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  • Writer's pictureSarah Turnbull

Instagram hashtags - are they all they're cracked up to be?


Hashtags on Instagram are the primary way to locate, sort or filter content, so it’s critical that you use them, and use them well! Posts with at least one hashtag are reported to perform nearly 13% better than a post with none. Using hashtags well means your posts will get better visibility, and ultimately better engagement. Strategic hashtag use can increase engagement by up to 1000% on social media (source:Hubspot).


When you’re using hashtags on Instagram make sure that the hashtags relate to the post content, and mix them up – don’t just cut and paste the same tired old hashtags on to each and every post. If your hashtags are not particularly relevant to your post content, you could run the risk of being shadowbanned - which means no one gets to see your posts!


What’s shadowbanning?

Instagram don’t admit to this practice (in fact, they've stated that it's not a real phenomenon), but this is allegedly where posts are hidden or restricted from a user without informing the user of the restriction. This makes sense if content is inappropriate, but it’s been said that accounts who use their hashtags incorrectly have also been subject to shadowbanning… and who wants to run that risk?

Which hashtags to use?

The most popular hashtags on Instagram (July 19,2021, Source: Hootsuite) have upwards of 1 billion posts, yes, that’s right 1 BILLION! Hashtags in position 2 – 15 have upwards of half a billion uses. If you use those top hashtags, within a split second of posting your content, it’ll disappear to be replaced in the feed by the potential thousands that are being posted on or around the same second with the same hashtag. My top tip? Don’t use ‘em! They don’t help to promote your business or brand. These most popular hashtags are saturated, if you use them, your post will disappear into the ether.


How many hashtags should I use?

The general consensus by marketeers for the number of hashtags is between 8 and 15, with many settling on about 12 or 13 per post. But make sure they’re relevant to content. If you can only think of 10, use 10!


Jenn Herman, in her article on Social Media Examiner, gives some great guidance for using hashtags.


Choose 3 – 5 popular hashtags with between 300,000 and 1 million posts. This will boost initial engagement – mainly from non-followers. Because these are relatively saturated hashtags, your post will disappear quite quickly, but the initial burst of activity is really valuable. You may also be able to convert some non-followers to followers, but that’s not the most important part…


Choose 3 – 5 hashtags that have between 80,000 and 300,000 posts. This will give you a few days of active content in those hashtag searches, mainly with non-followers. Once again, the activity is valuable in getting engagement. In the meantime, your existing followers are engaging with your content as they log on. When they click on your post, that’s helpful too!


Choose 3-5 hashtags that are specific to your niche – the things your target audience will look for. This will mean you start ranking as a top-performing account in your niche because of the activity from the non-followers who searched and clicked on your post using the hashtags above.

Choose 1-2 brand specific hashtags. Have these as links in your bio too.


If you use this mix of hashtags, you’ll drive traffic towards your post and ultimately benefit your business. You might need to play around with your hashtags to get them right, but it’ll work!


How?

If somebody is looking for that particular search phrase/hashtag, when they go to that search result, you’ll be right up there in the top performing accounts. If your imagery is good, they’ll likely tap on your post and away you go…You’re offering a product or service that they’re specifically searching for and you have matching content to your hashtag. Box ticked!


What happens when they see the content matching the hashtag that they searched on? They click on your post… You’ve got them! They’re on your profile and if your content is interesting and varied; your copy is well crafted and matches what they’re looking for, you’re in with a good chance of further engagement or them making contact. Give them a reason to contact you, give them a Call to Action – and make sure your contact info is easily accessible – don’t make them search for it!

Final tips on hashtags for Instagram.

Go and look what your competitors are doing – especially those that are doing it well and getting plenty of engagement! See which of their posts are working and check out their hashtags. Experiment with them and see which ones create more engagement for your business.

Oh… and learn from Influencers. There’ll be Influencers in your niche – and their purpose is to market brands and drive engagement. See what they’re up to, look at their posts, identify the most engaging hashtags relevant to your brand - and use them too!


Hashtags are an incredibly powerful tool and Instagram is a fantastic place to market your business. Most businesses know this, so you've got to keep ahead of the game and be strategic in your planning and use of hashtags. Make sure you mix up your hashtags; don’t over-hashtag just for the sake of it and make sure your tags are relevant to your content!


Boom - done!


 


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