You probably know that Instagram is one of the biggest social media platforms in the U.S., with over 500 million users, and some of the highest levels of engagement, making it an incredibly effective way to reach your audience.
You know all of this.
Yet when it comes time to actually use Instagram, you can’t help but feel like your photos go unviewed, your captions go un-liked, and your hashtags go unsearched. So, while the benefits of Instagram may not be news to you, taking advantage of them remains somewhat elusive.
Our advice? Get better at hashtags.
What Are Hashtags?
If you’re not using hashtags when you post on Instagram, you need to be. If you are using hashtags, chances are there are probably things you can be doing to use them more effectively. A quick primer: Hashtags are brief, searchable terms that start with the “pound sign” (#). They generally consist of single words like #purple or short, clever phrases like #butfirstcoffee.
The Right Hashtags
Choosing the right hashtags can make a world of difference on Instagram. Why? Because unless someone is already following you, hashtags are going to be the way that people find your posts. If you make jewelry or phone cases or bespoke dog collars, you need to use hashtags related to your product, industry and brand so that anybody doing a search with similar interests comes across your brand.
Hashtags That Last
Hashtags also give your posts a bit more staying power. By the nature of how Instagram works, when you publish a post it will only stay active in your followers’ feeds for so long before it gets swept down the list. When people search using hashtags though, your post will still come up (depending on how popular that hashtag is).
Popular vs Unique
Half of the battle with hashtags is choosing the right ones. You want to strike a balance, using hashtags that are both popular enough to get searched by a lot of people, while still being somewhat unique to you. You need to be careful not to swing too far in either direction though. Remember #purple? Well, nearly 21 million posts have used that hashtag. So, it’s certainly popular, but anything you tag will likely get buried quickly under hundreds of other #purple posts. On the other end of the spectrum, #bespokedogcollars has only been used 90 times, meaning that the likelihood of anybody searching that hashtag is probably too low to be useful.
You can find out how popular a particular hashtag is by using the search tool within Instagram. Once you start typing in any word or phrase, it will tell you how many posts have used that hashtag, as well as hashtags related to it. Instagram’s own search function is both convenient and free, though it does require a bit of trial and error. For more advanced functionality in finding and tracking hashtags, there are loads of third-party analytics tools you can try, such as Keyhole and Iconosquare.
One last note about hashtags. Unlike some other platforms, like Twitter, where you need to be careful about overdoing it with hashtags so as to not be too annoying, Instagram allows you to put up to 30 hashtags in a post and hide them from regular sight. So, you can (and should) use a ton of hashtags without being obnoxious.
Instead of putting hashtags directly in your caption, after you publish your post, put the hashtags in the first comment. Once you have a few comments, Instagram will automatically hide your first comment with the hashtags. You can also expedite this process by putting five dots, each with a return afterwards, before the hashtags in your comment, like so:
This will signal to Instagram a longer comment that needs to be hidden unless someone taps to see it.
Find out more about Instagram in the upcoming parts of this series or take a look at another blog we wrote on Instagram.