How to Use Instagram Hashtags for Maximum Exposure
Instagram hashtags are one of the most misunderstood features on the platform. So many people do what I call the spaghetti against the wall and hope it sticks tactic. And we’ve all seen those bad mistakes where they’re using #kimkardashian and #love in hopes of getting found by a ton of people. But there’s a much better way to be strategic with hashtags for your business, and we’re going to unpack all of that, coming up.
We all know that hashtags are the secret sauce on Instagram, but how many should you use? Where should you use them? Which ones should you use? In this article, I am going to share with you my super-secret recipe to not only get you content found more often, but to actually get more followers and to get more sales. And stick around to the end because I’m going to share with you how to use very specific hashtags that your audience is actually looking for to ensure you get found by the right people for your business. So, when it comes to hashtags, how many should you use? You can use up to 30, and anything beyond that won’t show up in search. But your first 30 are free to use however you want. But should you use 30? Should you use five? Should you use 10? How many should you use? Personally, I recommend using at least 15 to 20. Hashtags are a use-it-or-lose-it-type tool, meaning if you use the hashtags, there’s a chance you’re going to get found. If you don’t, there’s no chance of getting found. So, more is better in general. Does that mean you should use all 30? Go for it. Use as many as you can use strategically and in relevance to your business. But I do recommend about 15 to 20 as the minimum.
Now I know you may be freaking out because some people think that’s a lot and it’s hard to come up with that many hashtags. You might be able to think of three or four off the top of your head, but how can you come up with 15 to 20 hashtags? That is where the super-secret recipe comes into play. Here’s the thing. You want to combine a variety of hashtags. In order to figure out how popular a hashtag is, if you go into the search on Instagram, go to the magnifying glass, and start typing in a hashtag in the search results, it will tell you how many posts are associated with each of those hashtags. So, you’re going to want to pick three to five popular hashtags. By popular, I define that as something in the low- to mid-hundreds of thousands, up to a million posts, for a specific hashtag. Anything over a million basically becomes irrelevant to you because it’s so saturated with content that the only thing you’re going to attract are spambots. And we don’t want that. Then you’re going to pick three to five moderately popular. These are going to be hashtags that fall in the kind of high tens of thousands into that mid-hundreds of thousands range. And then you’re going to pick three to five niche-specific. These are super targeted specifically to your industry, what you do, the solution you provide, what your customer is looking for. And then you’re also going to include your one to two branded hashtags. That alone, you’re already up to 12 to 15 hashtags without even trying, so you can easily get to that 15 to 20.
Now the key is to find relevant hashtags for your business. We’re not going to use popular hashtags like #love or #vacation, or something that’s super popular that everybody is using, because it’s not related specifically to your business and it’s too concentrated. Instead, we want to pick something that is very specific to your industry, to the content that you specifically posted, or what it is you offer as a solution. So now that you’ve picked your hashtags, you know you’re going to use all of these different ones, why does this work? The popular hashtags give you an initial burst of activity from non-followers. But within a matter of seconds, maybe into minutes, your content is going to be buried in the archives of those popular hashtags. So moderately popular hashtags are going to keep you active for hours into days. So, it keeps your content still getting activity and your audience is still liking it as they login to Instagram. So, Instagram looks at your content and goes, wow, your followers are liking it consistently, non-followers are seeing it and liking it, you’ve figured this whole thing out. You’re creating great content that people really like. And then what happens is, in those niche-specific hashtags, that very super targeted topics that you chose, you start ranking as a top-performing post, and top-performing posts can stay in those top placements for months, even, which means if somebody’s looking for that specific hashtag, they go to that search result, and you’re one of the first ones, if not the first one, they see in that top-performing hashtag tab. And what happens when they see that? They click on your content. They’re now on your profile. They follow you because they realize that you’re relevant to them. You have a product or a service that is valuable to them. They may even email you or call you if you have those action buttons turned on on your profile and you can actually close sales with this tactic. And I promise you it works. I use this tactic. I have clients and people that have emailed me after hearing me speak about this and said, “It works! “I got clients. “I got followers.”
So now you know what hashtags you’re going to use. You know how many you’re going to use. Where on Earth do you put them? This is probably the age-old question since hashtags have been used for business on Instagram. Captions or comment, does it matter? In all reality, no. There are various studies out there. Some say it’s slightly advantageous to put it in the caption. Some people want to put it in the comment because they want to hide it. They don’t want to look spammy. They just don’t want it in their caption. Here’s the reality. It doesn’t really matter. If you use the hashtag recipe that we just talked about, with whether you put them in the caption or the comment is not going to have a significant impact. It’s not affected by the algorithm. It’s not affected by search results. They both works. The caveat, why I say it really doesn’t matter, is it does if you’re using popular hashtags. If you’re using something which I don’t recommend you do based on what we just talked about, but if you’re using a hashtag with five million, 10 million, that many types of posts associated with it, those are the ones you do want to put in the caption. Because even in the 10 to 15, maybe 30, seconds it takes you to go and put that hashtag in a comment, you’re losing all the valuable time in that hashtag cup and you lose that engagement. In that situation, is it better to leave them in the caption? Yes. Leave them there. They’re more likely to get found quicker, for those high-performing hashtags, but if you want to put them in the comment, that’s perfectly okay. Now captions actually get truncated with a dot-dot-dot more, so people aren’t seeing your hashtags in the caption anyways unless they click the dot-dot-dot more to read the whole caption. So how do you know if hashtags are working? Did you show up in search? Did people find your content? Well, the easiest way to do it is to actually go back to the post that you uploaded to your feed content, and right below it you’re going to see the View Insights button. Tap on that button and it’s going to open up a little bit of information, and then you’re going to swipe up on that little menu bar, and when you do that, you’re going to get a whole bunch of information that’s going to tell you how that post performed.
Down at the bottom it’s going to tell you where your impressions came from. And now if you don’t see the option to click on View Insights, chances are you’re still a personal profile and View Insights is only available to business profiles and creator profiles. I have a post that recently went out and I’ve been found for over 1,200 views just in hashtags alone. So yes, this system works. But it’s entirely possible that you may not rank for hashtags, and sometimes that’s because your content just isn’t that good. Maybe it’s not performing well with your followers, and if it’s not performing well with your followers, why would they show it to non-followers? Maybe it’s something that is in a very saturated environment, where it’s just not a good time to show up in those specific hashtag results. Don’t base it all off of one post. You want to go in and look at multiple posts and see how your hashtags are performing for each of those posts. How many times did you show up in hashtag searches and what was the consistency for those higher-performing posts? Was it something that was timely and relevant? Was there something that, every time you used the colour blue in your content, you got better search results? So now it’s time for the bonus. We talked a lot about the hashtags, but here’s the thing. Most people don’t pick the right hashtags for their audience. They only think about their business. And I always use this example of car insurance, because car insurance is super sexy for Instagram.
Who doesn’t want to go search for car insurance on Instagram? I’m going to tell you, nobody. That’s what Google is for. No one’s going to go to Instagram and look for #carinsurance unless they are the competitors who are selling car insurance. So, if that’s what you sell, you don’t want to use #carinsurance. You’re not going to attract your target audience. All you’re going to attract is your competitors. So instead, you want to think about where your audience is. What is your audience doing? Who is your audience? If you’re selling car insurance, your audience is people who have cars, and people who have cars are looking for things like #dreamcar or #lamborghini or #newcar, #myfirstcar. And if someone’s buying #myfirstcar, guess what they need. They need car insurance. So, you get to show up where they already are and give them quality content that’s valuable to them where they’re currently hanging out.
Now, some industries can get away with using hashtags directly related to what they do, like #weddingphotographer. Yes, if I’m looking for a wedding photographer, I’m going to go look for that hashtag specifically. So those industries can use those hashtags. But you still want to think about people outside of just that realm. If all you do is wedding photography, that’s great, but people are only going to be searching for you in a very limited scope of time. You can also look at hashtags related to geographical locations where you work and other ways to serve your audience outside of that very specific time that they’re looking for your services. So, this was a deep-dive into hashtag strategies exclusively for the Instagram feed.