It’s an undeniable fact that hashtags play an important role on Instagram; those words that follow a pound sign carry an essential message out into the world about your content and ideas. So, how do you leverage one of the most effective ways to get your posts discovered by your ideal audience?
Let’s start by highlighting the importance of the right audience. While your content might be amazing, it won’t be received as excitingly by people who are not in your target audience and who don’t share the same interests and values as your brand does. Instead, it’s a much more viable business strategy to go after the people who may act as your raving fans in the future. Those potential fans and clients are hanging out in different hashtag feeds you should be a part of.
It is highly unlikely (in fact, it’s almost impossible) that your content will become viral and attract the right people if it’s accompanied by generic hashtags like #love, #instagood, and #beautiful. Your content might be very instagood, but those hashtags are so overused to the point of being useless. Instead, here is what to do to find, and get in front of, your ideal clients.
Start with the Obvious
What is your niche? Is it #fashion, #crafts, #food, #wellness, or #digitalmarketing? Leave those generic hashtags for the beginners! We won’t use those on the posts since they’re probably worn out as well, but they’ll act as a great starting point in our quest for the most effective hashtags.
You can do the same thing if you know at least one hashtag your audience is using. It might be a popular term, “an industry insider lingo,” other organization or group’s hashtag in the industry; it may even be your competitor’s hashtags — that’s fine! All of these are great starting points. Type these into Instagram search and pay attention to the related hashtags that are displayed up top the images. Omit any that are as obvious as the one you’re using. So, if you type in #wellness and get a suggestion for #healthandwellness, omit. If none of them look good to you, repeat step 1 until you find something that catches your attention.
If you do find a hashtag that has a potential, check out its feed. See what the top posts and the latest posts look like. Do they seem to be about the same (ideally, your) topic? Are a majority of them good quality? You will generally know whether it’s a good hashtag to use within a few seconds of looking at its feed. Clearly, if people are using the said hashtag for something completely different than you thought, it won’t work. Or, if the wall is flooded with memes and generally low-quality content, it won’t work either (unless you’re after the memes).
It is also important to check the hashtags you are going to use to ensure that you do, in fact, understand what they stand for and what types of audiences post under these hashtags. In short, I see time after time that marketers simply do not check hashtag meaning, especially if they use some sort of acronyms. Please, check your hashtags before you post them.I have to admit that I was the same way not so long ago. In short, I was using the make of a car model as a hashtag (there are quite a few brands who use two to three letters as a model name), until half a year later I checked what that hashtag was used for. It turned out to be used by some sort of a pre-teen girl fan club. Umm, not my target audience. My photos of cool cars looked very out of place in the mix of fan-created content with sexy vampires.
Continue the Search
Once you’ve found a hashtag you like, write it down and check what related hashtags pop up in its feed. It seems like going down a rabbit hole, and it is. However, you will uncover tons of relevant hashtags, a few hidden gems, and will get a pretty good insight into what your audience is all about. Continue doing this until you have 30 or so hashtags written down.
Mix it Up
If you came up with a bit more than 30 — that’s even better, because now you can mix it up a bit and not include the same hashtags with every single one of your posts. Using a variety of hashtags will help you get in front of more people who might not stumble across your gorgeous feed otherwise. You can use a variety of tools — and a lot of Instagram schedulers have this feature — but a simple Notes tool in your smartphone will do this next trick. To save you time and sanity, simply type your hashtags (and/or group variations) into a Note. Now, you can simply go into this Note any time you post a new image and simply copy and paste your hashtag groups into the comment section.
Plus, Instagram continuously calibrates its spam filters and usually looks down upon accounts that use the exact same hashtag group for extensive periods of time, so alternating is not only good for exposure to different groups, but also to stay on good terms with the algorithm.
Things to Keep in Mind
One thing to strive for is to find hashtags that have between 10,000 to 500,000 posts associated with them. This ensures that a particular hashtag is used by people in your target market, but is not overused to the point where your posts have no chance of staying up top for long enough to be discovered. Look for hashtags that are updated constantly and frequently, but that allows your content to stay recent for a few hours.
Also, pay attention to how many likes, on average, top posts in a given hashtag feed have. Depending on the size of your following and your engagement rates, you might be able to land in top posts for these hashtags. This is a great way to further boost your engagement and be seen by even more people. For some, you’ll be able to show up on top with a hundred or so likes.
Of course, if your posts receive thousands of likes, you can venture into much larger hashtags. However, again, keep in mind that overly-popular hashtags will not provide you with as much visibility because your posts will be flooded down by other posts.
It is generally a good idea to have a mix of hashtags with small, medium, and high volume of content. High volume hashtags will allow your content to be seen by as many eyes as possible, whereas less popular hashtags allow your content to stay up longer.
This process might be a bit time-consuming, but it will ensure that the right audience sees your every post. It is also nice to do this exercise once in a while just to get a better understanding of your audience’s needs, wants, aspirations, and specific ways they use the platform.
Besides, occasionally checking the hashtags you are using will ensure that you are not using any banned hashtags that run a risk of getting your posts shadowbanned.
Finally, I recommend that you insert your hashtags into the comments section. You might have noticed a lot of people doing that.
It will accomplish a few things. First of all, your uploads will be as discoverable as they’d be with hashtags in the descriptions. Yet, it keeps descriptions short and clean. Plus, if you’re going to repost an image on other platforms that don’t support hashtags or makes it look weird, it’s better to keep the copy neat. Yet, now that you know where to insert hashtags, don’t be too spammy and staff your comments with irrelevant keywords. Now you know how to find the best, most relevant hashtags for your audience, which makes them effective!
Do you have a different process for uncovering the best hashtags specific for your audience? I’d like to know your tips! Share in the comment section below or head over to Instagram @lesyaliu to continue the conversation!