The complete guide on Instagram hashtag strategy using social listening and analytics.
No matter what some social media gurus have to say, hashtags are still very important. If you don’t have the right set of hashtags when making a post, you potentially lose the opportunity to reach your audience – unless of course you have a massive following that dedicatedly awaits your posts every day and then engages with it.
But in times when trends and consumer behaviour, and our definition of ‘what’s cool’ changes so fast, keeping track of hashtags is becoming a task by itself.
Many social media marketers struggle with finding the right hashtags for their posts on a day to day basis. Despite having sets of hashtags ready to use in their calendars, most struggle to reach even a thousand people in their target market.
While some say it’s about the ‘quality’ of content posted, let’s be honest – the competition an organic post is up against is massive, to say the least.
As per statistics, there are 95 million photos and videos shared on Instagram every day. Add to that the ads being run on the platform by creators and businesses to reach their audience faster, and you’re standing in a long line just to be able to get to your audience.
So how do you create a hashtag strategy that gives you a chance to reach the right people at the right time?
Let’s start from the very beginning to tell you how this works.
What are Instagram hashtags?
A hashtag is basically a combination of letters, numbers and emojis preceded by the #symbol; created by leading social media channels to help categorize the content posted on them and make it more discoverable.
For example, when you click on #sociallistening on Instagram, the search page will present to you all the content posted around the topic.
Why should you use Instagram hashtags?
There’s been a lot of noise around hashtags not being relevant anymore to the Instagram algorithm. But when it comes to comparing posts with and without hashtags, it is tough to rule them out of the equation, because some of the best-performing posts without hashtags also use other parameters like trending audios, trending filters and more.
Here’s why we think your Instagram marketing plan needs to include hashtags:
1. Helps you get more exposure
Hashtags are meant to categorise posts of all formats – single images, videos, reels and carousels, as per the topic they’re covering. So when someone clicks on a hashtag or enters it in the search functionality of the social media platform, they’re able to see all the posts made around it. The simple way how hashtags work is what help you get discovered by the right people.
2. Encourages audience engagement
When you reach the right people with the right content, it helps you drive better engagement. At the same time, if you create branded hashtags for your business, the tagged posts will help you discover posts and stories around you or a topic relevant to you, with ease, and engage with the accounts. For example, if you’re a social media marketer sharing growth hacks on Instagram, we can use the hashtags to discover your content and reach out to you to add more value, or tell you a little more about our social listening tool and how it can help you grow.
3. Makes tracking competitors easy
Owing to having the same or similar product/ service and a target audience, there is a high chance you and your competitors are creating a lot of overlapping content. This may also mean using similar hashtags in your posts. When you make use of hashtags and include them in your strategy, it also makes it easy for you to track the share of voice of your competitors on Instagram and plan your next moves accordingly.
4. Helps you conduct content research
Hashtags are similar to keywords in many ways. Just as you conduct a thorough SEO keyword research to identify what your audience is looking for, the content you need to create to tap into their intent, hashtag research helps you understand what topics your Instagram marketing strategy needs to include. For example, if you sell skincare products, you need to look into what topics around the same are relevant to your audience. This can also help you discover accounts talking about skincare, identify best-performing topics and also identify concerns you may not have taken into account before.
5. Ties your online and offline campaigns together
Hashtags have the power to sync your online and offline campaigns. This is especially important for businesses that have both brick and mortar, and digital presence and are using both proactively to communicate with their audience as well as customers. For example, if someone makes a purchase from you offline, you can encourage them to use a hashtag while sharing the purchase online, to help you get discovered by more people and tap into the other benefits we listed above.
Now that you know the benefits of Instagram hashtags, let’s look into the different types of hashtags on the platform.
What are the different types of hashtags on Instagram?
Hashtags are used in different ways, to address different user intents on Instagram. That’s why when you’re creating your Instagram marketing strategy, you need to take into account all the different types and integrate them into your approach to posting content.
- Location hashtags – Used to categorize posts as per places, neighborhoods, cities and countries.
- Branded hashtags – Used to categorize content based on campaigns, events and other themes relevant to your brand.
- Industry hashtags – Used to categorize your posts as per your business niche/ topics relevant to what your business does.
- Community hashtags – Used to categorize content in such a way that it creates a group of people associated with your brand, to build a community.
- Descriptive hashtags – Used to categorize your post based on the content of it; the thing you’re actually talking about.
Then there are also other types of popular Instagram hashtags on the social media platform. The nine distinct types we have found, include:
- Product/ service hashtags – Words/ keywords that basically describe your product or service highlighted in the post.
- Niche hashtags – These are hashtags that basically share a little more context on which industry your content fits into.
- Instagram community hashtags – With its wide user base, Instagram has slowly evolved into a place where communities thrive; bringing people with similar interests together. For example, #writersofinstagram.
- Seasonal hashtags – These are phrases that describe a specific event, holiday or season to categorize your post into the theme.
- Daily hashtags – Words/ phrases that define every day routines of the users or something they do repetitively every day. For example, #mondayblues, #dailypost or #ootd.
- Phrase hashtags – These are phrases that combine words from other hashtag types to tap into the existing communities. For example, #womenintech taps into two communities – women and tech.
- Acronym hashtags – The new-age users are proactively using acronyms in their day to day communication, and they have found their way into hashtags as well. For example, #TBT for throwback thursdays.
- Emoji hashtags – Emojis too are a big part of our day to day communication; and so they have made their way to social platforms as well in the form of hashtags. For example, #😍.
Too many hashtags to consider or evaluate? Well, there’s a way to find the best hashtags for your Instagram marketing strategy.
How to find the best hashtags for your Instagram marketing strategy?
There are a number of ways in which you can discover hashtags for your business or your content. While hashtag research may vary from person to person, here’s looking at some of the effective ways:
1. Using a hashtag suggesting tool
There are a number of online tools that help you find hashtags around a topic or industry that is relevant to you. You can leverage these tools to shortlist a few batches of hashtags for your Instagram marketing strategy. For example, we like using Ingramer to do our initial Instagram hashtag research.
2. Using the Instagram explore page
The next stop for you to find hashtags is the Instagram Explore page. Use the search functionality of the platform to look for posts around topics that interest you. Take a look at the top posts and then note down the hashtags they are making use of. This is also a good place to look into the accounts your content will be competing with.
3. Use Instagram’s tag search tool to check volume
The next thing you need to do is see if the hashtag you have chosen is being used actively. You don’t want to end up using a hashtag your audience is not making use of for months or hasn’t been growing with time. This is where checking the post volume becomes important – use Instagram’s tag search tool to take note of how many times a hashtag has been used; make sure you have a set of high volume, mid-volume, and new hashtags.
4. Use Instagram social listening
While the above steps are definitely effective at finding the best hashtags, it can be extremely time-consuming. Add to that the inability to continually keep track of hashtags owing to the changing trends, and it only becomes even more overwhelming. This is where using Instagram social listening tools like Radarr comes in.
The tool helps you not just track conversations around topics that are relevant to your business, on Instagram, but also proactively see how they change with time. This helps you monitor millions of accounts together, instead of having to browse through each post or analyse each account one by one.
Radarr also comes with powerful Instagram hashtag tracking and analytics that help you compare hashtags over time. This gives you an overview of what’s working and what’s not, and how a certain topic is progressing on Instagram.
Learn more about Instagram social listening here.
5. Use sentiment analysis to validate hashtags
Not all hashtags carry the same intent and hence, you need to be careful about the ones you put to use. This is where you should be using a sentiment analysis tool to identify the emotion posts with certain hashtags carried on Instagram. The goal is to categorize your hashtags into positive, negative, and neutral topics to talk about using a tool like Radarr sentiment analysis.
We recommend using the above approach to nail at least 5 sets of 30 hashtags each that are relevant to your campaigns. Make sure you update this set on a monthly basis to keep the hashtags that are relevant.
Learn more about sentiment analysis here.
But using hashtags comes with a set of rules too.
How many hashtags to use on Instagram?
You can use up to 30 hashtags on a regular post on Instagram, and up to 10 hashtags in your Instagram Story.
If you try to include more hashtags in any of the content types you post on Instagram, your post will not go through and will display an error.
That means you have a considerable number of hashtags you can put to use in different content formats on Instagram. But at the same time, that does not mean you ‘should’ use as many hashtags.
While there is no ‘right number of hashtags’ recommended or found, there are a few best practices you should be following:
- Make use of relevant hashtags
- Try to tap into the different types of hashtags when creating batches
- Create category/ topic-wise hashtag batches
- Update your hashtags regularly
- Experiment with the number of hashtags regularly
- Measure the impact of the hashtags you use
And now, we shall address the elephant in the room.
Should you use hashtags in the Instagram post caption or comments section?
Over time, there has been a lot of conversation around where you should be adding hashtags to your post. While some say that you should add hashtags in your caption, others believe adding hashtags to comments is better.
After analysing thousands of Instagram posts, we found that using hashtags in the caption or in the comments has no impact on the performance. The only thing your approach has an impact on is the readability of the content you add in your caption.
For example, if you do not space out your caption from the hashtags, it might become too overwhelming or difficult for your audience to consume your content. This is where adding hashtags in your comments section comes into play.
Similarly, you can also use emojis, the title ‘tags’, simply a series of full stops or hyphens to separate out the caption from the hashtags.
What the most popular hashtags on Instagram in 2022?
Hashtag trends change all too rapidly. But here are some of the best Instagram hashtags to include in your 2022 Instagram marketing strategy:
While these continue to trend on the social media platform, we do recommend using a tool like Radarr for Instagram listening, hashtag tracking and analytics to stay on top of your game.
Ready to create an Instagram hashtag strategy that helps you reach the right audience and grow?
Here is the complete guide to Instagram social listening.