There are three building blocks of a great Instagram post: a stunning high quality image or video, an engaging caption, and—of course—the hashtags.
Instagram hashtags are an essential part of the platform, and without them, your engagement will sink and you’ll follower count will become stagnate. Simply put, you won’t be seeing the kind of results you want if you aren’t making the most out of your Instagram hashtags.
Just to keep things extra complicated, hashtag usage on Instagram is different than on any other platform, including Twitter and sister company Facebook. We wanted to make things a little simpler, so in this post, we’re going to discuss how to use hashtags on Instagram to get more engagement, more followers, and more results.
Hashtags on Instagram become clickable topics. Even more importantly, they become searchable topics. If you use the right hashtags, this can put you in front of a relevant audience that is potentially actively seeking out content like yours.
If you create a branded hashtag, this can also help you to increase brand awareness and generate user generated content (UGC). By encouraging users to create their own content about your brand and share it with your branded hashtag, you can track then track UGC and share it on your own platform.
Hashtags are also part of Instagram’s “language,” so to speak. Users look to hashtags on Instagram to sum up the post and evaluate creativity at the same time; that’s why you see multiple hashtags listed one after another that seem like one coherent thought, or stream of consciousness writing that’s taken an odd turn. And, as businesses and brands, we need to take every opportunity we have to get our message across and make sure that it sticks. Hashtags can help with that.
I remember when I first started paying attention to Instagram and was shocked to see posts with what seemed like dozens of hashtags. As it turns out, they were on to something.
According to plenty of research, eleven hashtags are the ideal number. Engagement increases with each hashtag up to eleven, and though it doesn’t diminish if you use more than that, it doesn’t help it much, either. Research has also showed that using diverse combinations of hashtags is also beneficial to keeping that engagement up, so you can continue to reach new audience members.
With each post, you’ll have to choose which hashtags you want to choose. There’s a few decisions that you’ll have to make.
The first is branded vs. non-branded hashtags. All businesses should have a branded hashtag like #Loveloft and #FixObsession. These hashtags will be used to drive brand awareness, and by using them frequently, you can keep users familiar enough with it that they’ll use it, too.
That being said, you should always add in non-branded hashtags, too. These hashtags can be industry specific, but they don’t need to be. Non-branded hashtags like “#weekending,” “#healthyliving” and “#drinkyourveggies” can be applied to your posts to make them more fun for users to read while also increasing the post’s visibility.
You’ll also want to make a decision about niche vs. broad appeal hashtags. In the above examples, “#drinkyourveggies” might be more specific while “#weekending” and “#healthyliving” would have higher volume and more broad appeal since they can be applied to more situations. You want to have a combination of both, as the specific hashtags can help drive engagement with your core audience but the broad appeal hashtags can expand your reach most significantly.
Instagram hashtags need to be used strategically if you want to increase your followers on the platform. Different strategies you can try include:
- Using a combination of broad appeal and specific hashtags. As we discussed above, this is crucial to helping you gain new followers. Specific hashtags can help put you in front of your exact target audience, but broad appeal hashtags typically work a little faster because so many users are searching for them.
- Always use your branded hashtag. Your branded hashtag should always be in the 11+ hashtags that you’re using, because it builds familiarity and can encourage users to create their own content. When they do, they can send a lot of new followers your way. You should also place your branded hashtag in your business’s description on your profile.
- Use trending, time-sensitive hashtags to get in front of a new audience. Trending topics are a fantastic way to get a lot of engagement and exposure quickly. Have you ever noticed hashtags like #NationalBestFriendDay and #NationalDogDay? There’s also almost definitely a national ice cream day, a national fried chicken day, and so much more. Look up any of these events related to your business, and schedule posts for them in advance.
Why You Need to Monitor Hashtag Impact
Putting work into researching and choosing your Instagram hashtags isn’t enough; you need to monitor their effect on your profile over time. The best way to do this is why social media analytics software like Metricool, which allows you to track engagement and the number of followers over time.
Long-term, you’ll want to evaluate whether or not your hashtags are actually helping you. You may notice that certain posts outperform others, so take a look at your highest ranking posts and see if you can unearth any common hashtags that may have helped with those high engagement numbers so you can continue to use them moving forward.
Instagram hashtags are necessary for growth both in your number of followers and in engagement from the followers that you already have. They are an essential part of Instagram marketing, so you should put just as much effort into choosing your hashtags (both branded and non-branded) as the actual pictures that you post.
How are your hashtags working for you? Find out how they’re impacting your growth by using Metricool’s engagement reporting and analytics!