It's not hard to see how using hashtags on Instagram makes a difference in reaching new customers. Simply make a post without using hashtags on your Instagram business account. Now make another post and use a few hashtags on it. It doesn't matter if it's in the caption or your first comment. It doesn't matter how many or really even how good they are for this experiment, just add a few. Give the two posts a few hours to do their thing on Instagram and then take a look at your insights.
Any post where you have used hashtags should show a line that says From Hashtags under impressions. Whether your post gets one impression from hashtags or 100,000, you are benefiting. Because even if it is only one more impression then that is one extra person that starts to become familiar with your brand.
Maybe that one person will be more inclined to convert via your ad on Facebook, click your blog post on Google, or watch your IGTV. Regardless of the end result, it's more exposure. Even if that single impression doesn't lead to a conversion right then, it's the beginning of a courting process to turn that person into your customer.
So it's simple, hashtags will always get your Instagram posts in front of more potential customers.
Sure, an extra few eyes on your post is nice but think about when you have 25,000 more eyes per post on average due to using hashtags. Consider that number for each post you make. We are talking about millions of times people are being exposed to your brand that you would miss out on if you didn't spend the time adding hashtags to your Instagram posts.
That is the most important reason why you should be using hashtags for business growth. Consider that a bonus since there are still three additional reasons why you should be using hashtags on Instagram. Knowing which hashtags to use, how to find new relevant hashtags, and how many you should use are all for another time and present their own unique challenges. For now, let's focus on some of the fundamental reasons why you should be using hashtags at all and how that can help you post smarter on Instagram.
Reach people that don't already follow you
Until they introduced following hashtags, users on Instagram only had one way to explore content with hashtags. That was to click any hashtag and browse the feed. When you are viewing a hashtag's feed, the first nine posts are consider the top posts and are hand picked by Instagram. Then there is a never ending list of all of the rest of the posts with that hashtag in chronological order with the most recent posts at the top.
Interestingly, most of your current followers won't see your content through the hashtag feeds that you appear on. They will see it pop up on their personalized feed since they have already opted into following you to see your content. That means that people getting exposed to your content via hashtags are generally people that don't currently follow you.
Hashtags are the #1 way to reach new people on Instagram that don't already know about you.
It's easy to understand the importance of hashtags when you start to recognize the profile of people that it brings to your business. Often times this is the exact type of people you want to target for your social media marketing campaigns since they aren't already consumers of your content.
Now that you understand this essential fact about the people that view your content via hashtags, let's discuss one of the many ways to use it to your advantage. Testing new audiences that are outside of your current followers' social profile with hashtags. This is best explained with a made up business example.
Let's say you sell vintage rock and roll t-shirts and use Instagram as one of your social media funnels. Of course you will be using hashtags like #vintagerocktees and maybe even branching into something like #rockandrolldenim. Most of your posts are of skinny jean wearing models and in an urban environment wearing your t-shirts. What if you started to use hashtags like #countryfashion and started to see your content take well with that audience on Instagram. Maybe you use this information to diversify how you promote your product in the market. In this case maybe it's an indicator that you should mix in some content with your t-shirt models wearing a cowboy hat or riding a horse.
Seeing if new audiences could be potential customers of your business is just one way to use hashtags to your advantage when you know that people who see your content via hashtags are likely newcomers to your brand.
Start off with niche hashtags you are confident in and naturally grow to where your viewers gravitate. You can spread into adjacent markets by using hashtags that specifically target them. Be sure to measure their usage over time to see what is working and what isn't . See how it leads to more visits to your profile, clicks on your website and potentially conversions via a whole new audience.
Give your audience additional context
It's often easy to get caught up with increasing your exposure with hashtags but there are other smart ways to wield them. Whenever you view a hashtag on Instagram, it is highlighted as a link for you to click. Therefore they stand out in a bunch of text and draw your eyes to those parts of your caption. In a world of essentially endless content, you need to grab and hold your viewers attention before they move on to the next post.
Strategically using hashtags in the beginning of your caption is an effective way to grab the attention of a quick scrolling Instagram user.
Examples of this are happening all the time, sometimes people don't even realize they're doing it. Here is a random example found by just looking in the top posts section for the hashtag #epicfail. The preview for the video is a rower near a dock, nothing too exciting. Then you look at the first thing in the caption, #epicfail, and as a viewer scrolling through a feed, you just know that you are going to get to see someone get wet. You might read more into the caption to see what happens next. Perhaps you're even more inclined to watch the long video to see if the rower capsizes at the end.
As a writer of a post, you can use hashtags to draw in people by tipping them off with what your post is about with a single hashtag or two. Remember you can utilize hashtags in the caption and your first comment so don't be afraid to use a few in the beginning of the caption to hook viewers in. You can follow up with any other hashtags at the end of the caption or in the comments.
Another way to give your audience additional context via hashtags is quickly communicating the tone or message of the post. It allows you as a content creator to add a hashtag or two to convey sediment and inform the consumers of your content's subject instantly. Let's look at an opportunity to use a hashtag to convey the sediments of a longer caption on a post that was a missed opportunity for this business. This one was found in the top posts for #myfavoritetradition.
This is a pretty long caption and I have to read a decent amount to figure out that she really loves snow globes and is even going to teach us how to make our own to incorporate into our families traditions. As a consumer, if in the first sentence I saw a single hashtag for #myfavoritetradition then I would already be informed about what the gist of the entire post was about. I would be more inclined to read into this long post if I were interested.
Using a select few hashtags to give more context, convey sediment or to hook in viewers is never a waste. You have up to 30 to use for each post you make so there is always room for more. Use these examples of do's and don'ts when you are creating your content and captions for future posts.
Use the Instagram algorithm to your advantage
This is one of the more interesting and hidden secrets to using hashtags that no one ever talks about. Instagram is getting more and more advanced every day and one of the most important problems they have to solve is classifying content. It's important for Instagram to know that someone who looks at muscle cars all day shouldn't typically be shown lipstick products when they are browsing. That is a simplistic example, Instagram is much more advanced than that of course.
The Instagram algorithm uses the caption and deciphers generally what your image or video is about. It knows about your own likes, who you follow and who you engage with. It uses location information and even time of day posted in its calculations. The algorithm is also processing the images and can see any text you may have overlaid or that is just in the image from a sign for example. It is even scanning the images using object recognition so they know the difference when someone posts a picture of a car versus a picture of a truck.
It's mind boggling the amount of data that goes into the Instagram algorithm in an attempt to determine our interests so it shows us the content we want.
While all of this can get complicated quickly, the Instagram algorithm still relies on you as a content creator to tell it what your post is about and what audiences to serve it to. Hashtags are the perfect way to do this and take control of the algorithm. Here is a simple example found looking at the top posts for truck related hashtags.
At the surface of this post, Instagram can see that this is a video about some kind of truck. The Instagram algorithm can at least tell that based on analyzing a few of the video frames and knowing that the history of this user is similarly about posts with cars and trucks. The Chevy logo is also clearly visible in multiple segments of the video. It may be a bit of a stretch but let's say the algorithm is advanced enough to even know it's a Chevy truck.
It's pretty impressive to think that someone doesn't even need to use the caption and Instagram can determine what their post is about.
If I want to help the Instagram algorithm understand my content even deeper then I can utilize hashtags to do so. This person does a good job at that in this case. They don't need to explicitly say "This is a 2017 Chevy Silverado" in the caption. They just add #chevysilverado to the end of the post. They use #singlecablife to indicate that people who like those style of trucks will probably also enjoy this content. The benefit you get from this is that Instagram starts to serve your content to users who are interested in similar topics. The algorithm may decide this is a great post to show someone who frequently looks at #lowridertrucks even though you didn't even use that hashtag in this post.
It only takes a little bit of time to add hashtags to your posts but if you are informed on how they help then you can jump ahead of your competition. Hashtags are easy to understand and use but hard to master. Regardless of your hashtag mastery, there is no excuse to neglect to use them. You are spending precious time creating the best content you can. Don't let that effort go to waste and lose out on the potential reach for all of your Instagram posts.
If you want to get ahead of everyone else when it comes to using hashtags for business growth on Instagram then check out Curate. It's a new way to manage your hashtags and automatically add them to all of your Instagram posts. I used to manually track my hashtags using a Google Spreadsheet. Then I would spend hours gathering their post counts and trying to see what was helping. I've tried what all of the other solutions offer for hashtags and still haven't found the right tool for the job. With Curate, I can intelligently pick hashtags for each post, schedule comments using my hashtags in seconds and actually figure out which hashtags are working. Try it out for free if it sounds like it could help you too.
This isn't a comprehensive list of reasons why you should use hashtags. Of course you can use hashtags to increase the number of people who view your content. You can also use them to take advantage of trends in social media and even create communities with branded hashtags too.
Let's recap our three secret strategies. First start to understand that you are reaching people with hashtags that don't already follow your brand and use that to influence how you choose them. At the same time, don't forget that hashtags can be used to convey sentiment or summarize your long form content easily. Lastly use hashtags to take control of how Instagram is classifying your content and provide the algorithm with extra context.
Comment with your favorite reasons for posting using hashtags on Instagram. Stay tuned for more hashtag insights for Instagram and how to use them to reach new heights.
Good luck! ✌️