In a very short time, Instagram has captured the interest of consumers everywhere. Six out of every ten adults online now have Instagram accounts — and 80% of those people are already following at least one business. In fact, over 200 million Instagram users actively check in with a business every single day! These consumers may also be the most engaged audience ever to grace social media. In short, you simply cannot afford to ignore to this incredibly engaging platform!
Of course, Instagram success takes some strategy. How do you stand out among 800 million (and growing) accounts and gain more followers looking for you?
Hashtags are at the core of every Instagram strategy. You won’t see real results until you master them.
Why are hashtags so important? Because that’s how Instagram categorizes content. If someone’s looking for a bookstore, they might look under #books. If they’re looking for a craft beer, they might look under #beer, #microbrewery, or #craftbeers. If you don’t tie your keywords into your hashtags, your posts will be invisible.
Here are some hashtag hacks that will help you grow an active, engaged following:
Think “Less Is More”
Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags per post — but any more than 9 per post has diminishing returns when it comes to other users commenting on your posts. Instead of wearing out your fingers typing every hashtag you can think to tie in, pick only the most relevant.
If you need help figuring out the best hashtags to use, Instagram will offer prompts after you type the first “#.” The platform also tracks the top nine trending hashtags at any moment — so make sure you check those right before you post.
For more hashtag guidance, there are some handy free apps out there, like AutoHash and Focalmark, that offer you a guide to the most followed hashtags relevant to your image and brand. Totally at a loss about where to start? Try TagBlender or HashtagsForLikes to generate hashtags that will guide highly-engaged followers to your site.
While you want to use some popular hashtags, don’t overlook the power of hashtags with a smaller following — especially if you’re a smaller company. Small companies actually benefit from targeting hashtags with less than 50,000 followers. You’ll find more people that are actively engaged around niche keywords.
Comment On Yourself, Really
While nine hashtags may be the magic number, there are some best practices in how to go back about your hashtag game.
For one, commenting your hashtags as a separate, second comment does not affect the way that hashtags work. Your photo will still be tagged with the appropriate hashtags – filtering your photo the top as a most recent post under that searchable tag. By commenting with your hashtags rather than including them in your original post, you’re keeping your followers from being bombarded with text. Keeping your caption clean also gives you the appearance of a more authentic post. That’s where this next few hashtag hacks comes into play.
Now that you know how to comment on yourself with your list of 9-30 hashtags, here’s a best kept secret of hashtag masters.
You heard me correctly. Delete it. But not too fast!
Hashtags of a short half life. After just a few hours, delete your second comment (see, this is also why commenting on yourself is better than trying to edit your original post). However, after deleting, you’ll want to comment again with nine new hashtags that are completely different than you previously used. This will put you back at the top of your hashtag game for a short run.
After a few more hours or perhaps the next day, delete your second round of hashtags completely – leaving a clean, authentic and simple looking interface with no extra marketing mojo. Why? Your hashtags have done their work for you and it is over. You’re too far down in hashtags campaigns for it to matter anymore. You’ve gained as much traction as you can. Now, you can hide your hashtag hacks from other businesses and keep your followers from being distracted.
When NOT to delete a hashtag? If you’re part of a unique hashtag campaign created by your company or as part of another, of course you don’t want to delete the hashtag. In this case, you’ll not only want to keep the hashtag, but you’ll want to do your best to incorporate it into your actual caption. For example, at Boostability we have employees use the hashtag #ThisIsHowWeBoost. This brings us to our next tip…
Start Your Own Hashtags
If you aren’t using your brand name as a hashtag, you’re missing a big opportunity. See if your brand name is in use — if it isn’t, grab it and get posting! Don’t forget to add in a variation that includes your locale, especially if you rely on local business for part of your profits. Posts with a location get 79% more engagement than posts without one.
Because users can follow their favorite hashtags on Instagram, consider adding user-generated content to your posts. If you have some micro-influencers among your followers, you can share their content (while giving proper credit to the original poster). Sharing user-generated content can enrich your brand’s personality and voice — and win you more loyal followers! Consider using something like #YourBrandCommunity or even #YourBrandFamily.
Avoid Spamming Your Followers
You have to mix up your hashtags if you want to avoid being marked as “spam” by Instagram’s algorithms — or marked as simply uninteresting by potential followers. Instagram users have considerable control over what shows up in their feed. If they don’t like your brand’s content, they can click “Don’t Show For This Hashtag” and you’ll be relegated to the pile of the non-relevant forever. If this happens too often, your account can be red-flagged.
Apps like Later can help you keep track of what hashtags you’ve used and which ones to use next. You can build multiple hashtag lists, then add them to your scheduled posts (which the app can also handle).
Follow Your Own Hashtags
This is a creative way to research hashtags that are relevant and trending. From your own profile, you can click on the “Hashtags” tab and see what else Instagram suggests. The suggestions are based on what you’re already following — so you get automatic insight into where you can find other people already interested in whatever your brand offers!
There’s no substitute for the time you need to spend researching the right hashtags to use. Highly-engaged, lively consumers are building entire communities around the hashtags that encompass their passions. If your brand lends itself to that sort of energy and zeal, take the time to figure out what hashtags your most devoted fans are following and get your posts out there!
Finally, you need to stay conscious of what’s trending out there in general — not just on Instagram. Current events, holidays, and local movements provide great opportunities to tie your brand into something that’s already grabbing people’s attention. Mixing highly-trending topics with evergreen ones is one of the best ways to grow a great audience.
Instagram hashtags aren’t just about search engine optimization — they’re about engagement. They’re the only way to build a following that’s as passionate about your brand or product as you are! The skillful use of hashtags is arguably more art than science — but a lot of research and a little practice will help you build a community of true-blue believers for your brand!