Day 34 of #100daysmarketingcreatives - What Hashtags To Use In Instagram
How many hashtags? What size hashtags? What mix of hashtags? Do I repeat hashtags or use new ones? What is a hashtag? There are many questions to answer here and unless you have been using Instagram for a while it can at first seem very confusing. I will cover everything briefly here but come back to everything in bitesize chunks later so don't worry if anything goes over your head just now. I will revisit it all!
The first place to start is probably 'what is a hashtag?'. A hashtag is Instagram's way of grouping posts. Millions of posts go onto Instagram every day covering lots and lots of subject matters. Your posts stand a good chance of being seen by people that are following you, but you could use a simple mailing list if you just want your content to go to the same set of people. Hashtags are essential if you want to grow your following. Using hashtags you can target specific interests that are appropriate to your post. On Instagram people can follow accounts but they can also follow hashtags. An artist in Manchester, for example, might follow a #manchesterartist hashtag (there are 27k post in there at time of writing). Following it will help them to keep their finger on the pulse in the Manchester art scene. They would see other Manchester artists posting in that hashtag, learn from them, network with them and also connect them to Galleries and stockists for example in the Manchester area as well as other consumers interested in art from local artists in the Manchester area. So by using the #manchesterartist hashtag a post has a chance of coming on the radar with people using that hashtag.
Find a few key quality hashtags in your niche and follow them to help with your own research and you will quickly begin to see how this works. Don't follow too many though as many hashtags have a mixture of posts that are both high and low quality and some will have new posts every few minutes or even seconds and so it will be hard to keep up with everything. Maybe follow a few hashtags for a while to help identify key individuals that you then go on to follow then unfollow most of the hashtags only continuing to follow the hashtags that are really in your niche and constantly putting out high value posts that you want to keep your eye on!
So how many hashtags can I use? Well this is where Instagram is very strong. You can use up to 30 hashtags with every post. If you google how many hashtags to use in Instagram you will get a range of opinions. My opinion based on my own research is that you should use almost all of them when you are starting off. You will see celebrities with 1 million+ follower using 2 or 3 hashtags that haven't really been thought out well. These people did not get their followings through their use of hashtags it was through other means and they are often using hashtags quite poorly because they are lazy, don't know how to use them properly or don't really need to because they already have such a big following. Some people with very large 100k+ followings might argue that 30 hashtags looks spammy and that you shouldn't use that many. My advice if you have less than 50k followers is that you shouldn't worry too much about that as you need all the help you can to grow your account. Use them all if you want. Instagram will not penalise you for that but it will help you reach more people when you really need to grow your following. If you don't want to look too spammy do what I and many others do - put 5 dots on separate lines after the main body of your post before you add the hashtags. Most people don't scroll down that far and are often unaware that you have used a lot of hashtags that way so you don't look spammy. Many other Instagrammers with smaller followings themselves understand why you are using so many and won't be bothered by the fact that you are. Again Instagram itself does not penalise you but will enable you to reach more people with more hashtags.
Big hashtags or small hashtags? That's a tough question. In order to answer that one you need to understand that hashtags are big if they have lots of posts in there (500k+), they are small if they don't have many in there (10k or less). Then there are bigger, really big and enormous (10m or more) and smaller and tiny etc. What you need to understand is that if you post in a really big hashtag then you are posting where many people are looking but many more people are also posting. Some hashtags receive new posts every few seconds so your post might be visible to more people but for a much shorter amount of time. Post on a really small hashtag and you will stay on the first page longer because fewer people are posting but then there are fewer people looking in that hashtag too. The second thing you need to understand is that hashtags have a few 'top posts' rows. These are reserved for the posts that have received the highest number of engagements (like, comments and new followers) recently in that hashtag. They are generally high quality posts that people in that hashtag want to see and by remaining in these 'top post' rows sometimes for a few extra minutes, hours and occasionally in smaller hashtags for days you end up getting seen by many more people which leads to more likes, more comments and more new followers.
Aim at a few hashtags where you are able to get into those top post rows. Check the hashtags from time to time and flag ones where you achieve it so you can repeat that success regularly until you outgrow them and start aiming at higher hashtags. Cover several of these but remember these hashtags have fewer visitors so aim at a spread of hashtag sizes to spread your bets to start.
Find relevant hashtags then see how many posts are in a hashtag. If the hashtag has 1m+ posts forget it for now. You won't get seen in there unless you are very lucky and certainly will find it very difficult to get into a 'top posts' row with only a small number of followers. If you are starting off then you should spread your bets as they say. Post in some 1k hashtags, 2K, 5K, 10k, 50k, 100k hashtags with only the occasional post in hashtags with over 500k just on the off chance you hit lucky but don't rely on that or risk using up too many valuable hashtags doing that. As your account grows keep raising your game and aiming for larger hashtags as you are more likely to get to the top post rows and be seen more once you have a larger following but even with a small following you might just get spotted by someone with a larger following who then reposts your post to their own audience and you can ride on the back of that publicity. It doesn't happen often at the start but it does and the more visible you become the more often it will happen.
Organise your hashtags into groups that you can reuse. If you are an artist from Manchester, for example, create a group of Manchester and surrounding area artist hashtags, create a group of British artist hashtags. Create some general 'Art' hashtags. Then concentrate on the subject matter of each specific post and create a group of hashtags relevant to the subject matter. As you do with hashtag size spread your efforts around on hashtag subject matter, do not put all your eggs in one basket
Save groups of hashtags away so that you can reuse them. Don't think of 30 new hashtags to use for every post that will take ages and make the process really tedious for you. Save groups area so that you can copy and paste again later to reuse them. Don't reinvent the wheel each time, consistent posting in hashtags is good to get you noticed by regulars but don't reuse exactly the same things every time, mix things around a little too, Instagram won't like you repeating the same old hashtags for every single post and it will seriously restrict the number of people you reach too. Find a balance that is easy to manage, doesn't spread you too thinly but gives you a good reach.
Finally research the hashtags you use. Visit the hashtag and see what other posts are in there and are your posts relevant to that area. Don't just add a hashtag to your post without looking. Is the hashtag still being used? When did people last use it? Have there hardly been any posts in the last few months despite it being a big hashtag? If so people are probably looking elsewhere now so you should avoid it. What about the subject matter? My partner @lucygell illustrates bears in some of her art. In my sheltered existence a bear is a furry animal but a number of hashtags she might have accidentally used contain lots of images of scantily clad hairy gentlemen in black leather outfits! Does the hashtag feel like somewhere you want to be seen, does it feel like somewhere that your audience is likely to hang out, does your brand fit that hashtag?
A lot of information to absorb here I know. Don't worry though, this is a very quick overview before @tabathagell does her first post in her new Instagram account to set the scene. I will try to break each idea down into bitesized chunks later in the project and show you ways of managing and growing your hashtags as well as automating posts. I will also talk about communities and influencers and show you techniques of how to monitor your hashtag strategy effectiveness. If you only take 4 things away from this post it should be
- to make use of all 30 Instagram hashtags
- spread the size of your hashtags across those 30
- avoid the very large (1m+) hashtags at first
- make sure that the hashtags you use are ALWAYS relevant to your post
If you have found this free advice useful, please return the favour by following me on Instagram or Facebook liking my posts and mentioning me to your friends! Thanks.
Have I missed anything? How do you do manage your hashtags?