Everything You Need to Know about Using Hashtags for Your Business

Your chances of attracting new followers, getting more likes, and boosting engagement are greatly increased by the use of hashtags.

That’s why we’ve taken the time to put everything you need to know about hashtags in this all-encompassing, ultimate guide to using hashtags for your business.

First thing’s first.

In order to be successful with hashtags, it’s important to be strategic about your hashtag usage.

The “most popular” Instagram hashtags may be simple words like #love, #happy, and #dog, but using them in excess are not going to do much for your business’s growth in the long run. Instead, it’s much better to take your time and find hashtags with an engaged community behind them, that are specific to your audience and can actually move the needle in your business. When it comes down to it, tagging #every #single #possible #word is easy, but it won’t help you find engaged followers to turn into paying customers.

So how do you find the right hashtags to use?

There are two general categories of hashtags you want to pick from: branded and community. Branded hashtags are those unique to your business. They can be simple, like something related to your business’s name or tagline, or something kitschy and creative used for inspiration, to promote a campaign or to collect user-generated content. Community hashtags are those used by like-minded Instagrammers to collect similarly themed photos. This is where you’ll connect with other users, improve the SEO of your post and gain followers.

Let’s get more specific.

Create a branded hashtag that’s unique to your business. It can be your company name, tagline, the name of one of your products or campaigns, or it can be a hashtag that has nothing to do with your brand name and more to do with your brand identity. For example, if your brand is known for its adventurous nature, your hashtag may encourage followers to share their travels with you. Just make sure that whatever you choose is optimized for discovery.

You can use up to 30 hashtags on a post, so try to include 1-2 of these branded hashtags on each-- if they’re relevant to the content. For the other 28 hashtags (or 10 if you’re following Sprout Social’s golden rule for 11 hashtags per post), you’ll want to do some research on the best community hashtags.

Start by finding out what hashtags your audience is already using. What do they enjoy posting and seeing? What are their pain points? What might they be searching for on Instagram? That’s what you want to be hashtagging on your posts.

Next, brainstorm a list of keywords related to your business that answer some of the questions above. This list may be similar to what you’ve already compiled for your website’s SEO or for your Pinterest account. If you need a place to jump off from, check out what hashtags your competitors and other influential people in your industry are using.

Once you’ve compiled this list, take to the Instagram search bar for further investigation. Using Instagram’s native search function, you can type in keywords and allow Instagram to auto-populate suggested hashtags and related hashtags users are engaging with.

Again, the best way to find community-oriented hashtags is by looking to see which hashtags your audience, or favorite accounts, are already using.

Take the time to engage with (and stalk!) your followers and ideal followers. What do they post, favor, follow and engage with? Take note of their interests, as you want to keep them in mind while strategizing your own content. You should be periodically taking the time to like and comment on your followers’ posts anyway, which boosts your score with Instagram’s algorithm and is just generally a best business practice.

While those ultra-popular hashtags with 5 million posts aren’t going to build your business in the long-run, they will get your content in front of a wide range of people (and probably get your posts a few more likes!). So, you don’t want to discount them entirely. However, when you search or click on a hashtag, posts appear in chronological order, so your post with generic tags is likely to be buried more quickly.

To combat this, use a combination of broad hashtags like #MotivationMonday, #Pizza and #RealEstate along with the more narrow community hashtags you’ve found, like #RocGirlGang, #BuffaloPizza, and #CharlotteHomes on your posts.

Combining broad, narrow and branded hashtags on each post will cover all your bases: more likes, better community engagement and brand recognition.

OK, that’s a lot of information to digest. Let’s break down the quick and dirty rules.

  • You can use up to 30 hashtags, but 11 is a good base number. If you’re unsure of how many you should be using, look at other successful businesses in your industry and see what they’re doing.

  • It’s totally up to you whether you want to put your hashtags in the caption or the comments. Most experts suggest putting a few in the caption and adding the rest in the first comment (for aesthetic purposes!).

  • There’s no character limit for hashtags, but short and sweet (and easy to read!) is the best practice. #NoOneCanReadYourHashtagWhenItsSuperLong. #ThisIsBetter.

  • Special characters or spaces denote the end of a hashtag. That means no punctuation or other symbols can be used.

  • Instagram’s terms state that users “may not post violent, nude, partially nude, discriminatory, unlawful, infringing, hateful, pornographic or sexually suggestive photos or other content.” The same is true for hashtags!

  • Instagram hashtags are time sensitive. Be sure to schedule your Instagram posts at optimal times when your hashtag community is most active.

  • You can track your Instagram hashtag success with post insights (if you have a business account). Many other platforms like Later and Sprout Social can also track your best-performing hashtags. Consider using these tools to track your success.

  • You can include clickable hashtags in your Instagram bio. Use this to highlight your hashtag community or show off your branded hashtags.

Once you’ve found and started using the right hashtags for your business, focus on engaging with your hashtag communities. The key to success on Instagram is spending time on the platform and really putting the social in social media. You can use hashtags all you want, but they’ll never truly work for you in the way you want them to until you put in the time to work for them, too. (And if you don’t have the time, hire a VA who does.)

It’s important now more than ever to leverage your visual content on Instagram. Expand your marketing strategy to Instagram today and use these hashtag tips to cultivate an engaged community of follower who will turn into paying customers.

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