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A Guide To Using Hashtags On Instagram For Small Businesses

Small business owners are forever striving to get more return for their digital marketing efforts and so we turn to Instagram and specifically to Instagram hashtags.  

Instagram has been a huge success story since its launch in 2010, so much so there are now over 1 billion accounts and over 100 million photos or videos uploaded daily. It’s no surprise then that getting your content seen and discoverable by new audiences, as a small business, is hard. Hashtags can help – using relevant and targeted hashtags on your posts and stories is one of the best ways for new audiences to discover you, follow you, engage with you and do business with you.

Here’s a handy guide to why hashtags are so important for small business owners on Instagram, along with some tips and tricks you could use to build an effective hashtag strategy. 

Hashtags are the search engine of Instagram

Hashtags collate and catalog content on Instagram so when a hashtag is clicked on from a post or in search it brings up a directory of all the photo and video content with this same hashtag. In short, hashtags are the search engine of Instagram. 

A profile has to be public for the hashtags to be visible to those who don’t already follow you and hashtags can only contain letters and numbers, so no special characters or spaces. You can use up to 30 hashtags on a post or 10 on a story. Not all 30 have to be used but the more you use the more likely the post will be seen and you’ll get that important engagement which the algorithms love. 

That being said shoehorning hashtags in is not a good look, so if it’s not relevant then don’t use it. For a cleaner look, post the hashtags in the first comment of the post rather than the caption- they will still be found!. 

Three types of hashtag for small business marketing

Broadly speaking there are three types of hashtag:

  1. Community hashtags – these everyday hashtags can be broken down further to ones which describe your product or service (e.g. #coffeeshop), your niche, for special events, for locations (#madeinbrighton), for communities (e.g #foodiesofinstagram), daily hashtags (e.g. #tuesdaytip), and acronyms (.e.g #ootd for outfit of the day). One mistake people often make is using hashtags that are too focused on what they do, rather than hashtags that their audience will likely follow. When using hashtags on Instagram, remember that the important thing is getting to your buyers, not your peers!
  2. Brand hashtags – this is your own unique hashtag for your business, it can be your name, a variation of that, or something related to your brand. Whatever you choose, use it frequently and encourage your followers to use it too in their posts. Don’t forget to put the hashtag in your bio.
  3. Campaign hashtags – these relate to short-term campaign-specific events such as product launches or partnerships.

Broad or niche – which hashtags to use and how to choose

Hashtags vary from the very popular – some with over 1bn posts – and therefore broad (top hashtags include #love, #workout and #happy) to the very niche and therefore less popular. So, which to use? 

The answer is both but with caution to lean more towards relevance than over-popularity. Mix up broad hashtags such as #mondaymotivation as well as those specific to your niche. If a hashtag is hugely popular, your post will disappear under the weight of the 1m other posts coming in that day! 

Use Hashtagify or Ingramer to find other hashtags similar to those you already use and keep tabs on what’s trending, or what your competitors use. Don’t forget geographical tags too if your small business is location-specific.

Tips and tricks for your hashtag strategy

Here’s a round-up of some of our favourite tips and tricks:

  1. Do your research – look at what competitors and industry leaders use and make use of the analysis in your account’s Instagram insights
  2. Use hashtag suggestions from Hashtagify, Ingramer or other hashtag tools
  3. Save hashtags ready to copy in your notes or a spreadsheet to save time
  4. Encourage others to use a hashtag you’ve created for further reach and to access user-generated content you can repost
  5. Include your branded hashtag in your bio
  6. Post hashtags in your first comment to keep the caption looking clean
  7. Use a mixture of broad and niche – think both short and long tail
  8. Use hashtags on Stories, you can even hide these for a clean look by making them smaller or placing behind a sticker
  9. Switch up your hashtags to avoid looking spammy – don’t post the same hashtag groups each time
  10. Use the geotags too when posting for location based small businesses

Need more help with your social media strategy or content marketing? 

We’re here to help with all digital marketing matters big or small. Book a consultation with us for a chat about your needs.

Kameleon Marketing

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