Instagram Hashtags are an essential part of users’ discovery journey on the platform, allowing brands to gain exposure to niche groups and specific areas of interest.
Today, hashtags are possibly even more important to Instagram marketing than Twitter marketing (where they first appeared on August 23, 2007), especially with all these new capabilities and very different character counts.
They can help you increase your reach, connect with your target audience, and even build brand awareness.
In this post, we’re going to talk about how to get the most out of your #Instagood marketing with Instagram hashtags best practices.
We’ll look at everything from how to research and select your hashtags to how to use them for maximum impact.
When I first got Instagram, I groaned when I realized I was supposed to add hashtags to the posts.
I wasn’t a Twitter fan, and I was a little tired of seeing #FOMO slapped on too many posts. I remember doing some research and then thinking “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Todo.”
The first thing that I learned is that Twitter and Instagram hashtags might use the exact same terms in some instances and have the same basic function, but hashtag usage is very different between the two sites.
This is even more valid now than it was then; users have the ability to follow hashtags, and UGC campaigns are used more frequently on Instagram than Twitter, and then clickable hashtags in a bio can send users right to feeds filled with user-created content.
We know that finding the best Instagram hashtags for your business is a challenging task, no matter how savvy you are with social media. And there’s a lot of confusing information out there.
That’s why, combining everything we’ve learned about the best (and worst) practices, we selected these 8 Golden Rules to help you use Instagram hashtags to boosts and accurately represents your brand.
Instagram Hashtags Rule #1: Do Your Research
Research, research, research. You want to have a good idea of which hashtags you should use or you could end up using a whole bunch of terms that don’t do much for you.
I recommend breaking hashtag research into the following stages:
- Market research. Look at the terms that your audience and industry peers are using in their posts. You’ll likely be able to see some common trends and get ideas for hashtags that you’ll want to use. Click on the hashtags you like to see if they seem to be active or relevant to what you want to do.
- Competitor research. This will be part of the market research, but it focuses exclusively on your competitors. What hashtags are they using? Look for commonalities and any new terms that you think could appeal to your target audience.
- Use hashtag research tools. My favorite is easily Hashtagify, which shows you the popularity of each individual hashtag and related terms. This can help you identify high-performing, high-visibility hashtags that you can use to increase reach and gain new followers.
Pro Tip: Create your hashtags lists.
When doing hashtag research, compile the terms you’re collecting into organized lists. Break them down by type of hashtag. Is it a niche interest for Game of Thrones followers? Are they targeting users in certain locations? Keep them all in a document or program that lets you organize hashtags by category so you can pull them up when needed. Trust me– this will save you so much time and energy.
Instagram Hashtags Rule #2: Create a Branded Hashtag & Share It Constantly
A branded hashtag will help you to establish brand awareness, and it will also be an important part of most contests and user-generated content campaigns.
It’s an excellent way to get users to find feeds of content created by you and about you, and it makes it easy for you to hunt down UGC people are sharing about your brand, too.
Tieks, my favorite shoes, has an enormous amount of UGC on Instagram; when you search their branded hashtag, user-generated content will almost always be the first thing to appear. It’s what convinced me to buy my first pair, so it is an effective strategy.
Branded hashtags should be unique to you.
They often include the name of your brand like #adespresso or #hootsuite, but they may also just be relevant to your business or campaign (think #allabouttheads).
Make sure that they’re simple so that they’re easy to type and use.
Instagram Hashtags Rule #3:Mix It Up
You want to switch up the hashtags you’re using, with the exception of your branded hashtag.
By keeping things diverse, you’ll have the best chance of reaching as many audience members as possible.
Treat them like keywords-– you want to shoot for as many as you possibly can.
To make this easier, I like to schedule my content ahead of time for clients.
I’ll create a content calendar with different types of posts and then copy and paste different relevant hashtags to each one, so that they all contain different phrases and will appear in different searches.
This is the easiest way to do this, and you can do so through social scheduling software like Hootsuite on mobile or desktop.
Instagram Hashtags Rule #4: Place Hashtags Below Your Main Caption
Your hashtags will be most effective in your actual caption, but that doesn’t mean you want to overwhelm users right away.
I always put at least one line of separation between the main post and the bulk of the hashtags.
This makes it easier for users to read the actual caption, and makes them more likely to do so, but it doesn’t hinder your reach.
This best practice may change slightly.
Instagram is currently testing a post format that would allow brands to list their hashtags in a designated block that’s entirely separate from the caption.
A change like this may improve aesthetics without compromising reach, but we’ll need to see more to know more.
Instagram Hashtags Rule #5: Use Hashtags Your Audience Is Searching For
Hashtags can work a little like SEO. It doesn’t matter if you’re ranking first for a keyword that absolutely no one is searching for.
Sometimes, finding your audience can be difficult.
But let’s say you want to connect with a local food blogger to promote your restaurant, and to see what food-related hashtags you’re using. My go-to is to type out “food blogger” (this could be swapped with “health blogger,” “life coach,” “world traveler,” “tech junkie,” and so on).
People who self-identify this way will often use these hashtags, and then you can see what other hashtags they’re using to talk about their interests.
Check out the people currently following your profile, too, if possible.
Look at their posts, and look at their hashtags. They’ll likely reflect the sorts of phrases you can use to connect with other individuals like them and give you insight there.
Instagram Hashtags Rule #6: Test The 10/10/10 Strategy
There’s some minority conflicting information out there about the ideal number of hashtags to use for maximum engagement.
Right now, the evidence all kind of converges and averages out around 11 hashtags.
Engagement piques up to that point and then falls after.
Shooting for 11 hashtags is a great strategy, but another strong one is to use the 10/10/10 approach. You’re allowed to use thirty hashtags per post, after all.
Some brands will use 10 location-focused hashtags, 10 general appeal hashtags, and 10 niche interest hashtags in order to reach as many potential members of their audience as possible.
Instagram Hashtags Rule #7: Put the Most Valuable Hashtags First
You’ve got a nice-sized block of hashtags that you want to use. Excellent! You’ll now want to strategically choose which hashtags you want to list first.
Users aren’t likely to read through all of your hashtags, whether you’re choosing only 8 or to go for all 30. If there are hashtags that you want them to read– like #bestcustomersever or #shareyourthoughts– make sure that you list them first.
This goes for entertainment-oriented hashtags, too, will increase the likelihood that users actually read them.
If there’s one hashtag that’s vitally important for users to read, you can include it in your main caption.
This could include a branded hashtag with a call for UGC, or an entertainment-focused hashtag that’s meant to add to brand voice.
Instagram Hashtags Rule #8: Don’t Keep Them Just to Feed Posts
Hashtags are powerful, and you don’t want to restrict that potential impact just to your in-feed posts.
Use the hashtag sticker to include branded hashtags in your Stories.
This will establish brand awareness, and when coupled with a user-generated content campaign, it can act as a clickable CTA that will take users to feeds of other UGC that’s already been shared.
When users see feeds of excited customers sharing their experience with your business publicly, they’ll be more inclined to trust you, purchase from you, and even create UGC of their own.
You should also add your branded hashtag to your profile bio. As long you add the # sign in front of the text, it will become a clickable hashtag.
The same principle applies here; this builds brand awareness, increases UGC (especially if placed next to a specific call for it), and can send users right to a gallery of posts all about you.
Instagram hashtags are an important part of Instagram marketing as a whole, so you need to be using them correctly.
This includes researching hashtags so you can choose the right ones and using them strategically to increase exposure and even drive certain actions from your followers.
When using hashtags, you can always test out different strategies (like the ones suggested in The Perfect Instagram Hashtag Strategy) to see what works.
Use social media analytics tools like Hootsuite to create a calendar full of posts with diverse hashtags and then track the results after they’ve gone live.
It will be hard to track the impact of specific hashtags by looking at a few posts, but by testing different strategies, you can get some insight into what works and why.
What do you think? How do you use Instagram hashtags to improve your marketing campaigns? Which strategies have worked for you? How do you find your best-performing hashtags? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!