So you know hashtags are the gateway to getting fresh eyes on your content. But with so many to choose from and so many new posts published under millions of hashtags a day, where do you start?
Hashtags are important to your online presence because they expand your audience. When you use a hashtag, your post is seen not only by your own followers and audience but also the followers and audience of that hashtag. Using relevant and strategic hashtags is key to finding like-minded users that will enjoy your content and ultimately convert, whether as a new follower, customer, or just a boost in engagement.
But using hashtags is not as simple as slapping a few random words behind a pound sign. There is an actual science that goes into strategic hashtag use. Let’s get into it!
Instagram works on an algorithm. Their algorithm is continuously changing but what we do know is that Instagram now favors users who are consistently posting within a defined niche. When Instagram finds keywords and hashtags on your account that fit under a defined niche, it categorizes you as an expert in that niche and therefor shares your post on the explore page and suggested drop downs of users it deems as interested in those niches (due to their engagement with other pages considered experts in the niche or their exploration of certain hashtags, etc). Haven’t you ever noticed your explore page is customized to what you’ve been recently interested in or what type of posts and people you follow?
Instagram categorizes pages based on keywords used in bios, hashtag use, and by the amount of people engaging with you that are deemed as interested in your target niche. When social media experts say things like, “it’s so important to niche down and stay consistent in a niche!” they mean it, and that’s exactly why. When you’re all over the place with your content and hashtags, Instagram can no longer categorize your account and therefor you’ll find it a lot harder to be shown as a recommended page to your target audience.
But isn’t there more to it than just using niche hashtags?
Yes. Although being consistent is important, so is finding hashtags that you’ll rank well in. For example, some hashtags are constantly being refreshed with new posts because thousands of users are using them per second. However, some are hardly used at all. Your job is to find the sweet spot. How? Well hashtags work on a couple different metrics, average amount of engagement and competition. When you choose hashtags for your post, you want to find hashtags that are used on posts that receive a similar amount of engagement as your posts do but also hashtags with low competition (not an overwhelming amount of people using it but still a good amount of activity so that your post doesn’t get lost or go unseen).
But how do I find hashtags that work in my favor within my niche?
Flick.tech is a hashtag research database I found a few months ago. After playing around with it for a while, I can honestly say I love it! It has been the most helpful and insightful hashtag tool I’ve come across. Within Flick, you can pair your Instagram account and it will automatically find hashtags that work in your favor based on average amount of engagement and the number of posts used under the hashtag. You can also filter the hashtags based on the level of competition, its potential reach, the daily average post count, the number of posts under the tag (of all time), the average amount of comments, and the average amount of likes. It also gives you the opportunity to view hashtags in a web graph, showing which hashtags are similar to one-another by connecting them with a line. This is one of my favorite features because you know that the hashtags you’re choosing are similar, increasing your chance of Instagram filing your account as expert in your niche.
Flick also allows you to create hashtag collections for easy access to the groups of hashtags you’ve already researched and know work well for you. You can even go into past posts on Instagram through Flick and choose a photo that had good engagement to pull hashtags from to save as a collection.
Flick also alerts you when you search a hashtag that has been flagged or banned by Instagram to protect your account from being flagged. I’ve searched hashtags on Flick that I was completely surprised by when they came back as flagged! I’m not exactly sure why or how hashtags get flagged by Instagram, but it’s definitely good to know.
Flick is a newer program so they’re constantly updating their program with new features like the ability to track which hashtags worked well for your posts, etc. I am so excited for what they have planned to roll out in the coming months!
Are you ready to up your hashtag game? Sign up for a Flick account here.
10 Other Instagram Hashtag Tips for Better Engagement
- Think like a consumer, not a blogger. Where does your target audience hang out? Which hashtags do they use? When all you use are hashtags that other bloggers are using, you’re not grabbing the attention of potential consumers/ customers but rather just colleagues.
- Use relevant hashtags. Don’t slap random hashtags to your post just because they have low competition or have a high engagement rate. Use hashtags that describe your content so that they’re filed in a place where people actually looking for content like yours hang out. There’s opportunity for your post to be flagged as irrelevant by others who follow a hashtag and you don’t want that!
- Which brings me to this tip, follow hashtags on Instagram for inspiration! You have the ability to follow accounts AND hashtags on Instagram. Pick a few hashtags you think are relevant to your brand, follow them, and draw inspiration from them. Also, engage with the content in the hashtag… those are your like-minded people!
- Create a branded hashtag. Be sure to have a relevant keyword in your branded hashtag while also being unique to your brand. That way, it will come up when someone searches the keyword, possibly attracting new followers. Keep the branded hashtag in your bio and encourage your followers to use it on their posts for cross promotion. An example of this could be #PoisedWellness (this is not a real tag I use, just an example). It’s branded with the word Poised but still searchable by users who don’t follow Poised Avenue because of the word wellness.
- Choose hashtags your post will likely have a chance to rank on. That means choosing hashtags that are used by others who have a similar engagement rate as you. Flick automatically finds hashtags based on engagement rate for you, making it extremely easy. But if you blindly use hashtags that others with millions of followers and a high engagement rate use, your post will likely get lost. Think of it like using keywords you’d rank well for in a blog post for good SEO. You want to do the same for your Instagram posts, too.
- Always pay attention to your analytics and keep track of the hashtags you rank well in. You can do this through Instagram analytics and insights if you have a business or creator account. Flick is also planning to roll out a feature that keeps track of this info for you soon, too.
- Use hashtags in your stories. Don’t miss the opportunity to get new eyes on your content (that includes stories, too!
- Less may be more. Hubspot found that posts using 5 hashtags (rather than the allotted 30) got the best engagement. Maybe because when using 30 hashtags it’s easy to use irrelevant or “fluffy” hashtags or maybe because when consumers see a lot of hashtags they are turned off to engaging with the post. Whatever it may be, it’s definitely worth testing out yourself!
- Plan your content around hashtags. If you know you rank well in a hashtag, plan relevant content around that hashtag! Or, plan content around a hashtag you know will be popular within your niche. For example, if you’re in the wellness niche and you know National Avocado Day is coming up, plan some content to post using the hashtag that day. This gives you the opportunity to grab the attention of like-minded people who just may become new followers.
- Mix it up. Don’t use the same group of hashtags in every post, over and over again. Not only is it extremely unlikely that every single one of your posts is relevant to the same exact group of hashtags every time but Instagram doesn’t favor it either. Use similar hashtags, but don’t just copy and paste every time you post. Make them unique enough that they stay relevant but similar enough so you’re deemed expert in your niche.
Leave your favorite hashtag tips in the comments and be sure to check out Flick and let me know what you think!