#Hashtag101: How To Use Hashtags Correctly To Grow Your Instagram Likes, Following, And Engagement
Updated: Nov 18, 2019
Have you ever wondered what hashtags are and why people are using them on their social media channels? Or are you using hashtags but unsure what they actually do and whether they're contributing to your social media pages and posts?
In this post I'm going to discuss hashtags with you, how they can benefit your channels and how to use them correctly on platforms like Instagram. While they seem insignificant, hashtags can be a huge factor in how well your posts are performing and who is seeing them!
So, what IS a hashtag?
A hashtag is a metadata tag used on social media platforms and blogs that allows users to find messages and posts under a specific type of theme or content. In other words, hashtags are the tools used to organize all of the different types of content on your favorite platforms like Instagram and Twitter to help YOU find what you're looking for. They also help other people to find YOU. Think of a hashtag on Instagram as the librarian or library catalog at your local public library.
For the purpose of this post, we're going to focus on Instagram hashtags.
What do Instagram hashtags do?
Instagram hashtags help to (1.) describe photos that are posted (2.) describe the person posting them and their page and (3.) describe the audience that the photo is being posted for. Hashtags go much deeper than just naming the color or thing in the photo. In order to utilize them correctly, you have to think about the three aforementioned uses every single time you use hashtags. What is happening in my picture? Who am I and what is my page about? Who do I want to see this picture? Who is my audience? Now look at the photo below, and the two hashtag sets.
HASHTAG SET 1
HASHTAG SET 2
Which hashtag set do you think would be more beneficial to getting people to see this photo on their explore feeds?
Hashtag set 1 is descriptive, but relatively vague. It also uses words that are generic and probably have been used millions of times on Instagram. Hashtag set 2 is descriptive, but specific. It not only describes that this is an outfit picture, but also that the person IN the picture is a plus size blogger, from the Caribbean who probably posts outfit pictures often. Now let's discuss hashtag numbers.
When you search a particular hashtag on Instagram, you'll probably notice that the hashtag has been used a certain number of times. Some hashtags like "#travel" has 445 MILLION uses on instagram. Meanwhile the hashtag #Jeaiza has 0 results/uses (go figure.)
If you're trying to get people to find your profile and content, those numbers matter, but you have to know how to use them. If you're a travel blogger odds are that using the hashtag "travel" won't yield much results on your page unless you have over 100,000 followers. The reason for this is Instagram's ranking tools. When you post a picture, instagram will rank your photo on the explore feed as well as the feeds for each hashtag you use. If you have 100-10,000 followers and use the hashtag "travel" odds are you picture is ranked pretty low in comparison to the other 445 million people using that hashtag. The key to having your picture rank is using hashtags that have a smaller amount of uses closer to the range of your amount of followers. I'll use myself as an example.
These are both better hashtags for me because they have less uses and the range is closer to the amount of followers I have. If you have less than 5,000 followers, you want your hashtag numbers to be anywhere from 5,000-25,000. If you have more, you want your hashtag usage to be under 100,000. The key to finding hashtags that work is changing the amount of hashtags you use, changing the wording, and switching up your hashtag set with every few posts to see what works. Be sure to monitor the type of engagement you get on each post. Remember: content also matters. No matter how many good hashtags you use, an uninteresting picture won't receive the same kind of engagement.
Speaking of engagement, let's go to our final point!
You Have To Engage In Order to Receive Engagement
If you're not searching your hashtags and engaging (liking + commenting) on the pictures you see, then you're doing yourself and your content a disservice. Getting engagement for your page goes further than just liking the pictures you see on your feed. Odds are you might be following people who aren't necessarily your audience or niche. So engaging with them is good, but not beneficial to your own page. It's important that you go under hashtags like the ones we settled on earlier and like+comment their pictures. When people see someone new liking and commenting on their page, they are more likely to do the same and may even follow you if they find your feed interesting. Even if you don't have time to do this every day, make sure you do it on the days when you post. Engaging with your hashtags 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after posting has proven to be beneficial for some folks.
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