Hashtags are a popular phenomenon across a number of different social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even LinkedIn. Yet, it is on Instagram where hashtags play a central role in the way the app is used.
Instagram lets users follow hashtags on your timeline. For instance, if you are an interior designer, you could follow a hashtag like #interiordesign to stay updated on the latest trends and styles in this industry.
Find the right hashtags
Picking the right hashtag is thus half the battle. Going back the example of hashtags related to interior design, a search on Kicksta’s hashtag generator lists the following hashtags as having more than a million posts each.
Quite clearly, these are the most popular hashtags related to this industry. Posting content with these hashtags should help you reach the maximum number of users. Right?
Not necessarily. Popular hashtags like these are also the most competitive. With over a million posts made with a hashtag like #interiordesign, chances are that your post with this hashtag could get drowned among several other posts that get made with yours.
Pick niche hashtags
There is another factor to consider here. A topic like “interior design” is pretty broad. What interests one user and fetches likes and engagement may not interest another user.
In other words, when you use broad hashtags, then your post reaches a good number of users who are not particularly interested in what you have posted. Instagram’s ranking algorithm places a lot of emphasis on user engagement. So when that does not happen, Instagram tends to rank your posts lower and lower.
Here’s the fix -try to include hashtags that are highly relevant to what you post. For example, if you are posting about books on interior design, you could use a hashtag like #interiordesignbooks. If your design incorporates a certain element of styling, then use hashtags relevant to this style may be used.
While this does help you reach your targeted users better, this does not solve your purpose always. Niche hashtags don’t tend to be followed as often as broad hashtags are. Consequently, while engagement stays high with such hashtags, they reach a vastly lower number of people.
Increase hashtag count
It is here that your hashtag count is useful. Instagram lets user add up to 30 hashtags for each of their posts. While many marketing gurus recommend limiting hashtags to around five or six per post, you can maximize reach by maximizing your use of hashtags.
The recommendation to lower the number of hashtags is not without merit though. Hashtags do not contribute directly to the conversation you are making with your followers. As such, cluttering your description field with hashtags can seem excessive and spammy.
One way to maximize the use of hashtags while keeping it clutter-free is by using multiple line spaces between your description and the hashtags. Some users also tend to include hashtags as part of a comment and not within the description.
Another problem with hashtags is that new trends emerge all the time. Using the same hashtags for each of your posts can bring down the engagement on your posts over time.
One way to work around this is through competitive analysis. The process here is straight-forward – pick a popular competitor in your industry and look up the hashtags that users tag this company with in their posts. Here is a quick guide on Instagram search from Mentionlytics that explains this process.
- Enter the name of a competitor you want to monitor
- Configure the data source for your monitoring and set it to Instagram
- Sort the results by top trending hashtags to view all the emerging hashtags against your competitor.
Of course, not all of this may be applicable to your business. But if you notice a sharp rise in the number of followers to a relevant hashtag in your industry, it is a good idea to start using this in your posts as well.
Competitive analysis of hashtags
What is your competitor doing that is working for them? A competitive analysis of their Instagram submissions can go a long way in giving you insights to increase your likes as well.
You do this by building a large list of Instagram accounts that cater to your target group – only include those accounts that are fairly large (at least 40,000 followers) and have a highly engaging comments section.
Next, identify patterns in the kind of content they publish. Once you have an idea of what works, produce similar content of your own that can be posted on your Instagram feed. Have at least 30 of such posts ready for submission.
Third, go through the list of popular Instagram accounts again and prepare a list of hashtags that are in the ‘medium popular’ category – that is, about 20K to 200K posts containing them. You may also have a similar list of ‘highly popular’ hashtags – those with over 500K posts.
Finally, schedule your Instagram posts with 30 of these hashtags included in each of them. Generously rotate these hashtags across these posts and schedule not more than 2 per day.
This strategy is helpful in two ways. One, it helps you efficiently replicate the success of your competitors. Also, shuffling your hashtags gives you better insights on which hashtags work and which ones don’t. You can now steadily bring down your hashtags count to ones that work most effectively and stick with them.