Hashtags are a great way to reach new audiences on social media platforms like Instagram. They are free, fun, and require almost no effort. You can use hashtags to showcase your personality or make a joke. And they help your targeted audience easily find you.

Hashtags may not seem as important as content or images, but they are crucial for marketing. So how do you choose the right hashtags? How many do you need? And what order should you put them in?

Read on to learn four Instagram hashtag strategies to grow your audience.

Why use hashtags?

For those who don’t use social media often, hashtags may not be a priority. But there’s a reason why savvy businesses include their own branded tags on their posts.

Your content is easier to find

Adding a hashtag to your post is like shining a light – it ensures that the people looking for your content will be able to see it.

Finding content is as easy. Simply enter a word or phrase into Instagram’s search box, switch to the Tags tab, and users will be able to see posts attached to that hashtag.

No one has time to search through thousands of posts. So add hashtags and make yourself instantly discoverable.

It creates more engagement

Can’t understand why no one is responding to your post? According to SproutSocial, posts that include at least one hashtag receive more engagement than those that have none.

Many brands also promote their own hashtag because they understand that their followers will interact more. For example, you could encourage your followers to include your branded hashtag when they are using your product or service. You can then reshare (with permission) their content on your profile. Not only will you be giving your customer exposure for their brand (and increasing loyalty), but user generated content (UGC) is great social proof and it’s free!

So what can you do to increase your followers using hashtags?

It creates more engagement

Consider the amount and placement of your hashtags

Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags on a post. However, that doesn’t mean you need that many every time. Too many hashtags can be overwhelming and look untidy. Focus on including relevant hashtags only.

Studies have shown that posts with 7-30 hashtags receive the most engagement. If you have under five thousand followers, hide your hashtags within the caption. For those who have five to ten thousand followers, post your hashtags in the first comment. In saying that, the differences don’t tend to be significant and they vary across studies so it’s always worth testing things out yourself.

Search your hashtags before you use them

Use tools such as Best Hashtag to find the most popular and engaging hashtags. But don’t forget to do a quick search in Instagram yourself.

One of those hashtags may not be related to your content, or have an undesired double meaning. It may also be used by an influencer or topic you don’t want to be associated with.

Search your hashtags before you use them

Combine popular hashtags with smaller, specific hashtags

It’s simple math. Popular, frequently used hashtags have a higher reach, but more competition. Niche hashtags have a smaller audience but are more likely to be seen by those specifically looking.

Something else worth noting is that popular hashtags are often targeted by bots. This means you are more likely to get unwanted or irrelevant comments such as ‘Love this. Follow us at XX’.

For smaller accounts, we recommend using more niche hashtags. However, as mentioned earlier, you have enough space to post a variety of hashtags per post. So it doesn’t hurt to use a few popular hashtags with your niche ones. That way, you will stand out to the audience most relevant to you.

Change your hashtags over time

It may be tempting to continuously use the same hashtags – especially if they receive a lot of engagement. But this means that the same audience is seeing your content over and over again. You run the risk of your posts being ignored. It can also be seen as ‘spammy’ and can get your account flagged with Instagram.

Change your hashtag combinations frequently. By adding in a little variation, you also increase the chances to reach new people. Use tools such as Smarthash and Later to track the performance of your hashtags.

Focus SME aims to help time-poor small to medium businesses grow their business effectively through social media and digital marketing. Contact us here for a free consultation.