Instagram is one of the few social media platforms that marketers adore. Its audience of over 1 billion users guarantees advertisers a massive reach. The platform provides marketers several ways to reach or communicate with this audience. One of which is through the use of hashtags.
Hashtags, when added to an Instagram post or content, have shown they can generate more engagement. Studies show that when hashtags are added to a post, it results in a 392% increase in comment compared to posts without hashtags.
Other than improved interactions, hashtags can easily expose your business to a new audience, organize your content in a better way, and position you as an authority in your niche.
What’s tough is knowing how to use them. Let’s see how you can use hashtags to boost your reach on Instagram.
1. Choose the right hashtag for your brand
When you publish a post or upload a photo on Instagram, you most probably use free hashtag suggestion tools to generate hashtags. However, most of the suggestions provided by these tools are not strategic. Sometimes, they produce random hashtags that almost everyone uses, and using them will make your brand look like any other.
The best way is to research and choose a hashtag yourself. Now, there are several ways to accomplish this. First, you can check out what the competition is doing. While doing so, don’t imitate the competitor, but look for clues that will help you discover new hashtags or alternative hashtags to use.
For example, if Fabletics is your competitor, you can explore their page and determine the hashtags that they follow and use. From there, you can create your own hashtags.
Alternatively, see what hashtags your audience, the influencers in your industry, or thought leaders are using. You can use the Instagram search tool to find hashtags used by top followers that you can incorporate into your content.
You may also create branded hashtags. Branded hashtags are created or generated by yourself to promote your brand or a campaign you are running. They may have your company name, tagline, or campaign. For example, Nike, for a long time, has used the hashtag #nikeshoes to promote itself.
Once you have done that, promote it by being the first to follow it on Instagram and other social media platforms. Add them in your bio, links, or make them part of your CTA.
2. Add hashtags to Instagram stories
The fact that Instagram stories disappear in 24 hours does not mean you shouldn’t add hashtags to them. On the contrary, it is worth the effort because hashtags in stories show up on search results. Hence, a great way to get more interested followers.
To add hashtags to stories, write your hashtags the same way you would do on a video or photo. Alternatively, click on the sticker icon and add the hashtag you want to use.
3. Use niche and custom hashtags
There are many varieties of hashtags you can use on Instagram. These include branded or product hashtags, campaign hashtags, community and industry hashtags, location hashtags, themed hashtags, trendy hashtags, and daily hashtags. Even so, you are better off using niche or custom hashtags to target your audience appropriately.
Niche hashtags are super-targeted to your core business. They target things your audience is searching for or probably wants to buy.
In the example below, Pepsi has used the niche hashtags #pepsiginger to target a specific audience, most probably those interested in Pepsi Ginger.
Using niche hashtags results in a spike in your content activity as it makes your posts appear on top of the search result for that hashtag.
On the other hand, custom hashtags relate to an event or person in the company. For example, Fabletics below has used several custom hashtags to promote the giveaway campaign. This results in improved brand visibility.
4. Avoid irrelevant, banned, or spammy hashtags
As much as you may want to use as many hashtags as possible to help with brand exposure, exercise caution when selecting a hashtag. Before using a hashtag, fast check if it is banned or associated with inappropriate content.
Instagram is unforgiving of marketers using banned hashtags or those associated with inappropriate content. The algorithm makes content associated with such hashtags less effective or counterproductive. Using them will automatically result in a drop in engagement.
Examples of hashtags to avoid include #follow4follow, #hardworkpaysoff, #pushups, and many more. Such hashtags also attract bots and spammers or users who may not be interested in engaging with your brand appropriately. As a result, it will affect your overall content performance and even tarnish the reputation of your brand.
Apart from that, avoid irrelevant or repetitive hashtags. This includes copying and pasting hashtags from one post to another. Instagram community guidelines do not recommend the copying and pasting of hashtags. Doing so will make your post hard to find. It will also blind you from seeing or using other potential hashtags.
Lastly, use hashtags that relate to the post and not something different. For example, if you are sharing content to do with camping, using hashtags like #campfire or #outdoorlife and not something universal like #travel to ensure your post gets seen by the right people and not just many people. With this, you will attract more followers and higher user engagement.
5. Include branded hashtags in your profile
Your bio is the first place that people go to learn more about you. It is a great place to promote your hashtags, especially with the recent Instagram bio update.
Bios have become more functional in that when you add hashtags to them; they become live links. Your followers can click on these links and be directed to another profile or hashtag page. The result is more engagement on your page.
6. Use hashtags in comments
There is a myth that hashtags in comments don’t work. Adding hashtags in comments can give your post more views and impressions.
The best way to achieve this is to add hashtags to the first comment. You can post your images or videos as usual but without hashtags. Then, move to the comment section and add your hashtags. After which, click post. Here is an example of how hashtags in comments will look like.
7. Encourage your audience to use brand hashtags
Instagram offers its users the ability to follow and use other people’s hashtags. This helps them stay up-to-date on topics and content that interests them.
As a business, don’t merely encourage your audience to follow your brand hashtags, but to use them as well in their posts, videos, and comments. You can achieve this by creating hashtags that encourage interactions, offering a reward for using them, positioning them where they can easily be seen, or running hashtag-focused contests.
Encouraging your followers to follow and even use your unique brand hashtags will increase the likelihood of your content appearing on your follower’s feeds constantly. The more your content appears in your follower’s feeds, the more it increases the chances of your audience engaging with your brand.
There is no doubt Instagram hashtags have many benefits: they help boost engagement, grow your audience, and even reach potential customers. However, hashtags need to be used with caution.
Besides, you must know what hashtags to use to realize these benefits. By adding the above steps to your Instagram marketing strategy, you should take full advantage of Instagram hashtags to boost your reach.—
Adela Belin is a content marketer and blogger at Writers Per Hour. She is passionate about sharing stories with the hope to make a difference in people’s lives and contribute to their personal and professional growth. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.