Hashtags can be incredibly useful for driving post engagement and followers when used correctly. They are a way to get more eyes on a post and thus more engagements. Instagram hashtags show Instagram what a post is about and allows content to appear in front of non-followers who are likely to be interested in your content. They are essential to use given that a post gets 12% more engagement using just one hashtag vs not using any.
The Evolution of Instagram Hashtags
Hashtags are user-generated, which has lead to them growing at a very fast rate. Anyone can create a hashtag and use it. We have gone from using them for generic references, e.g. #lunch, #london or #pancakes. To now the world or #burgermania, #coffeeaddict, #dessertporn. There are brand owned hashtags; Infatuation London is responsible for the #eeeeeats style hashtags. Additionally, There is a barrage of blogger, lifestyle and caption club, related ones used frequently by influencers to maximise engagement. The really spammy style ones, #likeforlike, #followforfollow which were effective for getting likes and follows, but are so generic and so overused that really they only pull in irrelevant followers and spammy engagement. In more recent months, hashtags have become followed almost as much as profiles. So the spammy hashtags are becoming less and less effective whilst hyper-relevant hashtags are becoming way more effective.
Instagram Hashtag Hacks
Where to put them?
It makes no difference whether you put them at the end of your caption or in the first comment. I have tested out both ways multiple times and on various accounts. There is no noticeable difference in engagement or reach. What is important is that they look tidy and don’t interfere with the Instagram caption. If you do wish to have them in the caption, the advantage is that you can edit them post-publishing. I recommend leaving a couple of lines between the caption and the hashtags to prevent the caption from looking too messy. The first comment is much tidier, but can not be changed once published without completely deleting the comment.
On my Instagram, I’ve adopted doing both. I have up to 10 hashtags in my caption, and I then add 20 in the comments. This is so that I have some hyper-relevant hashtags live with the post. However, I can see how it performs and then decide which other hashtags to add into the comments.
How many Hashtags to use?
The recommendation on the number of hashtags to use is still not definitive. Instagram allows for up to 30 hashtags on a feed post and up to 10 in a story post. Using 30 is still arguably the most effective as it will get maximum exposure for that post as recommended by the likes of Alex Tooby. Over the last 2-3 years, I have gone from using 30 in every post to using just 10, to only 7 and then back to 30. When I look at various successful influencers, there is also a considerable variation in the number of hashtags to use. It is more critical to keep hashtags fresh and relevant as opposed to fixating on the optimum amount to use.
It is more effective to test out on your accounts a different number of hashtags on various posts and then evaluating what works best for you. There is something called shadow banning, which is something Instagram doesn’t’ confirm but rumoured to be when someone overuses a hashtag, so no longer appears for it. The key thing is to keep them fresh anyway for relevancy and reaching new prospective audiences.
Your Hashtag Strategy
The important things to bear in mind when working on a hashtags strategy is; who is your target audience? Using different types of hashtags and keeping them fresh. Knowing your audience is vital for any marketing work, but hashtags allow you to reach them organically on Instagram. Hashtags should be relevant and contain keywords which your audience would be searching for or likely to follow. For example, a coffee shop should use #coffeeshop, #coffeeshopcorners #londoncoffeeshops, as the target audience will likely use these when searching for a coffee shop.
It is worth researching your competitors to see which hashtags they are using as well as relevant Instagram influencers. Instagram influencers are pro at the hashtag game and will be the best place to discover new trending hashtags. Once you’ve found right hashtags, it is good to search them in Instagram to see how popular they are and what posts are doing well on them.
Once you’ve researched your audience and what they might search for, its then good to note the different types of hashtags to ensure your strategy is covering all bases. There are three main types of hashtags; community, branded and campaign. Community hashtags will be related to the content and your target audience, e.g. #foodietribe #foodguide #foodbloggers, etc. Branded hashtags will be your brand name, so for me #theveryhungrycharlotte. Lastly, campaign hashtags are usually short-term and seasonal, usually tied with a product launch, a special event or partnership. For example, Pho Restaurants had a January campaign with a hashtag #gophoit, Instagrammers shared their Go Pho It moments on the hashtag. You can add hashtags to your bio to add a clickable link to relevant content. Great for maximising value out of your bio.
Hashtags in Stories
Hashtags in stories are very powerful; however, not many accounts utilise them well. They are fantastic for driving significantly more reach for stories, I’ve seen stories get double or more reach from when I’ve used hashtags vs when I have not. You can use up to 10 hashtags in one story, and the same recommendations apply in terms of using hyper-relevant hashtags. To add hashtags to a story, you can either add using the text functionality and typing # or add using the hashtag sticker. The hashtag sticker will only let you add one hashtag. Furthermore, you can either have them visible in the main body of text, visible as separate text or hide them behind a sticker as shown by the images below.
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