Ten years ago, writing a blog about hashtags would have been unimaginable. The growth of hashtagging as a key social media concept over the last few years has been staggering.
What many people assumed was a gimmick is now one of the most crucial elements of growing an online following, particularly on Instagram. Every industry is aware of how powerful and critical hashtags have become when it comes to marketing. In 2021, hashtags are going to be one of the most important aspects of increasing Instagram engagement.
Instagram hashtags can make or break your Instagram strategy. Create the right strategy and use it correctly to get your posts seen across the world, with people who are likely to be on board with your tone and voice. The wrong usage can do a lot of damage to your presence, from annoying potential followers, who don’t really further your growth, to getting penalized by Instagram’s algorithm.
Studies show that a post with at least one hashtag averages 12.6% more engagement than a post without any hashtags. Therefore, creating a hashtag-based strategy for your brand will work.
If you’re still skeptical about the impact of hashtags on your following and your Instagram presence, you’ve come to the right place. This blog will help you use hashtags on Instagram to get more followers, improve your engagement rate, and build a community around your presence. From what they are to how they work, welcome to a comprehensive guide that helps you grow your Instagram presence using hashtags.
What Is A Hashtag?
A hashtag, simply put, is a combination of letters, numbers and/or emojis preceded by the pound (#) symbol. You might have never used them, but you’ve definitely come across #NoFilter or #MondayMotivation. They help make content more accessible by categorizing them. The most important aspect of hashtags is that they are clickable. Clicking on a hashtag on Instagram leads users to a page with all posts containing the said hashtag. The hashtag has been around in various different forms on the web prior to 2007.
The game-changer was in 2007 when Chris Messina, a Silicon Valley-based product manager, utilized it on Twitter and has since been credited as the founder of the hashtag concept on social media. The idea stemmed from the erstwhile internet chat rooms where the name of the room was preceded by the # symbol.
The funny part of this story is that when Messina pitched the idea to Twitter, it was rejected for “being too nerdy” and was told it would never catch on. Fast forward 13 years, the joke is on them. Messina asked his contacts to post tweets with hashtags, and finally in 2009 Twitter officially decided to roll out the concept.
Why Do We Use Hashtags?
As previously mentioned, hashtags on Instagram play a key role in increasing engagement. Not only do they help content creators organize and categorize content, but they are also a key part of some of the biggest Instagram marketing campaigns of the last few years.
By clubbing content together and making them more discoverable, they help users discover similar content they seek from new sources. When used strategically, they showcase you to a larger audience, raise awareness about you, target extremely specific users, boost SEO impact, and allow you to piggyback on the hottest trends of the internet.
When the pandemic struck in 2020 and people were confined to their homes, Nike used the ingenious hashtag #PlayInside to showcase everyday people hustling to achieve their fitness goals from the confines of their home. This helped empower, unify and mobilize a community of users in a way that the hashtag was originally intended to do.
Different Types Of Hashtags
To develop an efficient hashtag-driven strategy, it is important to understand the types of hashtags and how different audiences respond to them.
These basically act as a rallying call to gather users around a common topic. By using a community hashtag, you can improve the searchability of your campaign, thereby increasing its overall engagement. This can be a product that you offer like #sweater. If you offer a service, it can be the overarching industry as well as the specific niche that makes you unique like #WeddingPhotography and #TravellingWedding.
If you’re looking to increase physical footfalls, you can use event and location specific hashtags like #PastryNYC and #MemorialDayGoodies. The most commonly used daily hashtags like #MondayMotivation and #ThrowbackThursday also fall under this category.
Lastly, use these hashtags to inspire and motivate your loyal fans with hashtags like #BeCreative or #QuoteOfTheDay. It is recommended that you use a variety of hashtags in all your posts and stories to increase the probability of your post reaching the most possible communities on Instagram.
For example, if you run a food account, you can use #CleanEats to target the health conscious community and #FoodPhotography to simultaneously target those who should be seeking the same.
These are hashtags that are used by brands, companies, collectives and businesses, thereby making them a very specific category. To attract a unique set of followers, you need them to be aware of your business and what it offers. The hashtag can be as simple as the name of your brand, the tagline for your brand or the specific campaign, or the name of one of your products or services.
If you’re looking to be a little creative, it can be something that has nothing to do with your brand name but represents your brand identity. While community hashtags cast a wider net, branded hashtags develop a specific theme-based connection with your followers.
The purpose of this is two-fold as you can use it to either put out a brand message or collect user generated content. Streaming giants Netflix, for example, share posts from users who talk about their shows and use specific hashtags that relate back to the content.
If you have existing followers on Instagram, it is imperative that you get them to post about you in their posts and stories to get new followers to discover you. Constantly remind your audience that they can feel free to use your hashtags and then share their posts to make them feel special.
This way they can tap the hashtags to see other posts from you. Follow your branded hashtag to keep track of new content that is being shared.
The previous two categories of hashtags are long term methods to engage with your audience. However, everything on the internet moves incredibly fast and as an influencer or brand, it is up to you to constantly evolve and run new campaigns to engage your fans. These hashtags pertain to a specific campaign that is usually seasonal in length and could be a product launch, special event or new partnership. That makes them great for building engagement in a short period of time.
For example, comedian Gary Gulman over the course of an entire year gave audiences one new comedy tip every day for 365 days with the hashtag #GulmanTip. All a user on Instagram had to do was click on the hashtag to access all the 365 posts in one go.
Finding Best Hashtags For Your Account
It is well established that Instagram hashtags are a great way to help build a following and boost engagement, but in order to be successful with hashtags it is important to know what hashtags work the best for you and your followers, and when to use them.
The most common hashtags have been used millions of times on Instagram, they may not necessarily work for you. Instead of choosing popular hashtags, it is probably a better idea to use Instagram hashtags that are smaller, niche and have a more engaged and relevant connection with the audience of your industry. One way to do this is to keep an eye out for hashtags used by your competitors and other big players in the industry.
If you’re a fitness influencer, it’s wise to stay connected with what Nike or Under Armour are doing on Instagram. Research your audience well. This will keep you from throwing random hashtags at the end of your captions that have nothing to do with your audience. It needs to have keywords that the audience is actually searching for.
Related hashtags can be found by surveying the landscape of your existing hashtags. Type your hashtag or keyword into the search bar and choose ‘Tags’ for an instant list of related hashtags that have any kind of traction on Instagram. These top hashtags reveal additional ways to reach, monitor and engage with your community. Go through your own posts that have performed well to observe synergies between hashtags that you can then replicate.
How Many Hashtags?
Instagram allows users to post up to 30 hashtags for regular posts and 10 for stories. Adding more than that number leads to your caption not getting posted. While there is no magic number for how many hashtags to use, the Internet is sometimes a space where less is more. As the great Lan Malcom from Jurassic Park said, “just because you could, doesn’t mean you should”. While the most common number of hashtags used is between 1 and 3, the consensus is that 11 is an ideal number.
As every profile is specific, you will need to do some testing to figure out what works for your brand voice and the audience before you determine a strategy for how many to use. It is advised that your time would be better spent in researching and using a handful of super effective hashtags, rather than tossing 30 random ones at the end of your post. If you aren’t focusing on the right, specific goals, you’ll end up wasting your valuable marketing time.
Analyzing Hashtags Performances
Once you master the art of picking and choosing the right hashtags for your posts, it is imperative that you check the effectiveness of them in terms of achieving your engagement goals. By tracking the performance of different posts, you can go back to the drawing board and rework your strategies to give yourself the best chance of succeeding.
There are many tools that can help you make this a fixed part of your hashtagging process. Instagram Insights has been around for years. These are results provided directly by Instagram and they are absolutely free! These include all the analytics you need around your content, activity and audience. To study the performance on individual posts, you can check out the posts impressions to see how many came from hashtags, rather than home, profile and others.
All this valuable information is just a click away on your Instagram account.
Tips & Tricks To Optimize Hashtags
While it is a no-brainer to consistently look into analytics and top hashtags to formulate your strategy for Instagram, there are a few hacks that you can try to get the best shot at achieving your marketing goals. If you have a branded hashtag, include it in your profile bio.
Thanks to a fairly recent update, Instagram now allows you to add a clickable hashtag to your bio that lets you directly convert your bio into website visits. This is a one-step solution to direct your audience to the content you want them to see. An interactive bio is a great way to direct fans from your profile to individual posts and campaigns for the engagement you need.
Another trick is to add hashtags as the first comment on your post, rather than the caption directly. Too many hashtags in the caption makes it look untidy and spammy. This way you get the same desired result minus the clutter.
Another common mistake is to forget hashtags on your Insta stories. This is a great way to give your content another chance to get discovered by new audiences. When users click on a hashtag, it gives them a list of stories with the tagged hashtag should it be popular enough.
Last but not least, avoid using banned hashtags on your content under any circumstances. These have been flagged by Instagram for infringing community guidelines. They have been disabled by the platform and are completely useless for your exposure. Even seemingly harmless ones like #humpday get flagged by Instagram so it’s recommended to double check.
How To Hide Hashtags?
Once you’ve spent all that time crafting the perfect caption for your post or story, you may not want to end it with a list of selected hashtags. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the visibility of your hashtags in comments, captions and stories.
In a comment
When you type out a caption for a post, share it without adding any hashtags to it. Once it’s posted, click on the speech bubble under it to add a comment. Type out the desired list of hashtags under the post and leave it as a comment. Users will not be able to see this comment unless they click on ‘view all comments’. However, it can be seen when viewed from a desktop so this is a strategy better suited for a mobile audience.
In the caption
Once you’re done typing out the caption, hit Enter or Return to go to the next line. Add any punctuation mark (preferably a period) and hit Enter or Return again. Repeat this 3 times as Instagram hides captions after the first 3 lines. This way users can’t view the hashtags unless they click ‘….more’. Even when they do, the separation between the caption and the hashtags doesn’t distract from the copy.
In the stories
You can hide your hashtags on Instagram stories, too. The simplest way to do this is to reduce its physical size as much as possible by pinching and shrinking it till it’s barely visible. Another way is to tap the hashtag sticker. This changes your background from white to semi transparent. In the most extreme circumstances, you can always add a GIF, emoji or sticker over the hashtag to completely obscure its visibility.
You can now establish a relationship with followers, find the desired content you’re looking for and build solid partnerships with hashtags on Instagram. Grow your audience the right way with the strategies provided in this blog.
Just remember, you must avoid repeating yourself with hashtags and keep them relevant to the specific content you are posting, to safely be on your way to establishing a successful hashtag strategy on Instagram!
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