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What hashtags should I be using on Instagram to grow my audience?

An essential, fool-proof guide to hashtags, what you should use them for, and what hashtags you should be using on the 'gram...


Hashtag headaches? You're not alone. It's a topic our clients often ask us about. For many small business owners who use Instagram to promote their brand, hashtags are still a bit of a mystery.


Today, we will explain in super simple terms what hashtags are, why you should be using them in your posts, HOW you can use them in your posts, and how they can help you reach more people and grow your audience.


I'm still confused about what hashtags are. Please explain in simple terms?


Hashtags allow you to categorise your content into different groups and keep things organised. They are words or phrases with a # placed directly in front. You can add them into a caption on an Instagram post, reel, or carousel. Once you share your post, they automatically become clickable links. When users click on a hashtag or add them into the search bar, Instagram shows them a filtered feed of content filled with lots of different posts shared by different people, all with that same hashtag attached. Users can also search for hashtags at the top of their home page.


So for example, if someone wanted to find a picture of a pink door on Instagram, they might use #pinkdoor to find what they are looking for. If your picture includes the same hashtag, they may come across it in their search.


The critical part of the word to remember is 'tag.' Hashtags help you assign 'tags' to your posts, which helps new people find and discover your specific content on Instagram.


Think of Instagram like a big sock drawer....


Remember how Marie Kondo recommends sorting items together and then clearly labeling them so you can easily find something in your sock drawer whenever you need it?


Using hashtags is a bit like labeling your socks when you have a drawer that over 1.074 billion use, and every one of them has hundreds of pairs of socks. Without those helpful 'labels' your socks will never get found by the right people that need them.


And without those helpful 'hashtags,' potential clients don't have a hope of finding your content on Instagram.


Using different hashtags across your different posts.


You can use hashtags for a range of categories, from the location of your business and the products you sell to the community your audience identifies with. The most important thing is that you're using different tags in your posts that help your target audience find the exact content they are interested in.


Here's a straightforward example:


Suppose your business sells handmade notebooks and planners to women, and you share a picture of a new, blue 2022 planner.


In that case, you might want to categorise the image with the following 'tags' to help people find your post: #planner #diary #stationery #2022diary #bluediary #handmade #womeninbusiness.


If you then share a picture of a different design in your next post, like a green notebook, you might use a slightly different set of tags.




How to use hashtags in your posts like a pro:


Hashtags should be added to your post captions, preferably grouped at the bottom. You'll notice plenty of people still copy and paste their hashtags to their comments underneath their posts; however, Instagram has recently announced that this isn't best practice, and you should be putting the hashtags into the caption itself.


Instagram allows a maximum of 30 hashtags per post, so feel free to use the maximum amount, providing they are all relevant to your business. And no, you DON'T look desperate if you use all 30 hashtags - providing they are well researched and relevant.


Still feeling like you're struggling with social media? In our last post, we shared the 5 fundamental components you need to start promoting your business PROPERLY online, without all the fancy and confusing bells and whistles.


What hashtags should you be using?


The most important thing you need to remember when using hashtags is to include a COMBINATION of hashtags, depending on how often they are used. What does that mean exactly?


Some hashtags are used ALL THE TIME by users on Instagram, and some are used very infrequently. The frequency of use is very important, and significantly affects how that 'tag' will perform for your post.


Let's explain this further. Overall, posts with broader, generic hashtags with no more than half a million uses will reach lots and lots of people as soon as you post them. When you use these kinds of hashtags, you have a higher chance of having your content seen by lots of people, but only for a short amount of time. Because so many people use the hashtags, your content will quickly get lost under the sheer volume of content being tagged. You're also more likely to attract bots, spam comments, and fake followers on posts with these hashtags.


The most used hashtags on Instagram are #love (1.835 billion uses), #instagood (1.150 billion uses), and #fashion (812.7 million uses) - with those ridiculously high numbers, it's probably not worth your time using them.


Hashtags with 25K to 500K posts have a nice, healthy usage. Hashtags that have only been used 5K to 25K times have low usage and are likely to be narrowly targeted, and hashtags with less than 5K uses are considered very niche indeed.



So which hashtags are best to use?


Ultimately you want to use a combination of hashtags in your posts. Try following this strategy to start with, and see how your posts perform.


Start by using x10 hashtags that describe what the individual post is actually about. Out of those 10, use x1 hashtag with very high usage, x4 with medium usage, and x5 with a smaller, niche usage. This should change every time you post, ensuring that you'll always switch it up.


Include x10 hashtags that describe what you and your business do in general. Try to focus on what your target audience might search for rather than the terms you would use as the business owner. Out of those 10, use x1 hashtag with very high usage, x4 with medium usage, and x5 with a smaller, niche usage.


Finally, include x10 hashtags that describe your target audience. Again, focus on how your target audience would refer to themselves rather than how you would refer to them. Out of those 10, use x1 hashtag with very high usage, x4 with medium usage, and x5 with a smaller, niche usage.



Why does this strategy work so well?


When you first publish your post, the hashtags with very high usage will potentially give you an initial burst of engagement (comments, likes, shares, etc.) before the post gets burried under all the newer content. This initial activity signals to Instagram's algorithm that the post is popular.


Then the medium-use hashtags help you to get some ongoing engagement for up to a day or so. This activity continues to let the algorithms know that this is a popular post, and Instagram will organically show it to more of your followers. Because more and more people are seeing it, the post could potentially start to rank at the top for these hashtags, which will get your brand a lot of visibility and exposure.


Finally, the smaller-use hashtags could be a fantastic way for your content to be a 'bigger fish in a smaller pond' - with less people sharing and using those hashtags, your content has a very high chance of popping up in a news feed and standing out from the competition when someone does actually search for that tag.


Using hashtags on social media, in particular on Instagram, should be a key part of marketing your business online. It can take time and practice to find the right combination of hashtags for your business, but having a good understanding of how the algorithms work will put you in good stead. Want to have a good strategy in place for your social media? Get in touch to see how we can help!

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