Marketing Tips

The Deal With Hashtags

March 6, 2021

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When it comes to Hashtags, there’s a lot of random information out there that can cause us to wonder if using hashtags is even worth it. From hashtags being shadow banned to hearing that you should avoid popular hashtags and only use super niche ones, the idea of hashtags can make you think that you are better off not even using them.

So what’s the deal with hashtags? 

Should you use them? Should you skip using hashtags except for a specific branded one for your business? How do you know which ones to use for your business? We are breaking down the deal with Hashtags so you can feel confident using them as part of your Instagram strategy.

Benefits of Hashtags

Ask anyone who uses hashtags strategically and they will tell you how beneficial they are. Considering hashtags are a way to categorize your content, you are essentially adding another way for people to find your content. Since people can follow hashtags, when you add a hashtag to your post, you are making your post available for people to see who follow or who search the hashtag on the app. We all know that reaching new people on Instagram seems more difficult than ever so using hashtags is one way to gain fresh eyes on your content.

How to Find Hashtags

Using hashtags is quite simple, but we recommend using a strategy to make the most of the effort you are putting in. First, find hashtags that are specific to your niche as a company. Then, find hashtags to use that are in line with both your brand and your ideal client. What kind of hashtags are your ideal clients following? What hashtags do they find value in looking at? A helpful trick is to search a hashtag in Instagram and then see what similar hashtags appear underneath the search bar. These similar hashtags are suggestions that other people also use that are similar to the hashtag you searched. Another great way to find hashtags is to see what hashtags people in your industry are using. Find a few of your competitors and look at the hashtags that they are using. See if any of them are relevant to your content, your brand and your ideal client. 

How to Use Them

You can use hashtags by putting them either in the caption of your post, or in a comment below. Putting your hashtags in a comment is a way to keep your caption looking clean and ensures people aren’t distracted from the valuable content you are sharing. You can use a maximum of 30 hashtags per post but research shows that 11-16 hashtags is actually the golden ticket number to use for each post. 

Rule of Thumb

A good rule of thumb is to find hashtags that aren’t overused or ones that aren’t used enough– when you search for a hashtag to use, stick with hashtags that have been used 50k-500k times. This is a bit of a sweet spot where your content will still be seen and won’t be lost in the sea of users using a specific hashtag. 

Try It Out!

We recommend making a few hashtag groups in your scheduling app (we love using Planoly!) and trying them out to see how they go. Track your insights and see if hashtags are how people are finding your content. When you check your insights, it won’t show you the exact hashtags that brought in the business, but it will show you how many people find your post because of the hashtags you decided to use. This can help you strategize and see if a specific group of hashtags are working for you. 

Adjust As Needed

We recommend refreshing your hashtag groups every few months to be sure the hashtags you are using don’t get stale or shadowbanned. You want to be using relevant hashtags and you want to rotate them to take advantage of trending and seasonal topics.

Hashtags are a great way to impact your social media strategy and use something that is already built into the platform to boost your efforts! What are your biggest hurdles with hashtags? We have put all of our hashtag knowledge into our Instagram Intensive Course, The Curated Grid, that goes more in depth and helps you set up an actual strategy you can put in place. Check out The Curated Grid Here. 

Hashtags have been around since the rise of Twitter and have been used frequently ever since. In a nutshell, Instagram hashtags not only categorize your content and makes it discoverable by users, but they are an effective way to get more followers and expand reach and brand awareness. 

Why are hashtags important to use? 

Hashtags enable you to reach people who otherwise wouldn’t find your profile or post. 

When coming up with your Instagram Strategy, hashtags should be just as important as your brand, the images, and the captions. As organic reach on Instagram declines and paid impressions rise with the algorithm, hashtags still represent the single best way to organically drive your social marketing campaigns.

My guess is that you, like most of the Instagram users out there, just randomly pick some hashtags that sound fun and trendy and hope for the best. 

EEEK 

I’m going to give you a few fundamental steps that you can take to get on the right path to having a real strategy in place. 

1. Narrow your numbers! 

Take your fav hashtags, head to the little search bar within the app and let’s see how your fav tags level up. 

I’m going to go ahead and look up #marketing. #marketing has a whopping 31.5 million posts! That’s cra cra! There is no way that my one post in a sea of literally millions will be seen so there is no way that I am going to bother wasting one of my 30 tags on that post. BUT, look a bit deeper, if you use #marketingstrategy, there is only 1.5 million posts… still a lot but a big difference! If you take a look at all the suggested tags Instagram shows you under #marketing, you can get a real clear picture on the different options that you have. #marketingstrategies only has 116k posts and #marketingideas only has 180k. My advice is to choose hashtags that are somewhere between 50k-500k ideally, or at the very most 4million is my max. 

2. Find Relevant Tags

Again, using that little search button, Instagram will show you all the relevant tags so if you’re a photographer, search the hashtag for words like #photographer #weddingphotography and go through the list and see what other relevant tags you can use. Under #weddingphotographer ( which BTW has over 14million), you will see #weddingphotographers which has 586k posts. Click into #weddingphotographers and across the top, you will see related tags! Tags like #weddingphotos #weddingphotographyideas #weddingblog all show up! Think about it from the clients perspective. This is also where you really gotta put your head into the mindset of your ideal client. What type of content does your ideal client wants to see and what other tags could they be looking up? Let’s say I’m a bride looking to plan my wedding. I might not just be searching for wedding photographers, I will most likely also be looking at the hashtags #weddingvenuesin..(your city), #floristsof (your city), etc. 

#lookslikefilm is a super popular photographer hashtag but it has 5.8million posts in it. Instagram brings up many different variations of it such as #lookslikefilmweddings which only has 214k following! The jest of what I’m saying is don’t use hashtags with a jillion others posting to the same tag. It just won’t work, your content won’t be seen. 

Look at you… already killing your strategy! 

3. See what your industry is doing

Yep, I’m asking you to stalk your competition, colleagues, friends and industry leaders. Other people in your industry that share your Ideal client might have a good insight on what hashtags to use and which ones are working well. 

4. Pick the right number of hashtags to use. 

This might require research and digging into your insights but figuring out the best amount of hashtags to use on any given post is crucial. We all know that the max number of hashtags to use is 30 but research has shown that anywhere from 11-16 is the golden number. If using 11 hashtags is the golden key to Instagram success than you better make sure those 11 hashtags are well thought out. 

5. Use branded hashtags. 

These tags are unique to your brand and are a great way to drive awareness of your business and give your followers a way to interact with you and each other.

Branded hashtags can be something as simple as your company name, tagline or brand identity or could even be tied to specific products, services or marketing campaigns. For example, we work with a paintbrush brand and we encourage people to use their branded hashtag as a way of sharing their content for us to feature. In their bio, we asked them to use the hashtag for their chance to be featured and it works so well! We get user-generated content and anyone can go snoop that hashtag to see what our artists are doing. 

6. Choose the location of your hashtags wisely. 

There are several places that your hashtags can go and everyone does it differently. There are so many conflicting stories on what is actually the best method so I suggest using Insights to see what works best for you. 

– Adding hashtags IN your caption. Integrating hashtags throughout your post adds dimension to your caption, and since hashtags are a different color on Instagram, the right hashtag can also highlight and contextualize your content. “Happy Monday #photographers, I hope you’re having the best day!” is a really great way to add a few keyworded hashtags into your caption without it being painful to read. 

– Hashtags in the comments. Upload your content as usual but leave out the hashtags in the caption box. Once your post is published, simply write out or paste the hashtags you want to include in the “Add a comment…” box and tap Post. Once your photo or video gets more comments, your hashtags won’t be visible unless a user taps the “View all comments” button

– Hashtags in the captions. After you write our your caption, tap return, Enter a piece of punctuation (whether a period, bullet or dash), then hit Return again. Repeat steps 2 to 4 at least five times. Instagram hides captions after three lines, so your hashtags won’t be viewable unless your followers tap the “more” option on your post. 

– Hashtags in your profile bio. When a user taps it they will be taken to that hashtag’s page to follow it. For businesses with popular branded hashtags, it’s a great way to foster engagement or collect user-generated content.

7. LOCATION!

If you’re a product or service provider, trying to reach more people and get more business locally, tag your city yall! This seems like common sense but you would be surprised how many people don’t use their location in their hashtag strategy at all! 

Ok so let’s hashtag…

You know those categories we worked on earlier? We actually create a group of hashtags for each category we have! Yep, it’s so much work in the beginning BUT it makes our life SO much easier in the end. 

So let’s look at the category ‘engagement photos’.

First thing I’m going to do is brainstorm different hashtags to use for #engagementphotos.

I’m going to head over to the search bar, type that tag out and see how many posts are in that hashtag. Is the number too high? Find one similar enough, that still tells the story. 

Next, I’m going to find relevant tags by clicking into the hashtag #engagementphotos and see what Instagram is telling me is relevant. #engagementphoto #engagementpictures #engagementinspiration are all showing up! Woo! 

Now, I’m going to go snoop some of my colleagues and see what they are doing. #loveauthentic seems to be a common denominator along with #coupleshoot #belovedstories #shesaidyes #bridetobe2020.

Next, let’s add some location specific tags in there. We are still talking about engagement photos as a category here so let’s use some hashtags like #calgaryweddingphotographer #calgaryweddings #calgaryengagementphotographer

Ok, let’s get into Planoly and start to plan out our hashtags. Typically I like to leave enough room in my hashtag group for at least 5 extra hashtags so if I plan on using 10 hashtags on each post, I will only put 5 well researched tags into Planoly and I will wing the rest depending on what the photo is of.

If you have a business account, you’re also able to see how hashtags have helped your individual posts!

  • Go to a recent Instagram post and click where it says ‘insights’ at the bottom left.
  • Swipe up to see a more in depth analysis
  • Scroll to the Discovery heading– you’ll be able to see your reach based on the home page, people visiting your profile and from people seeing your post from the hashtags you used.
  • Fun Fact: From this insight page you can also see how many people shared and saved your posts! You can also see how many people saw your image that weren’t originally following you. In the example below, 4% of people saw your post who weren’t following you. This isn’t exactly the best margin but having 21 people see my post that don’t follow me is still something I’m pumped about!

Once a quarter, it is wise to update your hashtags. Don’t use the same ones over and over again. Refresh them and check your insights to see how they are working for you. In the above example, only 21 people found them from from their hashtags. I would suggest mixing the hashtags up and trying something new.

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