Hashtags! On Instagram, they still rule, with hashtags improving your reach by over 12%. If you use the right hashtags, you can increase your reach even further.
So, how do hashtags on Instagram work? Many people know about them, but they misuse them. Some people will only use the most broad hashtags. Other people will use as many as possible. These techniques mean that those posts are not getting to their target audience. How can you use hashtags on Instagram correctly? Let’s explain.
How Many Hashtags to Use?
This is a hotly debated topic. Instagram allows you up to 30 hashtags in the first comment alone, according to SproutSocial. However, Instagram recommends around 3-5, with a few extra in the first caption.
This is a quality-over-quantity approach. It’s better to use the most relevant hashtags than to spam all the viral hashtags. Instagram may lower your reach because they believe you’re spamming, the opposite effect of what you want. They do penalize accounts if they’re found to be spamming hashtags too much.
With that said, you don’t have to stick to 3-5. Some people may do a little more, and it works for them. We recommend experimenting and seeing which amount works best for you. Some people can get away with only a couple of these hashtags, but others use about five of them and get good results.
Do Some Hashtag Research
What does your brand sell? Let’s say you’re a pizza parlor. Using the hashtag #pizza can be broad. Instead, you can use that hashtag to see what other people post in addition to that tag. Going back to the pizza example, say you serve a specific area. Are there any business hashtags that work for that area? You may want to use them. Sometimes, going more niche works better, because you won’t be buried in the algorithm.
You can do some hashtag research as well by following any relevant tags. You can see posts from that tag in your feed when you follow a hashtag. It’s an excellent way to research without repeatedly typing out the hashtags. Plus, you should always be in the loop with the business landscape constantly evolving.
The Importance of Branded Hashtags
Another consideration is to create branded hashtags. Branded hashtags are unique hashtags you’ll use to promote your brand’s image, give a call to action (CTA,) and more.
Branded hashtags can help you reach your audience, target their pain points, and utilize a catchy, sharable phrase that many people will want to use. Think of a branded hashtag as the extension of your slogan.
Branded hashtags can be registered to help you protect your trademark. You can see if anyone else is using a slogan or phrase. Then, use a website like Hashtags.org to register it.
Some examples of branded hashtags include Coca-Cola’s #ShareACoke campaign and Domino’s #LetsDoLunch. With the #ShareACoke campaign, many users would post Coke bottles with their names written on them, a popular marketing gimmick.
Categorize Your Hashtags
One thing that may get monotonous is when you type each hashtag on every post you make. Most posts will have similar hashtags. Why not create a list in your phone’s notepad or another app? When you’re about to post, you can copy/paste.
You may have several different post categories as well. For instance, you may have hashtags for video content different from photos. Create separate lists for each category.
Use a Mixture of Viral and Niche Hashtags
We said before that you should use hashtags relevant to your niche. The less competition there is, the better. However, utilizing viral hashtags can work well, too. While there is more competition, there is a more significant chance that more people may see your post.
We recommend a good balance between viral and niche hashtags. This website can help you find the hashtags that matter.
Try Instagram Stories Hashtags
Another feature to use is Instagram Stories. These are posts that disappear after 24 hours. You may use Stories to promote a limited-time offer or post a story you don’t want to have on your account for long.
Many people do not use hashtags on Stories because of their nature. However, they are still quite significant. You can use hashtags on your Stories to have more people find them; some have found much success in using them.
Jump On Trending Hashtags and Challenges
While Instagram may not have as many trends and hashtags as other platforms like Twitter and TikTok, many trends remain. These trends can include memes, hashtag challenges, and reactions to current events.
Your brand adding its own twist to a unique challenge can help you grow your presence on the platform. However, it would be best if you also were mindful of what the trending hashtags are.
For example, if you’re doing a hashtag challenge, you want to figure out what the challenge is and what it’s for. This will allow you to do a challenge without sounding like you don’t know what you’re doing. Also, some brands have jumped on trending hashtags without understanding the context and have come off as insensitive. An infamous example is DiGiorno Pizza using the domestic violence hashtag #WhyIStayed to make a joke about pizza. Mistakes happen, but you don’t want it to damage your reputation.
Hashtags are a formula you must perfect to get the most benefits. This formula will significantly differ depending on your niche and several other factors. If you’re using hashtags that are not working, figure out why. It may be because you’re using the wrong ones, going too broad, or being too specific.
Each month, look at your analytics. If your analytics are positive, then great! If not, then you need to figure out why.
Hashtags on Instagram can grow your brand image, but they are an art. You can succeed by figuring out the best hashtags and the best number and putting your branding on them. Learning hashtags can be challenging, but if you don’t figure them out, you won’t get the benefits they offer.