Using hashtags on Instagram is so simple right? When you are typing your caption, just enter # and start with a few letters. Instagram will quickly show you a list of relevant hashtags with how many posts each one has. Simply select one that makes sense and you are on your way to social media stardom right? Well not exactly...
You will always see some sort of increased reach from adding hashtags to your posts. Begin to think about what came from that increased reach via hashtags. Did it lead to another sale of your product? Another subscriber to your newsletter? Someone sharing your content? If you are a serious small business using Instagram then 99% of the time it's not about getting a view, follow or like. It's about making a sale or converting people into customers.
Hashtags are simple on the surface, use them to get your post in front of more people. Only advanced Instagram Business users know how to wield them to get business oriented results.
After you understand the potential of hashtags you begin to realize there is a complex method to utilizing them that most people on Instagram get wrong.
You already spend your time taking photos, writing thoughtful captions, scheduling your posts and more for each post. Start to spend some time consciously picking the right hashtags for each post to maximize your true social media goals.
Here are three concepts to keep in mind when selecting the best hashtags for small business owners.
Rethink the categories of hashtags you use
When you start a new venture, you're proud and want to show off your hard work. You use business hashtags like #mycreativebiz to show off how ingenious your brand is. Throw in a #smallbizlife to show that you are just a business owner hustling on Instagram. These small business hashtags might get you some extra views and some likes but are they driving real results?
If you are selling a specific product or service on Instagram then you have to think about the mindset of people that would be viewing the hashtags. Let's say you sell cross training sportswear. No one is actively looking to buy workout gear if they are browsing #smallbusinessowners or #smallbiz on Instagram. Your potential customers would be more likely browsing something like #fitnessgoals or #fitnessinspiration and want to make a new purchase to motivate them to keep working out.
People interested in sportswear might use Instagram to find their next workout by looking at #dailywod or #wednesdayworkout. Let's take this another step further. Potential customers who care about their fitness are often working on their diet. Maybe they are looking at #cleaneatingideas and #mealprepping for their next recipe. You could cater content that is relevant to those in order to catch that whole new demographic of people on Instagram. Don't be lazy and just spam the related niche hashtags. Remember, it is important to always make sure the hashtags you use are relevant to your content.
Don't think that certain categories of hashtags can't be used at all. You get up to 30 hashtags to use and each can serve a different purpose. Let's dive into how the location of your hashtags can be an effective way to mix hashtags in with your content.
Rethink where you put your hashtags
Instagram gives you two options for adding hashtags to your posts. In the caption or in your first comment. Both are viable options and can even be used together as long as you don't exceed 30 hashtags per post.
You will come across "studies" where they look at Instagram posts that use hashtags in the comment and some that use hashtags in the caption. Then they compare their engagement to determine which is better. These studies don't factor in how people actually use Instagram and to me hold no validity. Instagram doesn't care whether hashtags are in the caption vs the comment for appearing on that hashtag's feed. Who would not read or engage with one of your posts because they saw a hashtag or two in the caption? No one is digging into your first comment hashtags and changing their mind about your brand either.
Using 2 or 3 hashtags in your caption to give additional context has its own benefits for attracting scrolling users. Don't be afraid to mix it up and intelligently use a few up front and then hide the rest in your first comment immediately after you make your post. This will keep your content clean and hide the hashtags that you use for reach (instead of context) buried in your comments. After your post gains its first few comments, your hashtags will be hidden under a load more button so most people won't even come across them.
It's not hard to strategically place a hashtag or two naturally in your caption. How to choose the best hashtags for each post is almost a form of art but you can always be smarter by using data. Using the number of posts made using each hashtag is one way to narrow down which are the best business hashtags.
Rethink which hashtags you are using
The number of posts that have been made on Instagram for a particular hashtag tells you how many times it has been used in the past. We can use this number to predict how many times it will be used in the future. This is important because if your post isn't in the top 9 posts for a hashtag then it will be listed chronologically based on when you posted it. If a hashtag is getting used a lot then your content will easily get lost in the flood of posts.
Let's look at a simple example to understand how important this is. A hashtag like #ilovemydog has 35,000,000 posts and a hashtag like #doggielover has around 40,000 posts. They both convey relatively the same thing but have a drastically different post count. For the sake of math let's say that they both were first used at the same time 5 years ago. For #ilovemydog to have 35 million posts today, people would have to use this hashtag on average 13 times every minute. On the contrary, #doggielover would have to average 21 times every day. With a hashtag that has such a high post count, your content would be out of the scrolling range of any normal user in just a few minutes. While with #doggielover you will be near the top of the hashtag feed for at least a day or two.
For #ilovemydog to have 35 million posts, it would need to be used on average 13 times every minute for the past 5 years. On the contrary, #doggielover would only need to be used on average 21 times every day.
It's clear that post count is a key factor in being able to intelligently select your hashtags. Collecting this data to use can be a pain though. Manually writing down each post count or maintaining lists in spreadsheets gets time consuming and messy. Something you always have to keep up with too since the post counts get stale and you are always trying out new hashtags. I created Curate to do all of this for me so I save a lot of time when planning my content.
The post count for each hashtag is certainly not the only thing that is important when selecting your hashtags for business. For example you can track their usage to detect trends and take advantage of what makes social media great. That is for a different discussion, for now understanding the importance of a hashtag's post count will help you select the best hashtags.
Whether you like it or not, hashtags are here to stay. Instagram has doubled down on them recently by allowing you to follow them, showing related hashtags in app and incorporated them into IGTV in a major way.
There are plenty more hashtag tactics to come but use these tactics to frame your mind. Remember, when selecting hashtags choose the ones that will impact your business the most and not affect just your social media account. These tips work on Instagram today but it's an ever evolving platform so things may change in the future. The more you learn, the better you are equipped to pivot and take advantage of the changes in the algorithm. Comment below with any other practices you use to select your best hashtags for small business owners.
Good luck! ✌️