Here’s a question I get a lot: Exactly how do you use hashtags on Instagram?
There is a lot of conflicting information out there about how you use them, when to use them, and how many to use. If you can wade through all that noise and use hashtags correctly, you are more likely to get more views, followers, and overall business results.
Let’s take for example the world biggest Instagram user. Selena Gomez gets that award, with 99.8 million followers on Instagram. (Well, technically Instagram itself has more followers, but for our purposes I am not sure that counts.) I was curious how the biggest Instagram star used hashtags, and I found something surprising.
She hardly uses hashtags.
But maybe she should.
When I compared her last 100 posts, the ones with a hashtag included received more than double the number of likes. (As a side note, the impact of hashtags on Instagram videos was negligible).
And if Selena Gomez benefits from using hashtags, then you definitely will! It is even more important for small brands since they don’t often have people searching for them.
The first way that hashtags make an impact is by giving people a way to find related searches. The hashtags on Instagram are tappable (or clickable) hyperlinks that take you to all the other posts with that same hashtag.
One important point is to avoid hijacking a hashtag. People are more likely to be frustrated that their search did not return something relevant than they are to like your photo or follow your account. And businesses need to be especially sensitive in how they use hashtags related to tragedies or natural disasters – that can quickly blow up in your face (no pun intended).
Need help figuring out which searches people are looking for? When you start to type a hashtag you can see all the common searches that use that term and the number of posts. More posts means more people searching and using that hashtag, but also more competition for the space.
Unlike Twitter with its 140-ish character limit, hashtags or not, Instagram has a highly permissive limit of up to 2,200 characters. That doesn’t mean you can stuff the whole thing with hashtags though – that limit is up to 30 total. Take advantage of this liberty so that more people can find your posts when they search.
This is particularly important in smaller niches. Here are three smaller brands that are using many related hashtags in their posts, so that they can reach more of their audience.
It is important that you format your hashtags correctly to get any of these benefits. According to Instagram, numbers are okay, but special characters and spaces are not. So if you want to create a hashtag for your daily deal, you will want to write #dailydeal and not #daily-deal or #daily deal.
You will have the best results with your hashtags if they are not only search friendly, but reader friendly too. Pay attention to how easy (or not) it is to read them in a glance, and remember that people are reading these on mobile phones. Also read your posts to see if the words were separated in different places than you intended if the phrase would have a completely different meaning. For example #hatebook could be read as “hat ebook” or “hate book” depending on how you read it.
Another tip: the shorter and easier your hashtag is to remember, the more likely that other users will use it.
What are some of your favorite hashtags? Have you seen a huge hashtag fail? Or maybe one that was really clever? What was the last hashtag you searched for? Share in the comments!