If you use Instagram, you should be familiar with content tagged with hundreds of different hashtags. Seemingly random words or phrases that start with “#”, like #happy, #fitness, or #NoFilter.
Personal users, who use Instagram to share content with their family and friends, place them without much care, selecting those that feel familiar with the content being shared. Like sharing a photo on the beach with your family and tagging it with #beachday, #happy, #lovemyfamily.
However, if you visit a popular brand or local business, you’ll see that hashtags are no longer random strings of words but phrases associated with the brand, a marketing campaign, or a slogan.
If you’re part of a business looking to promote your product on Instagram, or you’re an Instagrammer or influencer looking for more traffic to your page and new followers, you must learn how to use hashtags effectively to attract authentic followers who will help you grow your brand.
Hashtags 101… What are they?
Let’s start by getting a little technical and learn how hashtags started. With the advent of social networks, there were millions of images and comments published every day, and making your particular post stand out from the rest was tricky without a large number of followers.
Social networks wanted to connect people with content that they wanted to see and would be interested in, so they created a simple solution. Adding a word or phrase preceded by the pound or hash sign (#) allowed your content to be indexed by the platform’s search engine. Text within posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram was always searchable, but hashtags allowed people to find very specific content more easily and helped to connect people who were posting about the same things.
This quickly became popular and people realized that using hashtags would allow them to show up in the feeds of people looking for that particular type of content. People were able to tap into whole new audiences because hashtags gave exposure to accounts that other users may not have found otherwise, but were posting about what they were already interested in.
Where to Start?
Now that you know how hashtags work you must learn which hashtags you should use in your industry. Keep in mind that this is not going to be quick and it’s going to require some research and brainstorming.
Regardless of the industry that you’re in, you want to attract an audience that will be interested in your content and products. Authentic followers who will appreciate what you’re doing and engage with your content, thereby making your profile grow.
To attract those new followers you’re going to use existing hashtags, but which you choose to use will depend on what you have to offer, your type of content, where you are, and what’s current.
To help you find the best Instagram hashtags in your industry, I’m going to divide this section into three essential parts; your content, your audience, and your competitors.
Understanding Your Content
Catering to general and trending hashtags won’t make your content stand out. A lot of people don’t get the results they hope for because their posts are lost in people’s busy feeds. Analyze what it is that you offer and break it down into specific, niche words that make you stand out. Words that you would use to describe what you offer as if they were micro elevator pitches. They need to be specific and tailored because if they’re too general your content will get lost in a sea of other posts.
For example, if you have a food truck and want to promote a new dish, you shouldn’t use the hashtag #food because of its massive amount of traffic.
Instead, you should use smaller and more specific hashtags, like the particular dish (#hotdog, #pizza, #icecream), your location (#NYC, #Toronto, #StJohns) and mix it up with the event you might be catering and the other types of food you make.
What Your Audience is Looking For
After you know what your content is about, you must use that knowledge to find out who your audience is going to be.
If you’re posting content about winter fashion for women, your audience should be women within a particular age range, and you must research what people within this demographic commonly search for on Instagram.
What Your Competitors Are Using
Finally, you must research what hashtags your competitors are using to learn which hashtags are working for them and which they’re not taking advantage of.
With this information you can compare the list you already made from your audience and your content with what they have. It’s fine for you to use some of the same tags, which means you’ll be competing for the same audience, but it’s also important to use hashtags that they’re not using in order to find your own audience.
BONUS TIP: Look beyond your local competition. What are people in your space are doing in different parts of the world?⠀
BONUS TIP 2: Look beyond your direct competition. What hashtags are your secondary and indirect competitors using? Can you create content around those hashtags?⠀
Density, Popularity, and Traffic
In the sections above I discussed trending and popular hashtags and focusing on smaller, more specific tags.
Thanks to Instagram’s feature to search for content by tags, users can create feeds consisting only of posts with a particular hashtag, allowing them to find new and engaging content creators in a particular niche.
This is where you’ll show up if you use the correct tags, in a feed of similar content where your post will stand out to people who you know are already interested in your field. However, as I discussed before, using tags that are too busy will have your post buried beneath an endless stream of content.
Searching for a particular hashtag or typing one in a post will show you how popular a particular hashtag is. Some are in the tens of millions, which is a lot of content to compete with to get your post noticed.
If you’re making that list of the best Instagram hashtags to use in your industry, you want a lower number of posts to have a higher chance of your content showing up in someone’s feed.
Depending on your niche, between 500,000 and a 1,000,000 is a great place to start. This number gives you a better chance to stand out. These are still big numbers, but when compared to 10,000,000 they imply that there are fewer posts being made with that tag every minute, hour, or day that you need to compete against at any given time.
Once you start getting more followers and higher engagement, you can start to compete for attention using higher density hashtags.
What Hashtags to Use?
After doing all your research you probably have a long list of possible hashtags that can be included in your posts. However, choosing which ones will have the best impact is often a matter of trial and error.
In the first few weeks, you should be checking on Instagram’s insight tab frequently to find out how the tags are working for you; which ones are attracting more traffic and which ones are not working as you expected.
Using hashtags is a form of marketing that requires patience and dedication. There’s no natural combination for any given industry, but following a pattern of research and review will help you to see much better results.
Here are some sites where I have found popular hashtags for different industries:
Finding hashtags for your business becomes harder every day because of how people use social networks. People’s attention shifts and what was popular last month is not likely to be trending now.
That’s why you must patiently research and keep an eye on your insights and be aware of how your audience behaves. Instagram’s search function and insights tab will become your best friends in this endeavor, so look at them regularly and use the data they provide to make better decisions on future posts.
With this brief guide and tips on how to find the best Instagram hashtags for your industry, you’ll have a clear advantage over the myriad of businesses that are not using hashtags strategically, using popular but irrelevant tags on their posts, and still hoping to make an impact on Instagram. Trending tags may seem attractive but posts that use them are likely to get lost in the traffic.
Remember to start out slowly, combine smaller, popular, and niche tags into your posts, and checking how they fare. If you apply the knowledge found in this guide, you’ll see an increase in your traffic and audience engagement.