When you think of hashtags, does Instagram come to mind? Maybe not. After all, hashtags were first introduced on Twitter, and Instagram is known mainly for eye-catching visuals rather than text. Still, harnessing your hashtag use on Instagram can significantly boost the number of prospects connecting with your small business online.

Let’s explore how…

Why You Need Instagram Hashtags

Hashtags can significantly increase how many people interact with your business’s Instagram posts. Studies show that if you use even one hashtag in a post that post will receive, on average, 12.6 percent more engagement than a post without a hashtag.

Why the rise in engagement?

Hashtags help Instagram users find and follow content related to their interests. They can strengthen your small business’s digital presence by:

  • Widening your audience: Hashtags can make your business visible to users who haven’t heard of you but are searching for (or following) a tag you’ve used in your posts.
  • Getting people talking: Loyal customers can follow your brand’s hashtags or use them in their posts. This, in turn, can help others find more of your content.
  • Highlighting your brand’s story: Using hashtags in your posts, stories, or even bio lets users know what’s essential to your brand. If such tags spark their interest or align with their values, they might choose to follow your brand, too.

Researching Instagram Hashtags

Of course, just using a random assortment of hashtags won’t increase engagement. So here are a few steps to start building a list of hashtags that will work your business’s posts:

  1. Determine best practices for hashtag count and balance: Unlike most social media platforms, Instagram allows you to add up to 30 hashtags to a post. However, about 15-20 are typically recommended, which may vary depending on the type of content you’re posting. Also, keep in mind that you want to use a mix of widespread (500K-1M reach), moderately-popular (100K-500K reach), niche (10K – 50K reach), and branded hashtags for each post. Here’s an article that breaks down each type.
  2. Create content buckets: Brainstorm 4-5 relevant topics you think your ideal buyer will be interested in. Some might be related directly to your brand, but they probably won’t all be. This article gives a good example: most IG users don’t search for posts about car insurance but could be talking about #dreamcars or #myfirstcar. For more inspiration, check out what your competitors or industry leaders are using in their posts.
  3. Search current usage of potential tags: Type the hashtags you’ve put in your “buckets” in Instagram’s search bar to see how many posts are using each tag and what the top related hashtags are. Sites like Hashtagify.me and RiteTag track trending hashtag popularity, too—though, as mentioned above, you also want to generate a list including branded and “niche” hashtags that aren’t necessarily high-ranking. 

Measuring Instagram Hashtag Effectiveness

Fortunately, Instagram makes it easy for business profile users to identify how hashtags are impacting your post engagement. Just pull up the post you’re interested in, click “View Insights,” and swipe up to see the number of impressions—the number of times a user has seen your post—that are a result of your hashtags.

It’s a good idea to monitor your post’s performance for several days and even weeks after publication. Blending different types of hashtags can help increase the post’s impressions at various points in time. For example, highly popular hashtags will spike initial engagement, while niche or branded hashtags will draw in users over time.

Also, be sure to compare post engagement and track trends over time. Ask yourself: Which posts perform best? What hashtags consistently drive engagement? Which aren’t receiving as much attention, and why? Sometimes it’s hard to tell why a certain hashtag did or did not perform well, but as you continue to add more and more posts, you’ll likely get a feel for what your audience is responding to.

Hashtags should be just one part of your broader strategy to maximize brand awareness on Instagram.

Still not sure how to leverage hashtags to grow your platform? One Part Social can help—reach out today.