As someone that manages more than one Instagram account as part of my job, I’ve always known that for social media management, hashtags are useful, and that I should be using them – but I didn’t really know how or why. On top of that, posting on Instagram is just a facet of the work I do, and I don’t have any time to manually create strategies each time I make up a new post.
It wasn’t until after the Flick team explained to me, did I understand how useful hashtags are in terms of gaining traction and reaching my target audience, but also how to effectively pick the right ones. I broadly work in the fashion industry, and so was blindly making up random fashion-related hashtags – without even knowing that #fashion was being posted into over 350,000 times, daily by people competing for the same audience. It frustrated me because I didn’t realize that I should be optimizing my hashtags, so I was just continuously trying to a) think of new hashtags and b) not seeing results.
If this sounds like a familiar story then this guide might be interesting for you. Or, if you’re not sure about hashtags at all, this should be able to bring you up to speed. This is aimed towards social media managers and coordinators who are in the same position I was in – you know hashtags are important, but you don’t really know how to use them effectively.
Why are hashtags useful?
So, first off, let’s answer burning question number one – why are hashtags even useful? Like I said, we all know we should be using them, but a lot of the time if someone were to ask us why, it would be hard to give a detailed answer.
Hashtags are like categories for your content. If you categorize your content into the right hashtags, people that are interested in those categories are more likely to find your photos, videos and your page in general. The reason why they are useful only really applies if you use them the right way. You need to pick the hashtags that match your account the best. So – hashtags that contain content that perform at around the same level as yours do (in terms of likes and comments), hashtags that aren’t too competitive (something like #love is a no-go if you want to appear in a hashtag feed, because it’s so popular), hashtags that are specific and descriptive to the type of content you are posting, and hashtags that aren’t banned (#fashion, see you later).
If you have the perfect mix of all of these elements in the hashtags you use, you can increase your account visibility by about 14%-40%, which is great if part of your job is to foster and manage an Instagram account.
Think about it, if you post daily on Instagram, and on average reach 5,000 people per post, and reach an additional 20% through hashtags, you’re gaining an additional 1,000 eyes every single time you post.
That’s 7,000 new people per week,
28,000 per month,
Meaning a total of:
336,000 new sets of eyes on your content from your target audience per year!
Not too bad for 30 minutes of work a week!
And, just to give you a snapshot, here’s a look at some of the results I’ve seen on one of the accounts I manage, since optimizing my hashtags:
These are the basics when it comes to hashtags, but the bottom line is, when they are used correctly, they will increase your visibility, your Instagram performance, and will help you reach audiences that actually care about your content. So the next time someone asks you why, here’s your answer:
“Hashtags can get our content in front of our target audience on Instagram.”
The things I wish I had known when getting started with hashtags
Like I mentioned previously, I was using hashtags blindly when I started my career in social media. I picked ones I thought made sense, but wasn’t paying attention to some of the key elements that are important when it comes to hashtag strategy. So, here’s some of the things I wish I had known, so you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did. If you already are, then this will hopefully help you realize the changes you need to make to see better results.
The hashtags you use should be relevant to each other. 🤝
Hashtags perform best if the group you use per post, are relevant to each other – here’s why. So, if you work for an advertising agency for example, and are creating a post about one of your clients, make sure the hashtags you use on that post are all relevant or connected to each other in some way.
You shouldn’t just copy and paste the same hashtags for each post. 🖨
If you use the same hashtags over and over again, your account can also be penalized. Switch them up depending on the type of content you’re posting. If, like me, you don’t really have the time to create a new set each day – create collections for the different types of content you post that you know will work well for your account, and you can pick hashtags from these groups daily.
The hashtags you use should be contextually relevant. 🖼
If your hashtags are descriptive of the actual image content, you are much more likely to perform well. This is partially because of the way Facebook’s image recognition software works (and favours relevant hashtags). Sidenote: when I say descriptive, I mean contextually descriptive. If you were posting a photo of someone’s face, this doesn’t mean use the hashtags #face and #girl, because this would make your hashtags way too broad, so keep this in mind too.
The hashtags you use should be seen just like SEO keywords. 📓
When you do SEO research, you look at the traffic of keywords, and their competitiveness. It’s exactly the same for hashtags. You’re looking for high potential reach, and low competitiveness. In terms of hashtags, your competitiveness is measured by your average likes in comparison to the other posts in that hashtags. So, if you are posting in hashtag groups that have posts with a similar ‘like’ count to yours, you’re more likely to perform well.
The hashtags you use should make sense. 🧠
If you’re managing an Instagram account for a beauty brand, you don’t want to stray too far from your niche when it comes to hashtags you use. Just picking random ones like #cute or #lovethis won’t do anything for your account, so try your best to avoid them.
There are a lot more banned hashtags out there than you think. 🙅♀️
And using them can affect your Instagram account’s health. Did you know that #tbt is ‘banned?’ I didn’t. I’ve probably been using banned hashtags on a lot of my posts before I started understanding how to implement a hashtag strategy – so be careful. A lot of hashtags are banned that you wouldn’t expect to be. Flick doesn’t suggest banned hashtags, so this is how I have peace of mind that I’m not using any, but even if you don’t have Flick, you should find a way to eliminate the use of banned hashtags.
Hopefully these points have given you food for thought when it comes to your next post, or have taught you something new you didn’t already think about in your social media management when using hashtags. Now, let’s get moving in to the types of hashtags you should be using.
What hashtag types are most applicable to you?
There’s a lot of different types of hashtags out there. And, it’s helpful to be aware of the ones that will work for you if you are managing a social media account.
One of the most important hashtag types if you are representing a brand, is, you guessed it – branded hashtags. The beautiful thing about branded hashtags is that they have more than one use-purpose. First and foremost, they help you store content related to either a specific campaign or just your brand in general. Beauty brand Glossier use their branded hashtags really well, and managed to go viral with #topshelfie, which encouraged their customers to share snaps of their bathroom top shelves. They are also a way to encourage your audience to share posts about your brand, engage with you, and create content that you might want to highlight or repurpose later on. If you’re having a slow day and don’t know what to post, you can head to your branded hashtags to pick a piece that will spotlight a customer of yours – it’s like an image bank for your brand.
Product-specific hashtags are also really great if you are selling a product, or representing a brand. You might think about your main product offering and consider the hashtags related to that, so that if someone is searching for that type of product – your images will appear. For example, if you are a provider of a tech solutions software, you might look at hashtags relevant to this, and more specifically your type of product.
Location-based hashtags are also really useful if you are trying to reach a target audience in a specific area, or just want to communicate with people where you are based. This is useful if your brand frequently hosts live events in specific areas, and wants to attract an audience that will engage and attend. If you are a beauty brand based in Dubai you might pick hashtags like ‘#makeupartistDubai’, ‘#Dubaibeautybrand’ or ‘Dubaibeautyjunkie.’
Finally, audience-specific hashtags are also important when it comes to social media management and hashtag types. These are based on what your target audience would be searching, so you’ve got to do a little research and prediction here. However, a lot of the time it’s common sense. If you are a beauty account, you probably want to reach people searching for things relating to that topic like #makeuptips or #beautyhacks. Try and put yourself in the mind of your target audience or customer persona.
If you take a look at Flick’s Complete Hashtag Guide, you can see more hashtag types that are useful when it comes to the categories you should be using in your posts. These are just a few, and depending on the brand you represent, some will be more applicable than others.
Here’s how to use hashtags
Most people implement a hashtag strategy when they first select the hashtags they want, and this is probably the best way to do it. When I refer to a ‘hashtag strategy’ it might sound like a serious commitment, but really it just means ‘using hashtags in the right way.’ For me, having set groups of hashtags I can pick from each time I post is important, because it saves me a lot of time thinking, or researching every single time I post. Everyone works differently, but as someone who manages social media accounts as part of my job, I appreciate a strategy that saves me time, as well as gives me results.
So, it’s important to figure out a strategy that suits your work-style, but here’s how I do it. As I said, efficiency is key for me, and I’d rather spend time on my research phase once or twice – giving me more time to focus on other aspects of my work. You can come back to your strategy once a month or so to see what’s working and refresh/update your hashtags.
To find my initial hashtags I use a version of the ladder strategy, which you can read about here. Before that, I define what types of content I want to post so I know what groups of hashtags I need. As I work largely in the fashion and beauty industry, I started from there. I knew I would be posting content like beauty and fashion facts, inspirational images and original content like campaigns pushing reports and blog posts. Once I determined the types of posts I would be creating, I sectioned them into groups, like ‘fashion facts’, ‘beauty facts’ or ‘fashion inspiration.’
From there, I started my hashtag research and implemented my strategy, by selecting hashtags for each of these groups that I could pick from and use when I posted any kind of content that fit this style – this means that I could easily go in to my ‘beauty facts’ hashtag collection, and pick hashtags that would work when I was posting.
The most important thing when you go to pick your first set of hashtags, is to look at hashtags that are of the correct size, in relation to your account. You can use the suggested filters on Flick by linking your Instagram account, in order to ensure you are getting hashtags that will match your account size, so you don’t use hashtags that are too big, or that you won’t rank on. When picking your hashtags, remember to look closely at average likes, competition score and potential reach, in relation to your account.
Once I created my collections for each type of post I would be creating in the future, I saved them so I could easily go to them each time I post. Now, whenever I go to post something, I head to the corresponding hashtag collection I have, copy the ones I want and then post. You can also change out the hashtags in your group every so often, which will definitely help your strategy.
One thing I will say, which I will expand on in the next section, is that you should take advantage of the type of content you are posting, to throw in a few hashtags that are relevant to that specific post. Whilst you might have your collections, if your post is topical or from an event for example, make sure to swap out one of your hashtags for the event hashtag, or one that might be trending in relation to the content you’re posting. This fits really well for pieces of news, events, or really specific content, that requires a little more attention in your hashtag selection.
How to create a process that makes implementing use of hashtags easy
So now that I’ve talked a little bit about my strategy, I want to expand on the most important part: the process. Creating a process that makes implementing hashtags easy, quick and simple is probably the most important thing if you are a Social Media Manager. So, I’ve drawn out this little guide that you can follow and adapt when you start your hashtag journey.
If you want to improve your social media process at work, I’d suggest giving Flick a try. For me personally, it changed the hashtag game when it came to the accounts that I manage, and I’ve seen results since learning a little more about how to optimise hashtags. Now, it’s something I can do quickly and not worry about until I check back again for results. Instead of hashtags being something I’d do for the sake of it, I’m using them for growth. So, if you’d like to check them out, just head to the link below and grab yourself a free trial.