Hashtags are one of the most important pieces of your Instagram marketing strategy. These are the top questions that I get asked about hashtags:
How many hashtags should I use on a post?
You can use up to 30 hashtags on each Instagram post. I say… use them all! Hashtags are search terms on Instagram, and the primary way people find you. Why not use as many relevant search terms as you can on each post, to attract as much traffic as possible? (See that? I just used a question to answer the question.) A study by Buffer showed that interactions are highest on posts that use at least 11 hashtags. Don’t dip below that, but try to use as many as possible up to 30.
Should I always use the same hashtags, or should I mix it up?
Instead of thinking about same vs. different hashtags, I would primarily be concerned with relevance. Are your hashtags relevant to both your account AND the specific post? Within your group on 30 hashtags, there should be a group (maybe half?) that describe your account as a whole. What are you about? #socialmediatips? #fitnesstips? #childrensboutique? After that, you can use the rest of the hashtags to describe what that specific post is about: #instagrammarketing #exerciseathome #girlsdress.
It will vary by your account. I tend to use the same hashtags from day to day, but your business may require you to change them up frequently.
What is a broken hashtag?
A “broken” hashtag is a hashtag that Instagram has inactivated. There are various reasons that Instagram might do this… and since they aren’t super straight about it, I’ll just have to guess. Maybe that particular hashtag is too general to be very descriptive, and thus, the feed is too big. More likely it has more to do with spammers. At one point #facebook and #photography were both “broken,” but they seem to be working now. To be honest, I haven’t encountered any broken hashtags in a while! However, if you post an image with hashtags, and get very little action, I would look to make sure I didn’t have any broken hashtags in my group.
Does posting my hashtags in my comments instead of my caption affect my ranking?
The short answer is no, not if you post them in your comment right away. Hashtags are time sensitive, so when you go to the explore tab and search for a hashtag, you are seeing the photos in order of what time the photo was posted. Example: You realize an hour after you posted your photo that you forgot to add your hashtags to your second comment. Oops! When you go back to add them, then check the feed for that specific hashtag, your photo will appear far down with all of the other photos that were posted about an hour ago that also used that hashtag.
If you post your photo and description, then immediately (within 15 minutes or so) go back and paste your hashtags in your second comment… you are totally fine!
I love this approach because if you get more than three comments on your post, that hashtag comment will be hidden. Instagram only shows the last three comments you have received!
I keep getting a red exclamation point when I post my hashtags. What does that mean?
It could mean two things. First, it might mean that you are trying to post more than 30. Instagram is giving you a warning that your hashtags won’t work, because you are exceeding their limit. Re-count, and see if that is the problem. If so, pare down your list! It could also be that you are trying to use a “broken” hashtag. For an explanation of what a broken hashtag is, see a few questions up!
I haven’t changed anything, but I feel like I’m getting fewer new followers. What’s the deal?
Maybe it’s because you haven’t changed anything! If you have been using the same hashtags over and over for months, and you are in a super niche-y space, they might be tired. If the same small group of people are searching that hashtag over and over, maybe you’ve reached a saturation point. It’s time to search out some new hashtags and breathe new life into your hashtag strategy!
Side note… everything ebbs and flows. If your hashtags don’t “fix it,” maybe you just need to stick it out a little longer and see what happens. Don’t stress!
How “big” should my hashtag be?
Like, how many results should a hashtag return to be a “good” hashtag? I would say if there are only a few hundred, then it is too small. If a search of your hashtag yields millions, then I say it is too big. Giant hashtags like #love and #instagood simply move too fast to be valuable to you. I completely avoid them. However, everything else is fair game. The bottom line is size doesn’t matter (ahem), it is all about relevance!
How do I find the best hashtags to use?
I always start by coming up with just one, general keyword that describes the account like: #naturopathy or #socialmedia or #childrensboutique. Search that hashtag and start clicking in to some photos to see what other hashtags people tend to use with the initial hashtag you came up with. Start making a list of the common ones you see. After you have a decent sized list, search each of those hashtags to see how big they are… and double check that the results are relevant! Sometimes innocent terms can have spammy meanings. I learned that the hard way… yikes!
What hashtag questions did I miss? Tell me in the comments!
Molly Marshall teaches small business owners and online entrepreneurs how to systematically and simply grow a profitable online presence through social media. Get your FREE Instagram Strategy Guide now!