It’s still possible to grow your Instagram account organically in 2021 but not the same way you’ve been doing it.
Instagram has gone beyond just a friendly photo-sharing app and has become one of the most popular social media platforms for brands to reach their target audience.
The inception of hashtags on Instagram created a level playing field for everyone to promote their content to over a billion users.
With hashtags, you can tell Instagram what your content is all about, which further helps in getting your content in front of the right people.
Then as marketers, Influencers, and businesses discovered the power of hashtags to promote their content, new strategies and techniques began to develop.
If you see one of your posts has explosive reach due to hashtags, do you know why? Even better, do you know how to continue to replicate that success with your future posts?
The reason why your content has such a high number of impressions from hashtags in 2021 is that you reached the Top Posts for one or more hashtags.
You should always be seeking to reach the Top Posts of specific hashtags that are in your niche for every single post you make.
This is one of the keys to organic Instagram growth. 🔑
Building an engaging audience on Instagram doesn’t need to cost a dime. It takes consistency and patience. When you have an audience that genuinely connects with your brand, they are much more likely to convert.
Let’s deep dive into why this strategy works so well and how you can get into the Top Posts no matter the size of your Instagram account.
What are the Top Posts on Instagram?
Instagram looks at every post for each hashtag and determines which content is better than the rest. Then they show these Top Posts to users when they first view a hashtag.
We don’t know how the Instagram algorithm decides the Top Posts in 2021, nor will we ever get the actual details behind it. We do know that it’s a mixture of engagement, recency of the post, your following, and countless other metrics.
Just remember, you have the chance of reaching the Top Posts feed for each hashtag you use if Instagram thinks your content is better than the rest.
Why reaching the Top Posts matters so much?
Instagram is quite an interactive platform, with most of its users being active and well engaged.
In fact, 81% of people use Instagram to research products and services. 🤯
Hashtags are heavily utilized in this research to help people find the things they care about.
If you’re looking to specialize in organic Instagram growth, getting to the Top Posts section of hashtags should be your primary focus.
When you reach the Top Posts for hashtags in your target audience, it snowballs into getting you on the Explore page. Your content can even show up in people’s feeds who don’t even follow you but follow a hashtag you ranked for.
What about the Recent Posts section?
Having your content gain significant views in the Recent Posts section of a hashtag page is pretty rare.
A small fraction of users actually click over to the Recent Posts section and then scroll through hundreds or even thousands of posts just to find yours.
There are specific hashtags where a slightly higher number of users actually click the Recent Posts, but they mostly center around events and things happening in real-time.
Don’t count on Recent Posts traffic being a core part of your organic growth strategy.
It gets even harder on the mobile app as you have to make an extra effort to even see the Recent Posts — while on the web, you just keep scrolling.
The trick is if you don’t reach the Top Posts for the hashtags you’re targeting, then you can’t expect too much extra exposure.
Why are hashtags not increasing my reach?
Many people don’t understand how hashtags can be effective in growing your Instagram account. Even fewer people take the time to perform consistent and in-depth hashtag research.
A general rule of thumb for organic Instagram growth is avoiding hashtags with high post volume.
If a hashtag is getting used a lot, then chances are high that your post will easily get lost in the flood of other posts.
Remember, if your post isn’t in the Top Posts then it will be listed chronologically based on when you posted it.
If a lot of people are already using a hashtag and then you do as well, your content will only show in the Recent Posts for seconds.
With so few people looking at the Recent Posts and so many people using a hashtag, often no one will actually see your content.
Without proper hashtag research, you’re just hoping by chance that you will make Top Posts.
Why do the first 9 Top Posts matter most?
There’s an infinite number of Top Posts on the app while on the website there are only 9 Top Posts.
If you reach the Top Posts for a hashtag, your content will be there longer in the app compared to the website.
Similar to how being on the first page of results after a Google search will get your website significantly more traffic. Being in the first Top Posts for a hashtag will cause your impressions to skyrocket since everyone who goes to that hashtag will see it.
How can I get insight into the algorithm?
Growing with hashtags boils down to increasing the number of people who see your content.
If you look at the Top Posts section of a hashtag you think you want to use, you can clearly tell what type of content the algorithm favors and ranks highly.
Now take a look at the content you want to post with that hashtag. Does it look similar? Would your content fit right in with the other Top Posts?
Be careful with trying out hashtags that seem like they would be good for you to use but don’t have a similar visual style or theme as you in the Top Posts.
Regardless if it’s your niche or not, chances are Instagram probably won’t select your content because its algorithm thinks the other content is what’s relevant.
How can I tell the competition of a hashtag?
Dig into the Instagram accounts that reach the Top Posts for hashtags you care about.
How many followers do they have? Do they use all the features of Instagram? What is the average number of likes and comments they receive? How often are they posting? Do you have the same target audience?
It’s not a perfect science but using what we have available, you can understand if your Instagram account can stand toe to toe with the people already in the Top Posts.
Place multiple bets on each post you make by using hashtags that you know will hit the Top Posts mixed with hashtags where it’s more of a stretch.
How do I know when I made the Top Posts?
From new accounts with 100 followers to massive Influencers, any public account is eligible to appear in the Top Posts.
It’s a black box on how Instagram determines what goes in the Top Posts for each hashtag. They also don’t tell you which hashtags you reached the Top Posts for when you do.
Doing this manually is really time-consuming, and you will likely miss catching it every time for every hashtag.
Fortunately, organic Instagram growth is getting easier in 2021 with tools like Curate. It can monitor your hashtags for you and tell you if you have reached the Top Posts for the ones you’re targeting.
How long do I stay in the Top Posts?
Getting to the Top Posts is great, but how long does it last? Well, it all depends on the hashtag.
Ultimately, the key is using niche hashtags to skyrocket your Instagram growth. 🚀
A hashtag with a really high level of competition could display your content in the Top Posts for an hour or two if you’re lucky.
On the flip side, I’ve seen solid, low competition hashtags have content in their Top Posts for over a week. 👀
If you see hashtags with Top Posts from years ago, that’s usually a sign of a dead hashtag that won’t give you that explosive level of impressions.
What are more strategies for reaching the Top Posts?
Taking time to measure and track the essential metrics when doing your hashtag research can pay dividends.
For instance, take a hashtag that has 2,000 likes on average for the Top Posts.
If you’re using that same hashtag and your content gets 50 likes on a good day, then chances are slim to reach the Top Posts for that same hashtag.
That’s not to say it’s impossible, but it’s a good measure to understand how popular the content Instagram is choosing to display.
When you find a hashtag you want to use then look at the number of likes or comments on average for the Top Posts. If your content typically gets much more engagement then your confidence can be higher that you will also rank in the Top Posts.
When you find a hashtag you want to use, look at the number of likes or comments on average for the Top Posts. If your content typically gets much more engagement, your confidence can be higher that you will also rank in the Top Posts.
Which hashtags do I choose to maximize my reach?
Finding the perfect hashtags using data allows you to consistently reach the Top Posts and grow organically using hashtags.
One strategy is to bucket your hashtags into three groups defined by the confidence in your ability to reach the Top Posts.
The first group of hashtags should be really niche, have a low volume of posts, and have an average engagement lower than your own. The next group should be more competitive, have more people using the hashtag, and have an average engagement rate around the same or even a little higher than yours. Lastly, you should have a group of hashtags that are more of a long shot with higher competition and a lot of traffic.
Sometimes you hear this strategy called the Ladder Method. 🧐
Your first group should consistently get you hashtag impressions since you will rank in the Top Posts for those even if your post doesn’t take off.
The next group of hashtags will get you great results if you can manage to hit the Top Posts for any of them. You should expect to at least rank on a few hashtag pages if your post is above average.
If you manage to land in the Top Posts for any of the hashtags in the last group then you will have a huge spike in your reach.
If you start to nail down this hashtag strategy, then the sky is the limit with the amount of organic growth you can obtain.
How many hashtags should I use on each post?
My take is that you should use 30 hashtags on every one of your Instagram posts if you’re trying to grow your account and don’t already have a massive following.
Why? You may ask. 🤔
There are actually quite a few reasons why you should be using 30 hashtags on your posts.
A relevant one is that using less than 30 hashtags limits your possible exposure of reaching the Top Posts in 30 different hashtag feeds.
Remember, you can even land on the Home feed of someone who doesn’t follow you because they follow a hashtag you used and ranked for.
To maximize your reach on each post, utilize the full benefit of hashtags that Instagram allows for and use 30.
Without proper hashtag research, you’re just crossing your fingers that you will make the Top Posts but, likely, no one will ever see it. 😭
Getting your content into the Top Posts section for as many hashtags as possible can really make or break your post.
If you manage to reach the Top Posts section of the perfect hashtags for your target audience, then sit back and watch your impressions rise. 📈
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Good luck reaching the Top Posts!