These are just some of the most popular hashtags on Instagram, according to a recent analysis. This punctuation mark took on a new meaning in 2007 when one Twitter user began using hashtags to group content and discussion topics in order to make it easier for others to locate topics of interest.
Today, hashtags are used across social media platforms but have become particularly popular on Instagram. In fact, hashtags have become so popular that Instagram instituted a hashtag limit to prevent users from overusing them.
Instagram marketers may already realize that hashtags play an essential role in content discovery and amplification. Here are 10 tips that’ll let social media marketers to put Instagram hashtags to good use by avoiding common pitfalls that can otherwise doom thoughtful campaigns.
1. Ignoring topical hashtags.
Hashtags help those who are not following your account to find your content. In order to reach new followers, social media marketers should incorporate popular hashtags in Instagram posts. Doing so can help brands to reach users who are searching for hashtags taking Instagram by storm.
In the example above, Mercedes-Benz created a piece of content that fits well with popular holiday hashtags. The brand’s social media managers added the hashtags “Holidays” and “Xmas” to the post, which helped to increase reach.
2. Hashtag stuffing.
As mentioned earlier, Instagram does not support hashtag stuffing. Overusing hashtags in an effort to reach a wider audience will often backfire. Instagram users have become savvy enough to spot and avoid content that appears to be spam. Posts with many hashtags will appear to be disreputable and can cause users to form a negative opinion of your brand.
Take a page from the world’s most successful Instagram brands, and use hashtags tastefully. In the example above, Rolex uses three hashtags to promote one of their new watches. Two of the hashtags used are branded, while one is descriptive.
3. Failing to develop a branded hashtag.
A branded hashtag can help to increase brand awareness within Instagram. By encouraging brand enthusiast to use a branded hashtag, companies can magnify their reach beyond those who are following their Instagram profile.
Social media marketers should think of creative branded hashtags that those within the target audience would want to use themselves. In time, Instagram users may begin to organically use your organization’s branded hashtag.
4. Overlooking Instagram’s new hashtag monitoring feature.
Last year, Instagram announced a feature that allowed users to follow specific hashtags just as they would follow an Instagram account. This development has had significant implications for those interested in hashtag marketing campaigns.
First, social media marketers can easily follow hashtags of interest within Instagram. This makes it easier to natively monitor the platform for user-generated content for example.
Second, developing a branded hashtag that has real staying power provides brands with another way for brands to connect with their target audience through Instagram. Some may choose to follow a branded hashtag instead of a traditional branded Instagram account for example.
5. Using hashtags without understanding their meaning.
There are a countless number of social media campaigns that failed because of tone-deaf marketing. Don’t make the same mistake brands like Pepsi and Tory Burch have made by misappropriating social or political reference points for corporate gains.
Similarly, social media marketing managers must be sure they understand what hashtag abbreviations mean. Using #AF, for example, might be appealing because it is growing in popularity among some demographics, but it could outrage others who disapprove of organizations that use profanity in marketing content.
6. Launching an ad campaign without an accompanying hashtag.
The world’s most successful brands usually launch advertising campaigns with an accompanying hashtag. That’s because it encourages members of the target audience to share user-generated content with the same hashtag.
This helps to amplify the brand’s message and makes it easier for advertisers to monitor the reaction to an ad through social media networks like Instagram.
Regardless of the channel through which you launch an ad, be sure to include a hashtag somewhere in the creative.
7. Neglecting to monitor user-generated content.
User-generated content, also known as UGC, is often shared with an accompanying branded hashtag. Often, brands will re-share user-generated content as a form of social proof. By sharing an implicate endorsement from a happy Instagram user, it can help brands to make inroads with other prospective customers on the platform.
Furthermore, including a shout out to a happy customer can help to turn that satisfied customer into a lifelong brand advocate. In the example above, Harley Davidson shares user-generated content and included a branded hashtag to boot.
8. Forgetting to include a hashtag in your Instagram bio.
Adding an appropriate hashtag in an Instagram bio is a great way to make your account more discoverable. Instagram users have the ability to search for keywords that relate to photos, places, or “people,” the last of which is another word for Instagram profiles.
In cases where you are trying to gain traction among a target audience, sharing a generic hashtag used by this audience is your best bet. On the other hand, those who are interested in motivating an existing audience to become more engaged may benefit from included a branded hashtag in the Instagram bio.
9. Ignoring hashtag discovery platforms.
Sometimes it can be hard to know what hashtags should be used when. Often it is best to use a trending hashtag that is free from divisive social or political connotations. To that end, social media marketers can use a third-party Instagram analytics or discovery platform to identify trending hashtags that should be used to increase the reach of a specific piece of content.
Before posting a new image or video to the platform, be sure to take a few minutes to see if a popular hashtag can be included in the caption. This should be a part of your Instagram monitoring workflow.
10. Focusing on hashtags while forgetting to create a moving caption.
While Instagram hashtags are important in order to reach new audiences or to further engage existing followers, they are just one small component of what is required to be successful as an Instagram marketer.
More important than Instagram hashtags is creating a compelling brand narrative that is aligned with the needs and wants of the target audience. That means winning brands will be the ones that use Instagram captions to tell a compelling on-brand story.
Of course, a part of writing a great caption is using hashtags appropriately, but marketers should avoid obsessing about hashtag use to the exclusion of creating a moving caption.
Instagram is becoming an increasingly crowded social media platform. Over 25 million businesses use official Instagram Business accounts, and 800 million people use the platform in total.
One way to cut through the noise is by artfully using hashtags to increase reach. Selecting popular hashtags can be a great way to acquire new followers in search of an account like yours. Alternatively, using branded hashtags can be a good way to increase brand awareness through Instagram, or to encourage followers to produce user-generated content.