Without a doubt Instagram is huge. Around 800 million people use it every month and a staggering 500 million people use it every day. So if you want your business to be seen by this huge audience you need a strong presence on Instagram.
However, with over 95 million posts being published on a typical day – generating 4.2 billion likes – it’s easy for your posts to get lost in the noise.
In this article we show you how to use hashtags properly to give your Instagram posts the best chance of being seen by your prospective customers.
What is a hashtag?
A hashtag is a simple way for users to categorise (“tag”) the images and content they post on Instagram to make it easy for others to find. Anyone can create their own hashtag if they wish. However, posts are more easily discovered by new customers when you use existing hashtags.
To create a hashtag you simply type a pound sign / hash (“#”) before the text you want to tag. So if you wish to use the hashtag ‘shoptillyoudrop’ you would simply type ‘#shoptillyoudrop’ in your Instagram post and any Instagram user following that hashtag could discover your post.
We have provided below a post from StyleTread, an online shoe retailer, which has used 28 hashtags to promote their post for women’s Cielo Chelsea boots. The hashtags are displayed at the bottom of the post in blue text.
How do I find hashtags to use on my posts?
That’s a very good question. It’s worthwhile investing some time upfront to research the most appropriate hashtags for your business. We’ll show you how to do it in our step-by-step guide.
First, before you start, it is a good idea to create a simple spreadsheet or document to list all the hashtags you are about to collect. You can use this spreadsheet over and over again for your posts and add to it over time.
Step 1: Find popular hashtags
Open up the Instagram app on your phone or tablet and press the magnifying glass icon in the bottom menu of the app to start a search. In the search box at the top of your screen type a word relevant to the products or services you sell and press on TAGS . In the example below we have searched for hashtags relating to shoes.
The Instagram app has displayed hashtags including the word “shoes”, sorted from the highest to the lowest number of posts (although not always!). You can see that #shoes has over 76 million posts that have already included this hashtag. The next hashtag listed is #shoesaddict with over 1.6 million posts. If we select this hashtag we will see the hashtag feed for #shoesaddict.
The hashtag feed is a relatively new feature of Instagram. In the feed you will see a summary of the hashtag showing the number of posts, related hashtags and top and recent posts that have used that hashtag. You can now follow any hashtag you like in order to easily keep on top of what’s being posted.
Now you should do a search for hashtags relating to your business or one of your products. Add the results of your search into your spreadsheet, recording each hashtag you think is relevant along with its associated number of posts.
Step 2: Find related hashtags
Next, select one of the hashtags listed in your search results so you can view the feed for that particular hashtag. In our example below we have selected the #shoelovers hashtag:
You should see a grey bar with around 10 related hashtags listed. You will need to scroll the grey bar to the left to be able to see them all. We suggest taking the time to select each relevant hashtag and view its feed to see whether you think it is appropriate for your business. Each time you view a new hashtag you will also see more new related hashtags that you can investigate. Record all the relevant hashtags you find, together with their associated number of posts, into your spreadsheet.
Step 3: Review competitor hashtags
Now your hashtag list should be starting to look good! Next, it’s a good idea to look at your competitors’ Instagram profile pages (“feeds”) to see which hashtags they are using on their posts. In our example we have opened up StyleTread’s feed and can see how many times they have posted and how many followers they have. We can also see all their posts – simply click on the images at the bottom to open up individual posts.
It’s probably best to focus mostly on those competitors that post frequently and have a good number of followers. Open up their posts and record any hashtags your competitors are using that you think are relevant and are not already on your list.
Step 4: Review follower profiles (optional)
You have probably collected enough hashtags to get you going for now. However, as an additional step in the future, it would be worthwhile taking a look at several profiles of the followers of both your Instagram feed and those of your competitors. To do this simply press on the followers number at the top of each feed and you will be shown a list of the followers of that profile page or feed.
Simply press on the name of one of the followers to view that user’s Instagram profile page / feed. If the user has set his or her account set to private you will not be able to see their posts.
Next, press on the following number in the top right corner to see a list of the Instagram accounts and hashtags being followed by that person.
As hashtag feeds are a new feature not many users appear to have started following hashtags at this stage but that will change quickly over time.
So which hashtags should I use to have the greatest impact?
After completing the steps above you should have a list of at least 50 hashtags, which might look like this:
However, Instagram sets a limit of up to 30 hashtags per post so you can’t use all of the ones in your spreadsheet in one post. The first StyleTread post above contains 28 hashtags. Don’t be afraid to use the full 30 hashtags but you have to be selective. You might be tempted to use, say, the top 5-10 hashtags in your search results and be done with it. However, we think that this approach won’t help you get the most exposure from your posts – these hashtags are far too popular and will likely result in your post failing to get any attention at all.
We believe that the smartest strategy is to select a variety of hashtags of different levels of popularity and targeting. We typically adopt the following strategy:
- 10-15 popular hashtags for broad reach: Choose 5-8 hashtags with 100,000 to 500,000 posts and 5-8 hashtags with 20,000 to 100,000 posts.
- 3-5 niche hashtags for audience targeting: Choose 3-5 less popular hashtags with up to 20,000 posts that you think are most relevant to your target audience and niche.
- 1-3 brand hashtags: Choose up to 3 hashtags that represent your brand and/or campaign. For example, StyleTread uses #styletread and #australiaslargestonlineshoestore (way too long for a hashtag!) in this category. If you were running, say, a summer sale campaign you might want to include #summersale as well.
If you are posting during a well known shopping event like Cyber Monday and you are having a special promotion you might want to include #cybermonday and related hashtags as well. If you are promoting a brand name product you sell like Nike you should search for some brand related hashtags to include as well – for example #nikepegasus.
As you need to post regularly to start seeing some results from Instagram, you should experiment using different combinations of hashtags on different posts and compare the results in terms of likes, new followers added and visits to your website.
We wish you the best of luck. Happy posting!