Skyrocket Your Growth On Instagram: All You Need To Know About Using Hashtags


Skyrocket Your Growth On Instagram: All You Need To Know About Using Hashtags

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By Johannes Kanter

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Let’s talk about employing best practises on hashtag usage to increase your exposure and gain more followers and engagement on Instagram through organic reach. Instagram really is one of the hottest social media platforms in 2017.

Studies show that the average user on Instagram has a slightly higher income and is more engaged with the content compared with other social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc. In the start of 2017 we’re looking at around 600 million monthly active users on Instagram. This platform has grown and is now far from being just a place where to post cool filtered photos about food.

So let’s get to it.

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Why do we use hashtags on Social Media?

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It’s quite simple. Hashtags are a way to describe your content. This helps Instagram to deliver your content to the right audience. Watch this super educational video on Hashtags with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57dzaMaouXA. (#oldnews)

Now, I hope I didn’t get you confused and unsure if you should keep reading or not. I promise we get into detail and explore a few powerful strategies that I’ve used to grow my account @gettinggrowth to 10k+ followers.

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How to use hashtags?

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When Instagram reads through your post caption and comments it finds all the hashtags and decides based on your post engagement, total number of likes, comments and followers and probably many other factors how to deliver that content to other Instagram users.

Truth is that the Instagram content ranking algorithm is complicated. As it is with any other platform – the exact algorithm is unknown. A good rule of thumb is that good content with relevant hashtags always tends to do better and gain more engagement.

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What hashtags you should use?

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Firstly, when you post something, always write the hashtags into the comments section (photo1) instead of putting them into the post caption. I haven’t personally found any down-side of posting hashtags into the comments section and I think it makes your post caption look much cleaner.

When the comments start to roll in, your hashtag comment will be hidden (photo2).

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Photo 1    

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Photo 2

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How many hashtags should you use?

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Instagram allows you to post 30 hashtags to one post. Obviously, the more hashtags you use the better the exposure. While some might suggest that using too many hashtags isn’t the best strategy, I’d say always try to use these 30. As long as you keep them relevant to the post you’re good and you will get the best result in terms of attracting new followers.

If you really don’t want to use all 30, you should aim to use at least 11. Various studies (by Hubspot, Simplymeasured, Buffer) suggest that posts with 11+ hashtags do significantly better than posts with only a few hashtags. So more really is more.

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Which hashtags should you use?

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This greatly depends on your niche. Start by listing various keywords that describe your post, your business and brand in more general terms. For example, my account @gettinggrowth is about business, entrepreneurship and motivation.

Since I share a lot of business related content I soon found that my type of content is also shared with hashtags like #businesstips #businesslife etc. If you brainstorm and look for closely related hashtags you’ll get a list of 30 hashtags quickly.

Here are some tools to help you research hashtags: hashtagify.me, RiteTag, Tagboard, Instagram search suggestions (yes, that’s pretty awesome too), Google Trends.

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The question now is, which of all these hashtags are the best?

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Now, this is a powerful tip, so listen up.

I’ve also talked about this in my own blog on the topic how to become famous on Instagram, where I take Instagram marketing further than just using hashtags. The way you can get the most out of your hashtags is to select the ones that get you featured in the Explore section every time.

This means that whenever someone is searching for new cool content with your hashtag, your post would be one of the first to pop out.

On the other hand, you don’t want to use the same set of hashtags repeatedly. You want to reach different audiences. So, here’s how I do it:

I’m using Google Keep for notes and have saved several notes with different hashtags that I’m constantly changing. I have maybe 3-4 lists that contain some overlapping hashtags, but I’m okay with that, as some of them are quite generic and I do get into the explore with them regularly.

Now, you can obviously use something like Evernote or any other notes app you have in your phone. As I do a lot of hashtag research on my laptop as well, I like to use an app that is accessible from different devices.

I strongly recommend you save these sets of hashtags somewhere, because this way you don’t need to write them one by one every time and can simply copy paste them.

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So how do you get your post into the top posts section?

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I’ve found that using less popular hashtags is a great way to get started. You can guess the popularity by the number of post shares for a specific hashtag. For example, #life has close to 170 million post shares.

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In order to get featured with this hashtag your account should have a lot of followers and your account should be BIG. However, the number of followers does not determine whether you get featured or not. What Instagram is looking for is engagement.

If you have a post with #life and you’re getting a lot of likes and comments (look at how many likes and comments top posts with #life have, this is what you should be aiming for), then Instagram notices this and starts pushing your content towards getting featured.

If it’s getting more engagement than similar posts in that niche, Instagram will make it a top post. When that happens, you will start getting a lot of new followers. Now imagine being featured every time you post something with all the 30 hashtags. Powerful, right?

Unfortunately, there’s no formula how popular hashtags you should use – it’s just a matter of testing.

If your average likes and comments combined are around 50 per post, then you should try using hashtags that have around 20k – 100k post shares. If your average likes and comments combined is 300 per post, then you should try using hashtags 100k – 1m post shares and take it from there.

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Track the performance

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Once you start being more strategic about posting and using hashtags, you should also start tracking the performance of your hashtags.

It’s quite simple. Every time you post something, give some time for the likes and comments to roll in and do regular checks on the hashtags and see if your post is in the top posts section or not. I’d suggest you go through the hashtags 1 hour after posting, 6 hours after posting and then somewhere between 12-24 hours after posting.

What you see at these times is important. Which hashtags get you featured after 1 hour and keep you featured for 24 hours? If these hashtags are also popular ones, you should then definitely hold on to them and next time you post use that hashtag as well. Of course, if it’s completely irrelevant to the next post, you shouldn’t use it.

If there are hashtags that didn’t get you featured at all, it might not mean that these are bad hashtags for your account. Try again a few times, maybe on different types of posts and on different posting times? If you still don’t see any performance, then yes, you should throw that hashtag out for now. Maybe it was too popular and it was difficult to get ranked with that right now. If it’s relevant to your content, you should come back to it in the future.

By doing this for a long period you’ll be able to sort out different hashtags that work for your account.

You can then take it further and start analysing how many new followers you’re getting from different sets of hashtags. Is there any significant difference or not?

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Conclusion

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I feel like I haven’t stressed the importance of using relevant hashtags enough. Think about your content this way: if a user is searching for content with a certain hashtag and sees your post, will they like, comment, potentially follow you, or not.

If you do get featured with a major hashtag, but your post is in no way related to it, nobody will even bother clicking/tapping on the post. When this happens, Instagram quickly understands that your content is not related to this particular hashtag and hence has no place in the top posts section.

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Takeaway

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1. Research hashtags by their popularity.

2. Make lists of hashtags and copy them to your notes app to make using them easier.

3. Always post hashtags into comments not in the caption section.

4. Track the performance of the hashtags you’re using.

5. Mix up your content and hashtags. Don’t just post same kinds of photos and videos repeatedly.

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Additional tools to use for analysing your growth on Instagram:

Iconosquare, socialblade

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Guest author: Johannes Kanter 
Johannes writes about online marketing for his blog GettingGrowth.com and helps businesses get traction on Instagram. He’s also a co-founder of digital marketing agency wink.ee. Twitter ID: @johanneskanter

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