Instagram Hashtags 101

Instagram Hashtags 101Do you want a stream of high quality traffic viewing your latest Instagram posts? We’re not really asking – of course you do!

When used correctly, hashtags are a gold mine for getting new eyeballs on your content.

But! How? What is a hashtag, exactly? Which ones are the good ones? Where do you put them? How many do you use? If you’re feeling a little lost and confused, you’re in the right place.

Print or save this post, set aside an hour of your weekend, and we’ll really dig into it. (You’re going to forget most of this if you just give it a quick skim. We’re all about ACTION over here!)

Okay, ready? Pencil sharpened? Coffee poured? Creative jams blasting? First up…

What is a hashtag?

Basically, hashtags can be used like mini search engines on social media platforms. Anything preceded by a # (previously a “number sign” for us old folks) turns into a clickable link.

There are two types of hashtags:

  1. Community hashtags connect like-minded users around a specific subject.

I have a thing for adorable little coffee shops, so I follow #coffeeshop (yes, you can follow hashtags on Instagram!) and get a daily dose of beautiful coffee photos sprinkled through my feed. If I see a post that I love, I might click through, hit follow, or send the post to an equally obsessed friend. I will definitely double tap or comment on these posts, and that increases the poster’s engagement & reach!

  1. The second type of hashtags are brand specific hashtags. They allow folks to browse a specific category or promotion in your feed.

Let’s say that you’re a photographer, and you shoot weddings as well as families. Hashtag your posts accordingly: #yournamewedding or #yournamefamily. Now, a potential client can view all of your family posts or wedding posts separately instead of a jumble of both!

Which hashtags are the best ones?

It all boils down to this: put your audience first!

Do not stuff your hashtags with industry jargon or keywords – the only folks you’ll attract are your competitors, at a global level… which is going to do zilch for your bottom line.

You want to appeal to your target market, so pause to consider things from their point of view. What are they searching for? Which hashtags do they follow for inspiration?

Chances are, if you’re a brand designer who’s marketing to a small business owner (ahem), they’re not following #logoinspo – they’re jazzed about #communityovercompetition or #makersmovement. Which hashtags are your audience using? Does it fit the content that you’re publishing? (It should!)

If there’s a popular hashtag that your content fits into, by all means – use it! Just make sure that they’re relevant to your post.

If I search #giftideas and I see your lunch, it just makes you look silly – and that DEFINITELY doesn’t do anything to help your brand.

Where do I place my hashtags?

You can place your tags at the end of your post, or in a separate comment. It comes down to your own preferences.

If you’re scheduling your posts in advance, it can be tricky to hop in and add a hashtag comment right away, so putting them at the end of your post allows you to set it & forget it.

If you are posting manually, you can add them as a first comment for a cleaner look.

Whatever you do, #don’t #bunch #hashtags #throughout #your #sentences. It slows down reading and forces your audience to burn calories to process your content. Nobody has the attention span for that!

Hashtags are meant to stand alongside your content, not replace it.

How many hashtags do I use?

Instagram allows up to thirty, so go for it!

There is no hard & fast proof of exactly which number of hashtags is the most effective – there are simply too many variables at play. If you want to maximize your reach, it stands to reason that you’d use them all.

Create one set of hashtags for every category of image in your feed. That way, you’ll attract the right audience for each individual post, rather than being too broad or generic to really make an impact anywhere.

Because I love to work with other creative women in southern Alberta, I have one set of hashtags that’s laser focused on local exposure, another one for the Canadian handmade market, another one for wedding industry pros, and the list goes on.

Okay, I got it. But how, exactly, do I find the best hashtags for me?

All you need is a handful of hashtags to start with. What are your clients searching for? What are they inspired by?

Pop into your Instagram search, type in your favourites, and it will automatically populate similar tags! This is a serious rabbit hole to crawl down, but set a timer and take note of the ones that may work for you.

Sometimes you’re just too dang busy bringing home the bacon to sink hours upon hours into your social media. Meet our handy dandy marketing toolbox!


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