New year, new you, new…Instagram hashtag.
That’s right. Instagram has changed (yet again) the way we interact and post hashtags on their platform – as consumers and brands.
When it comes to #hashtags, the only constant is how utterly powerful they can be for your engagement, brand awareness, and post virality. If you’re new to the hashtag game and are unfamiliar with how to utilize them on Instagram, we wrote up an excellent Instagram hashtag guide for you.
So, hashtags are great. (Duh.) You should use them. (Of course.) But, like, how? Like the Instagram algorithm changes, how can you keep up with the ever-changing hashtag rules?
Read on, my friends.
Best Practices for Using and Finding New Instagram Hashtags
Before we discuss the new stuff, let’s refresh our knowledge of Instagram hashtags.
You may think that once you determine the best hashtags for your brand, they’ll be effective forever. Sadly, that’s not true.
The Instagram hashtag discovery process is never-ending. One day, your hashtag blend might help you connect with new users and consumers. But because of Instagram’s continuous activity and millions of posts, that hashtag blend might not “work” the next day. From algorithms to audience activity, nothing on social media is set in stone.
That’s why you need to stay up-to-date on Instagram hashtag trends, rules, and best practices. In fact, I’d say you should refresh your hashtag blends every month or so.
What are best (and worst) hashtags for your brand?
There are lots of different Instagram hashtags that brands use. They differ based on purpose, content type, engagement goals, and industry.
Industry-related hashtags reference the type of business you have or work that you do. These could describe your company, brand, or the specific image you’re posting. For example, if I ran a smoothie shop, I might use #smoothies, #fruit, #smoothieshop, or #snack. (Note: This type of Instagram hashtag is most likely to be overused, due to its general nature. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it, but use it sparingly.)
Community hashtags dive a bit deeper into your business and describe your niche, audience, target market, and location. These hashtags aren’t as popular as your industry tags, but they tap into a more segmented user base – making them just as valuable (if not more so) for engagement. Community hashtags also tend to look more natural, to both your audience and Instagram. For example, if my smoothie shop specialized in vegan, organic smoothies, I might use #vegansmoothies, #healthysmoothies, #healthysnack, or #kentuckysmoothies.
Branded hashtags are tags that are unique to your business and brand. Branded hashtags help with engagement and make it easier to collect and showcase user-generated content. For example, if my smoothie shop’s name was Allie’s Smoothies, I could use #AlliesSmoothies, #SmoothiesbyAllie, or something like that. Bonus: Put your branded Instagram hashtag in your Instagram bio to associate it with your account and encourage users to post it.
Regardless of what types of hashtags you choose to post, you should always avoid the overused, spammy hashtags. Examples of these are #likeforlike, #followback, or #instafollow. Not only will these be unhelpful for your content (since everyone is using them), but they’ll also potentially alert Instagram to bots and automatic postings – even if you’re not actually using them.
How many hashtags should you post, and where?
Using even one Instagram hashtag can boost engagement and brand awareness. So, your goal with every post should be to include at least one.
Better yet, studies show that the more hashtags you use, the more engagement and interactions you can expect from your posts. Because of this, I’d encourage you to use the maximum number of hashtags allowed: 30.
(At this point, you might be wondering how the heck you’re supposed to come up with 30 hashtags. Don’t worry – we discuss this more below.)
If you choose to use all 30 allowed hashtags for your post, do your audience a favor and don’t post them in the caption. The best Instagram captions to be relevant, witty, and readable, and that’s not always possible when a caption is stuffed with hashtags and pound signs (#).
Consider using only your two to three most relevant hashtags in the caption and placing the rest in the first comment of your post.
Where can you discover new hashtags?
Like I said above, it’s best for your brand’s relevance and engagement to continuously research and test out new hashtags. Instagram sees over 500 million daily active users, so the Instagram hashtag landscape is always changing. What works today might not work tomorrow.
Thankfully, hashtag research is pretty easy once you know what you’re looking for. If you’ve yet to create a hashtag blend for your brand, start by looking at the content posted by competitors and industry influencers. These parties are likely posting the most relevant content to your brand.
Next, check out the web tool For Display Purposes Only. This tool introduces you to new hashtags relevant to your industry, niche, audience, and more. All you have to do is enter a base hashtag, and Display Purposes will list up to 30 connected tags. The tool also has a map that helps you discover popular hashtags based on location, as well as a graph that illustrates how closely specific tags are connected.
Lastly, another way to discover new hashtags for your brand is to conduct research via Instagram’s Follow Hashtags feature.
Introducing: Follow Hashtags on Instagram
In late 2017, Instagram introduced the ability to follow hashtags. If you’ve yet to utilize this, hop on Instagram, go to the Search page, and tap the Tags tab at the top. Type in and choose a tag, and Instagram will show you a dedicated page for that hashtag.
In the example above, #smoothie has its own story, Most Popular and Recent Posts, related tag list, and Follow button.
Similar to following Instagram users, following hashtags means that you’ll see tagged posts on your timeline and in your Instagram Stories. As an Instagram user, this feature allows you to stay updated on certain tagged content; as a brand, this feature introduces you to new content and content ideas surrounding a hashtag, enables you to keep an eye on your competition, and alerts you of new potential partners and influencers in your industry.
Through the Follow Hashtags feature, Instagram has also made it easier than ever to discover new, relevant hashtags.
Let’s return to the example above. When I go to the #smoothie page, I see a list of relevant hashtags – perhaps some that I’d never think of through my research or by accessing Display Purposes.
By clicking on these new hashtags, I can discover and research their pages and their relevant tags. (Basically, if I’m not careful, I can easily enter a black hole of hashtag research – that’s how well-connected this feature is.)
Similar with the Display Purposes tool, brands should utilize Instagram’s Follow Hashtags feature and hashtag pages for discovering and staying up-to-date on new hashtags. Consider placing a “Refresh hashtags” reminder on your phone for every two to four weeks. Your followers and posts will thank you!
Introducing: Hashtags in Instagram Stories
If you didn’t know, you can add up to 10 hashtags to your Instagram Stories. This feature is great for accessing and engaging new audiences on Instagram.
Also, (like I mentioned above) hashtags (and tagged locations) now have their own pages and dedicated Stories. Not many Instagram users have tapped into this feature, but it still offers a fresh collection of information surrounding a particular tag – whether around an event, holiday, or brand.
You can add hashtags to your story in a couple of different ways. One way is by adding the hashtag sticker to your image or video. The other way is by adding a hashtag (or multiple) via text. Both methods offer hashtag recommendations, which could give you more ideas when posting Stories. (Thanks, Instagram!)
Regardless, the limit for hashtags on Instagram Stories is 10. But, ten hashtags can bog down an otherwise entertaining or educational Story, so consider hiding a few of the less critical hashtags behind a sticker. This method is reminiscent of hiding hashtags in the first comment of an Instagram post – it allows the focus to be on the content and not the tags.
Tracking Hashtag Effectiveness on Instagram Insights
Measuring the effectiveness of and engagement from your Instagram content is a crucial part of marketing on Instagram. You’ve got to make sure that your posting activity is doing what it’s supposed to, right?
Thankfully, Instagram Insights can help with that. (That is, if you have an Instagram Business Profile.)
On your Insights page, you can see the impressions and engagement for each post and get an idea of how effective your content is in reaching a new audience – including through hashtags. To access this data, open an individual Instagram post from your account. Click the blue View Insights button above the caption. A bar should pop up along the bottom with a preview of your Insights data. Swipe up to view the entire analysis.
Under the Discovery section, you’ll see how many accounts saw that post that don’t follow you. Below that, you’ll see a breakdown of the post impressions, including the number of impressions were due to the hashtags you used.
This number can tell you how effective your hashtag strategy is in reaching and engaging a new audience. As you discover and utilize new tags in your posts and Stories, keep an eye on this number to see if your hashtags are working!
Along with Instagram Insights, there are plenty of other Instagram analytics tools and apps available. Instagram Insights is a good place to start, though, as it’s right there on your phone or iPad.
Over to You
Hashtags are one of the most important components of social media, especially Instagram. More importantly, hashtags are never (ever) static. Part of having a solid Instagram hashtag strategy is regularly refreshing your hashtag blend, whether through researching on Instagram, Display Purposes, or another tool.
Another component of a successful hashtag strategy is staying updated with new tools and features on Instagram. The ability to follow hashtags as well as place tags in Instagram Stories can help your brand discover and connect with a new audience – and potentially, new customers or clients.
Don’t discount the power of hashtags in building brand awareness, driving engagement, and making sales.