Hashtags are a unique topic for marketing as they are often used incorrectly on the various social media platforms. What started as a simple filter method quickly waterfalled into a method of communication unto its own. That being said, hashtags are very valuable when used properly. As a top digital marketing company, we wanted to share why using popular Hashtags on Instagram is helpful in engaging customers.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Hashtags

Hashtags were based on a simple idea for filtering content on a social media platform. By adding the hashtag symbol (#) before the text, that added a tag to the post. This allowed people to search a platform for all posts using a particular hashtag that acted as a topic indicator.

As Twitter became more popular, hashtags exploded in use. In some cases, they were used properly and helped people find exactly what they wanted. For example, news reporters successfully incorporated hashtags into news stories starting in 2013 which would allow users an effortless way to stay informed on a topic without following a specific person.

There was also plenty of bad hashtag usage. This commonly occurred when people would use the hashtag symbol followed by a string of words that were used for communication rather than as a topic indicator. For example, people would tag photos with multiple hashtags such as #livingmybestlife, #hangingwiththegirls, #youknowhowwedoit. This was more descriptive information about the post itself rather than a topic.

Then there was just plain ugly hashtag usage. My favorite example was when NBA legend Kobe Bryant first joined Twitter and posted this tweet: “#focus #zen #takethechallenge only focus is N.O. #beastmode #mambasrep #lakernationstandup”. From a communication standpoint, this tweet is pointless as the amount of information conveyed is suspect at best with “only focus is N.O.” which was a reference to an upcoming game with New Orleans. Those tags would associate the post with various topics. But the topic indicators conflict with each other as ‘Zen’ and ‘beast mode’ are rather opposite ideas. People searching the Zen topic are most likely not looking for a note about an upcoming game. Luckily Bryant has worked on his hashtag game and it is much more focused.

Hashtags can greatly add to a social media post to increase engagement. At the same time, using hashtags improperly adds no value and demonstrates a lack of understanding.

Using Hashtags on Instagram to Increase Engagement

These are our top tips on using hashtags on Instagram to increase engagement and maximize the reach of each post:

  • Number of Hashtags per Post – Instagram allows for up to 30 hashtags per post. That number seems like a lot which is why many marketers use only a handful based on the idea that excessive hashtags appear spammy. That idea has merit, but has it been adequately tested and verified by analytics? According to a recent engagement study, hashtag usage and percentage of interactions vary quite a bit. Using 2-3 hashtags creates about the same amount of interaction as 5 or 8 hashtags, all of which are better by a 10% rate over 1,4, 6, 7, and 10 hashtags. Interestingly using 11 hashtags created the highest interaction percentage, which was twice as much compared to using 2, 3, 5, or 8 hashtags. Using 9 hashtags was the second best for interaction rates. Therefore, it makes the most sense to start by using 11 hashtags per post and then experimenting with more to see how an audience responds, using analytics to track engagement. Every audience is different which is why analytics are crucial to understanding the optimal aspects of posts.
  • Where to Place Hashtags – Hashtags can be placed in the comments or the photo or video caption when posted. Is there any functional benefit to one over the other? The answer is no, there is absolutely no difference in the functionality based on placement. While they can be added to the caption, the caption space should be a focus for engagement and a call-to-action. Placing too many hashtags in the space can distract from the primary purpose of engagement and action. It is easier to add them to the comments because after a few users comment on a post they become buried and are a bit more incognito and less spammy.
  • Hiding Hashtags – Hashtags can be hidden in comments if desired. This can be beneficial to avoid looking spammy. Simply precede the hashtags with either 5 periods (.) or dashes (-) each on its own line. I.e. place a Period (.) then hit return and repeat five times and on the sixth line enter the hashtags.
  • Use Popular Hashtags – To gain more views, it makes sense to utilize the most popular hashtags on Instagram, assuming they have relevance. While these do change over time, right now some of the top tags are #gym, #girl, #dog, #home, #food, #summer and #life. The Webstagram site provides an up-to-date list of the most popular hashtags and users. However, don’t assume popular hashtags are safe. Take the time to check as sometimes hashtags can be banned because they become overrun with spam. Research a hashtag before using it or utilize a tool such as Tailwind Hashtag Finder.
  • Use Relevant Hashtags – Relevant tags can be found using basic keyword research or hashtag finding tools. They should be relevant to the post and the business niche. They should also be regularly used, but not overused. By that, if you are looking at a tag feed and posts are being added every few seconds it is too active. That means any new post will quickly be buried in the feed.
  • Create Custom Tags – A brand should have its own custom tag which can be applied to every post. Additionally, each campaign should be branded with a unique tag. Support and encourage the use of these tags by fans and customers to make them more popular and viable for engagement. Hashtag contests are a trendy way to boost a brands tag.
  • Avoid Common Tag Mistakes – Adding tags to a post down the road is a waste of time. All it does it add your post to that topic, but at the time of original posting, not currently. Avoid spammy behavior with tags which means not repeatedly using the same hashtag group in a 24-48-hour period. Also, don’t use broken and banned hashtags.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that Instagram is one of the best social media platforms for marketing. Using popular hashtags on Instagram is helpful in engaging customers, but only when used properly. By following our tips, you can increase views on your posts, avoid problems, and increase overall engagement.