Instagram Hashtags: What You Need to Know
Are you ready to think on your feet? Quick—think of the name for this symbol: #.
Do you have your answer? Good.
Some of you might’ve said a pound sign. Or, if you’re feeling extra intelligent, you might’ve even come up with octothorpe. But, a large percentage of you? Well, I’m willing to bet that the first term that sprang to your mind was “hashtag!”
In today’s constantly connected and digital-obsessed society, that comes as little surprise. The term “hashtag” was even added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2014.
Why? Because hashtags are an incredibly powerful tool on social media. And, when it comes to effectively marketing on Instagram, that little symbol is something that you can’t afford to ignore.
So, what do you need to know about Instagram hashtags and how to best leverage them for your own brand? Let’s dive into the details.
What is a Hashtag?
We’ve already covered those trivia night-worthy basics about the actual symbol that’s used to represent a hashtag. But, when it comes to the actual concept of a hashtag in particular, what exactly is it? What purpose does it serve?
On social media, by placing the pound symbol in front of a word or phrase, you turn that particular term into a clickable link. When users click that link, they’ll be taken to a page that displays all posts that also utilize that hashtag.
Put simply, it’s a way to categorize and group similar content together. For example, clicking the hashtag “#travelgram” that appears in an Instagram post will take you to a page that looks like this, where you can see other travel-related posts:
Should You Use Hashtags on Instagram?
Here’s the short answer: Absolutely, you should use hashtags with your Instagram content, for a few different and compelling reasons:
- Using relevant hashtags makes it easier for users to stumble upon your account. They might see a post of yours when perusing different hashtags, and then decide that you’re worth a follow—meaning hashtags are a great way to grow your audience.
- Posts that use hashtags get far more engagement. In fact, one study goes so far as to say that Instagram posts that use at least one hashtag get 12.6% more engagement.
- They’re easy to implement. Sure, they’ll require a little research and planning to make sure you identify the right hashtags to use (more on that a little later!). But, beyond that, they’re an incredibly simple way to expand your following and give your engagement a boost.
The Basics of Instagram Hashtags
While hashtags on Instagram are an undeniable must for your brand, there are a couple of basic things you should know about how they’re utilized on Instagram (so you know exactly where you should be including them).
Hashtags that you include in the caption of a specific Instagram post or in an Instagram comment will be clickable—meaning that users can click through directly from your photos to see other posts that utilize that hashtag.
However, hashtags that you include in your Instagram bio are not clickable (except for, oddly enough, in the web version of Instagram). Within the app, yes, they’ll display within your bio—but they won’t be interactive.
When it comes to actually creating a hashtag, it’s important to remember that numbers will work just fine, but spaces and special characters won’t. So, keep it somewhat simple when coming up with hashtags for your own Instagram posts (for example, you could use #CyberMonday2017 but not #Cyber Monday 2017!).
Finding the Best Hashtags for Your Brand
Now that you have that foundation laid, you might be wondering just what sort of terms you should include with your Instagram posts. How can you know what hashtags are best suited for your unique brand?
There are so many options out there, and that makes it easy to become overwhelmed with all of the top Instagram hashtags—you’ll feel pressured to litter your posts with all of those highly-searched terms that have millions of photos attached.
However, it’s far more important that you focus your time and energy on researching and identifying hashtags that are most relevant to your business. Not only is including totally unrelated hashtags pointless and misleading, but it also might make you look like a spammer—which could lead to your account getting shadowbanned (which, believe us, you don’t want).
So, consider this your golden rule: Relevance is key when it comes to identifying hashtags for your own Instagram strategy.
With that in mind, where should you start? How can you find hashtags that are impactful, yet pertinent to your brand? There are two key places to start:
- Competitors: Peruse the Instagram accounts of competitors in your niche or industry. Are there certain hashtags that they’re using frequently? While you’d never want to directly copy them, there’s nothing wrong with getting some inspiration for relevant hashtags that you could also be using.
- Influencers: Influencers within your field are another good resource to check out to get an idea of what hashtags are popular.
When generating your list of potential hashtags, there’s one more thing you should make sure to do: Checking to ensure that a particular hashtag doesn’t have too much inappropriate content associated with it.
There are plenty of spammers on Instagram–which means that even the most seemingly innocent hashtags can have some explicit content attached. Obviously, a hashtag that’s littered with profanity or vulgar materials isn’t one you want to be using—so, take the time to do a quick search before using that hashtag on your own posts.
Creating Branded Hashtags
There are tons of existing hashtags that you can leverage when marketing on Instagram. However, many brands take this one step further by creating a unique branded hashtag.
This tag is specific to their own brand, and is a great way to increase engagement and get more user-generated content. When you create a hashtag, followers can tag their own posts with that same term—meaning you’ll be able to find those photos and even use them on your own account (with appropriate attribution, of course).
Again, when coming up with your own branded hashtag, research is important to confirm that your hashtag is unique and not associated with inappropriate content. You’ll also want to keep the basic best practices in mind—including keeping it short, simple, and free of special characters.
If and when you do have a branded hashtag you want to encourage followers to use, make sure to list it in your Instagram bio so that it’s in a convenient and easy-to-reference place—just like L.L. Bean did with their #BeanOutsider hashtag:
Tips and Tricks for Using Instagram Hashtags
We’ve covered a lot already. But, there’s still way more to making the most of hashtags on Instagram. Here are a few general tips and best practices to keep in mind when using them in your own Instagram marketing efforts.
Be Conscious of How Many You’re Using
Even including just one hashtag with your posts can give your engagement a major boost.
But, studies show that the best amount to include is four or five hashtags. Even posts with 11 and above hashtags experienced much higher engagement scores.
That might sound like a lot. However, after some research, you likely won’t have a hard time coming up with that many relevant terms to include.
On the flipside of that coin, remember that you can only use up to 30 hashtags per post. So, it’s not worth coming up with any more beyond that point for a single photo.
Consider Hiding Your Hashtags
One thing that holds many marketers back from using tons of hashtags is the fact that they don’t like that their Instagram captions look cluttered and overwhelming.
Fortunately, you have some options here. For example, some brands choose to put hashtags on a different line by separating them from the rest of their caption with emojis or even a few simple dots. This means they don’t show up until users expand the caption—keeping things looking neat and streamlined.
Others post their hashtags as a comment, rather than as part of the caption. Hashtags within a caption are still searchable. However, since Instagram’s algorithm starts working right away, you don’t want a huge delay between when your image is posted and when your hashtags are added. So, you’d want to post that comment immediately after your photo went live.
Engage With Other Posts
What’s the key word in social media? It’s social. Remember that the point of your Instagram account isn’t to just broadcast your message—it’s to engage with people and foster a community around your cause.
For that reason, you should dedicate some time each week to look at other posts that use the hashtags you frequently rely on, and leave comments or like those images.
The more interactive you can be on the platform, the easier time you’ll have growing your audience and making the most of your Instagram profile.
Over to You
If you aren’t already using hashtags on your Instagram posts, it’s time to start. They’re small but mighty when it comes to reaching new users and solidifying your brand.
The best part? It’s an incredibly easy strategy to implement. Put these tips and best practices to work, and you’re sure to be leveraging hashtags to your brand’s advantage in no time. #winning