Instagram hashtags are one of those things that a lot of small businesses take for granted, but here’s the truth: They are more powerful than you think, and not enough small businesses are using them effectively!
If you’ve invested in brand and product photography, and put in the time to post beautiful images and create engaging captions for your Instagram, you need to make sure people actually see your content.
See, content creation is just one part of your Instagram strategy. On-point aesthetics will only get you so far! An effective approach to Instagram should include other elements, like strategic engagement and community development. This is exactly where hashtags can help.
Read on to find out more about why hashtags are important, how to use them on your Instagram, and how to discover hashtags for your industry that can actually help you grow your business and boost engagement on your page!
Words: Adriana Thani
What are hashtags?
Hashtags are words or phrases preceded by a # symbol that are detected by Instagram and used to categorise your content. This will, in turn, make you discoverable when anyone clicks on or searches for that hashtag.
You can think of hashtags as keywords people use to search for things on Instagram, much like SEO keywords for search engines like Google! Every single Hashtag has its own page which features Instagram posts, Stories, and Reels that use that hashtag.
All the content on these search results pages can be sorted chronologically or by popularity. By keeping hashtags relevant to your business and content, you’re making your profile more discoverable on these pages.
When you use hashtags, you’re tagging your content with specific keywords that people are searching for. If you’re clever about it, this can result in more people being able to see your content, find your profile, hit the follow button, and drive traffic to your website to make a purchase! In short, it can be a great way to get leads for your business.
Why are hashtags important?
1. People can discover you
The primary function of Instagram hashtags is for new audiences to discover you. Not only can users find your content by searching for a specific hashtag, they can even follow the hashtag and have your content end up on their feed without even following you!
2. You can find other accounts like yours
In the same vein, hashtags are a fantastic way for you to find other accounts that are relevant to you and your industry, creating opportunities to connect with other like minded individuals across Instagram. We’re firm believers in collaboration between businesses, and this is a great way for you to discover potential businesses to work with too!
3. People will know what you’re about
Each hashtag is an opportunity for people to know exactly what your business and content is about. That’s why it’s so important that you use hashtags that are relevant to both your brand and the specific content you are sharing – you want to paint an accurate picture about your brand to attract the right audience for your business.
4. It allows you to be a part of the community
When looking at the bigger picture, hashtags not only allow you to discover and connect with individual accounts, but also allows your brand to become part of a larger community. With Instagram having over one billion monthly users, it can sometimes be quite difficult to find people who share similar views and values, so hashtags are a great way to discover that community and spark connections!
Where do you use hashtags on Instagram?
When sharing an image or video post on Instagram, you can choose to include your hashtags in either the caption or as a comment. Recent research has shown that hashtags in captions perform slightly better than hashtags in comments, especially for accounts with a small amount of followers.
However, it’s also less aesthetically pleasing to have a block of hashtags in your captions. When your audience clicks on ‘Read More’ to see the rest of your caption, they’ll have to scroll down much further to get to the next post on their feed too!
So it’s really up to you. Experiment with it and see what your audiences respond to best! You’ll soon find an approach that will work for you.
How many hashtags should you use?
There is a limit of 30 hashtags on Instagram posts and 10 hashtags on Instagram Stories. So how many should you use? Well, we recommend you use as much as the limit allows!
Remember, each hashtag is one more opportunity to be discovered, so make full use of the amount allotted to each post. Think about it – thirty hashtags on post ensures that it can be seen in at least thirty different searches, why cut down on that amount?
We recommend that you rotate through a few sets of hashtags. We recommend that you start off with at least three different hashtag sets, but you can make pretty much as many hashtag sets as you need! If you have clear content pillars as part of your Instagram content strategy, it’s a good idea to start with hashtags that are relevant to your brand’s key topics.
We recommend you save your hashtag sets on your phone somewhere, or use a scheduling tool like Plann that can store your hashtag sets for you.
How to create hashtag sets
Step 1: Log into Instagram and tap on the magnifying glass icon at the bottom of the screen. From here, click on the Search bar and tap onto the Tags button just below it. This is where you begin your search!
Step 2: Start searching for hashtags that are relevant to your industry. For example, we’re searching for hashtags for a cake shop here, so we’ve searched up #cake.
Step 3: There’s a number under each hashtag, which we’ve highlighted in the image above. This number represents the number of posts on Instagram that have used the hashtag – it’s what we call ‘hashtag density’.
We recommend that you choose hashtags that have a density of less than 500,000 as this works best for small to medium businesses. However, if you already have a large account with an engaged following of over 15,000 users, this may not apply.
The majority of hashtags in your sets should have less than 500,000 posts, but don’t be afraid to include some with less than 30,000.
Note: if you use a hashtag with millions of posts attributed, your visibility is significantly reduced. Your post may show in the ‘recent posts’ section of that tag for a millisecond before being pushed down by other content getting posted with this hashtag. That’s why we do not recommend using overly popular hashtags!
Step 4: To find hashtags that are related to the one you’ve searched, click onto a few top posts to see the hashtags these high-performing posts are using.
This is a great way to add relevant tags to your set. It’s also a nifty way to find hashtags that you may not have thought of searching yourself!
We encourage you to go down this rabbit hole as far as it may take you, but please keep the hashtag density in mind.
Step 5: At this point, it might be a good idea to use location specific hashtags to attract local customers or clients, particularly if you’ve got a brick and mortar business and you need that foot traffic.
For example, we used #melbournecakes as this client is based in Melbourne, VIC.
Do’s and Dont’s for Instagram hashtags
When it comes to using hashtags on Instagram, we recommend you DO:
- Look at the hashtags your competitors and customers are using. You will likely find something that is relevant to you!
- Create brand or campaign hashtags and feature them in your bio. This is a great way to see relevant, user-generated content in one place.
- Create 2-3 new hashtag sets every couple of months to keep them fresh.
- Follow the hashtags you use so you can check out other content using the hashtag and engage with similar profiles.
However, we strongly suggest that you DON’T:
- Use too few hashtags. If you use too few, you’re under-using this powerful tool.
- Use oversaturated hashtags! Your content will get lost among the other posts using that hashtag.
- Use hashtags with less than 5000 posts, as you likely won’t get a lot of eyes on your content.
- Use random sentences and words as hashtags. This was a trendy thing to do ten years ago, but is really cringe-worthy in this day and age!
Use Instagram hashtags to boost your grow your audience and increase engagement
The key to making Instagram work for you is to be smart about how you use the tools they’ve given you. Using hashtags more effectively will make sure that every content you share on Instagram will get more eyes on it, and this can translate to more engagement on your account!
If you’re looking to maximise your Instagram presence and set yourself apart from the competition, you need to start using hashtags more effectively as part of your Instagram strategy.
Is the thought of creating hashtag sets too overwhelming for you? We can help! We offer Instagram hashtag sourcing so you can be sure that you’re using the best hashtags for your brand, and week 5 of our Instagram Savvy Online Course covers hashtags sourcing in depth. Get in touch with us today to find out more about how our copywriting and Instagram management services can help your Instagram stand out!