My good friend Michi Moore over at Pretty and Profesh and I had a long chat about hashtags recently. It happened to be during one of our live webinar classes, and the questions were pouring in!
We decided to put all the juicy tips into this blog so we would always have it for the future. Yay!
Not All Hashtags Are Created Equal
Just because someone uses a hashtag, that doesn’t meant it’s working for them. On that same wave, just because a hashtag is popular, that doesn’t mean it’s strategically good to use.
Let’s dig deeper: How do you know if a hashtag is working for you? The key is to engage heavily on the hashtag and measure the return.
Each time you post, pick one or two of your hashtags to test out! Go interact with people who have also recently used it, and see if that brings new followers to your community.
BONUS TIP: Yes you absolutely should test this out on your competitor’s hashtags as well. This tactic has a super high ROI in lots of different scenarios.
Of course there are going to be instances when trying to engage with people on a competitor hashtag returns NADA. You gotta put in the time to find out. So whether it’s a “competitor” hashtag or not, do the research to make sure using it will be worth it.
Hashtags Are NOT A Place To Get Creative
There is no need to go crazy with branded hashtags. Choose ONE for your tribe and commit! Not only does this easily help you find and engage with your community, but it will also provide cleaner analytics.
When folks make up their own super long hashtags, it’s never for growth purposes. Keep in mind that you need to use hashtags that OTHER people are also using. That #ijustwannahotdogsobad tag doesn’t help you any unless that tag is used often. It’s fun (and totally true pretty much all the time) but it’s not going to attract *enough* attention to be relevant.
Comment vs. Caption
So…where do you stick your list of 30 hashtags? It comes down to aesthetics.
Having your hashtags in the comments OR in your caption has no bearing on your rank for that tag within Instagram. It doesn’t care about placement, only about timing. Hashtags should be added to your post immediately for the greatest effect. Adding them hours or days later won’t do anything, because Instagram is chronological (at least for now…).
If you put your hashtags in your caption, you have a chance to edit them. That’s about it. Placing your tags in a comment allows you to delete them after a while if you get tired of “bots” (or automated Instagram Software) randomly liking 30 pics in a row of yours from months and months ago.
Use Related Hashtags
If you are drawing a blank, or if your engagement is down, try searching the “related tags” at the top of more popular hashtag searches. Not every tag has these, but the ones that do will show you what’s most commonly used with that tag.
This also shows you similar posts under that tag so you can decide whether or not using this tag will help you reach your ideal follower.
Still stuck? Check out your follower notifications. No, not YOUR notifications, the other tab that shows you what the people you follow are up to. What hashtags are on those posts? Jackpot!
Research, Research, Research
Hashtags are living. Their effectiveness and reach changes constantly.
Some tags are time sensitive, some are not. Different times of the day may attract a different type of account. Some tags become so popular they get watered down. Some move way too fast and some move way too slow.
Find a good mix and keep modifying over time.
Use Trending Tags With Care
The point of utilizing Instagram for your business is to make money right? RIGHT. So you need to engage with people who want to buy what you are selling.
With trending tags, you may get misleading engagement. That is classified as engagement from automated accounts, accounts wanting you to follow them, or someone looking for the trends, not you.
These trending tags bring likes and comments from folks who aren’t always your target audience. Using trending tags can help expand your account reach and help you find your audience, but it often takes much longer and increases the likelihood of attracting accounts that follow only for a follow back.
As long as you don’t load your picture with unrelated trending tags, they are sweet to add when applicable.
That’s the tip of the iceberg! There are hundreds of amazing and valuable strategy tips for Instagram, but when it comes to targeted growth, hashtags are it. Happy Tagging!
Rachel is a digital marketing strategist, and CEO of Belle Strategies. She spends her time helping clients leverage the digital space to reach and convert their communities into lifelong customers.