Instagram hashtags on your posts, Reels and videos can help you content be found by potential customers, but are you using them effectively?
What is a hashtag?
A hashtag is a word prefaced by the # symbol, that acts as an index tag. If you search for any word with # in front of it, you will find any content that has that tag attached.
Without hashtags, it would be impossible to find anything you were interested in.
On Instagram and LinkedIn, you can follow hashtags.
If you followed the hashtag #accountant, you will see a few posts in your news feed with #accountant.
Why do you need hashtags?
If I am looking for an accountant on Instagram, I am likely to use the search bar and type the word #accountant. If your post has that hashtag, there is a chance I will find it.
A hashtag helps your content be grouped with other content using the same hashtag.
It also enables people to find and comment on content with that hashtag.
Plus, it helps you and your content be found by people who don’t already follow you.
For a business, this is VITAL for reaching new audiences. If you can rank in the “top posts” for a hashtag, you are likely to get more people to find your content.
How do I find the right hashtags to use?
There are no “right” hashtags to use. There are just the right hashtags for your business niche and your customers.
Advice from Lucas O’Keefe is to use keywords that are RELEVANT to you, your business and your customer.
- Related to your brand and your content
- Niche keywords that describe what you do
- Keyword hashtags that describe your post
- Keyword hashtags that describe your customer
There are wrong hashtags, however. Certain hashtags have been marked as spammy and if you use them you could be sent to Instagram jail!
Where the recommendation used to be to use all 30 hashtags, Instagram stated that fewer hashtags was actually better.
Instagram @Creators account came out in September 2021, stating that people should use fewer hashtags – only 3-5!!!!
Their advice was having too many would actually not help you get any additional distribution.
After years of people worrying about hashtags, dropping down to this few seemed crazy! Having so few hashtags was probably ok for large accounts, but what about everyone else.
According to Later, and their analysis of 18million posts, they found that around 20 hashtags was the magic number.
“When we looked at how the number of hashtags impacts reach (after analyzing over 18M Instagram feed posts), we found that using more hashtags typically yields the best results.”
How to conduct Instagram hashtag research – a DIY approach
Step 1 – Research your keyword on various social media platforms
On Instagram, just the search bar and type in #*yourkeyword*
You’ll get a list of drop-down related keywords with a number beside them. This number indicates how many posts have been posted with that hashtag attached. It gives you a rough idea of how difficult it would be to compete with other posts using that hashtag.
If you use a hashtag with over 2 million posts, it’s going to be hard to rank for that hashtag. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them, but you should include some smaller hashtags too.
Keep a record of these hashtags and the count and add to an Excel / Google Sheets.
Also, keep a record of ‘mis-spelled’ words as often people follow misspelt # words as well!
Step 2 – Research your competitors
Click on the first hashtag “#accountant” to see a list of top posts for that hashtag.
Let’s click on one and check their hashtags.
#profitfirst #bookkeeper #bookkeeping #accountant #accounting #virtualassistant #socialmediamanager #webdesigner #femalefounder #photographyworkshop #socalwedding #socalweddingphotographer #brandstrategist #contentcreator #coursecreator #creativebusiness #womenwithambition #womensupportingwomen@honeydigit
There’s a really interesting list of hashtags here.
This account has a nice collection of hashtags split between customer and industry as well as some aspirational hashtags too.
There’s a real focus on a specific customer persona there as well.
Let’s take a look at another post from the same account.
#Profitfirst #taxdeductions #incomestreams #femalefounder #creativebusiness #bookkeeper #bookkeeping #accountant #accounting #moneymanagement #moneymindset #passiveincome #womenwithambition #onlinebusinessowner #onlinebusinesscoach #coursecreator #virtualassistant #lasheducator #businesscoaches #socialmediamanager #contentcreator #socialmediamarketing #webdesigner@honeydigit
Again – some great hashtags related to her specific customer types and their aspirations #moneymindset.
It definitely pays to do some competitor research as a stepping stone for your own research and hashtag selection.
Check if there are any relevant acronym hashtags (e.g. #TGIF = Thank God it’s Friday) and emoji hashtags (e.g. #businesswoman👜👠)
But don’t COPY!
Step 3 – Find hashtags your customers are interested in / aspire to
Customers may be describing themselves in a totally different way from how you would describe them.
To find out what your customers are interested in you need to do some extra research.
Try using Answer the Public – this is a great keyword visualisation tool.
If I type in ‘accountant’ it returns some additional keywords that could work as hashtags.
Accountant near me
Save me money
Step 4 – Look for what hashtags brand advocates and influencers are using too
Step 5 – Log all your hashtags and their volume
Keep a list of all relevant hashtags in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheets (this is online, free to use, and can be accessed from anywhere in the world and on any device).
Step 6 – Group your hashtags by categories
Group your hashtags into your categories.
These could be around your core content pillars (i.e. topics), service or product offerings, or brand values.
That way you will have a ready go-to list of hashtags for each type of post.
If your business is location-specific, I would also create a list of location hashtags and community hashtags as well.
So if you were located in Kent – look for hashtags like #kentsmallbusiness, and maybe #southeastuk.
If you are an accountant, there may be community hashtags that are related to your industry, like #accountantlife
Step 7 – Sort your hashtags by size
Once you have your hashtag groups, sort them by volume. This will give you an idea of competitive and non-competitive hashtags.
In the column next to your hashtag, add in the volume of posts.
If you are using Google Sheets, just highlight your table and right-click – Sort range.
I have header titles, so I tick the box saying “Data has header row.”
Now select “Sort by = “column name” – pick the column you have your data in.
Now press – Sort.
If you are using Excel, select your data (not headers). Then right click > Sort. Sort by – choose the column your numbers are in and Order = Largest to Smallest.
Now you should be able to easily see which hashtags are the biggest and which are more niche.
In Google Sheets or Excel, you can apply ‘conditional formatting to your numbers column. I like to do this because I can quickly see at a glance which hashtags are spammy, large, medium, or small/niche.
Spammy hashtags are anything over 1 million.
These hashtags are simply too competitive to enable your post to stand out – unless you are a Kardashian.
If you have the hashtag #handmade on a post, accounts with a large number of followers using that hashtag are always going to appear in the top posts before you.
With spammy hashtags, you are also likely to attract bots. These are tools that automatically like and comment and follow accounts, and you are unlikely to get any real engagement or interest from them.
To group my hashtags, I apply the following conditional format rules.
MASSIVE – >1 million
Large – 800k – 1m
Medium 500k – 800k
Small 100 – 500k
Try applying the following rules. If you want to use my version, just click on this link.
Next, pick a mixture of large, medium and small hashtags that you can use across your core categories. For example:
Product / Service / Industry
#accountant #taxaccountant #financialadvice #taxmadeeasy #selfemploymenttax
#budgetconscious #familysaving #financehacks #savinghacks #savinggoals #savemoney
#kent #southeast #homecounties #kentaccountants
Community (real and virtual)
#smallbusinesskent #accountantlife #accountantbloggers #accountantsofig #womeninaccountancyuk
Brand / Niche (include your own business name and any slogans you use too!)
#friendlyfamilyaccountant #Kentaccountancyservice #boostyourincome #savememoney
If there are any seasonal or event days that relate to your niche, be sure to list those too.
Step 8 – Save your hashtags online
Now save those groups of hashtags somewhere handy, like an online note tool (e.g. Google Keep).
Both these online note tools sync across devices, so whether you are posting content from your desktop or your phone, you will always have access to these hashtags.
Now all you need to do and then copy and paste them into your social media channels or social media scheduler. These groups will ensure you have variety in your hashtags on your posts – as Instagram can punish you for using the same hashtags over and over.
Hashtags for Reels
You should also use hashtags on your reels if you have a small to medium account to help you be found.
Again, check the competition.
Also, don’t be afraid to use ‘larger’ hashtags that describe what your Reel is about.
How to find hashtags using online tools
The other option is to use a hashtag Tool
You could try Hashtastic. The free lite version will give you a tally of how many daily posts there are, but you’ll need the premium version to see how popular and how many likes those hashtags tend to get.
Flick is another paid for service, but you could use the free version to research initial hashtags to use.
The benefit of signing up long-term, however, is with its suite of analytics. Flick also uses Instagram’s official business account API.
You just click on the hashtags you want to use and Flick will group them for you and show you insights.
It’s a really neat tool, and it allows you to copy the hashtags that you have selected. It even has an analytical section that tracks engagement.
Later, a social media scheduler also has hashtag analytics to give you insights about your top-performing hashtags.
Hopefully, this has given you a clearer view of how to find and use hashtags effectively on your Instagram account.
Your goal is to get your post in the “top posts” for that hashtag.
If you are doing a DIY approach follow these steps:
Start by researching your competitors, brand advocates, and customers to see what hashtags they use.
- Create a list of hashtags by size and category.
Group them into your content categories have hashtags related to:
- your post
- your product/service
- your brand
- your location
- your niche community
- customer specific / customer aspirational
Sort them by size
Pick a selection of hashtags that are a mix of large, medium and small (bigger for Reels)
- Save your groups to an online note tool
Make sure you don’t use the exact same group of hashtags on every post, you want to make sure you tailor your group to every post and reach new people every time.
If you don’t have time to do all the research yourself, use one of the online tools to get a handle on your hashtags.
Alternatively, get a social media audit and get your hashtag research done for you.
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