6 ways to up your Instagram hashtag game
Updated: Mar 2
How can I use hashtags better on Instagram?
Instagram hashtags are on almost every post today, whether from Instagram influencers, sponsored posts or your friend Kate. The most effective Instagrammers use hashtags wisely, gaining them thousands of followers or tons of highly sought after engagement.
Following a few easy to navigate hashtag tips probably isn’t going to make you an international (or even a national) Instagram celebrity overnight. However, it will help you up your game and get your posts seen a little more in the Instagram community.
1. Target your audience
This is a key tip. If you aren’t targeting a specific audience, and instead just using the most generic and widely used hashtags like #followme or #instagram, you’re playing a losing game. Those hashtags, and ones like them, though popular, rarely generate authentic engagement. What do I mean by that? I mean if you are a niche blogger or sponsoring a specific ad, your overly used hashtag is likely to be lost in a sea of well, overly used hashtags.
Don’t sink; swim. Find out exactly who your audience is (or who you want it to be), and check out Instagram influencers who already speak to that demographic. Check through their posts to find five of the most commonly used niche hashtags for the specific target market you are focusing on. This will help you stand out as a niche contributor as well as weed your way through the overwhelming competition.
If you are a travel blogger who tends to appeal more to twenty-somethings, find out what those twenty-somethings are looking at on Instagram by sorting through posts starting with the generic #travelblogger. Then find your special little spot on Instagram and go full force with promoting it using hashtags.
Try something twenty-somethings who travel are looking into, let’s say #yachtweek or a hashtag with another popular trip type for that group of people. Whittling down the competition will not only gain you visibility, but you will come off as more authentic in the end.
2. Don’t overuse hashtags
This should really come as a no-brainer. Not only should you not use hashtags that aren’t too generic or overused, you really shouldn’t overdo it on the hashtag count. In fact, Instagram only allows up to 30 hashtags on posts and up to 10 on stories. Any more than that, and your caption simply won’t post.
Thank goodness for that, too. Think of how spammy it looks when you come across a post with hashtag vomit? It does absolutely nothing to speak for your authenticity as an influencer or a brand.
3. Group Your Hashtags
This is a little known trick I actually picked up from travel blogger and Insta guru @Whereisangiee. She recommends placing your hashtags into six groups. She is pretty knowledgable when it comes to using hashtags which is reflected in her follower count of 30k+ and her crowd engagement, all of which she grew herself organically.
You will want only two to three hashtags for each group, and no more than five. The first group will be hashtags with a reach of over one million. These are your big players like #travelblogger or #vintage. These should, in my opinion, always be the first group of hashtags you use. You can see how many views a hashtag has by simply searching the hashtag on Instagram. Let’s hope you knew that already, though.
Now, for the second group, you are going to want a few with a range of 250k to 1 million views. The third group should be hashtags relating to your brand or post with 50k to 250k in engagement and use. Your fourth group should be hashtags with 5k-50k views. See what was done here?
Think of it like a staircase of hashtags! Now, for your second to final group try and use five hashtags closely related to your post. You should always be changing these as they reflect what your actual post is about. For the last group of hashtags, use five closely related to your brand or your niche. These should be maintained and remain fairly constant. This is an easy way to break down your hashtags and make sure you are consistent in your use of hashtags and the way you post.
4. Analyse which hashtags were successful on past posts
Thanks to Instagram Insights available on some profiles, you can easily track your engagement from your stories, posts and clicks. However, it is important to manually go through and see which one of your posts got the most likes, comments or views.
Take note of any reoccurring hashtags in those posts and make them a constant from now on. Posts with lesser engagement that have used similar hashtags point to the fact that those ones aren’t doing the job as well. It can very much be trial and error, so using a system like grouping your hashtags can help you more easily keep track of what is working, what is drawing in engagement and what is not.
Also, implementing the use of a social media tracking tool like Hootsuite, can help you monitor what is being said in conversations relevant to your business or industry, including what hashtags and keywords are being used. There are many tools for social media management out there, but we will get into that in another post.
5. Know which hashtags are trending
Along with analysing your hashtag usage, you should keep on top of which hashtags are trending, especially if they are specific to your industry. This is a daily task that will only take a few minutes of research prior to posting.
Instead of using the Instagram search bar or explore page to manually find the trending hashtags you need, you can use social media management tools, like Hootsuite, to get this job done. Rite Tag is an excellent choice when it comes to finding trending tags to use. It is unique in that it generates suggestions for trending hashtags based on your original content. It then analyses your content after you type your caption into the search bar. Knowing is half the battle, and knowing trends will certainly help keep you on top of your Insta game.
6. Engage with your audience
This is a big part of Instagram, quite obviously. Followers love when you engage with them, for the most part, especially if they are genuine followers excited about your posts or your brand. Taking a few moments when checking Instagram during the day to simply like a few comments left for you can make a big difference.
Take note of which hashtags your followers are using, especially if they leave any in the comments. It would help if you also were taking note of which posts the higher engagement is on and using those hashtags consistently.
Allotting yourself 30 minutes at least at the end of each day to genuinely respond to comments plays a big part in engagement. Lastly, don’t be embarrassed to simply ask your followers outright by using a poll in your stories that hashtags they click on the most. Polls are fun for many and are a great way to connect and gain valuable market research.
The bottom line on using Instagram hashtags
Using these easy to follow tips will help you connect to more people across Instagram. Whether you are trying to build your brand, network with others in your industry, or promote yourself or your idea, being consistent in how you use hashtags, how many you use, and which ones you use will help you better navigate the wild and wonderful world that is Instagram.