Are you on the ‘gram but not gaining many new followers? Using your Instagram hashtags strategically can have a huge impact on your ability to be discovered and followed by your ideal customer. Woo hoo!
Followers should not be used as a vanity metric though – if you want your efforts on Instagram to result in real business, then you should be focussed on growing a quality audience of people who are likely to buy from you.
So that’s what we’re talking about today – how to use your Instagram hashtags to help you grow a relevant, targeted audience.
Oh, customers, where for art thou on Instagram?
Instagram has over 1 billion active users every month and more than 500 million of us use the platform every day – a stat which is set to grow as more people embrace the platform each year.
According to Instagram, over 200 million Instagrammers visit at least one business profile daily which means building and communicating your brand story has never been more important.
Instagram is for connecting, building trust and converting followers into customers.
Your aim is to take your audience on a journey of what their life would be like if they were a customer, showing them through your images and messaging, then directing them over to your website (in a non-salesy way!).
I follow a number of experts to learn as much as I can about Instagram because it’s constantly evolving, especially its algorithm and what practises and posts it gives preference to.
There are always different opinions out there on what hashtag strategy will get you the most engagement or growth on your account, which can be confusing and you end up going round in circles!
To save you time, I’ve brought together the latest info from Hillary Rushford, Tracy Harris, Jasmine Star and my client Jo Samaradellis from Social Sense Media to come up with these top 7 tips for using hashtags strategically on Instagram .
1. Build a hashtag list using the search terms your ideal customer would look for
You should include a wide range of hashtags; some local ones, some industry ones, popular ones and niche ones.
Why? It’s good to have a diverse range of hashtags so you spread your net wide to attract your ideal customer.
Use a niche hashtag to connect your brand to your target audience – the ones most likely to engage and buy from you.
These tend to be more specific hashtags and therefore better for small-medium sized businesses who want to stand out from larger ones.
The idea is that because the niche hashtags have been used less, your post will likely stay near the top of the page for longer.
If you use a very popular hashtag, your post will be viewed by more people, however, it will quickly be buried by the newer posts.
2. Keep your hashtags relevant to your image
As the platform becomes more sophisticated, so too will the technology. Stay ahead of the game by keeping everything you post relevant to your audience.
In 2020, new object recognition technology is being introduced to Instagram. This means that the algorithm will be able to identify objects in each image and cross-check if the used hashtags match the object.
Try to make your post content and hashtags align with the photo, because Instagram will be giving these posts more preference!
This is Instagram’s way of up holding user integrity across the platform.
3. Make sure you don’t use banned hashtags
Unfortunately knowing which hashtags are banned is a manual process. There’s two ways you can go about this.
If you’re on Instagram, type the hashtag into the search bar. If the hashtag is banned it will only show the ‘Top Post’ and show NO option for ‘Recent Posts’.
At the bottom there will be copy along the lines of: Recent posts from [#hashtag] are currently hidden because the community has reported some content that may not meet Instagram’s community guidelines. Try searching for #valentinesday to see what I mean.
To make things a little trickier, every day new hashtags are blocked, and some of them are unblocked.
The good news is there’s a free online tool where you can paste hashtags and check if they’re ok: IQ Hashtag Check Tool
4. Use your quota of hashtags, but use them strategically!
There was a rumour that you should use less hashtags but this has been discredited. The more hashtags you use, the more searches your post will appear in. Simple.
You’ve got a quota of 30 on normal posts, 10 on stories – use them!
Using new hashtags opens you up to potential new followers, so make sure you have a much bigger hashtag list to choose from and always try to throw in a new one or two.
5. Split your hashtag list up into smaller hashtag groups
This one makes it much easier for you to mix and match your hashtags and not use the same ones on each post. And you can select the most relevant groups for each post.
It’s important to make your posts unique and relevant, or Instagram will think they are spammy and push down your visibility.
If you use hashtag groups you can easily copy and paste your hashtags in, but mix up the groups you use each time so you’re cycling the hashtags – remember: keep them relevant!
And adding a new one or two makes it unique!
6. Save your hashtag groups into your keyboard shortcuts on your phone
This one is an awesome time saver for those of us who use their phones to write posts. You can save groups of hashtags as keyboard shortcuts so it’s super easy to add them to a post (or comment) without typing them out each time.
Go into your phone settings / keyboard shortcuts to set them up. Thank you Amanda Harrington for this one!
Another way to easily apply your hashtag groups to your post is using a scheduling app. I use Planoly because it allows me to keep all of my hashtags in separate groups to paste underneath my caption.
I mix up the hashtags I use each post and the Planoly app tells me how many hashtags I’ve used, so I don’t go over 30.
7. Always write a caption, never use just hashtags or emojiis
Usually longer captions are better for engagement because it gets people reading. Sometimes if you’ve shared a great quote you might not need to write much in the caption, but always write a few words to engage your audience and get them responding.
Your posts are there for engaging with your audience, so why bother putting up a post if you don’t say anything? It would be like making a phone call and then hanging up!
Add a few words to explain your post, what you’re doing / thinking / feeling, or ask a question, or give them some tips if it’s an educational post.
Remember that on Instagram, there’s no live links to your blog post or website.
So if you’re promoting content on another platform you have to get your audience really, really interested in reading it for them to bother going to your profile, clicking your link, finding the post…. you see how many steps are involved for them to even get there?
Each step means less people will get to the end. This is why your caption is super important to getting them motivated enough to act.
A post that says “new blog up now” isn’t going to be motivating! Get us into the story, give us some of the content so we know it’s worth out time leaving Instagram to find your blog.
Post hashtags either in your caption or in a comment – it makes no difference to how well your post will perform, it’s up to you what you (and your audience) prefer!
Do you have any tips I didn’t mention? Comment below and let me know!
Or follow me on Instagram – I’d love to connect with you!