If you aren't using hashtags on Instagram then stop here, read this and be prepared to see amazing organic growth on your content. When it comes to using hashtags vs not using hashtags, there is no argument. Hashtags on Instagram will always get more eyes on your content. For those of us who have been using hashtags on Instagram already, we know that using them and using them to their full potential are two different things. Maybe you are getting into tracking the post count of each hashtags as well as the number of likes for the best content. You might even be using a "hashtag ladder" strategy to boost yourself into the Top Posts for certain hashtags.
Let's take it to the next level. If we dive into a little bit of psychology and study how people use hashtags as a user of Instagram we can precisely pick hashtags to yield the specific results we desire. For now we will focus on the hashtags for comments. The hashtags that we use don't only put our content in certain feeds but they can provoke action from the viewers. Better yet, the people browsing certain hashtags on Instagram are already prewired to be more inclined to make a comment.
So let's get to it. Here is the who, when, where, why and how of using the best hashtags to generate more comments on your posts and boost your content to the top. 🚀
Why: Comments are favored by the algorithm
Likes are the standard Instagram currency to show appreciation towards someone's content. All it takes is a single tap and not only does the content creator know that you like their post but it lets Instagram know too. This helps Instagram know which other posts to show you but it also informs their algorithm of other people to show that creator's content to. In an over simplified example, would Instagram want to show more of its users a post with 5,000 likes or 3 likes? The post with 5,000 likes is most likely better quality and users would enjoy it more so Instagram is more inclined to show that one.
Of course the Instagram algorithm isn't that simple. It is considering many different data points besides just the number of likes when determining which content to serve. The number of followers to engagement ratio, the speed at which likes/comments/shares occurred on the post, the engagement history of the people who liked or commented are just to name a few. Without deep diving into the Instagram algorithm much further, we just need to understand that comments are much more heavily favored than likes.
It is fast and easy to like something on Instagram. Spending time to read previous comments and type a thoughtful message isn't as quick. Comments happen orders of magnitude less than likes so Instagram favors them in the same way. That is why choosing hashtags to garner more comments on your posts is an important addition to your hashtag strategy.
How: Invoke engagement, clear CTA and use data
This is the most important part of the equation. Without picking the correct hashtags that entice the user to comment on your content the rest of the strategy falls short. There are certain hashtags that will naturally invoke engagement. These hashtags typically begin with certain keywords that tell the viewer that you want their feedback. Let's look at some examples.
You can see a common theme with these examples. They have an actionable prefix/suffix and all provoke action from the viewer. Don't limit yourself to just those "prefix" type of hashtags either. There are plenty that are unique that still entice users such as more generic hashtags like #captionthis or #winaprize but also niche specific ones like #shareyourstyle or #grademykicks. The hashtags shouldn't seem like spam and should effortlessly fit into the theme of the caption on your post. Make sure that same caption has a clear call-to-action (CTA) using the hashtag to let the viewer know you want to hear from them.
Don't pick a hashtag that hasn't been used more than 5,000 times and ideally it's closer to 100,000 posts using it. You want to use the hashtag to indicate you want people to comment but you also want this hashtag to bring your content in front of new people. A hashtag that is barely used means that few people will stumble across it and view the hashtag page to ultimately see and comment on your content.
You will also want to also double check that posts that are using the hashtag are actually invoking more comments than normal. What "more comments" means is different for everyone. It depends on your niche, account size and many more factors. Once you get into measuring this you should be able to quickly determine which hashtags have a larger number of comments than usual. Look at the number of comments on the Top Posts for that hashtag but also posts that are at least 6 hours old and see how they did.
This part of the strategy can be really tedious. Browsing Instagram to find new hashtags to use, writing down the post count for each, seeing if people comment on that hashtag to make it worth while are all time consuming tasks. Fortunately there are tools like Curate that can save you a lot of time with the whole process. It will automatically retrieve the latest statistics for any hashtag, show you hashtags related to it and even comment your hashtags on each post for you. Regardless of how you select the right hashtags to use, always keep in mind that using data will help you know how to select the best hashtags for more comments.
When: Right time with posts that generate buzz
Not all content will bring in a flood of comments. You will have specific posts that you can tell will warrant a discussion or will cause a bit of controversy. These are the perfect candidates for a hashtag strategy like this. This shouldn't be used on all or even a majority of your posts. If this tactic is overused your brand will begin to seem less authentic and more like clickbait.
This isn't to say that you should only be concerned about getting comments on the posts that you use this strategy on. Comments are very important for every post you make but there are other strategies like running a contest or asking option A vs option B type questions. Sometimes using a hashtag for those purposes doesn't make as much sense but that doesn't mean that it's any less valuable to try.
The timing of your posts using this method is very important too. Remember that Instagram favors quick engagement relative to when the post is made. A comment that was made 5 minutes after the post was created is much more valuable than a comment made 3 days later on that same post. With that in mind, your audience needs to be online so they can comment quick and propel your content in the Instagram algorithm. Keep in mind when you use this approach for your overall brand strategy and when you are actually making each post.
Where: Use hashtags naturally in the caption
Hashtags can be used in the comment or in the caption of a post and have the same effect when it comes to showing up on the respective hashtag feeds. When using hashtags for comments we will typically want to use the hashtag in the caption as a call-to-action. You want to interweave the hashtag naturally in the caption while at the same time having it stand out to capture the viewer's attention.
The placement of the hashtag in the caption matter as well. You typically want to separate the call-to-action from the body of the caption with new lines. You can also include an emoji near the hashtag to make it visually stand out even more. This works especially well with longer posts where you can direct the viewer's eyes to the important parts.
The call-to-action doesn't always have to be the full hashtag either. Certain hashtags are the whole CTA in one such as #tellusyourstory but sometimes you need to place it into a sentence and it can have the same effect. A typical example here are hashtags like #firstjob or #firstcar. By themselves these hashtags don't really provoke the user to engage but if your caption had something along the lines of "What is your favorite memory of your #firstjob?". This causes viewers to reminisce and possibly comment their answer on your post. Better still, anyone who is browsing the #firstjob hashtag already has it on their mind and is thinking of their memories. It's important to see that where you use the hashtag can be as important as selecting the right one.
Who: Every niche has hashtags for comments
Using hashtags for generating more engagement isn't a strategy for only a select group of users. Everyone can find specific hashtags in their niche that fit the bill and also use generic ones. You will find that just keeping these strategies on your mind will make you better at finding the perfect hashtags for your audience.
This isn't a magic method and you won't see every post rocket to the top everytime. When it does work, you will definitely know. That post will quickly generate buzz with your followers, take off in a certain niche, begin to reach the Top Posts for various hashtags and further boost your brand. Even if it only pays off one out of ten attempts the benefit from having those viral posts goes a long way. See what your specific audience responds to best and continue to tweak your approach.
Good luck! ✌️