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August 16, 2018

Instagram Hashtags: A Primer

Hashtags are a popular topic of conversation among anyone trying to grow a following on Instagram. Despite their prevalence, there’s a lot people don’t know. Today we’re breaking down Instagram hashtags. Learn what they are, how to select and use them and be sure to check out our section on hashtag myths at the end!

What are Hashtags?

Hashtags are single words or unspaced phrases preceded by #. Depending on when you were born you might call that a number sign, hash mark, hashtag or pound sign. To save confusion, this article uses “pound sign” to refer to the symbol (#) and “hashtag” to refer to the entire construction (#confusingconstructions). On Instagram hashtags are used to signal that a post belongs to a specific category, movement, interest area or denote keywords.

For example, if you run a political campaign for a mayor running in your town you might start using the hashtag #smithformayor and #cincinattimayor so that people interested in the race can easily find all of your posts. If you’re a beauty blogger you might use #beautyblogger and #smokyeye. These hashtags serve two different purposes. #smithformayor and #smokyeye are specific topics. #cincinattimayor and #beautyblogger are more general – letting people doing broader searches find you.

How do you Select & use Hashtags?

Hashtag selection is vital to growing a following on Instagram. Here’s how to decide on the perfect hashtags for you.

  • Repeat your name. If you are a brand, hashtag your name and always use it.
  • Think of the purpose of your post. Are you offering a how-to? Create a hashtag using “howto” – and then a few quick words to help. Are you sharing a recipe? #recipe is perfect. Is it a quick and easy recipe? A one pot recipe? #quickrecipe #easyrecipe #quickandeasyrecipe #onepotrecipe – you get the idea! Is your post inspirational? #inspiration works well.
  • Research popular hashtags. The popular hashtag is a double edged sword. Posts using them are going to get traffic because they’re popular, but if you don’t deliver people won’t follow you. Make sure your posts align with the hashtag and provide value. To find popular hashtags in your industry just click on influencer pages and look at what they’re using – add these to your rotation. This is the best way to find hashtags that fit your industry, demographics and post types.
  • Combine general and specific terms. If you are a beauty blogger you should use #beautyblogger in every post. Because you are always a beauty blogger. #beautytips #instabeauty #makeup #skincare – those all help, too. But be sure to be specific by including hashtags that fit the post more closely (and wouldn’t fit all of your posts). Using a brand hashtag when you’re reviewing them is perfect. Also if you’re going for a certain look be sure to check out hashtags related to that.
  • Competitor analysis. It sounds crazy, but scoping out the hashtags that your competitors are using is a great way to select hashtags that you’re missing.

3 Instagram Hashtags Myths: BUSTED!

There are lots of myths out there about hashtags. Let’s put some to rest.

You Shouldn’t use all 30 Allotted Hashtags

Why not? Instagram allows 30 hashtags. That’s 30 chances to be found. 30 ways to categorize your post. If they didn’t want you to use all 30, they would lower the limit. The Instagram algorithm does not penalize posts based on number of hashtags. Fewer people will see your posts if you use fewer hashtags. Go for 30!

You Should Create all Unique Hashtags

People love creating hashtags. This is great for weddings and events as a way for people to find all of the posts related. But when you’re growing a business you need to meet your audience where they are, not demand they search using your specific idea of what a good hashtag is. While using your account name as a hashtag is great, and will pay off once you’ve got a following, be sure to use common hashtags for your industry and posts.

instagram hashtag

There’s Only one way to Hashtag

Should you put your hashtags in the caption? What about in a comment? Should you leave space before hashtagging? There are so many ways to display hashtags and guess what: none are penalized. Experiment with the most popular layouts. When resharing content, change up how you display hashtags. If you notice way more engagement with one set up, use that in the future.

In example 1, the hashtags all appear right in the caption. In 2, they are in the caption but spaced using periods on single lines. Finally, in example 3, they are in the first comment.

How are your Hashtags?

Digital Firefly Marketing is here to help businesses and organizations, no matter their size or location, capitalize on social media traffic. We can help you select and use Instagram hashtags to drive more traffic to your profiles. Sign up for a free social media audit today!

About the expert: Bre Slocum

Bre Slocum is the Head of Social Media at Digital Firefly Marketing. She handles all of our clients’ social media as well as the DFM accounts. Bre focuses on using language creatively and effectively through social media management. She is skilled at telling clients’ stories. Igniting online conversation with the client at the forefront and improving brand awareness is her mission. Bre gets her greatest thrill from coming up with new ways clients can get the most out of their social platforms. This requires innovative thinking and serious creativity --- two things Bre is great at. Her skills and process often generate a solid list of fresh ideas which leave her pretty darn excited. Bre spent one semester of her senior year of college participating in Semester at Sea. She sailed half the globe and visited 15 different countries while studying on a cruise ship that had been converted into a college campus. Needless to say, Bre loves travel and adventure.

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