic. They also get a lot of competition. You can also use niche hashtags like you would longtail keywords. They get less but more targeted traffic and have less competition. Targeted traffic is much more likely to convert.
If you’re starting out, it makes sense to target a mix of both. When your followers begin hitting five figures, you can target more popular hashtags or go the other way and refine your hashtags to a very targeted niche that should begin converting in meaningful numbers. If you do go that way, don’t ignore popular hashtags. Just use them sparingly to spread your net a little wider.
Hashtags are very simple to use in Instagram. What is more difficult is using them well. If you’re marketing using this social network, it’s a learning process but one that delivers satisfaction at a job well done as well as a gradually increasing follower count.