As a linguist, I often get excited about the origin of different words in different languages and how the language itself evolved. As a foodie, I am fascinated by foods that can be found in multiple cultures and get to keep the name or receive another name. Yeees, I am looking at you, shawarma/durum and at you sarma/dolma.
But as a marketer, I am delighted to see the power of hashtags across different platforms. What is it about them that allows your posts to be discovered and join a conversation? In short, hashtags are labels. You tell the world that you talk about a subject. You alert people you know and people you don’t know that you talk about #beauty, #design, #recipes, or #travel. Something that was once a hack used by a few to get in front, of it is now something everybody uses, and it is difficult to be noticed. When you use the #beauty hashtag, what do you refer to, a beautiful painting or beautiful scenery? And when you talk about #recipes, do others know if it’s a pumpkin spice recipe or a DIY beauty mask recipe? You see where the problem is, right?
And so, we go to more advanced hashtags, like #beautyshoot, #beautyblender, and #beautyofnature. And this is not the end of it. You can also talk about location or time. Join the conversations on a #TravelTuesday, #ThrowbackTuesday. Live the #parisienne lifestyle with #ParisMonAmour. But nobody expects you to know all that. It all comes back to the research you make.
This sounds confusing. Where do you start?
If you are reading this article, you realize that hashtags are important, and you want to know more about how to use them to reap the benefits. It takes time to get the right mix and that is usually the job of the social media team.
But f you want to do it yourself, let’s go!
What are hashtags?
Hashtags are words or groups of words, that help you sort your content and practically create discoverability. Words, phrases, acronyms, and brand names are all used with the hash sign in front (#). Read here more about “The incomplete history of the hashtags”. I do remember spending hours navigating strange mIRC channels on a pc that took more to load than my current attention span.
But let’s get back to our subject.
Why use Instagram hashtags?
Get more engagement
Strengthen your brand
How to add hashtags to your posts?
- You can use hashtags inside your caption, including one word here and one word there, using the hash before the words you want to be hashtags.
- Use them at the end of the caption if they don’t make sense in the caption.
- Use space between the hashtags
- Don’t include punctuation
- Make sure it does not include inappropriate association of words.
- Use them one time for every post, there is no point in repeating them.
In the end, it’s all about how you get to be discovered on Instagram. One of the features I love most is the fact that you can not only follow the creators you love, but you can also follow #hashtags. Why do these matter? Because if I love decorating cupcakes, I will follow #cupcakedesign and from time to time I will also follow a creator that uses this hashtag because I want to see more.
There are different types of hashtags that you can use in your posts.
- Hashtags indicating your product or service, like #sweater or #coffeeshop.
- Hashtags indicating your niches in your industry, like #weddingphotographer or #travelphotographer.
- Hashtags for Instagram communities in your industry, like #bakersofinstagram or #foodiesofinstagram.
- Hashtags for special events or seasons, like #whiteday or #nationaldonutday.
- Hashtags using location, like #pastrynyc, #madeinToronto, or #sydneysweets.
- Daily hashtags, like #mondaymotivation, #tuesdaytip, or #wellnesswednesday.
- Hashtags with phrases relevant to what you do, like #becreative or #bakerylove.
- Hashtags with acronyms, like #qotd (quote of the day) or #ootd (outfit of the day).
- Hashtags with emojis, like #shoes👟 or #🌞.
Branded hashtags – your brand, your story. Use a branded hashtag to begin writing your story. Others might join you in your story and use the same hashtags when talking about you or addressing you publicly. Campaign or product hashtags also go here.
The recommendation is to use different hashtags, depending on what you’re posting. For example, if you’re a photographer, you would have posts related to equipment, events, editing, or traveling. Depending on the occasion, you can use general hashtags about your job or specific hashtags about what is it that you’re doing at that moment.
It is also important how many posts a hashtag already has. It might be difficult to be discovered if a hashtag already has millions of hashtags. Find good hashtags in your niche that have between 10.000 to 30.000 hashtags. And test until you find a good balance that works for you, with hashtags that have a large number of posts, a medium number of posts, and specific hashtags that have a low number of posts.
How many hashtags to use on Instagram?
You can use up to 30 hashtags in a post on Instagram. You don’t have to use all of them, but if you want to, you can. Just make sure you’re not spamming everybody with the hashtags, make sure they make sense in the context of your post, and course, add also a caption. The post where you only have hashtags will not perform so well.
How to use hashtags on Instagram
Hashtags are very much like keywords. Consider your branding and consider the step in the journey the client is in.
Hashtags with broad exposure are general. Like #foodiesofinstagram. Or you can use something less general, where the followers start giving clues about what their interest is, like #foodiesofindia. That’s how you make sure you get good exposure and some moderate intent. And then you have specific hashtags, with high interest, like #pokebowlberlin.
Keep your hashtags organized in a list and use them accordingly. Discard them if they don’t perform and add other hashtags. Experiment and be aware of the trends and what is happening in the world.
Create lists of hashtags
When you start your Instagram strategy and begin to use hashtags, create lists of hashtags, depending on the type of post you want to create. As a recruiting firm, it makes sense to use posts that motivate job seekers and professionals and use the hashtag #MotivationMonday. But if you’re a nightclub, it will make more sense to use #SaturdayNightFever.
Research and use niche hashtags, #weddingphotography, community hashtags like #crossstichersofinstagram, special events, and seasonal hashtags like #thanksgivingdinner.
Before using any type of hashtag, please research the feed and see what Instagram shows you. Make sure that the hashtag is already populated with posts that reflect your brand and that it’s really what you want to express.
Follow the hashtags that are important in your industry. You will be in the loop with everything that your competitors are doing, and you will not get caught off-guard.
There are multiple techniques you could use to find the right hashtags for your business. The first step you need to make is to research your niche or business. Yes, look at your competitors. What are they talking about and what are their followers responding to?
Then, look at the people you would like to have as followers. What are they doing? Who are they following? What are they talking about?
Look also at the people and accounts you look up to. Are they joining trends and conversations or are they initiators of trends and conversations?
And finally, try to be yourself. Copying others can only take you so far. Let your personality shine and your voice speak. Be brave and take the time to experiment, to see what works best for you.
Use as many hashtags as you’d like, just make sure they are relevant for your content, the post idea, and your target audience and relate to the caption.
Photo by Mikael Blomkvist on Pexels.
Photo by DS stories on Pexels.