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Instagram Marketing for Small Business Owners | Hashtags

If you’re going to play in the big leagues of Instagram, you will soon realize the necessity of using relevant hashtags on your posts. In this segment of Instagram Marketing for Small Business Owners, we will hopefully get a basic understanding of hashtags, why they’re important, how they work, and how to start finding the best ones to use on your account. 

With literally millions of photos being posted to Instagram on a daily basis, hashtags are one way that it sorts through them all and insures that your images are put in front of the right people. Or, really, just sorts them in general. It's a way to place images into some coherent structure so that people can search and find them.

They are a very useful marketing tool that will help increase awareness and engagement on your page, and help your target audience find you, and help you find yours. It means that not only will your image show up on your page, but, on every hashtag page as well. So, if you use 10 hashtags, your image will show up on 11 pages, not only yours.

Hashtags also are a great networking tool. If you are a photographer, and you are looking to connect with other photographers in your area, you can type in the name of your city and photographer and find that the results are a great start. For instance, if you are in London, and you are a photographer, you can type in ‘#londonphotography’ into the search bar, and up pops over 300,000 images, as of today.

Finally, for me, as a photographer who is constantly looking at images for inspiration or just to admire the work of like minded creatives, I use them as a search engine for imagery within the Instagram platform. Much like you can type in ‘images of artichoke’ into google, you can type in #artichoke, and find some stunning shots!

How Many Hashtags Should I Use?

As of right now, Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags on a post. There is a lot of conflicting info out there about the magic number of hashtags to add, but, one common bit of advise seems to be to not use all 30 on every post. Some say that 11 is the best number. Some say 28, just shy of 30.

It’s a good idea to play around a little with the number, and, depending on how often you are posting, vary it a little from post to post. For me, I stick to around 20-26 per post. When I find the ones that work well, I stick with them for a while, and use them on all of my posts.

Which Ones do I Choose?

Ahhhhh, the $60,000 question. That does take some time and experimentation. There are some good rules of thumb to get you started. Find and use relevant hashtags.

If you are a chef, and you work in an Italian food restaurant in Denver, it won’t be helpful for you or your brand if you post hashtags like #denverburgers or #dallashairsalons or #eastcoasthotels.

If you are in a known neighborhood, like Capitol Hill, then you can add #capitolhilldenver.

If your post is of spinach lasagna, then you can add #spinach and #spinachlasanga. If you are posting in a Wednesday, you can add #wednesdaymotivation.

Once you have these 8 or 10 base hashtags down, then you can get a little more creative.

Here’s my process:

1). One of my main hashtags that I use a lot is #dallasrestaurants. So, I would go to that page by typing that in to the search box of IG.

2). I click on the top posts, and look at the hashtags that are being used.

3). I find when I do that that #dallaseats, #dallasfoodie, #dfweats, #dfwinsta, and #dfwinfluencer all come up several times.

4). I copy all of those hashtags into a list.

5). I go to like accounts of people that are doing something similar to what I am, food photography.

6). In many of the accounts I follow, #communityovercompetition comes up again and again. So does #imsomartha and #eatingfortheinsta. I add those to my list as well.

As you may be able to tell, this process can go on and on and on…. You don’t have to get mired down by it, since there are millions of hashtags, you can settle on a group of them for a while, and then you can change it up in a few months and try some others!

Number of Posts on the Hashtag Page Makes a BIG Difference

There are 2 ways that IG displays images on each hashtag page. By TOP and by RECENT. It's a bit of a mystery how the algorithm picks the TOP posts, it is a little easier to determine how long your post stays in the RECENT posts. If you choose a hashtag that has between 1000 and 10, 000 posts, it’s far more likely that your image will stay at the top of the RECENT images for a while, which means long enough to be seen by more eyes! Let’s say you are kind of new to the platform, and have 350 followers. For a few reasons, you want to try and find hashtags that don’t have millions of posts on them. When a hashtag has millions of posts, or even in the upper hundreds of thousands,

images move off the RECENT posts within literally seconds, and disappears into oblivion. I like to choose a handful that have millions of posts, a handful that have less that 5000, about 8 or 10 that are in the 10,000 to 100,000, and the rest are somewhere in between 100,000 and 300,000ish. It seems to work for me.

Ok, so, this was my general tutorial on how to start utilizing hashtags thoughtfully. I hope it was helpful! Stay tuned for the next installment of Instagram Marketing for Small Business Owners soon.

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