Instagram hashtag strategy: how to boost your engagement

Instagram hashtag strategy: how to boost your engagement

Over the past few years there’s been a lot of debate about how effective hashtags are for increasing the visibility of your account. Before the algorithm kicked in, using popular hashtags was a great way to get your content seen by a much wider audience. Then, it was thought that using lots of hashtags was seen as ‘spammy’ by Instagram and it was best to just use 3-5 (or avoid using them at all). Now, a well thought out Instagram hashtag strategy is recommended.

The advice from successful Instagrammers is to use the maximum amount of hashtags (that’s 30 on Instagram), but opt for more niche ones to expose your account to the right people. Here’s our advice for building a successful Instagram hashtag strategy to boost your engagement and grow your account.

How many hashtags should I use?

This has been hotly contested over the years. There’s research that suggests posts that use 9-11 hashtags perform the best. However, what these studies don’t take into account is the quality of the posts or the relevancy of the hashtags that are used.

Instagram have a set limit of 30 hashtags that can be used per post. So, if you can find 30 relevant hashtags to use per post, then go for it! By using the maximum amount of 30 you’re giving your posts more chance of being discovered by people who are not already following you.

If you’re really struggling to find relevant hashtags for your posts, then go for the maximum amount you feel you can use without losing relevancy.

Which hashtags should I use?

This is the question everyone wants the answer to! Of course, Instagram hashtag strategy is not a ‘one size fits all’ way of growing your account. When it comes to choosing your hashtags, take a look at the image you are posting and try to come up with 3-5 keywords that relate to it.

For example, if you’re posting a flatlay image of a pasta dish you recently cooked your keywords may be: flatlay, seasonal food, home cooking, uk food, pasta.

As well as using hashtags that relate to the content you’re posting, make sure you also use local and community hashtags to connect with people who share similar content to yours.

If you don’t have the time to find specific hashtags for each new post, why not create lists of relevant ones for the niches your content fits in? For example, you could create ‘travel’ ‘home cooking’ ‘street style’ or ‘book review’ lists with 100+ hashtags in each that you can dive into when you’re not sure which ones to use.

Why should popular hashtags be avoided?

Popular hashtags are those that have 1 million + posts to them. As these hashtags are so popular, it really is best to avoid using them as it’s likely your posts won’t make the ‘top’ page.

They also tend to be flooded with spam, which can lead to them being banned by Instagram. If you use a banned hashtag on your post, this can restrict the reach of it on other hashtags which can have a huge impact on your engagement.

Opting for hashtags that are less popular can mean your content is more likely to hit their ‘top’ pages and be discovered by people who may go on to follow your account. Hashtags that have 10,000-100,000 are great to use as they are popular enough to give you visibility, but with the opportunity for your content to be discovered.

How do I find the best hashtags to use?

The best way to find Instagram hashtags is to decide on 3-5 keywords for your post and get searching! When your post is ready to go, type a ‘#’ followed by one of your keywords and take a look at what comes up. As you scroll down, you’ll see variations of phrases based on your keyword, as well as how many posts have been shared using it. Try to find 5 hashtags with 100,000 posts, or less, based on each keyword that you can use.

If you’re making a master list of hashtags that are relevant to your niche, you can also find relevant hashtags by searching a hashtag you plan to include in the list. On the hashtag’s page Instagram will recommend other similar hashtags that are typically used alongside the original one. This can be a great way to find relevant hashtags that aren’t necessarily based on your keywords.

You could also take a look at accounts that post similar content to your own. Take note of any hashtags they’re using that are relevant to your own content and add them to your master lists so you don’t forget them.

How can I test the performance of the hashtags I’m using?

If you have a business account, the best way to check how your hashtags are performing is by taking a look at your insights.  In the post insights you will be able to see what impressions your post has gained specifically from the hashtags you’ve used.

You could also post very similar content using the same set of hashtags to see which post performs better. For example, if you’re a home interiors Instagrammer a photo of the same room from different angles would give you a good idea of what people browsing those hashtags like the most.

This A/B testing will give you a good insight into what performs well on the hashtags you’re using, and you can then plan your future content around what you know the audience you’re trying to reach likes.

When it comes to Instagram hashtag strategy, the most important things to remember are: post high quality content, only use relevant, niche hashtags and use A/B testing to find out what the audience enjoys most.

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

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