February 15, 2017

If you've used Instagram for more than 5 minutes, you know how prevalent hashtags are on the platform. They're abundant! And as a non-hashtag lover, I was one of those who hated the all-consuming use of these hashtags on Instagram. That is, until I realized their full potential and discovered ways to use hashtags strategically to actually find your target audience on Instagram.

Or, more accurately, how to get your target audience to find YOU on Instagram.

So, if you haven't heard me talk about hashtags on Instagram before, let me explain to you how they are the secret sauce to success.

Of course, anyone can throw up any hashtags in hopes of getting more likes on their posts. And, let's face it, this happens all the time. Most people think only about popularity and the "appearance" of a popular post. But what if you could actually use hashtags to have your content found by the "right" people?

Here's how to do it!

I use a very strategic formula when it comes to hashtags to ensure that my posts show up as a top post in searches for my key niche and industry terms for which I want to be found. And you can do the exact same thing.

But first, you have to figure out what you want those targeted keywords to be.

You need to know what hashtags you're gonna use to stand out on Instagram. Those keywords that people will search for to find you.

Understand that this won't be some generic term like "fashion" or "blogger" or "photographer" or whatever else. Good luck with that! Ha! No, you need to be super specific. It may be a geographical distinction like "virginiabeachphotographer" or a specific niche characteristic you fall into like "healthykidsmeals".

You need to know what specifically sets you apart, but also, more specifically, what your audience is looking for on Instagram. You can use all the best keywords in the world, but if they aren't what your target audience are actually looking for and clicking on, then you're wasting your hashtags. So take some time, do some research, and choose your best hashtags to represent your brand, business, and target audience interests.

Ok, now that you have that figured out, here's my super secret, but that I tell everyone, recipe for hashtag success.

First, you're going to use 15-20 hashtags per post. You can use up to 30, but can't use more than 30 or your caption won't post. So go up to 29 to be safe, if you want to.

Second, use 4-5 super popular hashtags. These are hashtags that are related to your content but that fall in the realm of millions of posts on that hashtag. For example, I use hashtags like #socialmedia and #business and #entrepreneur. All super popular but still related to what I do and the content I'm posting. We don't want you hashjacking some random popular tags just for the sake of it. Every hashtag you use, should be related to your content, your business, and/or your context.

Third, use 5-7 moderately popular hashtags. These are the hashtags that have tens to hundreds of thousands of posts associated with them. Again, these are hashtags related to your content and brand but that start getting a little more targeted in terms of scope and context.

Fourth, use 2-5 niche specific hashtags. These are those target keywords I told you to figure out. The ones your audience is actually searching for. And these are the ones that don't have a lot of content associated with them in the hashtag search galleries.

Fifth, use 1-2 branded hashtags that are only for your branded content. Whether you or your customers are using them, these are the hashtags that will house all of your content.

And there you go!

That's all you have to do.

Simple, right? But why does it work you ask...

Ok, I won't leave you hanging. Here's what happens.

When you post your content using this strategy, you will see an initial burst of activity from the popular hashtags. Yes, some of this activity may come from bots. Some of it may come from randoms. We don't care. You just need that initial burst of engagement. Then, literally, in a matter of minutes, because those popular hashtag hubs are so active, your content is buried in the archives of that hashtag, never to be seen again. But that's ok!

This is where the moderately popular hashtags kick in. Your content will stay active in these hashtag hubs for hours, if not days, keeping your content actively engaged over time.

And this is only your hashtag activity. You're also getting constant engagement from your followers on your post so it's staying active in both your existing audience, and new audience views. This is golden to Instagram's algorithm for search criteria!

When Instagram is looking at your post content, it sees good immediate engagement, good long term engagement, and good engagement across new and existing audiences. So it determines your content is worth showing to more people! And then, what ends up happening is that you show up in both the Explore tab for the right target audiences, but also that you show up as a top post for your niche specific hashtags that you have already determined your audience is searching for.

And posts that show up in the top post section of hashtag hubs can stay there for days and weeks! Which means you have the opportunity to put yourself in front of all the right people looking for what you have to offer!

It could mean new followers, more engagement, more click-throughs to your website, and eventually, more sales. I don't have to tell you this is a winning strategy!

I literally use this strategy on almost every single post I share to Instagram. I recommend all my clients use this strategy. I teach this formula and strategy when I do live training sessions and webinars. Because. It. Works!

Did you find this helpful? Please share:
  1. Is it better to keep the #’s in the post, or send in the first comment? I recall hearing to put them in the first comment. Also, I have heard of a site to look up #’s outside of Instagram, do you know what that is? I can’t find my notes from that info. Thanks for all that you do!!

    1. Hey Julie! When it comes to caption vs comment for hashtags, I put all of mine in the caption… but I’m too lazy to bother separating them 😉 Honestly, though, it really doesn’t matter. There is no direct advantage to one method versus the other. It’s mostly a styling preference for most people. However, if you are using any popular hashtags (as I described in this post), I recommend posting those in the original caption so that you don’t lose valuable time in delaying to get them into a follow-on comment.

    1. Yes, I absolutely do! When done strategically, as outlined here, you are helping your target audience find you on Instagram. Doing that puts your products and services in front of new potential customers. Of course, you have to have the right strategy to actually get those potential customers into your sales funnel for the real ROI to translate, but the right hashtag strategy definitely helps drive those leads.

      1. Great to learn. Can you tell me if I want to consider geo targeting in hashtag use then how can I do? I mean I am from India and if I want to know the hashtags popular in Indian users then?

        1. The best thing is to use the search tool within Instagram and start typing in “India” or other relevant geographical phrases. You’ll see the lists of most commonly used hashtags with those keywords and how many posts are associated with each so you’ll know which ones to use.

  2. Hi Jenn,
    Great post I’m going to try it.. one question.. you said this in another comment:

    “Of course, you have to have the right strategy to actually get those potential customers into your sales funnel for the real ROI to translate, but the right hashtag strategy definitely helps drive those leads.”

    Do you have any posts on applying to most effective or ‘right’ strategy as you refer to in this comment?

    1. Hi Kathy! That’s a great question! And, to be honest, I haven’t directly answered that in any specific blog post, though I’ve probably alluded to it in many. However, this blog post may help give you some guidance: http://www.jennstrends.com/grow-your-email-list-using-social-media/
      The key is to make sure you are strategically using your posts to drive people to your opt-in, subscription, or other means of collecting their email address. It can be as simple as signing up for your blog post notifications or newsletters.
      I hope this helps but feel free to let me know if you have more questions. You can always email at [email protected] as well.

    1. Yay! And I hope you see good results from this 🙂 I’ve implemented this on my new account and, again, it’s proving valuable in getting people to find me.

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