Hashtags are still one of the best no-cost methods to get discovered by new audiences, grow your Instagram following, and make sales on Instagram.
But unfortunately, many content creators fall into three hashtag pitfalls.
First, they don’t know which hashtags to use.
Second, they don’t know how many hashtags to use.
Lastly, they don’t know where to use them.
We get it, how to use hashtags can be a mystery.
And if you misuse them, it can lead to a ton of bot followers or you can even be penalized by Instagram.
But there is actually a specific way to use hashtags properly for your business.
And in this post, we will be sharing our formula on how to grow Instagram followers organically via hashtags.
- Instagram accounts that used at least 9 hashtags per post get 2.5x more engagement per post than accounts that only use one hashtag.
- There have been some studies done that show a minimal benefit to placing hashtags in the caption over comments.
- Create a hashtag list by using the search queries we provided earlier and by looking at your competitor hashtags.
The best place to start is to actually think about the type of content your target audience is searching for on Instagram.
To help us create a list of relevant hashtags, we like to use the following search queries:
1. Broad industry or topic
2. Industry niche or topic type
3. Location, if applicable
Let’s look at an example. Say you are a wedding photographer in Atlanta:
1. The industry is “wedding”
2. The niche is “wedding photography”
3. The location is “Atlanta”
So you would head over to Instagram search and start with an industry hashtag search.
Hashtag #wedding seems fitting. Then you will want to make note of all of the relevant hashtags for your brand.
Next, you will want to do a hashtag search for your niche or topic type.
In this case, that would be #weddingphotography, and make note of all of the niche hashtags for your brand.
Lastly, if applicable, you will want to search based on your location. Let’s try #atlweddingphotographer and make note of all of the location-based hashtags.
Boom, by following our 3-part search query, you should have a list of relevant hashtags to include in your posts.
Be sure to play around with synonyms to really grow your hashtag list.
Now, here’s a quick story that puts things into perspective.
Someone on our team is getting married in May.
He and his fiancée searched far and wide on Google for a photographer for their wedding and went through a ton of sites.
But according to them, they actually found the photographer for their wedding on Instagram.
Yep, that’s right. By using the location-based hashtag we discussed earlier #atlweddingphotographer, they found the perfect photographer for them.
So take it from us, your target audience is using hashtags on Instagram and you want to be there when they search.
Now, here’s a pro tip for you:
When doing your hashtag research, be sure to click on a few of them and take a look at the hashtags being used by your competitors on their top-performing posts.
You may find a few hashtags you didn’t think of yet.
Ok, now that we know how to find hashtags for our brand, let’s move on to the next question.
Well, you can use up to 30 hashtags per post – any more and your post will fail.
Now you don’t need to use 30 hashtags in every post but every time you don’t use a hashtag, you miss out on potential reach.
So, we would suggest you use at least 10-15 hashtags per post.
A study by Track Maven found that Instagram accounts that used at least 9 hashtags per post get 2.5x more engagement per post than accounts that only use one hashtag.
That’s why you should use more hashtags.
To make it super simple, here is our hashtag formula for posting.
3-5 Extremely Popular Hashtags
These are hashtags with over 200k posts.
These are typically extremely competitive and top posts change often but offer a wide audience and a quick burst of exposure if you can get in the top posts.
3-5 Medium Popular Hashtags
These are hashtags with between 80k to 200k posts.
These are typically less competitive and offer a sustained amount of exposure for longer periods of time.
3-5 Niche, Location, or Topic Type Hashtags
These hashtags are specific to your niche within your industry or location.
These are super targeted and are great for building an Instagram following of highly engaged users but often have much lower reach potential.
1-2 Branded Hashtags
These are the hashtags specific to your brand and are used for brand building.
This mix will allow you to:
- gain quick exposure within extremely popular hashtags,
- sustained exposure within medium popular hashtags,
- target exposure within niche hashtags, and
- brand-building exposure with hashtags specific to your company
Remember that the key here is relevance over popularity.
You want the right audience, not any audience. So unless your page is dedicated to Kim Kardashian, fight the urge to use #kimkardashian.
Ok. Now the big topic of debate is whether to place your hashtags in the caption or the comments.
Does it matter?
The truth is, not really.
There have been some studies done that show a minimal benefit to placing hashtags in the caption over comments.
But still, it mostly boils down to preference.
If you want to place hashtags in your caption, here’s how to do so and hide them at the same time:
- At the bottom of your caption, hit Return or Enter.
- Enter a punctuation mark of your choice (periods are most popular), then hit Return again.
- Repeat step #2 at least three times.
- Hit Return or Enter and add your hashtags.
Instagram will hide captions after three lines, so your hashtags in your caption won’t be visible unless you tap “more.”
If you don’t like the look of hashtags in the caption, go ahead and place them in the comments.
And you can sleep well at night knowing that it doesn’t really make a difference in your reach.
If you have an Instagram business account, you can head over to your post insights to view how many impressions came from hashtags, along with other Instagram metrics.
Here’s how to do it:
- Head over to one of your posts.
- Right below the post, you will see the “View Insights” button. Click it.
- This will pull up a small window of information. What you want to do is swipe up on that to reveal a lot more of your post insights.
- Scroll down a bit and voila, you will see how many impressions came from hashtags if you used any in that post.
What you want to do is to go back through your posts and look for two things:
First, which set of hashtags garnered the most impressions for you.
Second, what type of content worked well for you with those hashtags.
By doing so, you will find a winning combination of content type and hashtags that will grow your Instagram the fastest.
Instagram Hashtag Dos And Don’ts
1. Do Create A Hashtag List For Future Use
You will want to take some time to create a hashtag list by using the search queries we provided earlier and by looking at your competitor hashtags.
By doing so, you cut down on the time needed to find hashtags for every post.
And also, you make it easy for yourself to use different hashtags on different posts but still be effective.
2. Don’t Use The Same Hashtags Repeatedly
It might sound like a great and efficient strategy to use the same hashtags repeatedly on every post.
But, it’s unfortunately against Instagram’s guidelines to post repetitive comments or content.
Doing so will get your content penalized by the Instagram algorithm.
3. Do Create A Branded Hashtag
A branded hashtag is a way to build brand awareness and a community around your business on Instagram.
Your branded hashtag can include your company name, company tagline, or be specific to a mantra that represents your brand.
It’s also a great idea to follow your branded hashtag to keep track of new content that’s being shared by your audience!
4. Don’t Forget To Check Hashtags For Meaning Or A Ban
There are hashtags on Instagram that are banned or hidden.
This means they are flagged by Instagram for breaking community guidelines and will not help your reach if they are used.
Note that seemingly innocent hashtags have been banned such as #elevator.
So, you definitely want to check before you use a hashtag to make sure it is not banned or hidden.
In addition, be sure to double-check the intent of the hashtags that you use. For example, you have a different interpretation of what #WTF means than others.
Well, there you have it, a complete hashtag strategy for Instagram.
And if you want to take your Instagram marketing to the next level, simply contact us today to get started!