Let’s talk about hashtags.
Your grandparents might have known them as the “pound” symbol. But in today’s social media world, the little # has taken on a whole new life of its own. So, starting with the basics, what is a hashtag?
A hashtag is a metadata tag that can be attached to content on blogging or photo-sharing sites as a way to cross-reference content sharing a particular theme. Most social media platforms today allow users to tag their posts using hashtags or search that platform’s content for other posts with a particular hashtag. This is helpful when users turn to social media for inspiration, to find a particular product or service, or to build relationships with others sharing common interests. For instance, if you’re looking for easy dinner recipes, you could try searching Instagram for #easyrecipes and BOOM. Millions of recipes are now at your fingertips. And, chances are the recipe you decide to make for dinner that night from your search results, didn’t come from a user you followed prior to that. That means their post reached you using a hashtag! When used correctly, hashtags can increase the reach of a single post as much as 30x!
So how do you use hashtags to increase your brand’s reach?
Well, you can’t just slap a # in front of any word you think relates to your post. A good hashtag strategy will require doing some research! By researching which hashtags your audience follows and engages with, and prioritizing those most relevant to your products/services, you increase the likelihood of reaching new target customers.
Generating Hashtags for Instagram
Start your research by selecting a few profiles that fit into your target audience. Then, click over to who they follow. Any hashtags they follow should appear here, as well. Make a note of any hashtags that could apply to your target consumers while being on brand with your products/services. Some of the hashtags you find won’t be a good fit. For instance, if you’re a boutique that sells toddler clothes, #momapproved and #boymom could apply to you, but #dogmom might not. Looking at the hashhtags your competitors use is also a good idea. Repeat until you have about 20-25 individual hashtags. I recommend using a spreadsheet like Google sheets to keep track of these!
Now that you have found some hashtags to work with, you need to determine the reach of each hashtag. Do this by typing each hashtag into Instagram and recording the number of posts that appear under the search preview or results page for that hashtag. Some hashtags will have millions of results, while others may have a few thousand. That’s ok! A good hashtag strategy will use a mixture of hashtags with low, mid, and high reach. You want to use a mixture because the hashtags with the most posts associated with them are probably also the same hashtags more of your consumers are using. But, the more popular a hashtag is the more competition your post utilizing it will have to be seen. That’s why using more selective, smaller hashtags is helpful to get in front of a user who is your perfect match. Record an estimated number of posts associated with each hashtag on your list. Also add to this list any hashtags you may think apply to your product or service that didn’t come up when looking at people in your target audience and determine where they fall on this list. You’ll also want to create some branded hashtags that are specific to your brand. This will allow you to always find content related to your brand that others may post, or create a hashtag specific to a certain marketing campaign. #brandname is a starting point for tagging all your content.
So now that you have your list, how do you determine which hashtags to use? How many hashtags should you use? Where do you put them on your post? Well, did you know you can use up to 30 hashtags per post? You should use ALL 30 on each post to ensure maximum reach. Which ones you use for each post should vary according to the content of that post! (Yes, that means you should be planning your content out!) And place these in either the end of your caption or as a first post comment. As you get more practice using hashtags, you’ll be able to see in your Instagram insights which views of a post came from which hashtags and start revising your hashtag strategy from there.
Have questions about using hashtags or want to use them but don’t know where to start? I am happy to help! I can create a custom hashtag strategy for your business without any headache on your part. Email, email@example.com to get started!