On Instagram, everything starts with a hashtag. If you’re looking to grow your account, gain a solid following and keep your content relevant, you’ll need to be using Instagram’s Number One tool for engagement to its absolute maximum.
HOW TO HASHTAG IN 2020
Since introducing hashtags in 2011, their usage on Instagram has changed dramatically. From indie Insta pages to large-scale brand campaigns, everyone on the platform needs hashtags to reach their audience. No matter who you are, these basic rules, backed up by marketing agents worldwide, are the most effective way to grow a following:
For growing accounts: go all out. Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post, so make the most of them. Start by finding trending hashtags relevant to your content, then broaden into other hashtags to raise engagement. Remember to stay consistent and keep tags relevant to your content. Tip: you can add your hashtags in a comment to keep your caption looking crisp and avoid coming across as ‘spammy’.
For an established account: Use between 10 and 20 hashtags. Once you hit the 50K+ follower mark, regular audience interaction doesn’t rely so much on hashtags. Spamming as many as possible may well turn your audience off. Prioritise uploading quality content and only using highly relevant hashtags to keep your growing your audience.
WORK WITH THE SYSTEM TO BEAT THE SYSTEM
The Instagram algorithm uses image recognition technology to see what users frequently engage with. Whether you’re looking at luxury brands, celebrity accounts or smaller indie artists, the software will bring up more and more similar content in your Explore Page. This is where most users come across new accounts. But the algorithm doesn’t have to work against you as you grow your following – in fact, it works with you.
Like hashtags, the algorithm automatically filters posts via engagement. Posts with more engagement (hearts, comments and shares) will appear more often in the Explore Page. Boost your chances of reaching a bigger audience by using popular tags on your posts and matching your chosen tags with those related to similar content.
BE A SMART TAGGER: DO YOUR RESEARCH
You already know of a few hashtags that will get the audience you want looking at your content, but you’re stuck trying to think of more. No need to panic – tapping the arrow icon next to the blue ‘Follow’ button on a hashtag’s page will bring up a drop-down list of related hashtags, put together according to other tags the users interested in your chosen tag also follow. These are tags that the algorithm already knows your audience also interacts with, so including them in your post will bring more of that same audience to your page. Your research is done for you!
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE TO GROW YOUR AUDIENCE
With about 800 million monthly users, Instagram is a massive platform. Carving out your niche means knowing your audience – what do they want to see, how often do they want to see it? Would your audience appreciate daily posts, or would a gap of two to three days between posting suit better? This largely depends on your content.
Fan pages will usually be able to source material (photos from recent events, footage from events or shows) quickly, as well as aesthetic, inspirational or motivational content pages, e.g. 90s aesthetic images can be picked out online and uploaded to Instagram, fashion inspiration pages can pull and upload magazine campaign images from Google, and work motivation can search quotes and background images, overlaying them easily. These accounts can post daily, or even multiple times a day, without facing any content burnout.
If your content is original, however, you will want to allow yourself the time to come up with quality work, using hashtags to effectively keep your audience engaged and waiting for your next post. Designers, visual artists, comic-strip creators, singers, dancers or comedians will all require a little more time to create their original content from scratch, but there’s no need to sweat – your following will understand the effort that goes into your content, and with the help of relevant, well-chosen hashtags to keep your audience engagement rolling over until your next post, there’ll be no need to worry.
AVOID THE BLACK HOLE: HUGE HASHTAGS CAN SWALLOW SMALL POSTS
Some popular tags are just too big for a small account’s posts to get noticed, so to gain maximum engagement and extra followers, look at the size of a hashtag’s feed before adding it to your post. The number of posts attached to a tag appears in bold right above the ‘Follow’ button, so it’s easy to decide whether to use a tag according to its size.
This doesn’t mean you have to avoid relevant tags, though, as related tags will come up in the main search bar under ‘Tags’, each with the number of posts attached to the tag alongside it. So if you’re making rock music-related content but don’t want your post to get lost in the huge feed of #rollingstones, with 1.6 million posts attached, try posting with a smaller hashtag, like #therollingstones, or #rollingstonesfans. You don’t have to give up on a tag altogether, just choose the right one to optimise your visibility.
THE 3 X 10 RULE
Artists have known for centuries that using the rule of thirds when painting, printing or photographing draws in the eye of the viewer, and as an Instagram content creator, you want to do the same. Optimising your page’s engagement using the Instagram hashtag rule of thirds goes like this:
10 POPULAR HASHTAGS
Even if your post only appears under the ‘Recent’ category for a few minutes, there’s a good chance that users will see it, as hundreds of thousands of users check these popular tags regularly. Using these ten tags covers a broad base and throws your content out where people can see it.
10 COMMON HASHTAGS
These may not be the highest trending tags of the day, but they fall in the middle ground, meaning they still get a fair amount of attention while allowing your post to remain visible longer, rather than get buried under the crush of highly popular tagged posts.
10 ‘NICHE’ HASHTAGS
These should be specific to your audience and will grab their attention. Finding relevant, audience-specific tags can be difficult, but using the drop-down related hashtags list on an already ‘niche’ hashtag can help you come up with a few more related tags that will engage that same dedicated audience.
SWITCH IT UP TO KEEP YOUR CONTENT VISIBLE
Searching through hashtags relevant to your content is a great idea and can be easily done by looking at the hashtags used by content creators similar to you and using the drop-down related tags scroll bar mentioned earlier. But using the same tags with every post will land you in a hole, as Instagram’s algorithm doesn’t prioritise posts from the same account that regularly re-use hashtags.
Make a note of 60-90 hashtags that fall under the three categories above and use these on rotation. Keep an eye on the popular tags, as these can change with trends in culture, and make sure to track engagement with your common and niche tags, too.
Squarelovin and InsTrack are both free apps that use tools to track your Instagram analytics, showing follower growth, audience interaction, times your followers are most active, and comparing your page to your competitors through easy-to-read graphs, charts, and infographics. Other similar paid services are also available, such as Hootsuite and Keyhole.
NOW TAG AWAY!
Creating good quality content tailored to your audience on a frequent basis is key to gaining a reliable following. Using hashtags right, you can boost your Instagram to the next level, grow your following and take your content from invisible to unmissable.
Hope you gained some insights into growing your audience with hashtags, consider following @dainwalker on Instagram, or visiting subscribing for more articles like this one. I will be guest posting on the Victory Front Blog covering Instagram Growth, Business, Web Design and Strategy, and Digital Marketing among other topics. So, keep following Victory Front to learn more.
Web designer and strategist.