If you have any understanding of marketing on Instagram, you know that your posts aren’t merely meant to reach your own followers. After all, if you’ve just barely started your account, your followers could include little more than your employees and (maybe) a loving family member or two.
The thing is, you want to grow your followers by reaching new audiences and drawing potential customers to your business. And if you want to attract greater engagement and reach new people, there are few things that will help you more than using hashtags on Instagram.
Let’s start with the facts behind why hashtags can be so beneficial to your Instagram marketing campaign. First, the post engagement benefits of hashtags have already been measured—on average, an Instagram post that includes a hashtag gets 12.6% more engagement than posts that don’t.
In layman’s terms, hashtags serve as a simple way of categorizing social media content—they essentially turn a word or phrase “into a searchable link,” making them an easy way for social media users to discover new influencers, conversations, and images for topics they’re interested in.
On Instagram, users even have the option to search for posts by hashtag. Even more importantly for smaller businesses, Instagram allows users to organize their search results in one of two ways: “Top Posts,” which includes the most popular content for a particular hashtag, and “Most Recent”—which is exactly what it sounds like.
While you may not initially be able to show up under a “Top Posts” search, consistently posting quality images under a relevant hashtag will ensure that you show up when users search for “Most Recent” content. Hashtags won’t merely make it easier for your current followers to engage—it will also make it so new users can find you in the first place.
Choose the Right Hashtags
As useful as hashtags can be, not all hashtags will be able to help you kick-start your follower growth. As such, it’s important that you choose wisely as you decide which hashtags to focus on for your Instagram content.
While Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags in a single post, this is hardly your best strategy for attracting new followers and engaging with your audience. In general, it’s recommended that you use only three to five hashtags (and never more than 10) per post to avoid coming across as spammy.
Even more important than the number of hashtags is their relevancy. Sure, you could try to tap into a large audience by using #love, but your content will probably get lost in the crowd— the number of #love posts has nearly reach one billion.
Your better option is to hone in on specific hashtags that are relevant to your brand and the images you post online. A great place to start is by looking at your competitors and other influencers in your niche. Discovering which hashtags work well for them (and using those hashtags in your own posts) can be a great way to tap into your target audience and possibly even steal followers from your competition.
Another great option is to create branded hashtags that are 100% unique to your company or an advertising campaign. Creating short and sweet campaign slogans that can easily be converted into a hashtag has helped Whole Foods build a solid social media presence.
With consistent hashtag branding efforts (accompanied by relevant, engaging posts, of course), your followers will eventually start sharing your branded hashtags in their own posts, helping spread your marketing on Instagram even farther.
Finding the hashtags that will work best for your brand isn’t always easy. In fact, you’ll probably need to go through a bit of trial and error as you find which hashtags generate the most engagement for your brand. But as you consistently use relevant hashtags for your niche, you’ll be better able to draw in new followers and create an active, engaged community.