‘Hashtag’ has become a common part of our social media vernacular over the last couple of years. It rose to prominence on Twitter & has been made so famous by Instagram that the word itself seems to have become part of everyday millenial speech (‘Oh my God that’s hashtag awesome!’ – yeah, #PleaseDont).
But I do think that few people actually realize the power of the humble hashie. Essentially, hashtags work as a search mechanism and organizational tool across a particular social platform (with Instagram and Twitter being the most adopted) to find certain types of content that a user is interested in. By using a combination of hashtags relevant to your content, you have the opportunity to reach more people than just your followers (and therefore, potential new customers & fans), increase engagement, and join global conversations.
So, where do you start? Right here, actually – just follow the steps!
Step 1. Investigate the top hashtags that are common to your content.
The first step is to understand the common thread in your content. Do you like to flatlay? Is your business food related? Do you deal in homewares & interiors? Fashion? Each industry has it’s own set of well-frequented hashtags, so you need to drill down on what it is you’re pedaling, and start with a few keywords. In this example, I have chosen ‘Fashion’ and will step you through hashtag research on Instagram (sorry, Tweeters, your time will come).
Start by logging in to your Instagram app, and hit search (the magnifying glass at the bottom of your screen). In the search bar at the top, type in ‘fashion’. This will return the top hashtags and accounts. You can see that #fashion has over 345M uses across Instagram, and #fashionblogger over 33M. Obviously these are well-used hashtags, and ones that people will search for content they like. Because of the high number of uses however, the content feeds they return are cluttered and constantly updating, so the chance of your content being seen in these is slim to none. They also tend to be fairly uninspiring because every person and their fur-baby use them.
These hashtags can be alright for global reach and engagement, but I don’t recommend using more than 2-3 because you will simply get lost.
Step 2. Dive deep
So we’ve established that you’re ‘fashion’ but what type? Are you retro fashion, plus size fashion, fitness fashion…? Have a think about what really describes your product or business and search again.
- A search for #retrofashion returns 190,122 uses
- A search for #plussizefashion returns 1,705,333 uses
- A search for #fitnessfashion returns 271,940 uses
Now we’re getting somewhere! Using more specific hashtags with less uses works in two ways – firstly, it’s a less cluttered marketplace which increases the odds of your content being seen, and secondly, these hashtags will be searched by users specifically looking for your type of content and are therefore more qualified to be your customer – win win!
Step 3. Find related hashtags
For arguments sake, say you are a designer & manufacturer of plus-sized women’s clothing (good for you, by the way!). You’ve already established that #fashion and #plussizefashion will work well for you at a high level, but what next? Find out what other, related tags are out there!
Type ‘plussizefashion’ into your search bar & hit ‘Tags.’ This will return a list of the most used hashtags in this field, and the number of uses they have had.
You can then find EVEN MORE related hashtags by clicking on one of them that interests you (say #plussizefashionista), and this will return a feed of the top & most recent content posted by people using this tag. At the very top you will see a line with more hashtags that are related, so you can capture those as well! Just scroll across with your finger – easy!
Step 4. Learn from the best
When searching any hashtag, you will notice that the feed it returns will start with a 3x3 grid called ‘Top Posts.’ This is a current list of the most popular content that has used that particular hashtag. These are people you can learn from (read: copy).
If I click on the first post in Top Posts for #plussizefashionista, it takes me to a post by @killerkurves, who (at the time of writing this!) has 1,409 likes and 18 comments on their post, which was posted 4 hours ago.
Click into the comments and you will notice that they have hidden their hashtags in the first comment (more on this later!) that you can investigate further or simply copy if you wish!
Step 4. Find content hubs
There are literally THOUSANDS (probably more) of content and community hubs on Instagram, for all kinds of industries, that can help you reach an even wider audience if you are to get regrammed by one. It can take some time and investigation to find the ones that are of particular relevance for your industry, but for this example I am going to use one that I frequent (that can still be relevant for the fashion industry) – FLATLAYS.
There are several accounts solely dedicated to curating the best flatlay content across Instagram, and each have their own unique hashtag, that if used, will open you up to the opportunity of them featuring your image on their feed (and they often have THOUSANDS of highly engaged followers). Many people also search these for inspiration, so even if you don’t get featured, they are still really valuable. Here are a few of my favourites:
- @flatlays – 310K followers – use hashtag #flatlay
- @flatlay_collective – 8,700 followers – use hashtag #Flatlays #flatlay_collective
- @flatlayforever – 66.8K followers – use hashtag #flatlayforever
- @flatlaystyle – 10.2K followers – use hashtag #flatlaystyle
- @flatlaytoday – 39.5K followers – use hashtag #flatlaytoday
- @flatlaysquad – 31.5K followers – use hashtag #theflatlaysquad
And really…the list goes on! Stalk (I mean, research) your competitors and people you follow to find out what hubs might exist in your industry. And if there isn’t one, think about creating one!
Step 5. Get branded
Using a consistent, branded hashtag will not only help keep your content organized, but will encourage your customers to use it if they include your product in one of their images. This helps increase awareness for your business, and makes you easier to find. This could be as simple as the name of your business, or something more creative that speaks to your brand story. Just make sure you’re not hijacking one that someone else has spent a lot of time building up!
FUN FACT…#Nike is the single most used branded hashtag on Instagram with over 52M uses. Whoa! By comparison, #Coke sits at just over 3M.
Step 6. Let your personality shine
I am a huge advocate for including 1-2 hashtags that may not be traffic-drivers (i.e. they are not searched hashtags) but do speak to your brand and personality. Use something funny. Something ironic. Something poignant. Something inspirational. Just make it about you.
So now that you have a bank of hashtags that could work for you, it’s time to use them! Below are 5 tips for easy (and best practice) hashtagging to get you on your way:
- Instagram let’s you use 30 hashtag per post. There’s lot of talk about how brands should only use 5-10. Stuff that. Use them all.
- Keep your bank of hashtags in the notes section of your phone, and just copy & paste across, so you don’t have to write them out every time. Such a time saver!
- Use your branded and entertaining / personal / inspiring hashtags in your main caption. Hide all others in your first comment. They will still be searchable, and your caption won’t get drowned out by messy, desperate-looking hashtags.
- Be sociable. Are there particular hashtags you use a lot? Once a week, head into that feed and engage with some other users by liking & commenting on their photos. Not only will this help build a genuine following but you could make some actual friends & collaborators in the process.
- Review, review, review. Do this monthly. Go back and look through all the hashtags you are currently using and take a look at what other relevant tags have popped up. And when some you have used for a while start to get too big, replace them with something new (potential new audience, greater opportunity for getting noticed, etc.).
Happy hashtagging, folks!