Guys, I’ma keep this one short(ish) and sweet.
Back in my teens, I straight up A V O I D E D using hashtags for my Instagram posts. Simply put, I thought using hashtags made me look uncool and as though I was taking the social media channel far too seriously. Plus, none of the popular kids used them, so why should I? Raise your hand if you felt the same…
Fast forward six years and not only do I make it a priority to use hashtags in my personal and professional posts, but I make a conscious effort to regularly research the tool in order to optimise visibility for myself and my clients.
It’s Important To Know…
Hashtags are not a tool to be used to just define your post - more on this below - rather, they should be approached as an opportunity to add your content to a rising bunch of relevant media and in turn, connect you with a wider audience
Using hashtags will get you noticed far quicker than any other tool on Instagram
According to Later.com, content including hashtags increase the overall engagement of your posts by 12.6% opposed to those without
Increased use of effective hashtags > more visibility for your brand > greater opportunity for you to reach the masses!
Yeah, they’re pretty dang important. But before we dive in with hashtagging the hell outta our posts, we’ve got to keep some things in mind.
Common Mistakes We Make With Hashtags
All too often, I see brands use this tool to describe the topic of their content but make the mistake of setting their hashtag so broad that there ends up being little to no hope for their post to be seen by anyone beyond their current following.
For example: If you’re a bookworm who loves to post about your most recent read, hashtagging #book, #reading or #lovebooks is unlikely to gain you much visibility in the ‘gram-sphere. This is because if you look up one of the above hashtags in your search bar, you’ll see that over 44 million users are using that same term in their post, and counting. Thus, that awesome pic of you and your copy of Little Women gets buried beneath those with 100k+ followers. Annoying, right?
Another error that makes my face wince is when brands overuse hashtags in their posts. Whilst there isn’t a clear amount of hashtags that Instagram advises us to use to optimise visibility (there is a 30 hashtag max), many social media machines recommend that we keep between the 5 and 10-mark of relevant tags. This may not affect the bigger brands that have already accumulated their vast following, but for new and rising users, overusing hashtags can often look spammy to a potential follower and discourage them from adding you to their list - especially if your caption looks to be 95% hashtag, 5% original copy.
Remember: Nowadays, people buy people, so if you are not bringing you to the table in both your written AND visual content, there are hundreds of thousands of more accounts out there who are. Stand out and give those that discover you via hashtags a reason to stick around.
Working In Tandem With ‘tags
So, how does one use hashtags consciously? Well, you may love it or hate it, but it’s all about research, Research, RESEARCH!
Look at what those in your industry are using in their hashtag fields (#freelancelifestyle would be a good one for me to use with around 40k users including the tag)
See what’s trending around the world (#InternationalWomensDay has hundreds of millions of users getting involved for the occasion, so I’d suggest just #IWD2020 with less than 50k posts to sift through)
Check out popular branded hashtags for user-generated content (the #goddessprovisions inspires some of the most fantastic, cosmic and creative posts which the Goddess Provisions team then use to repost on their feed. Get on the hype and get visible!)
I wholly appreciate that you might be thinking “not ANOTHER social media tool I need to be clued up on!?”, but there are plenty of ways to make the process of embracing the power of hashtags as time-effective and bearable as possible.
Set aside time at the start of the month to look at what’s coming up in your social media calendar and spend a few hours researching the strongest hashtags to use for the weeks following. Once you have your basic hashtags set, save them in your notes to copy and paste in your caption or comments of your post.
Test a few different sets of hashtags to see which ones have the greatest impact on engagement. Instagram has a feature where you are able to see the impressions made on your post via hashtags - unfortunately, it won’t tell you exactly which hashtag called their intention, but this can give you a basic idea of whether you’re on the right track.
Connect with more users in your industry and study what they’re using. You can follow a hashtag on Instagram like you follow a user to keep you in the loop for creative content - for my project, The Conscious Collective, we follow #pinkandgreen as our user-generated content follows that aesthetic.
And there you have it. I hope that this hasn’t felt too daunting as whilst I understand that social media can be a fickle so-and-so, it is always an opportunity to communicate your brand as creatively as you wish. If you’d like to chat more about effectively implementing hashtags on your Instagram feed, let’s chat!