Hashtags have become as much a form of communication as they are a marketing tool.
Sarcastic captions, comic one-liners, and trending searches join the genuinely functional keywords and user-focussed hashtags, spanning both personal and branded content posts across the Instagram sphere.
But how do you use hashtags, what are their purpose, and how do you maximise your profile exposure using hashtags?
In this article, we’re talking all things hashtags – including how brands use them to group their content, how influencers use them to protect their brand partnerships, and how users can access specific content via hashtag-led searches.
What is a Hashtag on Instagram?
A hashtag doesn’t have to be a single word – it can be a group of words of any length, preceded by the hashtag sign. The addition of this sign, combined with the correct format, turns any hashtag on Instagram into a clickable link. Clicking on that link will take the user to a page packed with content that uses the same hashtag in its caption.
A few examples…
One thing you’ll notice about all of the above hashtags is the lack of spacing and proper grammar and punctuation. In order for a hashtag to become a clickable link, it needs to be made up solely of words and that all-important hashtag symbol.
Where Can You Use Hashtags?
On Instagram, hashtags are most often used in the caption of a new post.
By adding relevant hashtags which link the post to its industry, to the local area, to the brand or user, and to other relevant sectors and potential audiences, that post becomes searchable by a broader selection of users. You will find that many business pages and branded posts use a multitude of hashtags, some of which are niche and highly targeted, and some of which are broader to attract the widest possible pool of users.
But more on that later.
In addition to the caption of a new post, hashtags can be used on Instagram stories, in your profile bio, and as a search tool to find content relating to your interests and preferences.
How to Search Using Hashtags
- On Instagram, click on the magnifying glass along the bottom of the screen
- Click on the search bar, type a ‘#’ symbol, and then the word or group of words that you’re interested in
- You will see two types of search result. The first style of result is preceded by a magnifying glass, indicating a standard search. The second style of result is preceded by a hashtag symbol, indicating a subsection of Instagram that’s dedicated to that one hashtag.
- Click on one of the results pages that indicates a hashtag search, and you will be taken to a page packed with content and posts. The top of the page will show you just how many individual posts use that single hashtag and will invite you to follow that hashtag.
Following a specific hashtag will tailor the type of content that you see on Instagram and will have a strong influence on your Discovery and Explore page.
Is There An Optimum Number of Hashtags to Use?
The answer to this question depends largely on where you want to use hashtags.
For a profile bio, we tend to see two or three hashtags having a positive impact on the searchability of a profile. As a general rule, these hashtags should be quite broad and directly connect the profile with the industry that it operates in.
For example, if you are managing a wedding dress retailer’s profile, you might have the hashtags #wedding, #weddingdress, and #sayyestothedress. All of these are well known searches in the wedding dress sphere and will draw potential customers to your profile and to your content.
In an Instagram post, the app will limit your hashtag use at 30 individual hashtags per single post.
But if you ask us, 30 is too many. Sticking between 10 and 15 should be more than sufficient, to cover the specifics of the post you’re sharing and a few broader industry-specific tags.
5 Tips to Optimise Your Hashtags
If you’re a new Instagram user, or new to the idea of hashtags supporting your content and searchability on the app, then this section is for you.
- Be consistent with your hashtags, and therefore with your posts. Typically, accounts that use the same hashtags over and over again will earn more followers, because users will see that they run an account that shares content they’re interested in. Of course, while we’re on the topic of consistency…
- Don’t just add a hashtag to an unrelated post, just because it’ll earn you views. If you manage a retail account then every post should link back to your core audience and to your industry, ensuring that the hashtags are always relevant. You can’t just keep adding the hashtag #puppy to your posts because you know it’s something people search for.
- Do some research! This means looking at influencers in your industry and some of your top competitors, to see which hashtags they are using on a regular basis.
- Mix specific and niche hashtags with more general ones. This is a really important tip, because it boosts both arms of successful Instagram marketing – earning you immediate likes via the broader hashtag, while ensuring that you also attract a more dedicated audience using the niche hashtags.
- Look at what’s trending and use trending hashtags to frame some of your content. A truly successful Instagram account and profile will bridge standard content with some posts which tap into trending concepts or formats – using a hashtag to connect your take on the trend with others.
All in all, hashtags – when used correctly – can make your posts more searchable and your account more widely available to the right users. At the same time, as a user hashtags can frame your searches and drive you towards the content that you are most interested in.