Get More Likes and Followers on Instagram with Hashtags
Instagram is a great place for brand growth, but for new businesses, the growing pains are often too challenging to overcome organically. Paid advertising is, of course, the easiest way to reach one’s target market to grow following, increase engagement rates, and even boost sales. For emerging businesses, however, paid advertising may not yet be an option they can explore. A limited marketing budget also means limited options for growth strategies, but this does not mean that the options that are available for free can’t be effective.
Hashtags have proven to be a remarkable tool for growth on Instagram. Let’s take a look at the ways you can maximize the use of hashtags to get more likes and followers for your brand.
Instagram Growth Basics
If you are an Instagram newbie and wondering how and where to start your brand’s growth journey, we have broken down the basics for you.
- Collaboration with Instagram influencers. When you work with the right influencer, i.e. one who already works within your unique niche or general industry, you will be tapping into the multitude of Instagram users who are following them and, therefore, are already interested in your niche/industry. You can be sure that their follower base belongs to your target market. An influencer’s reach and credibility are the keys to driving more traffic to your page and gaining new followers.
- Run contests and raffles. You can do this as a standalone brand or you can collaborate with other brands that offer different products; these other products may be related to your own, or you can opt for a greater variety of prizes. Collaborating with other brands will significantly expand the reach of your contests on Instagram, and even on other platforms.
- Paid advertising. As mentioned earlier, this is the easiest and fastest way to reach your target market. Fortunately, there are different campaigns available depending on your budget. Instagram advertising lets you specify the target audience you want to reach based on their location, online behaviors, interests, demographics, and more.
- Focus on engagement instead of sales. The bottom line is still important, of course. But first, you need to convince people to follow you and engage with your content. You can do this with an effective content strategy that aims to create awareness of and interest in your brand. Before you can start selling your products, you must first sell your brand.
- Get creative with your content. Keep in mind that Instagram is a crowded and competitive platform. In order to stand out, your content must be unique and relevant to your target market.
- Find a trustworthy and reputable growth service. Practice extreme caution when exploring this option, as there are a lot of companies that do not deliver the goods they promise. Do as much research as you can before engaging the services of any company.
- Engage with other brands. Find brands within your niche/industry and follow them. Like their posts; post comments on the most recent and popular ones; and engage with their most active followers, as well. This will help you become visible to potential new followers. Just be careful not to engage in spammy behaviors, i.e. indiscriminately following pages and liking posts and posting copied and pasted comments.
- Actively engage with your followers. It’s important to reply to each and every comment on all your posts; this will keep conversations going and will keep pushing your content higher on your followers’ newsfeeds. Keeping your account active will also tell Instagram’s algorithms that your content is interesting and relevant, and will most likely be made visible to more people.
And then, of course, use hashtags judiciously. Let’s take a look at how you can make hashtags work for your brand.
Why Hashtags Should Be a Part of Your Instagram Toolbox
One particular study, conducted by TrackMaven, found that posts with hashtags had higher engagement rates than posts that do not use hashtags.
How do hashtags work, exactly? Hashtags categorize content and make it more easily discoverable. When you search for a specific hashtag, for example, all the posts that used it will appear.
Instagram has also launched the “follow hashtags” function to give users easier access to the content they’re interested in. This function allows Instagram users to follow any specific hashtag; when a hashtag is followed, all the photos and videos associated with it appear on their newsfeed.
The great advantage of this hashtag functionality is that most, popular hashtags — those that have been used hundreds of thousands or millions of times — can reach countless users every single day. There’s the obvious disadvantage of tougher competition, but using widely popular hashtags should still be a part of your overall Instagram growth strategy.
Tips and Tricks When Using Hashtags
Identify the most relevant hashtags
Here are some basic guidelines to follow when choosing the right hashtags for your content. Keep in mind that the number of possible hashtags is limitless. So you’ll need a strategy to narrow down your choices and pick those that will maximize the discoverability of your content.
- Make a list of words and phrases that are relevant to your brand. If you have a coffee business, for example, then your list may include: coffee, caffeine addict, coffee break, beans, caffeinate, cuppa, and brew, among many others.
- Use generic hashtags with massive frequencies of use. These are the most common hashtags related to your brand/product.
- Use hashtags that specifically identify your target location (i.e. the geographic area of your target market) and your target individuals/groups (i.e. based on demographics, profession, community, etc.)
- Shortlist more specific hashtags that uniquely describe your brand/product. For a coffee business, you can start using your brand hashtag; you may also turn your business slogan into a hashtag.
- Identify trending hashtags. These are also widely popular hashtags but are not generic. For the example given above, trending hashtags may include #nitrocoldbrew, #coffeepods, #artisanalcoffee, #singleorigincoffee, #sustainablecoffee, etc.
- Apply the 80/20 rule, which translates to 80% most popular hashtags and 20% least used hashtags. The most popular hashtags are typically used hundreds of thousand or millions of times; the least popular ones are in the lower thousands. The advantage of using least popular hashtags is you can easily get the top post for these hashtags.
Instagram’s TOP Posts: What is it and how does it work?
As with all social media platforms, Instagram’s algorithms are kept secret, so it is not known how the platform identifies which posts will make the Top Posts list. But based on observed trends, posts that get to the top are those that receive hundreds of likes and dozens of comments during the first few minutes or within the first hour or two of posting.
To maximize your chances of earning a top spot, use the right combination of hashtags, actively engage with your followers and brands similar to yours, determine the best hours to publish your content when your target audience is most active, create unique and engaging content, and find ways to have other users promote/share your content.
How to find the best hashtags for your brand and content
When creating your list of hashtags that are most related to your brand and/or content, Instagram’s search tool will be the best place to start. There are also third-party apps available for Android and iOS phones which provide suggestions for the best hashtags to use for any particular purpose and based on specified factors.
When using the search bar on Instagram, simply type the hashtag symbol “#” immediately followed by a generic keyword that applies to your industry, brand, and/or product. Do this for all generic keywords you can think of; Instagram will give you the most widely used hashtags, including whole phrases that include your main keyword. You will repeat the process using specific terms and phrases related to your brand and/or product.
You can also browse through the most recent posts of your competitors and influencers within your niche/industry to see what hashtags they’re using. It’s okay to use the same ones for your posts as you are targeting the same market. Of course, you’ll also be adding hashtags that are unique to your brand.
How to organize your hashtags
Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post and up to 10 in a story. You’ll notice that most users simply input hashtags one after the other, with a space between hashtags. It doesn’t really matter how your hashtags are ordered; you can type the generic and most popular ones first, followed by the more specific ones, or vice versa. Try both ways and see which one works better for you.
To make publishing content easier and quicker, save a copy of your hashtags in your phone’s notepad, and even your PC’s; you can also save your list in your Google Drive or whatever cloud storage you prefer. This way, you can just copy and paste the hashtags you want to use for a particular post. Categorize your hashtags as you see fit so you can quickly search for the ones you need. Keep updating your list whenever necessary.
When posting, you should also vary the order of your hashtags to keep things interesting for Instagram’s algorithms.
Test your hashtags
Remember that hashtags are included in your post to boost its discoverability and engagement. An effective content strategy is still the most crucial factor to earn more likes on your post and more followers for your account.
Your content must be unique, relevant, and engaging. Don’t just promote your brand and product; find out what your target market is interested in. Needless to say, your images and videos must be of high quality; they don’t have to be taken by a professional or with professional equipment, but they do need to look like they were.
Find out the best times to publish your content. When you’re just starting your Instagram journey, this will involve some weeks or months of trial and error. But after a week or two of regular posting, your analytics should already have valuable data about the performance of your posts, including the specific hours when your content reached the most people.
To assess the effectiveness of your hashtag strategy, you’ll need a baseline. Your baseline are posts that have no hashtags, which you’ll use to compare hashtagged posts against. What you’ll look at are the increases in your number of followers following these posts, and the number of likes and rate of engagement earned by the posts. You can also change the hashtag combinations you use to find out which ones deliver the most goods.
Another hashtag trick you should always follow is to incorporate hashtags into your main text/caption. If you can use a unique, popular, and/or trending hashtag as the first word of your caption, even better. You can also use the hashtags you want to keep promoting when commenting on other pages’ posts and when replying to your followers’ comments. Just avoid copying and pasting indiscriminately or you might be flagged for spamming!
Effective hashtagging for Instagram growth is an art; it’ll take time for you to perfect it — to figure out the best hashtag strategy that works for you. But keep at it; follow the tips we’ve provided here, and watch your brand’s popularity grow.