Welcome to our second article in the series "Hacking your Instagram Growth". Today, we'll talk about Instagram hashtags and what they're all about. You’ve probably been using them the wrong way or not at all. Don't worry, this article will help you correct your bad hashtag habits, so keep on reading.
What Are Hashtags?
This may sound like a dumb question but hear me out. Hashtags became widely popular on Twitter, after which other social media networks, such as Facebook, also adopted them. While they may have originated on Twitter, their value and importance is much greater on Instagram. What do I mean by that? Well, Instagram being a visual platform and all that, it's much easier (and cleaner) to scroll through all the posts and choose the one you like. It requires far less effort than scrolling through the same number of posts on Twitter.
So, think about hashtags as categories for your posts, like a shelf in the library. Users who are, for example, interested in Mercedes vehicles can easily type in #mercedes and binge watch thousands of photos and videos related to the topic. In the last article, I told you that Instagram is all about consuming as much as possible and hashtags are a means to that end.
Every hashtag feed is made out of two parts - "Top Posts" and "Most Recent".
The top nine posts by user engagement are located here. The main goal of top posts is to provide more exposure to already semi-popular posts.
Ever wondered how posts become viral on Instagram? It's because of this and Instagram explore(more on that in future posts). Posts will stay here for several hours, more or less, depending on the popularity of the hashtag. After which, new trending posts will be put up replacing the old ones. After the Instagram algorithm update, even older posts(24 hours) are getting exposure in Top Posts.
You’ve probably figured it out by now, Top Posts are a great way to gain massive exposure and you should definitely work on getting there. But, how can you save a spot in the top nine for yourself? I'll talk more about this further down the article, so stay put.
Firstly, let's start off by saying that your new post will always end up in the Most Recent section (if you’re using hashtags). That sounds great, but posts in this section are replaced with new ones quickly, especially in the case of large and popular hashtags. So, does this section provide any real value to you? Well, in most cases, no. The only case when this is useful is when you post under a small hashtag and your post stays there for a while. Still, the less popular the hashtag is, the fewer the users are that are browsing through it, so we won't focus on this section in this article.
Using Instagram Hashtags
Ah, now we get to the interesting part. Instagram limits its users to 30 hashtags per post, so as to prevent spam. If you write more than that, Instagram will remove your entire post caption (not just the hashtags). Now, some people don't know that you can actually write hashtags as a comment under your post. Other users can also put them in the comment section, but you don't gain any additional exposure by that. Some people prefer putting them in the comment section so their posts look cleaner.
How many hashtags should you use?
My hashtag strategy is to use them up to the limit - 30. Each hashtag brings you potential exposure, so why limit yourself. The powerful thing about hashtags is that if you get featured on Top Posts for one hashtag, the viral effect will result in huge engagement and you'll probably hit Top Posts in other ones as well. So by using as many relevant hashtags as you can, you can potentially reach millions of users. Talk about underrated.
Which hashtags should you use?
This is the exact part most people struggle with. In the sea of hashtags that is out there, how can you find the perfect ones for you? Well, whether or not a hashtag is good depends on a few things:
• the theme of your page
• the size of your page
• the popularity of a hashtag
• the current trends
The first one is pretty self-explanatory. You won't be using #cat on a German shepherd page. There's an obvious correlation between the second two. The more popular the hashtag, the bigger your page has to be(and the engagement has to follow your size). You can't reach Top Posts for a large hashtag if you have a page with 1k followers. So what should you do if you have a smaller page? Well, look for smaller hashtags of course. You can see the post count right under the hashtag. Do you think you could reach Top Posts for #catsofinstagram ?
Another neat trick is to type in your keyword as a hashtag and look through the suggested hashtags that pop up. The good thing about this is that Instagram already displays the post count next to each suggestion, so it should make searching a lot easier. As a rule of thumb, your follower count should be 1% of the post count for at least 20 of the 30 hashtags. So, if you have a page with 1k followers, your perfect hashtag will have around 100k posts. Use that as a guideline when choosing your hashtags.
Now, I told you that you should use that rule for 20 hashtags, but what about the rest? The rest you should split them between current, trending and very popular hashtags in your niche. The reasoning behind that is that if the first 20 hashtags get you good engagement, they just might propel you to Top Posts on these big ones. It's a neat little trick I use and it has worked many times.
So, hopefully, after reading this article, not a single post on your page will be missing the relevant hashtags. You should have also learned which hashtags work and which ones don't for your page. If you start to implement these rules right away, I promise you that your engagement WILL go up.