What the Hashtag?


If there is one thing all of my customers tend to struggle with consistently, it is hashtags.

While hashtags were once restricted in search functionality to Twitter, they’re now used all over! In fact, a lot of people even use them in conversation – yes, we mean say them out loud. (We didn’t say it was right: We just said it was done.) But the place most people really want to know about using hashtags is Instagram.

Most people know that hashtag usage on Instagram is important, but what they don’t know is how to really be strategic about using them. And with things changing as fast as they do on the social landscape, it is not hard to see why it can get confusing. The most recent comprehensive social media marketing plan I created for a customer included several pages on using Instagram properly for her business – with one whole page dedicated to hashtags.

Here are three of my favorite takeaways for any small business to be more strategic and successful using hashtags on Instagram:

Create branded hashtags.

Obviously, you want to use hashtags that are relevant to your business, but creating specifically branded hashtags that are unique to your business takes things one step further - especially when it comes to contests or other pushes for User-Generated Content (UGC). For instance, if you sell custom illustrations, you would want to look both for things related to your business name, and to illustration. You can use a program like Hashtagify to show you details on each of these (and other) associated terms, including their individual level of popularity and correlation of use with your search term.  

Location-based hashtags.

For brick and mortar stores – this is a MUST. While many businesses also have an online sales component beyond their store front, using your local market can help in a couple of different ways. Recent years have seen an increase in people choosing to “shop small” and “shop local,” so knowing where a business is located helps people consciously making that effort to be thoughtful with their shopping. For instance, if you own a store in Huntsville or will be participating in an event downtown Huntsville, using hashtags like #Huntsville or #DowntownHSV can get your content in front of a local, engaged audience.

Number of hashtags.

Here comes the tricky one. Everyone wants to know – what IS the right number of hashtags? The maximum number allowed by Instagram is currently 30, but most people agree that many can make your post look “spammy” and can contribute to a shadowban. In general, business pages should use a minimum of five, but not more than 15 on most posts, with 10-15 being the sweet spot, so to speak. My advice? Don’t sweat the small stuff: if you have four on one and 16 on the next, it won’t kill your posting strategy. These are goal numbers, but there is no need to stress yourself out to get just one more hashtag.

Do you have a question about hashtags on Instagram? We’d love to hear them!