How to Grow on Instagram with Hashtags

By: Mario Vidales
Home > Branding & Websites > How to Grow on Instagram with Hashtags

Hashtags are used in almost every social media platform. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and of course, Instagram. We’ll focus on this one for this blog!

The main purpose of hashtags is to funnel content and present users with something that interests them regardless of the people they follow. It’s basically to discover posts that have something in common with each other.

The key to getting your client’s attention is funneling. Directing your efforts in the correct direction. The better you funnel your content, the greater the engagement you’ll have. And I’ll repeat this louder for the people in the back: engagement translates into sales.

Pin this image so you can come back to it later!

To that I say: STOP using #InstaPost #FunWeekend and all these extremely generic hashtags that get you lost in the bunch and get you ZERO new followers. Start using the ones that will lead you directly to be discovered by your ideal client.

In this blog we’ll go through the following aspects to bear in mind when using hashtags:

  1. How to sell with hashtags?
  2. How to choose your hashtags?
  3. How to use them?

Hashtags= Funneling= Engagement= Sales

Using hashtags is like setting up a stand at a fair, you have to funnel your efforts in order for you to get any attention. Instagram is a huge fair, filled with stands (competitors’ accounts), and everyone wants to be seen and followed. Now, the important thing is, that you don’t have to be the most followed one. You can stand out as long as you have sufficient followers that want what you offer.

You can have 300 followers and as long as they found you because you funneled correctly and not just by chance. The people that follow you should have found what they are looking for in your content and offers. They’ll be engaged with your business and those 300 will get you more sales than 10,000 followers that came to you just by chance.

Coming back to the fair analogy; If you’re setting a natural lemonade stand in a food fair, and you set your stand next to the beverages, you’ll definitely be lost around sodas! But what if you place your stand in the local natural products area? Then there’s a bigger chance that the people that find you didn’t just come across you because they were thirsty. They surely came across you because they’re interested in what you’re offering as a value proposition.

Same case in a realistic situation: If you’re a Women’s Career Coach and you want to direct people to your program, you will never use hashtags as #OnlineCourse because you’ll be lost around the other million courses out there. Your ideal client will never be able to find you! You would 100% deep look into your course, identify your value proposition and use hashtags that more likely will get your ideal client to find you. Something like #WomanCEO is more likely that your ideal client will look for.

By standing next to the category of what you’re offering, it’s much more likely that people will find you.

How to choose your hashtags?

If you look through Instagram for a couple of minutes, you’ll find thousands of hashtags. A hashtag is generated at the moment a single person sets a # (pound key) before a word, so here’s the kick of it: Anyone can make up their own hashtags.

This makes it extremely difficult to decide which hashtags we should use! We don’t want our post to be lost (as it would be if we use a generic one as #Fun), and we don’t want to be unreachable as if we were to use something random like #FunWithMyFunCoaching… You’re probably the only one that’s using it and you’re probably not going to get any movement with that. (This changes if you’re looking to promote your own branded hashtags)

#Fun has been used in over 400,000,000 posts! And as for #FunWithMyFunCoaching (that I just made up) of course, there’s not one single post that’s talking about it. If I create it, nobody will see my post from that hashtag. What we try to do is aim for the sweet spots in between those high and low numbers.

Identify your Posts’ categories

The first step for choosing your hashtags is to identify your post categories. Categories can be as specific as you find useful. Among others, these are some categories prompters that you can think about for coming up with your categories:

  • LOCATION – By this, I don’t mean setting the location of your post. I mean doing some research on the best local brands and see which location hashtags they’re using. For example, if you’re targeting women in Wisconsin, you’ll find that a big account like Travel Wisconsin has recently used #OnlyInWisconsin on their posts. Using this hashtag will get you some local attention.
  • SEASON / SPECIAL OCCASIONS – This is an important one if your service varies from season to season. You can get some useful hashtags from big brands with similar services to yours or from companies that offer something different but are also of your client’s interest. An example is Recycle and Play using #eastercrafts for easter products.
  • BRAND– Identify brands that your client likes and you admire and use their branded hashtags when your post has something to do with this brand. Let’s say you post something about your hair and you like Function Of Beauty, then you may use  #functionofbeauty and possibly have them feature your post.
  • MOTIVATIONAL / MOOD – You can find hashtags from a big brand that your clients may like, such as Lululemon. One of their ambassadors, Mirna Valeiro, uses motivational hashtags like #livingmylifelikeitsgolden.

These are just some prompters that I can think of but of course, you can come up with more. Explore what others are doing and start creating your hashtag list. If collecting hashtags sounds like a heavy job, you can use a hashtag generator, such as MetaHashtags if you want to get immediate suggestions. It’s an incredible tool, sadly, not free. The more basic option is Display Purposes which is not that cool because it doesn’t show the hashtag’s popularity, but it’s free.

Identify the “reach” SWEET SPOT

When I say reach sweet spot, I mean the volume of the hashtags you’ll be using. How popular are they? You don’t need the most popular, remember, you want the sweet spot.

Screenshot of #BusinessLogo hashtag page. Circling the post count volume or popularity of this hashtag (300k posts).
Screenshot of #BusinessLogo hashtag page on Instagram. The post count volume or popularity of this hashtag is circled.

You’ll find a lot of mixed opinions out there, but we have decided to use this mixed formula:

logo from our hashtag importer

After you chose your hashtags, retrieve their post count and categorize them by volume into Small (less than 25k posts). Medium (25k to 50k posts), Big (50k to 200k posts), and Global (more than 200k posts). This might be a tough job but for this task, we’ve created this FREE Hashtag Volume Importer. With it, you can retrieve your hashtags post count in a matter of seconds.

Our recommendation is to use for each post 7 Small, 15 Medium, 5 Big, and 3 Global. Of course, you can vary and use a different mix.

We’ve talked a lot about post count volume, categories, and stuff but there’s something else when looking for hashtags and I’d say is even more important. This is the frequency of posting (or trends). So we also want to find those growing trends and jump on that train.

Again, LOOK AT THE BIG BRANDS. See what they’re doing and jump in there.
Not any brand, look for the ones that your ideal client will most likely love/use.

How to use Hashtags?

MANAGE THEM

By now, if you made it all the way down to this point, you should already have a list of hashtags, at least in your mind. Very likely, you’re wondering, how am I supposed to save them and have them handy every time I post? The hashtag generators that are all around the internet just give you a result based on the word you input and don’t give you a mix of categories and volumes. And by now, you know how important the mix is.

Well, we have developed a great tool for this purpose. Our amazing resource, Hashtags on Purpose, is a perfect solution if you like to own your list of hashtags and have them right there in a spreadsheet every time you want to post something. It’s basically a hashtag wallet where you’ll list your hashtags, categorize them, and have them handy for whenever you want to post!

Demo on how Hashtags on Purpose works. Keep, categorize and have your hashtags handy!

Analyze their impact and Update

Last but not least. The real cherry on top is keeping your hashtags up to date. The main point of Instagram and every social media platform is to stay updated. To do so, recheck your hashtag list and recalculate the post count (volume) that you got with the Hashtag Importer. Dive into Instagram trends and into what your clients’ favorite brands are posting.

A great tool for knowing how every one of the hashtags you’ve been posting is doing is Later’s hashtag analytics tool. That way, you can reuse the hashtags that are giving you focus and replace the ones that are not working for you.

Thank you for reading all the way through, if you liked the content of this post, sign up for our newsletter and you’ll be updated every time we post cool things about branding, websites, social media, and more!

The faces behind the scenes ↴

Mara & Mario

We are an engineer husband and designer wife on a mission to build businesses that believe in the power of family and love.

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