Hashtags have a bit of an odd reputation, partially because they function differently depending on the platform you are on. Knowing how to use hashtags can be a game changer. For personal use, you can do as you please, but as a business, there are four ways to use hashtags to increase your success on Instagram and I recommend each and every one. If we’re talking about Facebook my advice is simple: skip em.
The Classic Instagram Hashtag
The most obvious use of hashtags is to include them in things you post. Think of hashtags like any other type of search term and select things that people might click on or search for to find your business. Big favorites of mind are #smallbusiness #localbusiness #shoplocal #vermontbusiness and a whole bunch of other variations of that same message. Those are what I’ll call “staple tags”, the ones that are likely going to be put on every post you make on Instagram. If you’re having trouble thinking of what to hashtag, just imagine what someone might Google to find your content. #digitalmarketing #marketingtips #marketingblog
The purpose of these hashtags is for people to find your content when they might not be following your account. That’s why you want them to make sense, be relevant, and strike that middle ground of popularity. There’s no need to be throwing around #dog #girl #boy #newshirt because at the end of the day, nobody is going to find your content with those types of hashtags. Using a tag that someone might click on or follow will increase the changes of new eyes bumping into your content. Every set of new eyes is a new potential customer.
Personal Hashtags on Instagram
This one is a bit of a sensitive subject, but a few years ago it was a big deal to have a specific hashtag for your brand. There may be times it makes sense like a festival or event, but there’s really no reason to have a personal hashtag for your business at this point. I’m talking about those hyper-specific tags that you and only you use to be sure everything in that tag was posted by you and about your business. People can find you from location tags or simply searching your account. Hashtags should be about expanding your audience, not creating a collection of posts identical to what can already be found on your account. If it’s not a tag someone is going to think to search for or click on when they are elsewhere on Instagram, it does not benefit you.
Following Hashtags on Instagram
Did you know that you can follow hashtags? Just like when you follow an account, you can also follow a hashtag. This just means that any post using the tag you chose to follow will show up in your feed. This is a great way to be sure you are seeing and engaging with new content regularly and not just the same crew of accounts you already follow. I recommend following a few of those staple hashtags to increase your engagement with a specific audience you want to target, likely businesses like yours or businesses in your area.
The reason I recommend following a few staple hashtags like #localbusiness or #vtbusiness (for those of you in Vermont) is because Engagement is a huge factor in the success of your Instagram and you need to give a little to get a little. You can check out more of that here, but just be mindful as you’re on Instagram that you are interacting and engaging more than you are posting.
Hashtag Research Missions
Hashtags are a great way to find potential followers and people for you to follow. Perhaps I should have made my Keeping the Social in Social Media blog a prerequisite to this blog, but I’ll give you a tiny scoop into the engagement game here just in case you haven’t read that one. Simply, if you want to increase your following and increase the number of relevant eyes on your posts, a great way to start is to engage with them first. I’m not just talking about following people, I’m saying you need to be commenting on your competitor’s profiles. You need to be liking everything in sight, and not just the stuff from people you follow.
This goes hand-in-hand with following hashtags, but you can’t follow all of them or your feed will be drowning in clutter. Every now and then, just scroll through a few hashtags relevant to your business, location, or account and comment on posts that interest you. Be sure to be genuine so you don’t sound like a bot, but engage.
Hashtags in Instagram Stories
Did you know you can use hashtags in stories? Again, these hashtags are all about increasing the views on that particular post but we’ve got a few sneaky tips. Sometimes you can do a primary hashtag, something that doesn’t mess with your image. However, you might want to go big on the hashtags and drop a whole chunk of them on your story. Not only does it look a little tacky, some people are embarrassed about using hashtags. Here’s the tip, just shrink those babies down and slap a sticker on top of them. It doesn’t matter how small they are, they will still link to the content so you may as well save the aesthetic appeal of your story while also increasing your reach.
There are a ton of ways to use hashtags not only to promote your own posts, but to help you engage with other relevant accounts. Don’t be afraid to use a bunch of hashtags on an Instagram post, just think about what their purpose is. Hashtags can bring in the bots and auto-comments, but it’s all worth it if it means new people are seeing your content and interacting with your brand.