Why Should I Dedicate My Time to Hashtag Research?
Hashtag research is leading businesses all over the world towards organic, sustained growth.
If you have read a bit about keyword research, then you already have a head start on understanding how vital it is. Hashtag search and keyword research share a lot in common on their respective platforms and should be part of every digital marketing strategy.
Producing quality, relevant content is only the first step. Next, you have to find your target audience for it. And with a little bit of market insight, you will find the right audience.
Did you know that posts containing 9 hashtags perform nearly 2.5x as well as posts that only use 1? Not using hashtags isn’t an option. The only question should be “What hashtags should I choose?”
Not only do new hashtags help you boost your reach on social media, they can work in overtime by providing you with new content ideas.
If you are unfamiliar with the semantics of hashtag research, that’s okay! We’re here to cover what you need to know and get you well on your way towards a winning strategy.
How Do They Work?
So how do you begin hashtag research?
Let’s lay the foundation by beginning with what a hashtag is. Hashtags are indexes used by several social media platforms to categorize content and segment audiences.
Similar to keywords used in SEO/PPC, people use hashtags to find your business, products or services.
The use of Instagram hashtags streamlines the discovery process past what was once a simple algorithm. Aside from your Instagram posts, they even let you add hashtags to your profile by including them in the bio which makes you searchable.
Because people can now follow specific hashtags, you can be sure that the same audiences are receiving your content. However, be aware that this means you need to work that much harder for a follower.
Instead of following your business account, they can just follow a list of hashtags with a never ending feed of content. Content and distribution can bottleneck each other, so make sure your content doesn’t go unnoticed by ignoring hashtag research.
Now, it may seem intuitive to be targeting the bigger, more popular hashtags with more followers and post volume. Again, much like keywords, you will have your work cut out for you if you exclusively target broad, high-volume and top hashtags.
The only way to build credibility is to rank well among smaller, specific hashtags and then grow from there.
Because high volume equates to high competition, diversify into different types of hashtags among broad and niche hashtags for the most growth and engagement.
A hashtag with roughly 10 million number of posts will push a post out of the top 9 in only 3 minutes. You can’t get much attention in under 3 minutes.
Your true engagement volume will come from collecting quality small to medium-sized hashtags.
Different Types of Hashtags
Even amongst hashtags, they all have their own lane and own use cases. It’s important to be aware of the kinds of hashtags because there can be audience overlap.
Think about what you would search too if you were an Instagram or Twitter user. Instead of #football or #sports, you would more than likely search #UFGators or #footballhighlights first.
Attacking lower difficulty hashtags will improve your overall rankings and help you rank for the higher difficulty ones in the long run.
Try to have a healthy mix of broad and targeted hashtags so that you have ample exposure to the greater community.
In any case lets go over a list of a few different kinds of hashtags:
- Brand tags – Coming up with a hashtag to promote yourself or your own brand is social media 101. If you can get a hashtag to gain traction, then you have successfully carved out your own audience.
- Campaign tags – These are usually used for shorter lived movements. Usually are more temporary hashtags.
- Event tags – It’s not uncommon to find trending hashtags of specific events. These are highly engaging tags and usually have a specific audience.
- Location tags – Giving shout outs to your town, city, or neighborhood isn’t uncommon and could gain some good traction.
- Industry tags – Pretty self-explanatory. Tags you would find used by people in your industry. Usually pretty professional.
- Niche tags – These are going to be your miscellaneous and more in the known hashtags. These can be found once you have dived into a specific community and will be a highly selective audience.
This list isn’t the end all be all, but it’s good to be aware of some of what is out there.
In Depth Hashtag Research
Now let’s cover where you can begin finding the right hashtags.
You can begin to branch out with the related hashtag suggestions Instagram gives you. You are looking for quality communities and trying to minimize audience overlap. This can be somewhat effective, but it is mainly for the average users and not for high level markets.
You should obviously avoid gimmicky hashtags such as #likeforlike or #followforfollow.
While you may be on trend in your industry, there’s always room to do better. Try looking towards competitors’/peers’ posts to see what they are using and gauge how successful you think it would be for your content.
Even better, look towards social media influencers or bloggers in your industry. These people tend to start the hashtags to begin with and will be on top of the trends.
There exists countless hashtag tools out there to help you find new hashtags. These can provide you with real-time hashtag analytics tools to monitor hashtag performance like daily and monthly volume, popularity as well as generate suggestions. Some of these tools are Hashtagify, RiteTag and more.
It may suit you better to get in touch with the hashtags industry leaders are using so you know what’s trending. Try gathering as many as possible from top posts and distill it down to the unique ones.
If you are a smaller business, finding active niches should be your goal.
A good practice to exercise when conducting research is to document all of your hashtags on a spreadsheet. You can use software/apps that save your hashtags as well. But you want to be able to archive hashtags, see their volume, and assign a value to them.
Finding hashtags is the first step. The next is figuring out when and how to use them on your posts and tweets.
Decide how many you would like to include. Instagram and Twitter actually do not favor people who exploit hashtags by spamming. Even if they are effective hashtags, there is still an optimal number of hashtags to include.
So don’t go overboard and include every related word. They are most likely high volume and high competition anyways.
Instagram lets a user include up to 30 hashtags, but using too many makes the content seem ambiguous if you were judging by just the hashtags. Larger brands and companies that don’t need to fight as much for reach typically use fewer hashtags than the average user.
Less than 5 may be normal for Coca-Cola but the average user may find a sweet spot at 10. Look at Nike’s post above. They only use 3 hashtags. One is tagging someone while the other 2 are promoting a movie and the brand.
Smaller businesses are more dependent on social media exposure, so don’t think you can get away with Nike’s strategies.
Try to change up the order of your hashtags too.
Do not copy paste your hashtags in your every post. Switch them up and test new hashtag combinations so you can reach out to a new set of audience. One good strategy to try is to research and build a list of, say, at least 100 popular but relevant hashtags. Put them in a file so you can simply choose, copy and paste them every time you post. Keep in mind to choose only the ones that are relevant to that certain post.
Instagram doesn’t prefer the same block of hashtags copied from post to post just as Google doesn’t like duplicate content.
Think about testing out new hashtags in every post until you can nail down all the winners.
Your best bet is to post with less hashtags but with more posting frequency. That way you are active all day.
Timing isn’t something to ignore either. Posting during high visibility times will generate more engagement. Higher engagement will get Instagram to promote you on feeds which will generate more visibility in a positive feedback loop.
Again, you need to be using hashtags wherever possible.
- on your bio
- on your stories
- on every post
- in the comments (if need be)
You probably already know that hashtags can be ‘hidden’ in comments, and that it’s a great way to reduce clutter. Rumor has it, Instagram is looking into a dedicated section to decrease hashtag clutter.
Instagram also comes with an added bonus. If your post can gain a lot of traction and fast, you can make it to the top posts for a hashtag or on the explore page when users click the search bar. This kind of visibility can do wonders for your followers if you can generate the high quality posts.
Test and Learn
The best hashtag research strategy is one that involves constant tweaking and optimization.
Instagram thankfully provides you with analytics on all of your posts including how many impressions/followers hashtags brought in. By doing some independent testing of hashtags, you should be able to sort out the ones that drive the most engagement towards your profile.
Know your buyer personas. Know their ages and locations. Stay in tune with your industry on social media. Be aware of what’s trending. Track what hashtags generate the most followers and the most comments. Test what blend of large and small tags work for you. Think about making your own hashtags to brand yourself and foster your own community of content creators.
Think about what makes a good hashtag as well:
- A good hashtag is one with a decent amount of volume without being too broad.
- It generates likes and comments from an engaged community.
- It is part of a larger community of hashtags, larger and smaller, that you can build your credibility with.
- It isn’t spammy and generates a community of quality content.
Adhere to your hashtag strategy too. Post on a regular schedule, be consistent, find the best times as well as the best hashtags. And most importantly, constantly optimize.
Remember that this is only half the story and that content is the other half of the game.
Posting consistently with quality posts that share a common theme is how you win at Instagram. Outside of hashtag research you should be thinking about ways to grow your Instagram followers organically.
What’s hot on social media is always changing. So to make hashtag research effective, you need to stay up to date with trends and best practices. If you think that your business is in need of a boost to its social media accounts or are just in need of social media management services, we’re happy to help. Just shoot us a quick message here and we’ll chat.