Way back in August of 2007, while you were singing along to Umbrella (ella…ella) on the radio, a product designer named Chris Messina proposed to Twitter the idea of “using #(pound) for groups.”
Twitter’s response? It was too nerdy and would never catch on.
Welp, 15 years later and hashtags are staples in social media platforms, especially on Twitter, TikTok, and what we’ll be talking about today: Instagram.
Read on to learn how to harness the power of Instagram hashtags to grow your following, engage your audience, and build your brand.
Instagram hashtags 101
Hashtag ideas & examples
A hashtag is a word, phrase, or acronym with the pound symbol (#) in front of it. On social media platforms, if you tap or click on a hashtag, you’ll be shown all of the posts on that platform containing that hashtag. This makes it easy for users to categorize their content and to find specific content in the vast sea of social posts. Hashtags can be found on the most popular social media platforms, including:
While other social media platforms support hashtags, Twitter and Instagram are really the ones where hashtagging is the most important. Here are some of the many benefits of using Instagram hashtags.
Adding a hashtag on Instagram is literally as easy as putting the pound symbol in front of a word or phrase! This is also how you add hashtags to YouTube videos. Here are a few side notes:
There are all kinds of hashtags to use on Instagram:
Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags, and while historically we’ve been advised to use around 10, new data from Later shows that 20-30 hashtags is actually the way to go (for Feed posts). Here’s what they recommend:
But don’t force it. If your post doesn’t need 30 hashtags, don’t go searching for them. Remember, your goal is not to show up in every search, it’s to show up in the right searches.
If your post is, indeed, worthy of 20-30 hashtags, there are a few ways to hide them so they don’t clutter up your post.
Hashtags are a powerful tool to promote your Instagram account for free. Here are some ways to use hashtags on Instagram.
Hashtags are the keywords of Instagram SEO. You’ll want to use a mix of high-volume hashtags to help you gain broad exposure, as well as lower-volume but higher-intent hashtags to attract potential followers and customers. Hashtag research tools (which we’ll cover below) can help with this, but it’s also intuitive. For example:
While you shouldn’t repeat hashtags in the same post, you can (and should) repeat hashtags that work in different posts. Keep a note handy so you can easily copy and paste them into your posts.
But remember. Relevancy is critical. Remove hashtags from your list where it doesn’t apply. If someone is exploring a hashtag and your super irrelevant post pops up, it’ll make your brand look unreputable, untrustworthy, and/or desperate.
Some of the best Instagram marketing campaigns are hashtag-based. Take the unforgettable #IceBucketChallenge. The marketing team for the ALS Association was able to raise awareness with this hashtag campaign, but they also raised a substantial amount of money ($115 million to be exact!). Think about how you can do something similar by getting your followers to WANT to use your hashtag, which will help spread brand awareness about your business to other Instagrammers.
Hashtags campaigns don’t always have to be short-lived contests or trends. In fact, some of the most successful branded hashtags are the timeless ones, like Chewy’s #petsbringustogether.
Take the hashtag created by the sneaker company, Allbirds. Rather than using generic hashtags on every post, they use #weareallbirds, and happy customers use it as well to share their new kicks!
Tips for creating a branded hashtag on Instagram:
Run an Instagram giveaway asking entrants to take a picture, tag your business, and use a specific hashtag. Not only does it make it easier for you to track entries, but it can help you populate your branded hashtag with awesome content.
Hashtag challenges connect your followers and build a community around your brand. Here is a great example from Lululemon UK and Stava, which partnered to run a fun challenge encouraging followers to complete a 40-80K run and tag their Instagram posts #4080challenge.
But as I’ve said before, always check the hashtag. If you search #4080challenge on Instagram, you get more car results than runners.
#4080challenge…a Lululemon campaign and a car
In addition to tagging other brands in your Instagram posts, use their branded hashtags too. It’s a good way to support other businesses in their Instagram marketing strategies, and you never know—they just might feature you or use your hashtag to return the favor.
Want more inspiration? Check out these 157 Authentic Fall Hashtags to Harvest More Customers.
There are a few hashtags you should follow on Instagram.
To follow a hashtag, simply search that hashtag and select the “follow” button in search results.
To use hashtags in your Instagram content in a meaningful and effective way, you need to do your research. So where to start? Here are a few ideas…
There are tons of Instagram hashtag generators out there—like All Hashtag and Sistrix—that will generate relevant hashtags and give you some data on what hashtags are popular.
Type hashtag ideas into the Instagram search bar and see what auto-fills. Easy peasy.
Keep an eye on your competitors and industry influencers. If you’re not sure what tags would be worth using, just take a look at what others are using successfully in your industry, That will give you a good starting point from which to mold your own strategy.
It’s time to talk reporting. You can’t know if your hashtags are improving your social media marketing without the numbers. Luckily, you have lots of tools at your disposal. Here are exactly three.
First up is Instagram’s analytics. You can access this on mobile if you have an Instagram business account. You can also view an individual post’s hashtag performance by tapping “View insights” under that post.
If you are looking to get a bit more detail on individual hashtag performance, it might be worth investing in another reporting tool that digs into the details, like Sprout Social. This robust social reporting tool will allow you to generate Instagram hashtag performance reports to do a variety of things, including:
While the pricing is a bit higher for Iconosquare, there is a ton you can do, from scheduling social posts, tracking and responding to comments, and accessing detailed analytics all from one place.
When it comes to hashtag tracking, this tool provides quite sophisticated analytical data in regards to hashtag engagement and whether or not certain hashtags are contributing to brand and/or campaign growth.
For more, see Brand24’s list of hashtag trackers.
Popular hashtags aren’t going to help you to stand out, but they can’t hurt in giving you some exposure. Plus, they’re a good “seed” hashtag that you can modify for relevancy.
Remember, the best way to use these hashtags is for inspiration—not for hashtag stuffing.
We actually have an entire post on hashtags for every day of the week, but here’s a super-distilled version:
The best Instagram hashtags to use for growth are those that are specific to your niche. You can then modify them to include your location or even business name. Steph has you covered with over 300 more industry-specific hashtags to use in your posts, but here’s a taste:
#carmechaniclife…not shown in the image due to the hiding trick mentioned above
#stigmafree, #mentalhealthadvocate, #mentalhealthawareness, #anxietyisreal, #endthestigma, #selfcare, #acceptyourself, #gowithin, #mindsetshift, #selfacceptance, #youareworthy, #healthyboundaries, #itsokaytonotbeokay
#empowerment, #inclusion, #socialimpact, #community, #loveislove, #accessible, #disabilityawareness, #diversityequityinclusion, #pride, #blacklivesmatter, #allmeansall, #bettertogether, #unityindiversity, #loveforall, #minorityowned, #veteranowned, #womanowned, #blackowned
#shoplocal, #buylocal, #supportsmallbiz, #familyowned, #smallbusinesssaturday, #smallbusinessweek, #smallbusinesslove, #smallbusinesstips, #smallbusinessowner, #handmade, #handcrafted, #etsyshop
#hustle, #motivationonoftheday, #ifnotyouwho, #justdoit, #alwaysbekind, #workhard, #bebolder, #nevergiveup, #walkyourtruepath, #starttoday, #carpediem, #ifnotnowwhen, #accountability, #bethechange
Who knew that one symbol could hold the power to expand your reach, attract more followers, and grow your business? Oh and I almost forgot—keep these in your back pocket for when the timing is right:
Kristen is the Senior Managing Editor at WordStream, where she helps businesses to make sense of their online marketing and advertising. She specializes in SEO and copywriting and finds life to be exponentially more delightful on a bicycle.
See other posts by Kristen McCormick
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