Hashtags are the most powerful and misunderstood element of the Instagram platform. You can use them both to get new followers and to increase engagement with your posts. Most importantly, they don’t cost a dime to use.
Many brands have a very basic understanding of hashtags. They use one or two random hashtags with each post, giving it their best guess as to what will work. More often than not, this strategy fails to create any momentum for the brand.
However, with the right strategy, you can rise above the clutter and gain thousands of Instagram followers through the power of hashtags. With some persistence and a better understanding of how hashtags work, they can be a game changer for your brand.
Instagram Hashtag Basics
When you use a hashtag on Instagram, your post gets featured at the top of that hashtag’s “discover” page. Every hashtag can be found on the discover tab, where a list of popular recent posts for that tag will be shown. Beneath the most popular posts, you’ll find a chronological list of tagged posts.
The most popular tags move at a breakneck pace. The top 20 hashtags on Instagram include social media mainstays like #love, #selfie, and #beautiful. There’s no harm in giving these hashtags a try, but you shouldn’t focus on them. Their pages move too fast for you to get any real traction.
You will have better luck with less-popular hashtags. In these hashtag communities, new content moves at a much slower pace. Thus, your post will have the opportunity to sit at the top of the feed, accruing views from people looking for new entertainment.
It’s important to be consistent with your hashtags. Jumping around from tag to tag isn’t a good strategy. You need to decide which tags will be most effective for your brand and use them over and over again.
Researching Your First Hashtags
The best way to find hashtags is to start with a general list of attributes about your brand. Brainstorm as many different words and phrases as you can that represent what your brand is about. Think in terms of industry, style, personality, and location.
Try to identify ten potential hashtags that reflect each attribute on this list. They don’t have to be perfect. Just do your best to get creative and think of anything that might be worth investigating.
You don’t want to use hashtags that are too popular or too unpopular. Your goal is to fall in the middle. Keep the hashtags that you find have been used on between 10,000 and 100,000 posts. This is a good number that reflects an active, but not overwhelmingly busy, hashtag community on Instagram.
After doing this research, you want to end up with a list of about 20 core hashtags that you can focus on. If you don’t get at least that many ideas from the process, go back to the drawing board and brainstorm some more.
Using Data to Growth Hack Your Hashtags
Be consistent with your Instagram strategy. You need to post on a steady schedule as you measure data on these hashtags. Post once or twice a day at similar times each day.
Include eight to 12 hashtags in each post you make. These hashtags should be relevant to the content of the posts. Use your core hashtags from the previous section as much as possible.
Measure the results for each of your posts. Keep track of which hashtags were used in each post, as well as how many likes, replies, and new followers the posts get. Posting at the same time each day will make this data easy to analyze later on.
Follow this process for a few months until you’ve got a lot of information to work with. You want to measure which hashtags correlate to the best post engagement. You need a large enough sample size of posts for each tag to draw useful conclusions from the data.
Identify the best and worst 20 percent of the hashtags in your initial core set. You should aim to increase your frequency of usage for the best hashtags, while completely eliminating the worst hashtags from your arsenal, as they are a waste of time and energy.
For every hashtag you get rid of, add two new ones. Your goal is to build a large and diverse set of highly effective hashtags that generate the best engagement and follower growth for your brand.
As you learn which hashtags are most effective, your Instagram strategy becomes supercharged. This is the essence of growth hacking on Instagram. It guarantees you the best possible impact on every single post your brand makes.
The Power of Hashtags
Hashtags represent the most affordable path to growth hacking your Instagram account. Unlike paid social advertising, they don’t cost any money. All you have to do is find the time or manpower to research the best hashtags and set them to work.
This strategy isn’t quick, but it gets the job done. Start today so you can get the first few months over with as quickly as possible. As soon as you are able to analyze the data of your hashtags’ past performance, exponential growth will be within reach. Use the power of Instagram hashtags to build a large following for your brand now.
If you have any questions about the strategy outlined in this article, please contact us, and one of our social media managers will be more than happy to answer any questions you might have.
Originally published 04/13/17.