A small business owner recently asked me about hashtags on Instagram – should they be using them? Do they work? What are they for?
This is a great question, particularly because of the conjecture around it and the different approaches you may have seen.
Your objective on Instagram is to be listed in the top stories on the search page. Stories that are trending on Instagram are shown in keeping with your interests or your likes. By that I mean a trending story that is relevant to something you like on Instagram will show up in your feed more than another story that is unrelated.
You’ll see images from others that will capture your attention, from people that you may or may not be following. The ranking assigned to these stories stems from the use of hashtags: things that are relevant that you might be looking for, or acting on.
So, the use of hashtags is essential to build a following and become associated with the types of people who are interested in what you do.
They’re a great way for people to find things that are trending and pages to follow that match their interests.
If you’re new to hashtags, here are 3 mistakes you want to avoid:
1. Random, ridiculous hashtags
We’ve all seen people who use a random hashtag to get a point across – one that isn’t trending, relevant or serving any purpose. #nooneissearchingforthis
This isn’t to say you can’t create hashtags that haven’t been used before. Established brands do this frequently to start a trending hashtag specific to their brand or an event, however if you’re still building a following, keep these to a minimum. Your best bet is to find hashtags that are relevant to your industry that are already trending.
2. Too many/not enough
One of the biggest questions I hear is how many hashtags should I be using? How long is a piece of string? The most important things here are 1) making sure the hashtags in your post are used in context, and 2) if you want to post a longer list of hashtags, you can do so in a comment under the post – just make sure they serve a purpose.
3. Not researching hashtags
You can brainstorm key words of relevance to your industry, but one of the best places to start is looking at similar brands and products to see which hashtags are being followed in your industry. This works laterally as well; if you feel that your services or products may be relevant to a particular industry, you can find and use hashtags that are relevant to them. When you type in a hashtag you can see how many people have used it. Make sure you’re researching which hashtags are trending, and being used currently to reach your target audience.
You’ll notice that you’ll also start finding things and following people based on their hashtags. Remember to use them cleverly to reach the right audience.