So if you are on the gram you have spent some time thinking about hashtags. Even more so if you are feeling challenged with growing and maintaining an engaged following. A lot of my clients or people I speak to ask me about hashtag strategy, it is actually one of the first things they say after we start talking about Instagram.
There seems to be this big hoopla about hashtags being the being all and end all when it comes to Instagram strategy. But the fact is that hashtags are just one component of the entire platform. Aside from hashtags you need to have quality imagery, kick ass captions, an engagement strategy, a bio that stands out, an appropriate web link, a client profile, a content plan, decide if and how you will use Stories and IGTV. Just to name a few.
What a lot of people think is that because hashtags are the ‘thing’ that make Instagram unique and was one of the very founding features of the platform that they are what makes or breaks your Instagram strategy.
This couldn’t be more untrue.
What I will explain for you so that we can make the murky waters of hashtags a little bit easier to understand is what you need to do to have a solid hashtag strategy. Then I will chat about a few things you should be focusing more time on than tags.
So let’s tackle these damned hashtags once and for all.
Basically in a nut shell hashtags are a way that people can find your page and it’s content, then begin to interact with you. People can follow hashtags so therefore if they follow any tags your content will come up in their feed and also the feed for that hashtag.
You can use up to 30 hashtags in a post either in the caption or the comments, but no more than 30. In Stories you can use up to 10 hashtags in every story.
As the platform has grown there are a lot of tags that have gotten very generic so for example something like #selflove may have been unique it now has 19.1 million uses. What has become a HUGE problem with these now generic hashtags of late is that accounts that use bots and also the follow/unfollow messages troll the pages that use these tags. This is where you will see you have 1500 followers today and 1490 followers tomorrow morning.
This follow/unfollow phenomena has people’s knickers in a twist! Now it isn’t just bots that do this, this is a growth strategy that some ‘professionals’ promote. I say that with an inverted comma because it is NOT a strategy that is going to serve you long-term. But I could write an entire blog on follow/unfollow so let’s get back to hashtags for now.
There is 3 things I recommend when it comes to developing a hashtag strategy that will work for your business so buckle up here goes:
- Avoid using large generic tags (see comments above) so any tags with millions of uses are best avoided. Those with hundreds of thousands are ok but if you are getting close to the million mark review it. Tens of thousands are good it means that are quite strategic and targeted. If you are going to use any large tags then use them as more of a personal branding or putting some personality into your post, but be prepared for a few follow/unfollow or random comments from some dude in Texas.
- Research. This is about the most important thing I can tell you when it comes to hashtags. What are successful brands or businesses in your industry using? Success leaves clues so why not follow that? Do not go and just copy and paste a bunch of tags that someone else uses, check out a few pages see what they are using, check the tags out and try the ones out that you think are applicable to you.
- If you tags that are specific to groups or your location. For example if you have a business in a specific area of Sydney are there other local businesses (that are successful on the gram) using a hashtag to define that location or your industry. Like #makeupartistsydney or #goldcoastbusiness. Also if you are in any groups like networking groups or Facebook groups that have a hashtag you can use their tags. Remember decide if the members of the group are your target market because if they follow the tag you want your ideal client to see your content.
A couple of other cool tidbits of fun when it comes to hashtags.
Use a formula that is going to be helpful. So limit any personal branding or personality tags to maximum of 5. This gives your tags a bit of fun, personality and makes them stand out. They are not strategic except to make your posts entertaining. Like #immadrinkthisentirebottleofwine which is something I would personally use because it is something I would say. Perhaps use up to 5 tags that relate to groups that are in your target market. That leaves you up to 20 tags or more that are going to be strategic, well thought out and will draw your ideal client to you.
Creating hashtags that you use specifically can be useful also, because as your following grows if someone was to click on a post and then a hashtag you use they would see all your posts with that tag. For eg. For the The Social Hub Success Academy I am launching I am using the tag #thesocialhubsuccessacademy in alot of posts, even ones that don’t relate. As this is a programme that will be an ongoing coaching membership I will over time have a huge catalogue of posts with that tag, including those of guest speakers. This means when myself, a member or a guest speaker uses the tag if someone was to be interested in the content of that post and click on the tag they will see all the posts where it has been used.
Let me tell you completing a hashtag strategy should NOT keep you up at night. This is something that shouldn’t take up too much time and just try to test which ones work.
FINAL TIP. You can even use apps like Planoly or Plann that allow you to save groups of tags, so when you create posts relating to those tags you can use them and it cuts and pastes them in. Also it means you have some variety in your tags rather than using the same 30 all the time.
So does that make hashtags not so magical unicorn like? Because they aren’t magical they are just a part of the puzzle that is the gram.
What I would recommend you focus on rather than losing sleep over bloody tags is this.
Have an ideal client profile. Know who your target market is, niche down and prepare content that is relevant to those people so you can deliver what your ideal client wants and needs to see.
Engage with people who fit that profile. Instagram favours engagement so you need to be using this as part of your Instagram strategy. Engage with people who fit your ideal client profile, this means that your content is not only seen by them but others who follow them who more than likely will be in that market aswell.
Engage with businesses that could be a good fit for collaboration. Collaboration is FREE and it is a great way to connect with like-minded biz babes who have the same target market but a non competing business. This allows you to be able to have exposure to different networks of followers that are your ideal client. For example: A makeup artist, photographer and florist who do work for weddings collaborating on a shoot for a bride to be.
You can make some amazing internet friends who become real friends and consequently refer you business. Referrals from other people are money for jam! So having people who will refer you business in your pocket is HUGE for your business.
So that is why hashtags should not keep you up at night. They are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to the gram. Focus on things that are going to help you grow your business as a whole not just pick up a few new followers. Followers don’t equal paying clients so focus on the activities that will grow your following of the right type of client who is more likely to do business with you.
Go forth and have fun with hashtags once you release the stress they really are just a bit of fun.