Hashtags have been an integral aspect of Twitter since nearly its inception. Once hashtags broke out big there, every other social media platform wanted to use them too. Hashtags on Instagram may now be even bigger then on Twitter due to the more lasting nature of Instagram images.
The nature of hashtags on Instagram makes them the key element of your Instagram marketing plan. Without great hashtags on Instagram, your marketing won’t go anywhere. Period.
This article seeks to take you through the basics of Instagram marketing, and build up to more advanced tactics towards the end.
Hashtags on Instagram and the success of your business
If you want your Instagram business account to be seen by more people, you need to use hashtags on Instagram carefully. Hashtags are used on Instagram like a search engine – they link content that people are looking for.
The most basic way this happens is in the description of each Instagram picture you’ll find many people using hashtags. People will see these hashtags, find them interesting, and click on them. They will then see every other image with that hashtag.
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The other way that this happens is up in the search bar. People will actually search for hashtags that they know and commonly find entertaining. Like if I enjoy bmx bikes and want to see some people doing tricks I know to search for the hashtag #bmx. A whole bunch of images that are hashtagged #bmx will show up, and I’m free to look through them
What you want to do a brand that is associated with BMX riders is create content that people looking for a hashtag like that will enjoy. This is where a company like Red Bull, an energy drink manufacturer, can find an all-new fan set. Check out this photo which used the #bmx hashtag account, and exposed me to their brand:
This is the most basic use of hashtags on Instagram – you create content that’s relevant to the hashtag, and wait for people to find you.
Hashtags on Instagram as a way to organize your content
It’s not all about people finding you when it comes to hashtags on Instagram for your business. You will also want to use hashtags to help organize content. Your average Instagram page looks something like Red Bull’s:
Just a bunch of random images, right? On the surface, yes. But in those descriptions are the hashtags which help them organize content for those who want to look at a particular topic. We’ll stick with Red Bull because because they have an excellent presence on Instagram.
Red Bull, as shown above, used a hashtag, #bmx, that is not directly related to their drink. It’s related to their sponsorship of BMX riders. They don’t have any particular domain over the hashtag, anyone who likes BMX bikes can use it.
To help tell their own stories and organize their own content, Red Bull has come up with hashtags that are exclusively their own. Take #PutACanOnIt as an example. This is their hashtag that they use where they, and their fans, put can of Red Bull in weird places. Here’s an example:
This is Red Bull not only organizing their images via hashtags, but also telling their own brand story. Telling brand stories via hashtags is an advanced hashtags on Instagram concept that you need to start integrating into your own marketing.
Hashtags breed more hashtags on Instagram
You are going to take your photos and have a hashtag plan for them on Instagram. Social media, however, will prove to be much like life – it will laugh at your plans and show you a different route.
As an example, let’s look more at Red Bull’s #PutaCanOnIt hashtag. Now why this hasn’t happened already is beyond me, but there are some smart aleck things that can happen when you make a plan like this on Instragram. I’m sure that given enough time someone will join in on this conversation and put their can, which I hear is a nickname for the human derrier, and start making their own #PutaCanOnIt images. Except they will use their butt, instead of a can of Red Bull.
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You don’t own a copyright on any hashtag you create. Your fans, or even haters and trolls, will sometimes join in on them. You have two options at this point:
- Ignore it, move forward with your plan, and hope it dies out eventually.
- Include them in your brand story, and hope to make friends and a new close ally in spreading your brand message.
The first option is only a good one when things are particularly offensive, and maybe it’s time to report them to Instagram.
The second option is, of course, the option where you’ll have the most fun. To keep running with the theme, let’s say that someone does create some sort of image of their backside on something and they use #PutaCanOnIt.
Red Bull can now have some fun by taking that image and covering the offending butt with a can of Red Bull. The user who created the original image will get added exposure. Red Bull would get a piece of content out that’s now part of their brand story. Best of all, they’d look like a brand that wants to engage with fans. Everyone would win. You need to have this kind of fun with your hashtags on Instagram.
Ok, let’s hashtag everything on Instagram
Hold on, I’ve been talking about having a plan on Instagram for your hashtags. Not that you should plan on spamming with you hashtags. The most popular hashtag on Instagram is usually, #love. Is this hashtag the right one for your photo about the new tire sale you have going on appropriate?
The answer is no. I’m putting the answer in its own paragraph to emphasise the point!
You need to choose hashtags on Instagram that are accurate to your brand. Maybe #love isn’t right for your photo of tires advertising your sale. A better hashtag might be #wheels, or #rims. These are going to appeal directly to Instagram users who are interested in this type of content. Maybe they’re looking for a pair of cool rims that they saw on a car show, maybe they’re looking for new rims and a set of tires to go with it. Either way, you’re using hashtags on Instagram in the correct way.
The other side of using hashtags on Instagram correct is by using the right number on each picture. Generally speaking, you can get away with five. That’s pushing it though as I personally start getting annoyed at any more than three. I’m sure we can all agree thought that this is waaaaaaay too many:
Isn’t that just vulgar? I found that under the #bmx hashtag and was so frustrated because the bike in question isn’t a BMX bike! It’s a hipster fixie, and they’re the natural enemy of any serious BMX rider!
This type of spam hashtagging is the kind of thing that will get you ignored. If people are feeling particularly annoyed they will report you to Instagram’s spam people. You don’t want to be that account, choose your hashtags on Instagram wisely to stay in the good graces of all who use it.