From the birth of Instagram, hashtags have existed along with it. Honestly, they have a bad rep… unless you know how to use them.
Yes, we all know how annoying it is when someone takes a picture of their latte and hashtags: #workinggirl #coffeequeen #ootd #sundayfunday or other words that are otherwise infuriating to scroll through. But guess what? It doesn’t have to be like that.
Hashtags are incredibly important for growing your audience. You can be widely successful with them if you understand how they work. Here are some tips to growing your audience on the gram.
- Start Local. If you’re a small business, an artist, or another form of entrapeneur, throwing around hashtags such as #business, #boutique or #theatreartist are not going to help you. There are thousands to millions of pictures with these hashtags! You can easily narrow down who sees your posts by making it local. For example #Tulsabusiness #BostonBoutique #DetroitTheatreArtist. Each of these hashtags have MUCH smaller posts attached to them, but the people who you want seeing your posts will be able to find you! Otherwise, your posts will get lost with the other people who claim to be an #actor, #businessowner, or #marketingstrategist.
- Be Specific to the Post you Make. If you took a picture of yourself at the beach, would putting the hashtag #catstagram be an ideal choice? I don’t think so. Take this photo below for example! I’m not just on a beach, I’m in Carmel, California, on part of the California State Route 1 drive. That’s so specific, right? Some hashtags I could use here are #carmelcalifornia #californiastateroute1 #californiaroadtrip #carmelbeaches, etc. If I was trying to focus my hashtags on the fashion aspect of this picture, I could include brand names such as #americaneagle #springsweet, etc.
- Don’t Use General Hashtags. If I was at the beach, I wouldn’t use #beach or #sun. Again, where are you? Are you on vacation? Can you hashtag a brand of the swimsuit you’re wearing? The more specific, the better! Millions of people have already used #beach and it takes even more work to be found with general hashtags. In addition, many of the #basic #hashtags have many spam accounts attached to them who copy and paste comments on to your post. As a fashion blogger, I used to get tons of comments asking me to collaborate with brands or asking if I wanted a discount on their products which is the most frustrating thing in the world. Be less general to avoid spam! Since I’ve stopped using those general hashtags, I have received barely any spam comments.
- Search for Hashtags in Your Niche. You can use the Instagram search bar to see how many posts have used a certain hashtag. I highly recommend doing this as you can see if your post will get lost or not. Now, popular hashtags aren’t all bad. But if you mix up your hashtags with ones that have millions of posts to ones that only have a thousand or a couple hundred, it will widen your chances of your post being seen.
- Mix Up Your Hashtags. I had this bad habit of finding some of my favorite hashtags, making a note on my phone, and copy and pasting the same ones to every post… Bad News. If you use the same hashtags for every post you make, Instagram shadow bans you. Shadow banning is when Instagram senses an account is a spam account and hides your posts on the hashtags you’re making. Therefore, all that research you did was for nothing! I suggest making multiple, RELEVANT hashtag groups and switching them up every time you post. This also gives your post the chance to be seen by more people.
- You Don’t Need To Use the Maximum. Instagram allows you to use 30 hashtags per post. You don’t have to use all 30! Again, sometimes using all of them just for the sake of using them is not as helpful as using 10 powerful hashtags for your page. Switch up the amount of hashtags you’re using in protection of being shadow banned.
- Put Hashtags in the Caption. When you post hashtags in the caption, the hashtags will be just as fresh as the post is. Sometimes hashtags aren’t as useful when you post them in the comment section because your post has already been live for as long as it took you to write the hashtags. If you don’t want your hashtags to be as seen on your post, find a way to put them at the bottom and add a symbol so they are separated between your caption and your hashtag section.
I hope this post was helpful for those who are wondering how the heck to use hashtags! I started as the most ANNOYING hashtagger and after doing my research, hashtags have helped be get up to 45% of my audience engagement from a singular post, none of which followed me at the time. If you’re trying to expand your audience, do the work! I can guarantee it has been so helpful to my growth as blogger.