Hashtags aren’t just a cute way to express yourself on social platforms.
They’re micro-messages; a way to communicate who you are and what your photo is about.
And, probably most importantly to social media marketers, a hashtag is like a little beacon that allows new people to find you and your content among the 60 million photos that are uploaded to Instagram each day.
So using the right ones can be critical to the success of your Instagram strategy.
But how can you choose the right Instagram hashtags for your business? How do you convey the right message without diluting it? How do you attract the right kind of people to your account – potential customers, ultimately – without becoming a magnet for spam?
But before I talk about how to find the right Instagram hashtags, there are a few things you need to know.
Hashtags aren’t hand grenades.
You can’t just drop them, run, and expect explosive results.
Instagram is a community, and it needs to be treated as such. Hashtags won’t ‘get you found’ if you’re not engaging in the community – and I mean really, truly engaging. The people who succeed on Instagram are usually those who put time and effort into finding a niche and becoming an active and valuable member of the community.
Even the most perfect combination of hashtags won’t do much if you’re not willing to put in the work.Hashtags aren't hand grenades. You can't just drop them, run, and expect explosive results. Click To Tweet
Be specific. But also be general.
To really make the most out of hashtags, the best strategy is to use a combination of more popular and lesser-known hashtags. Avoid using the huge ones, like #travel (146 million posts), #instagood (526 million posts), #photooftheday (378 million posts) or #fashion (331 million posts).
They’ll just get lost in the noise.
But by the same token, you don’t only want to use super-niche tags like #aquietstyle_cosy (120 posts) or #botanticaldreamers (663 posts) that won’t be seen by many users.
Aim for a combination of medium-sized tags (around 100,000 posts) and niche tags (10,000 posts or less) to hit the sweet spot between reach and relevance.
Don’t be scared to use all of the hashtags.
You have 30 at your disposal, so don’t waste the opportunity of using them all. However, I’ll caveat that with two points.
Firstly, don’t include all the hashtags in your caption. It just looks ugly and spammy. Instead, include one or two key hashtags in the caption and add the rest in a comment immediately afterwards.
Secondly, don’t feel like you have to use all 30. Use as many as you can if they’re useful and relevant, but don’t throw extras in for the sake of it. Make them count.
OK, so let’s get down to it.
How to find the right Instagram Hashtags
Start with the obvious hashtags, and get a little bit deeper.
Say you’re a surf lifestyle brand posting about a new collection. You could start by searching for #surf. Check out the suggestions that Instagram offers at the top of the screen for related hashtags (note: this option isn’t always available).
Tap on one that seems relevant, then check out the top posts for that hashtag and see what other hashtags those users have included.
It’s a bit of a rabbit-hole, but it’s a great way to discover some new Instagram hashtags to use. Spend a bit of time getting to know new hashtags and discovering the ones that suit your photos and your brand the best. It’s worth the search.
Stay in a niche
Don’t get so distracted by all of the different hashtags out there that you try to use them all.
By sticking to a niche, you’ll naturally discover new and interesting hashtags within that niche, as you notice what the trend-setters within that community are posting.
And once you’re part of an Instagram community – and I mean really part of it – you can reuse many of the same hashtags (but don’t get lazy!) because people within that community will come to know you and expect you to be posting images to the tags they discovered you with.
Learn from the pros
You don’t have to do all of the grunt work alone.
There are plenty of pros who can help you get a head start on finding the right Instagram hashtags for your business. I follow @me_and_orla and @hungrydigitalmedia for loads of niche hashtag suggestions – but there are experts like these ladies in every niche.
Sign up to their newsletters, take their advice, and get the inside scoop on new hashtags that could work for you.
There are influencers in every niche.
Find them. Follow them. Study them.
See what they’re posting and how often. Check out their hashtags, and if there are any that look relevant to your business, give them a try. They won’t always work for you just because they worked for someone else (and sometimes, if a user is big enough, it doesn’t matter what hashtags they’re using – their posts will always succeed), but you might find some hashtag gold in there, too.
You won’t just find the best Instagram hashtags on Instagram.
Get offline and meet other Instagrammers. Some of the best Insta tips I’ve ever been given have been from fellow users I’ve met at events like Instameets. Find local community Instagram hangouts and get out there.
You might just have some fun while you’re at it!