Instagram is my favorite social media – but I find it to be the most challenging social media site, too. With so many people using the platform inauthentically, the ‘like for like; follow for follow’ mindset, and the new algorithm shaking everything up Instagram can be a truly dizzying platform to try and grow.
Despite everything else, I’ve found that one consistent way to reach a new and targeted audience is through hashtagging intentionally.
Now, don’t roll your eyes. I know, I know. We hear all about hashtagging, but (excuse me for saying so) a lot of the advice that is being spread is a little basic.
There are countless posts touting the power of hashtags (right on!) but then they go to recommend a series of broad hashtags that aren’t going to help you grow. Chances are, if you’re using a list of generic hashtags you found on somebody’s blog a few years back, you’re not getting the biggest bang for your buck. I want to talk to you about what hashtags are and why you should use them, how to use them and get the highest return for doing so, and which hashtags you should be using.
Why should you use hashtags?
Even today a lot of people have reservations about hashtags. They think that they look tacky, desperate, or all of the above.
I know when I started using hashtags I was still a baby blogger – the only people who followed me were people I went to school with and none of them used hashtags. I was self-conscious and was afraid of people judging me and thinking I looked desperate for likes.
Hashtags are a powerful tool and they will skyrocket your growth and if anyone judges you for using them, well, they’re silly, too.
Hashtags categorize your content so people can find your pictures even if they don’t follow you. If people have a particular interest (yoga, fashion, cats, etc.) they will go through hashtags in those niches to find content that interests them.
If you don’t use hashtags – the only people who see your posts will be your followers.
That’s fine and great and good if you’re not trying to grow your account and influence, but if you’re trying to be intentional about your growth, hashtags should be a non-negotiable.
How should you use hashtags?
How you should use hashtags is a hot debate. In the caption or in the comments? Should you max out at 30? How popular is too popular?
Well, gather round.
I’ve been researching hashtags for a hot minute, have conducted an experiment or two (or seven or eight), and am confident in my hashtagging methods.
In the caption or the comments?
The comments. Hands down, no question. Remember the insta algorithm update that sent the internet ablaze?
Yeah, me too.
Well, that update shows favor to content that has been engaged with.
This means that it’s in your benefit to engage with your own content in a natural way right away. Now, hashtags are timed to when the picture was posted – not the hashtag comment – so you have to be strategic.
Write the hashtags out in your caption, select, cut, publish, and paste in the comments immediately after posting. Do not wait. Do not pass go. Do not collect twenty dollars until you post your hashtags. It will look something like this.
What I’m lacking in the above picture is an appropriate number of hashtags. I used six generic hashtag limiting my chances of anyone ever seeing this picture.
So how many hashtags should you use?
The maximum number – the solid 30. I advocate for using hashtags relevant to the picture, your account, and your brand, but if you run out of ideas for hashtags and don’t have time to research there is no shame in filling in the last five or six with more generic tags.
But! Be careful: If you use more than 3o hashtags Instagram won’t let you post your comment. A lot of times I only post 28 in case I count wrong that way I have a bit of wiggle room.
Which hashtags should you use?
Here is where so many people go wrong – they use the same hashtags that everyone else is. These are the people using #liveauthentic, #ootd, #thehappynow, #etc. exclusively.
Now, those hashtags are fine and dandy, and I use them a lot when I’m not feeling on top of my creative game. Really, though, you should be focusing on hashtagging relevant and targeted tags instead.
If you copy and past the same exact 30 hashtags for every picture that you post – you’re doing yourself an injustice because you’re reaching the same exact audience every single time rather than branching out.
The answer to the “Which hashtags should you use?” question isn’t cut and dry – there is no perfect combination that will work for every blogger, or even for every blogger in the same niche.
So how do I know which hashtags to use?
Here is where things get exciting! Figuring out which hashtags you should use is actually pretty fun – and you will probably stumble on great accounts while you’re researching.
- Figure out what the main subject of your picture is. Maybe the subject is yoga, or fashion, or cats.
- Enter that hashtag into the search bar.
- Look at the ‘related’ hashtags.
- Click through related hashtags that you think apply and look at those related hashtags.
Searching a general term and then going through the related hashtags will help you find more focused tags that aren’t already taken over by spammers. When you click through to check a hashtag out look at the pictures in the popular post sections – are they all related to the niche? How many likes do they have on average?
You want a mix of popular and new hashtags – use hashtags where the pictures in the popular section have thousands of likes, but also aim for using some where they might only have a hundred or so – this means you might be able to break into the popular section of some of the less popular hashtags and that means more exposure for you.
And good news! For all of you fashion and style bloggers out there – I did the research for you! I rounded up some of the most effective hashtags in the niche and compiled them into one easy cheat sheet so you can pick and choose which works the best for you and your brand!
Plus! I’m working on sheets for other niches, too! So comment your niche and I’ll add it to my list, and keep checking back as I add more sheets!
What is your Instagram hashtag strategy? Will it be changing after reading this post?
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