Not another post about the Instagram algorithm! Okay, so this post is kinda related to that, but we’re going to focus on the algorithm alone. Anyone who has been on the Internet has either complained about the algorithm or seen complaints about it, and I’ll 100% cop to the fact that I’ve been one of them. But one way that you can get eyes on your posts that hasn’t necessarily changed with the algorithm is hashtags. Today I’m going to break down 5 different strategies to master Instagram hashtags so you can find what works for you because what works for me might not work for you. But you’re in luck because I’ve tried lots of different strategies. Oh, and I’m also offering a free way to monitor the hashtags you use to find the ones that work for you.
Why should *I* be talking about this?
My experience – I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have a large following. But over the years as the algorithm has changed, I’ve had to adjust my strategy. What worked for me a year ago, two years ago even, doesn’t work for me now. I’ve had to put in the time to research different strategies and try different things.
Engagement – And at the end of the day, while lots of likes are nice, it’s overall engagement that’s important. Engagement includes likes and comments, and I try to look at the overall percentage of engagement. Aka, I take how many likes and comments I’ve had on a post and divide that number by my total number of followers. With that, my engagement has been anywhere from 5% to 10%, which is pretty good in the Instagram world.
Research your hashtags – It’s so easy to just use hashtags that bring other people a lot of likes. While that might work some times, it won’t always. Some hashtags are meant to be used for specific photos, so if you post one that doesn’t fit with that hashtag, people scrolling through the hashtag may just skip right over it. If you’re pulling together a list of hashtags to use with every picture, strategically pick the hashtags that fit best with what you generally post. For example, if your theme is minimalism, pick hashtags that go with that, like #minimalistic, #minimaliststyle, or #minimalists. Another way that you should research your hashtags is by taking a look at how many photos have been used for that hashtag. When you’re on Instagram, in the search bar type your hashtag with the symbol (ie #minimaliststyle). Before clicking enter and going to the search results, Instagram will show you how many photos have used that hashtag. It’s very important to not go with hashtags that have millions and millions of photos. Why? Because your photo will get lost. The point of using hashtags on your photos is to get other eyes on them. If you use a hashtag that has 10 million pictures, very people will see yours. I like to use hashtags that have between 10 thousand and 1 million pictures, but I do make exceptions.
Change which ones you use depending on the picture – It can be very easy and helpful to make a note on your phone with all the hashtags you use on a standard photo because that way you can copy and paste when you get on Instagram. But it’s also important to use hashtags relevant to the specific image you’re posting. For example, I have a note of 30 hashtags on my phone. When I post a photo of my dogs, I’ll use 2-6 hashtags relevant to them, whether they be dog hashtags or ones specific to their breeds. Then I’ll post my standard hashtags, but removing some because you can only have 30 hashtags on Instagram. So if I post 2 hashtags relevant to the dogs, then I’ll post 28 of the other hashtags. Another thing you can do it have multiple notes in your phone with groups of hashtags for the most comment picture subjects that you post. For example, have one for food pictures, one for travel pictures, one for outfit pictures, etc.
Get involved with local hashtags – There are probably hashtags for the area that you live in (or are visiting). For example, some of the Boston ones I use are #bostonblogger, #bostonlove, #bostonian, and #bostonigers. When I go to Maine, I often use #vacationland and #thewaylifeshouldbe, which are two tag lines for my home state. Spend some time finding hashtags for your area, and ideally look for ones that don’t have millions of photos attached. Going through your local hashtags is also a great way to connect with others in your area!
Every now and then, change the ones you use – Last year, I used practically the same 30 hashtags for all of my photos, and I was getting hundreds of likes. But at some point, the engagement almost dropped off. It felt like out of nowhere. I still don’t know what happened, but I do know that my engagement started increasing again when I changed my typical hashtags. To keep your photos fresh, switch up your typical hashtags every couple of months. Now, if you’re using different hashtags for every single photo, this might not be necessary. But if you stick to a standard set, definitely change them a couple times a year.
Track the hashtags you try and their impact – This is the one that takes the most time, but it’s also the one that I’ve found the most helpful. Want to know if a hashtag is actually helping you grow? Figure out its impact. Here’s what I did: I made an Excel spreadsheet and labeled each row with a hashtag. Then, I labeled each column with the date for my pictures. 12-24 hours after I posted a picture, I clicked on each hashtag individually. If my picture made it into the top 9 pictures of that hashtag, then I put “yes” in the cell for that day. As time went on, I kept track of how many times my pictures made it into the top 9 pictures for each hashtag. The more I did this, the more I could see how effective each hashtag was for me because if my picture was in the top 9, it meant that more and more people were engaging with that picture. Keep in mind that, as I mentioned, I use hashtags that don’t have any fewer than 10 thousand pictures and any more than 1 million.
This tool can also be helpful to figure out what content is most popular with your audience. In the free download below, I’ve included spots for you to note the time the photo was posted – so you can monitor the best times for your audience – as well as a spot for describing the photo content. While Instagram analytics can be helpful, I’ve found that my own manual notes make a better difference to me. I’ve found this to be especially true because (as far as I know) when you’re looking at your older pictures, you can’t see the time that the photo was posted. Sure, Instagram will tell you what time your audience is most active, but that can be different than what times people like your photos the most. You can figure that out by manually monitoring it.
Want to try this for yourself? I’ve made a free download based on my own Excel sheet described above. Use this to monitor what hashtags help you the most, what time is best for you to post, and what content is most popular.
Other Instagram Tips
How To Grow Your Instagram Following – A great post about all things Instagram, including tools to help you navigate which hashtags to use.
5 Different Instagram Strategies You Need To Try – This post is helpful in a variety of ways and is perfect if you’ve been stuck in a rut.
Instagram hashtags That Will Double Your Likes – Need new hashtags to try? Check out these ones.
The Best Hashtags To Promote Your Blog on Instagram – What I like about this post is that it gives you a wide variety of hashtags for many different types of posts.
How To Find the Best Hashtags for Your Business – Pretty self-explanatory.
Do’s and Don’ts of Effectively Using Hashtags – VERY helpful if you’re new to the hashtag game.
Best Hashtags To Get Likes and Followers on Instagram – So many potential hashtags to use!
Like this post? Share it and check out these: