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How to Effectively Use Instagram Hashtags

by Michelle McNally | Jul 10, 2019

While the first hashtags were used on Twitter, this powerful search tool has proven incredibly useful on Instagram. Using relevant hashtags makes it easier for users to find your content in their searches and increases engagement.

By performing hashtag searches, Instagram users can follow tags that reflect their interests. For instance, a dog lover might follow #ilovemydog. A pet store that uses that hashtag will appear in that user’s Instagram feed and could gain a new follower.

Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags in a post and up to 10 hashtags on a Story. Hashtags can help you reach new followers, find influencers, and build your brand – as long as you use them wisely. To help you get started, we’ve prepared a list of hashtag do’s and don’ts.

DO:

Use hashtag links in your Instagram bio. When a user clicks on a hashtag link in your bio, they land on a page filled with content related to your hashtag. Hashtag pages promote interactions and are great places to find user-generated content. Bar Keepers Friend promotes their branded hashtag #BKFBeforeAndAfter in its Instagram to encourage customers to share their own successes using their cleaning products.

Keep an eye on your competition. Check your competitors’ Instagram accounts and see what hashtags they’re using. Are you using the same tags? If so, consider deviations of your competition’s hashtag, like making yours singular or plural. Your post might reach fewer users, but those users may not be seeing your competitors in their feeds.

Search for the best options. Use Instagram’s search function to look for possible hashtags and keep a list of them to use as you post. Don’t overwhelm your followers with excessive hashtags. Instead, use a few tags, track their success and engagement over time, and delete those tags that are not returning results.

Use an Instagram Business profile. If you run a business, you should already be using Facebook Business Manager. Make sure you are also set up with an Instagram Business Profile so you can access the extra data-tracking features.

Once you’ve created an Instagram Business Profile, you’ll be able to see data related to each post. To see this data:

  1. Select “View Insights” on the bottom left side of your post
  2. Swipe up to view your post data (Profile Visits, Website Clicks, Follows, and Impressions)

By tracking impressions from hashtags, you can start to narrow down what hashtags are working for you.

Use hashtags in Instagram Stories. You can use Instagram Stories to test hashtag performance. Based on post data, start including the strongest-performing hashtags in your Stories. You can use up to 10 hashtags in a Story, but you can track hashtag performance more accurately if you include only one or two at a time.

Stories also appear on hashtag pages (top left corner). Viewers can click on the link and see a collection of Stories that include the tag. Track engagement and views to identify well-performing hashtags and take note of them for future use.

Use branded hashtags. Create a hashtag with your company’s tagline (if you have one), a campaign slogan, or other branded saying. For instance, here at BoxCrush, we use the hashtag #BoxCrushLife when we post about things happening around the office or about our staff. Panera Bread’s #myPanera is used by both Panera and its customers to share favorite foods and pairings.

Using branded hashtags for campaigns and contests helps users find and interact with your content.

Build community by following hashtags and engaging with other IG’ers. Identify hashtags that are relevant to your company or brand and follow them. Interacting with the posts from these tags that come through your feed will get you noticed. Spend time exploring some of the accounts that use relevant hashtag(s) and note what they are posting. Follow influencers and accounts using relevant tags. Comment on and like their posts, and you will start gaining new followers.

DON'T

Users follow hashtags for a reason: they are interested in the content. If you are using irrelevant hashtags, you are essentially spamming the user. The user has the option to block your image from appearing for that hashtag and can report a post or profile as spam.

Facebook (which owns Instagram) is very responsive to user input. If users report your posts frequently enough, you will likely find that your content shows less frequently in Instagram feeds. Use hashtags that are relevant to your content or create content that works with your hashtag.

Overuse popular hashtags. Using hashtags that have appeared millions of times might get you some attention, but you are also likely to get lost in the mix. For instance, #fashion has more than 660 million posts. The likelihood that your company or brand will stand out in a crowd that size is relatively small. Go ahead and use popular tags, such at #tbt (Throwback Thursday) or #picoftheday from time-to-time, but don’t rely solely on these hashtags for reach, and make sure to include other complementary tags that will get you noticed.

Beg. Hashtags like #followme, #follow, #followforfollowback, #followbackinstantly send the message: “This is not a quality Instagram account.” Build your following authentically by sharing quality content and interacting with followers and potential followers.