According to this article by Sprout Social, recent Instagram statistics confirm that it would be crazy talk not to maximize your presence there. With more than 800 million monthly active users, there’s ample (free!) opportunity to get yourself seen by new customers or clients.
In this post I’m going to focus on hashtags — I spent way too long being confused about how much they can actually do for us, and the best ways to use them. Instagram is basically a mini search engine, and hashtags are the way to be found. Thanks to the current algorithm, a shocking 70% of your posts don’t get even get seen. With that said, posts with at least one hashtag have 12.6% more engagement than those without. Add a handful of really specific hashtags to attract your perfect customer, and you’ll be on a roll.
Here are a few specific tips that I tried and loved (and where I found them!):
Get discovered in ‘top posts’
Using hashtags like “#blessed,” “#grateful” and “#love” may be appropriate for your Instagram posts, they’ve also been used hundreds of millions of times, and they continue to get used daily. While this is lovely (yay for happy people!), it means that your post will be buried among all the others and is less likely to get noticed. By picking hashtags that get really specific, and that are appropriate for the number of followers and likes you already have, you can start appearing in the ‘top posts’ section of hashtags search results, and consequently get discovered by new people.
For example, if you’re a personal trainer and trying to attract new clients, you might upload a before and after photo of results achieved with your training methods. At the time of this post, the hashtag “#beforeandafter” has been used 9.8M times, and each photo in the top posts section of the hashtag has a range of 1,200 - 3000 likes. Unless that’s already your average number of likes per post currently, your post will be buried somewhere at the bottom where people are less likely to scroll to.
To find something more specific, try searching the relevant hashtag and scrolling to a hashtag that has been used less. In this case, simply adding and ’s’ to the end of the hashtag to make it “#beforeandafters” is a big help — this one has been used around 52,000 times and the top posts have a range of 7 - 67 likes, so if you think your number of likes from your current followers will fall into this range, there’s a good chance you could end up in the top posts for this hashtag and attract more likes and new followers.
To find a handful more hashtags to add to the same post, check out the ‘Related’ bar along the top of a hashtag search result and you’ll find recommended hashtags you may not have thought of. In this case, some relevant hashtags that appear are “#transformationinprogress” with 129K posts, “#beforeandafterweightloss” with 354K posts, and “#beforeandaftertransformation” with 6.5K posts. Of course, it’ll take a little time to check out which ones will be the appropriate size for your current following, but once you get into the swing of it, this doesn’t take that long and you can keep a note of some your favorite ones since they’ll likely be relevant for many of your posts in the future.
I found this method among many more great tips in Girls Vs Globe’s Instagram Hashtags: How To Find And Use Them | Secret Strategies From An Instagram Pro.
Use the hashtags your dream customer is using
Something I have experienced on my own feed is attracting other industry professionals or peers to my page, which is great! But as a business, the goal is usually to attract potential clients. You can do this by stepping into your dream customer’s shoes and using the hashtags they’ll be using on their posts, leading to you being discovered by them before they even knew that your service/product is what they need… Until they came across your post, of course!
For example, if you design wedding stationary, you could be tempted to use hashtags like “#weddingstationary,” “#weddinginvites” and “#invitationsuite”. These sound great and appropriate, however they’re also the hashtags that other people in your industry are using, which is awesome if you’re trying to make some contacts.
However, there are a lot of other potential customers out there that aren’t searching for these kinds of hashtags, only because they don’t even know they need you yet. In the example above, it could be a newly engaged woman with all her wedding planning ahead of her, excitedly uploading a photo of her beautiful new ring and announcing her engagement. The kinds of hashtags she will be using may be “#engagedlife,” “#engagedandinspired” and “#engagedtomybestfriend”.
Showing up in the discovery pages of hashtags like this with high quality images of what you can do will help transition them from a casual looker, to a follower, to a customer.
Mention where you are
If you’re anywhere that will have an Instagram account, a quick search will bring up the hashtag most frequently used for them, and adding their @username will be helpful too. This could be a restaurant, a venue where you’re seeing a show, a hotel, a gym, the operator of a sightseeing tour, even the tourist board of the city you’re in — whatever it is, they’ll be checking their mentions in other people’s posts. If your image is high quality, there’s a good chance they’ll repost your photo and credit you. Voila! More eyes on your posts.
In line with this, another handy tip from Girl Vs Globe is to try the following hashtags for the city or area you’re in: #ig[destination] and #igers[destination]. For example, #ignewyork and #igersnewyork. It’s not just limited to travel related posts either — it’s a great way to get your posts seen by local people and businesses in the area, whatever the topic.
Don’t feel pressure to use all 30 hashtags
The number of hashtags that you should use in a post varies a lot — the Sprout Social article I quoted statistics from at the beginning of this post states that the optimum number per post is 11 hashtags, despite the maximum number allowed per post being 30.
Opposed to this is Girl Vs Globe (also mentioned above). She uses all 30 hashtags and insists this is one of the ways she has grown her following organically to 93.5K followers. On the other hand, another Instagrammer I love is traveling selfie photographer Sorelle Amore, who uses 4 - 5 hashtags per post and boasts 190K followers. Contrasting again is the lovely Jasmine Star also mentioned above, who doesn’t seem to use any hashtags at this point and her follower count is currently sitting at 239K, albeit she uses very engaging captions that spark a lot of conversations to increase her engagement.
All the examples above are right for their own audiences, and all use gorgeous, high quality images among other strategies to boost their engagement. The solution would be to test it out for your own following and keep an eye on the engagement for your posts while you experiment and see what works best for you. To me this is good news — you can’t really go wrong, unless you don’t try at all!
One of the things I think makes people shy away from using hashtags is a slight stigma of ending your post with a list of hashtags, but I think the negative stigma only comes from people that don't fully understand how helpful hashtags can actually be. When it comes to where to put them, some people add them in a comment below the post, some simply format their post to look a little cleaner. Personally, when it’s inevitably a tool to grow your audience, I don’t feel any shame using them on my posts and it doesn’t bother me to see other people using them on their posts as I scroll through my feed either.
If you found any of these helpful, I’d really love to know so I can dig out and share more of my favorite tips!