May 8, 2020


Before the idea of “hashtags” existed, the # symbol meant the pound sign or the number sign. Now, when you see # on social platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, it’s probably being used as a “hashtag”.

After 12 years, the use of hashtags have grown exponentially in popularity as an essential part of any successful digital marketing plan or campaign.  If you haven’t been using hashtags on your Instagram posts, it’s not too late to join the trend!

So what is a hashtag? (#WhatIsaHashtag?)

A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by the symbol ‘#’ that classifies or categorizes the additional text.  Hashtags are searchable and allow users to find posts that share a common topic. To put it in another perspective, hashtags not only allow customers to find posts relevant to their interests, but it also allows people to interact with other social media users who share those interests by joining the conversation using hashtag “XYZ”.  For example, if someone clicks or searches the hashtag #alwaysbetterwithMelrose, they will see all other posts with this hashtag that relate to trending home décor product from Melrose International  

Why should you use hashtags?

Hashtags are not simply a trendy visual; they are an ideal tool for engaging with customers while expanding your brand’s social reach.  More specifically, they allow you to join the conversation on trending topics as well as help to increase your brand awareness.  Hashtags help increase your business’ social media presence by making your content viewable to anyone who searches your hashtag, as it can be searched beyond just your followers.

If you participate in high-traffic conversation by discovering the biggest trending topics, you can increase visibility of your business and brand. The more visibility you get, the more likely you’ll be able to create a larger audience.  A larger audience can rapidly increase prospects, leads and new customers for your brick & mortar and digital store.

How to use hashtags on Instagram

Using hashtags on Instagram can help you engage with more than just your followers.  Hashtags on Instagram give audiences an organic way to discover branded content through the topics and forums that interest them.  Engaging with a community is a good way to build a brand and Instagram hashtags allow you to do just that. Hashtags are useful as they help other customers discover your page, which ultimately increases the likelihood of obtaining more followers. 

Hashtags are a continuously evolving communication tool.  Using more specific hashtags on Instagram can help grow your business’ social media presence by building a bigger audience and more engagement for your brand.  It’s a good idea to create an original hashtag to promote your campaign or content, which allows you to build unique branded content.  Branded content (inserting your business name) classifies your posts on social media and allows you to showcase your business and industry to users who click your hashtag. For example, Starbucks used #StarbucksDate across their social platforms to promote their Valentine’s Day marketing campaign.  It might be easy to create a hashtag, but it’s not always easy to use it effectively.

Here are 5 Tips to help you make the most of your hashtags

Know what your competition uses:  It’s important to figure out who your competition is, what they offer, and how they advertise.  You know what makes your business the better choice. You can use Instagram hashtags to research competitor accounts, their top posts, and their most-used hashtags.

Avoid using too many hashtags:  Because hashtags are expected, always include hashtags in your posts. A good rule of thumb for Instagram is using 9-14 for optimal success.  However, if you can find 30 super-relevant hashtags to add to each post, then you should definitely use that to your advantage.

Be relevant and specific:  Avoid creating too many generic hashtags such as #holiday.  Instead, use a combination of broad and specific hashtags (e.g., #EasterSunday). Holiday hashtags are more relevant when they relate to your content. For example, if you own a costume store, it’s good to use #Halloween in October. You can also capitalize on unofficial holidays like #SweetestDay.

Be consistent:  If you are trying to brand your hashtag, make sure that you use it consistently so your customers can find similar posts that you have created. For instance, instead of using different hashtags for the same category (e.g., #AdoptaPet, #PetAdoption, #BringHomeaPet), stick to one hashtag.

Follow hashtag trends:  If your goal is to participate in high traffic discussions, make sure that you’re using trending hashtags. You can see what’s trending on several websites, such as Hashtagify and Trendsmap.

Where to place your hashtags

We’ve covered the what, why and how-to of hashtags, however knowing where to hashtag can change your social media game and presence tremendously.  Whether you’re posting on-the-fly using a mobile device or scheduling Instagram posts using a tool like Later or Tailwind, type in your caption and follow with your hashtags.  You can utilize Instagram’s hashtag-suggest feature to help if needed.

An important formatting  note is to make your hashtags “invisible” – meaning when your post is live users will have to tap “more…” at the end of your post to see and read your hashtags. To do this, add five lines underneath your caption by using “returns” and add a single dash, dot or an emoji on each line, making sure there are no spaces following the characters.  If there is anything else on those lines, the line breaks will disappear when you post, causing all your hashtags to look as if they are part of the caption. A good tip is to create your caption and hashtags using a Notes app on your phone, and then copying and pasting the text into your post. This will help ensure the formatting stays correct.

Research hashtags to maximize audience engagement

Instagram relies on hashtags to share content to suggest topics for content creation and suggests topics to its users which helps capitalize on local trends and generate viral content.  To be successful with hashtags, you need to think strategically when it comes to finding the best and most ideal hashtags for your brand and business.  

In addition to using trending hashtags, it’s a good ideato find and use hashtags that are smaller, more niche, and have an engaged audience that’s relevant to your industry.  Creating a list of both trending and niche hashtags will help drive traffic to your brand.  So, how can you find these cool, creative, and community-oriented hashtags? 

Four ways to find the best Instagram hashtags for your business

  1. Research your Audience

Throwing random hashtags at the end of your Instagram posts isn’t going to grow your audience. Instead, find out what hashtags your audience and competitors are using and see which ones fit the content that you’re publishing.  Your hashtags should be relevant and contain keywords that your audience might search for.

  1. Research Your Competitors

It just makes good business sense to find out what hashtags your competitors are using. By doing so, you can determine which hashtags provide the most engagement.  While it may not be your intention to compete on those hashtags, you could still end up figuring out what your potential customers are talking about and which hashtags they’re using.  And maybe you’ll discover new hashtags to add to your list!

  1. Research Industry Leaders

One of the best ways to find relevant hashtags is by following Instagram influencers that have the same (or similar) target audiences as you.  Every industry has its respective key influencers. Find out who these people are in your niche and use their posts as inspiration. These people are already well-established with your target audience, so why not learn from the best?

  1. Find related hashtags

Surveying the landscape of trends that are relevant to your own hashtag is an easy and effective way to grow your community.  Simply type your hashtag into the app’s search bar, and then select “tags” from the dropdown menu. You’ll then be able to see all the top hashtags that are closely related to your own hashtag, revealing additional ways to reach, monitor, and engage with your community.  You can also browse through posts containing a hashtag you’re already having success with. If you see a trend of common hashtags that could be included in future posts – write them down for future use.

Bottom-line takeaway  – using Instagram hashtags strategically is a great way to connect with customers, find user-generated content, and build long-term relationships with influential partners!  So, start using hashtags now!

To learn even more about the power of Instagram for your business, check out “Instagram for Business Help Center” for strategies that work.