Hashtags are keywords that pull out only the content labeled with the searched tag. This makes it even easier for customers to find businesses, so mastering using hashtags on Instagram to push your product is more important than ever.
Over the last few years, Instagram has made many upgrades in attempts to compete with Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat.
Instagram’s latest improvements include allowing people to follow hashtags and business profiles to include active hashtags in their bios, making the entire account searchable, not just a single post.
Instagram has become a growing platform for businesses to showcase products. From 2016 to 2017 alone, the amount of business profiles on Instagram have increased from 1.6 million to 8 million. As of September 2017, Instagram reported that they have over 800 million users, and about 80% of those users follow at least one business. So how do you ensure your business growth on the platform?
To get more people, aside from your followers, to see your content, you must use hashtags. But a mass amount of hashtags will not guarantee a mass amount views. Keep in mind, successful marketing with Instagram is not about just reaching people, but about reaching the right people who will respond to what you have to offer.
How do Hashtags work?
When you search for a hashtag, it automatically shows you how many posts are tagged with that hashtag. The higher the number means lots of people use it, so there’s a high relevancy and a larger audience which is a good thing, but may not be as beneficial to your brand as it may seem, especially if you are a brand new account. Simply Measured conducted a study and discovered that posts with at least one hashtag receive about 12.6% more engagement than posts without hashtags.
Think of it this way, the more posts that use a particular hashtag, the more you have to compete against in order to make your content seen. Therefore, you need to use a balanced blend of general and niche hashtags to make sure your posts are swimming in the water without getting lost in the current.
There’s also the question of, who is your target market? Unless your answer is “literally everybody”, then you need to put more thought into how you’re using hashtags on Instagram.
Lately, there’s been increasing frustrations from users saying Instagram’s Explore suggestions being inaccurate. So Instagram introduced a new feature late last year that allows users to directly follow hashtags, which can both help and hurt you as a business.
This element means customers don’t need to follow your account anymore to see what they want to see, which adds more pressure on businesses and influencers to produce content with more variety and value.
But on the plus side, this function increases the value of hashtags. Not only will it increase your organic reach, but it’s now even easier to reach and engage with users who are already interacting with your product and/or industry. But again, for this to work to your advantage, you need high quality content that viewers will respond to, so the Instagram algorithm will choose your posts to be featured in people’s news feeds.
If users can’t connect with or understand your content, it won’t matter how well you’re using hashtags on Instagram. High definition photos should be your top priority because when users search a hashtag, only the photos appear. Your writing can be top-notch but people won’t see your description until they click on your post.
Start with using hashtags on Instagram that are branded
Come up with a hashtag that is unique to your product or business and use it with all your posts so all your content will be associated with your brand. It can be but does not have to be, your brand name. It could be something relevant to it, such as a slogan or value, such as Always’ #LikeAGirl or Minute Maid’s #DoingGood. Be sure to keep it catchy and short so consumers can easily remember it and hopefully, reuse it. A branded hashtag paves the way for successful social media promotions that will engage your customers while widening your reach.
They also give customers easy access to your unique products and promotes interaction with the brand. If you want customers to shop with you, make it as easy as possible for them! A branded hashtag facilitates word of mouth and allows people to find everything related to your product with just a click rather than having to track down your profile and website. Not to mention, if your content goes viral and gets shared everywhere, you’re going to be glad you branded everything so the publicity always circles back to you.
Tag your Stories too.
Did you know you can tag accounts and use hashtags on Instagram Stories? Instagram Stories are where Snapchat and Instagram collide. Since this feature was introduced in August of 2016, it’s been growing in popularity. Only a year and a half later, Instagram Stories was already bringing in more than 300 million users per day! In May 2017, Instagram’s further improved the appeal of Stories by adding more fonts, stickers, and colors to make content even more attractive and personalized.
Content shared on Stories is still on a clock of 24 hours, but unlike on Snapchat, where your posts disappear into cyberspace when time runs out, on Instagram, they’re saved in your archive. Videos tend to bring in more viewers than just photos.
Stories, that contain a certain hashtag, get compiled together for the search results based on engagement and popularity, so it’s a very cutthroat game to be in. If your branded hashtag becomes used enough, Instagram will compile a set of Stories for that hashtag, but that milestone might take a while to reach. Even if your Story only gets seen by your followers, it’s a great way to interact with them and keep them coming back for more.
If you like your account to be more professional and product-oriented, your Stories can be more casual and vice versa. You don’t have to post every single day, but for instances such as a company event, or announcement, Stories are a great outlet for exposure and building up hype.
Don’t go overboard with using hashtags on Instagram!
Hashtags are fun but don’t go overboard with the pound sign. There are general hashtags and niche hashtags, and you need a healthy balance of both. Do NOT use every word you can think of – only use meaningful tags that relate to your business or that post. While using hashtags on Instagram, remember that your primary goal on social media is to generate value.
Put yourself into your consumer’s perspective and use specific hashtags that your target audience might be interested in. For example, if you sell quality pens, don’t simply use a string of tags such as “#pens #paper #writing”, that won’t help you reach as engaged of an audience than if you use “#gelpens #calligraphy #artistpens”.
These hashtags are much more specific and will capture a more interested follower, and hopefully a potential shopper. If your posts come up under a certain hashtag search, users have the option of flagging that post as unrelated. If this occurs too many times, Instagram may intervene with your account.
How you’re using hashtags on Instagram impacts your brand image, focus on growing, not on selling. Users are typically not big fans of such brazen advertising.
You can use up to 30 hashtags in a single post, but using that many hashtags won’t give off the impression of genuine, quality content. Studies have found that the happy medium is about 11 hashtags. In fact, a strategy many top brands use is posting more times a day while using fewer hashtags to be more engaging and relevant on customers’ feeds.
However, on the flip side of that, as a new brand, you might need lots of hashtags to make your posts seen by more people.
A benefit of using hashtags on Instagram is that they are still searchable if they’re in the comments section and that comment will be hidden on people’s feeds. This allows your post to be less cluttered and doesn’t make you seem like you’re trying too hard. But tread carefully, there have been unconfirmed rumors that Instagram will crack down on hashtags in the comments section in their next update.
If you choose to use a large amount of hashtags, be sure to change them around each time you post to optimize your reach. It could be as simple as just changing the order of your hashtags. Using the same block of text over and over makes it look like spam to the Instagram algorithm.
Another spam alert is using hashtags like #followforfollow or #likeforlike. These aren’t engaging, professional or helpful for your brand, which is why Instagram won’t even let users follow these hashtags like they can other hashtags. Cater your hashtags more specifically to your target audience who want to follow them.
What tags are influencers and competitors using?
Now that you’re stressed about which hashtags to use, and which to leave off, the easiest first step is to take a look at your biggest competitors to see how they are using hashtags on Instagram. If you sell t-shirts, find other accounts that sell t-shirts and look at what they’re doing. Do they have a branded hashtag? Are customers using it?
If you’re opening up a restaurant, be sure to delve into the accounts of the food bloggers in the area. But make sure you’re in the right playing field. Don’t compare your new family business account to the Cheesecake Factory’s five year old account. It takes time to get the snowball rolling.
You can also search the most obvious hashtag that relates to your product or service and check out what tags the top posts use. But don’t stop there. Go to those profiles and look at their growth. Have their posts been getting more likes and more comments over time? What hashtags are on their most popular posts? Now I’m not saying you need to copy what they’re doing, but other people’s success can be a great source of inspiration for any entrepreneur.
But it’s not all about the hashtags.
Don’t rely on just using hashtags on Instagram to gain traction. First and foremost, you need to be producing quality material that resonates with your audience enough to sell your products or services. Professional, high definition photos stand out. Your theme, your tone, and of course, your product itself, all factor in on your success. Posting multiple times a day can also increase engagement and reach, but you don’t want to spam your audience. On average, top performing brands post about 4.9 times a week.
Use Post Insights.
As an Instagram business account, you have access to Post Insights data at the top right of the app. Insights breaks down all your customer traffic data, from website clicks to number of impressions and even which days of the week your profile received the most visits, which is invaluable for deciding how often you want to post.
You can see how well your posts are doing respective to each other, as well as your Stories. Instagram Insights also shows you the demographics of your followers so you can see exactly what type of customer you are reaching and how they are responding to your content, which helps you better understand your target customers. The data helps you see where you currently stand and plan for how to better interact with your audience.
Social media in general always seems so simple on the surface but it’s evolving faster each year. To further explore the impact that using hashtags on Instagram have on your business growth, shoot a message to our specialists at LYFE Marketing.
Our social media marketing agency concentrates on the challenges and prosperity of small to medium-sized businesses that want to advance their online presence. Take a look at how we can help you take on the internet with our variety of social media services and reach out to us for a free social media consultation.