How to Research Hashtags on Instagram

#hashtags instagram social media Feb 09, 2021

If you’re on Instagram, you’ve probably spent some time clicking on hashtags, trying to figure out what they are and why people use them.  (If you’re still unsure, head over to my blog post that explains them before reading on.)  In this blog post, I want to dig a bit deeper and talk about how to find hashtags that will help you attract your ideal client/customer on Instagram.

You need hashtags with EVERY post. You do, trust me. Otherwise, your post will get lost in the shuffle. People really do click into tags that interest them, and that’s how they find the content they want to see. If you’re using the right hashtags, it'll attract more of the right people to your posts!   

Today's post focuses on "hashtag research" for a reason. So many times we are posting to Instagram, and just picking our hashtags out of thin air. This does a disservice to the amazing content you just took time to write, and it's frankly a waste of time. 

So I'm here to help! Here's how you find the right hashtags for your posts, to get the best possible reach. 

Use the explore feature to find related tags

Click the magnifying glass icon at the bottom of Instagram on mobile and in the search field, type a hashtag (or keyword) that you think is a good one for you. Let's say #socialmedia. Tap the Tag tab so see only hashtag results. You'll see that tag at the top of your results, and then Instagram suggests a long list of other tags too! 

Make sure your tags are not too popular, or too obscure.

Now, still looking at the same screen with the results of searching the #socialmedia hashtag, you’ll see that #socialmedia has 22.6 million posts using that hashtag. It’s not likely that people will see your post if you use that hashtag - there are simply too many people using it. But, if you keep looking down the list, you'll see other options that have less photos associated with it. #socialmediamarketingtips will work! 

I always advise that you choose the hashtags that have between 1,000 and 500,000 photos using the hashtag. This is your sweet spot! If the number is in the millions, your post will fall to the bottom, but if it's in the sweet spot, you'll be more likely to show up in results.

*This is not to say that you'll never use the larger hashtags, you certainly can test them out, you'll just want to have the majority of your hashtags in this zone. 

Check to see that these tags are appropriate for your audience.

Sometimes it seems like a no-brainer to use very innocent-sounding tags. However, it’s a good idea to always click into it and scroll through the photos to be sure! You don’t want your customers to click on one of your tags and to be shocked by what they see! 

Let's get researching! 

Instagram allows 30 hashtags with every post - in order to maximize this, I recommend using all 30 when you can! So let's walk through the process of building a "block" of 30 hashtags on a single post.

Think about who you want to attract 

Often, people use hashtags that describe themselves, #graphicdesigner for example. This is a great start, but what happens is that you end up attracting other graphic designers (ie, not your target market.) What you can do instead, is use hashtags that describe your ideal person, like #drivenentrepreneur or #womaninbusiness. 

If you were your ideal client/customer, what hashtags would you be using/searching? Consider how old they are, where they live, what they're interested in, and click that magnifying glass to get searching! 

Write down (or type out) 10 hashtags that describe your ideal client.

Highlight your product or service 

How do you serve your clients? What are you providing with this post? #graphicdesigntips or #designservices may work in this case. 

Write down (or type out) 10 hashtags that describe your product or service.

Describe what is actually in the picture 

Instagram has recently cracked down on people using hashtags that have nothing to do with the picture/video they've posted. They want to be sure that hashtags accurately reflect the content in the visual. So, for this reason, you will want to include a few hashtags that describe what's in the photo. 

Write down (or type out) 3-5 hashtags that describe what's in the picture. 

Think about where your ideal follower is located 

Particularly if you have a brick and mortar location, you'll want to find hashtags that people around you are using. For example, #keenenh or #ilovermont or even a hashtag for a local upcoming event. These help narrow your audience to a geographic area and will help local people find you! (PRO TIP: Don't forget to geo-tag your location when you post as well.)

You may want to use a combination of your product/service and combine it with your location - if it's a hashtag people are using. 

For example: if you’re a florist, you may be looking to reach brides. Try a combination of location and wedding centric tags to get started. If you’re in Vermont, try #vermontbride. This will be more likely to find you brides near you than a more wide open tag that could attract people from across the country. 

Even if you don't have a physical location, you may want to connect with people near you, or near a particular location. So researching these hashtags can be super helpful!

Write down (or type out) 3-5 location specific hashtags. 

Include some niche, trending or fun hashtags when you can

I like to include daily hashtags like #TBT or #motivationmondays to take advantage of themes for the day. You can also get creative with tags like #makersgonnamake and #ihavethisthingwithcolor. It's always a good idea to take a look at competitors or other businesses who have parallel audiences to yours in order to find new ones! 

Write down (or type out) 3-5 fun or niche hashtags. 

There you have it - a block of (up to) 30 hashtags for your post! How does it feel? 

Remember, hashtags are time sensitive & you've got to mix them up 

Your post shows up in results in the order it was posted. So you're going to want to add your hashtags as soon as possible after posting your photo and caption. Posting hashtags in the comments keeps your caption clean and easy to read, while still categorizing your post to be delivered with all other photos using those hashtags.

It's also important that you don't use the same block of hashtags every time you post. You'll get flagged as spammy if you're using the same exact block over and over again. 

Once you've done your research, and found your hashtags as above, it's a great idea to keep a running list in your phone, or in your project management system like Trello or Samepage so you can grab them quickly.

How do you know if your hashtags are working? 

Did you know you can click into each of your posts, choose View Insights, scroll up, and see how many people found your post from hashtags? It's a good indicator that your hashtag block is or isn't working, for each individual post! 

That's it! Just remember that it's always good to refresh your hashtags, so this process is not one-and-done. Be sure to keep an eye out for fresh tags to try, and remember to have fun with it! 

Now, if you'd like to go deeper, and learn how to use hashtags to increase engagement on your Instagram account, check out my on-demand workshop, Instagram: Engaged! 

Ok, now it's time to have fun finding those hashtags. DM me on Instagram with any questions!

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