Hashtags are an increasingly powerful way to get your content seen more widely and grow your community. But I know some still find the whole concept of hashtagging a bit weird and confusing thought maybe it would be useful to just run through what hashtags actually are, how and why to use them.
What is a hashtag?
Hashtags are words (no spaces or characters), with the # symbol in front, like this #myopenkitchenworkshops. They are used to categorise posts on Instagram so people can search and find your content by subject or topic. Once you put the # symbol in front of a word or group of words it becomes clickable, searchable and followable on Instagram.
So how do you actually use hashtags?
Just add the # sign before a word or phrase no spaces or punctuation. I think the easiest way to save and store your hashtags is just to keep lists for different kinds of photos in the Notes app on your phone/computer and then update, copy and paste as needed.
You can either put your hashtags in a separate comment or in the caption itself. I do the former but sometimes if it’s a hashtag I have created myself or particularly want to highlight, I’ll add one or two at the end of my caption too.
A few hashtag ‘do’s’
- Do use hashtags in your IG stories, you might find your post gets included in a ‘hashtag story’ and again find yourself ‘exposed’ to a whole n ew audience.
- If you have created a hashtag for your business/brand, include it in your profile bio because they are now ‘clickable’.
- General rule of thumb is use 20 hashtags per post, you are allowed up to 30.
A few hashtag ‘don’ts’
- Don’t use ‘big hashtags’ by which I mean things like #yum #food #fashion, there will sometimes be millions of other posts using these generic hashtags so it’s almost impossible to get yours seen by anyone at all. Instead take the time to research hashtags that have say 1k-30k posts or thereabouts. They will be more tailored to your audience and you have a much better chance of breaking through.
- Don’t use irrelevant hashtags, don’t just copy and paste the same group of hashtags every time (the algorithm no like), think about the content of that post and tailor your hashtags to suit. For example, if you were posting a flat lay of your shirts styled into a cute weekend outfit, you might not use the hashtag #seasonalcooking!
How do I find hashtags to follow?
The best way is to just sit down with your phone and do some research, find people in your ‘space’ who are using hashtags well and ‘borrow’ those that are appropriate for you and your content.
Also do some research into what hashtags magazines and media use to find stories. Say you want to get your product or story featured or even just on the radar of Outback Magazine (FYI they specify that #outback is the hashtag to use), start using that hashtag on relevant posts and as long as the content is good and full of value, the editors or whoever’s job it is to check the hashtag will take notice.
If the media outlet you think would be a good fit for your audience doesn’t advertise what hashtag they use, you can always just call their offices and ask!
Journalists are always on the hunt for good stories so make it as easy as possible for them to find you by using hashtags that they follow!
Geographic hashtags are useful too – say for example you are visiting Ballarat for a weekend trade fair, you’d use #visitballarat and find out what other ‘destination’ hashtags are commonly used by that area and you may find that the local tourism office picks up and re-shares your post. And again – this means more opportunities to connect with more ‘Sallys’!!
And finally, don’t forget that Instagram has a search function that can show you all kinds of new hashtags to use and follow, but again, be fairly specific here. So if you are a free range pork producer in Canberra, instead of just searching for ‘pork’ and selecting the ‘tags’ tab, you would select ‘free range meat canberra’ or ‘canberra local produce’ or ‘free range pork Canberra’.
Why should I use hashtags?
There are six main reasons, all of them related to building your audience
- People can follow hashtags now; so even if someone has never heard of you before, they can discover you if you use a hashtag that they follow.
- To get someone’s attention, for example if you wanted to pop up on the radar of say, Country Style magazine’s editor, you might start adding the hashtag #countrystyleloves to your posts. The editorial team do check this hashtag regularly and sometimes re-post photos they especially like and think might appeal to their followers. Of if you wanted a photo of a recipe you developed to be noticed by a platform such as the The Feed Feed (#thefeedfeed) or Food 52 (#f52grams). These platforms are two of the biggest food sites in the world and both of them frequently repost images from their community/hashtag. Food 52 in particular use hashtags really well, introducing a new theme every week that people can get involved in and inviting readers to put their hashtag on food posts which could then be re-posted or included in weekly round ups of photos they loved best). Have a read of this article to see more about how they use hashtags. Or if you are a writer, you could perhaps do some research into what other authors/writers are using and ‘appropriate’ as appropriate. For example, the hashtag #booksandbeans is a great one for coffee loving writers. and readers.
- To follow along with an event or conference. If you are attending an event or conference, check what their hashtag is then add it to your posts and put it into your search bar to see what everyone else is saying and how they are interpreting the event.
- To conduct market research and build a library of ‘social proof’ – by which I mean, if you create a hashtag for your own event or business, you can follow along and see what your customers/peers are saying about what you do and then re-share. So, for example, when I host workshops, I ask everyone to please put the hashtag #myopenkitchenworkshops in their Instagram posts. This way we can all keep track of who is posting what from the workshop. It’s so great seeing the beautiful images that come out on this hashtag and check back on them weeks after the workshops. I can also then collect everything posted under that hashtag and perhaps put them together in a slideshow instagram post or series of IG stories, tagging everyone. This does two things, those people tagged might re-share and that’s nice for community building, also, it helps to illustrate the kinds of events I hold and the sort of audience they attract, this might be helpful for someone thinking about booking into a future event but still a bit nervous if it might be the right event/community for them – as Seth Godin says, one of the most powerful mantras of modern marketing is ‘people like us do stuff like this‘ and re-sharing other people’s take on what you do is a GREAT way to make people feel connected.
- Hashtags can also be great prompts when short on ideas eg #caughtflowerhanded.
- To find your people. If you are on IG to find a tribe of like minded people, like all of us! Hashtags can help. Maybe you are really into novelty tea cosies, there’s a hashtag and community there for that.