How Can Brands Use Hashtags on Instagram? - Five Minute Friday

Hashtags on Instagram can be a little more complicated than many brands realize.  Digital Content Specialist Caroline Gillan covers everything from how to perform hashtag research to how many hashtags to use in our first Five Minute Friday segment.

Video Transcription

Hi guys, and welcome to our first Five Minute Friday!  My name is Caroline, and I'm the Digital Content Specialist here at Launch, and each week, I'll take five minutes or less to talk about a digital or social media topic.  This week, it's all about hashtags - specifically, hashtags on Instagram.  As my mom recently asked me, "what's the deal with hashtags?".


How Instagram Uses Hashtags

Hashtags are really Instagram's way of sorting and categorizing content.  They can be a great way to get in on a specific conversation.  You know, if a big event is happening - like the World Cup, for example - there's definitely a hashtag for it.

They can also be a way for people who don't already follow your brand's pages to discover your content.  If you use a branded hashtag, you can really create a dialogue between you and your followers and spread the brand love.

Hashtags are especially important for Instagram because they increase engagement by over 12%.  Instagram recently introduced a way for people to follow hashtags the same as they would a friend or family member, so those posts appear now in your newsfeed.


Performing hashtag research

We know hashtags are important, but how do we know which hashtags to use?  You're going to have to do a little research.  If you go to the search bar on Instagram, you can actually look up different hashtags and see how many posts use that particular term.  It's also a great way to get new ideas for hashtags because it will show you other hashtags using that root term.  If you go to your competitors profile pages, you can also gain some new ideas and see what hashtags they use.


Why popular hashtags aren't always better

It's probably not a good idea to use hashtags with millions of posts behind them.  This is just because it's going to be a lot harder for your content to get noticed when thousands upon thousands of people are posting using that hashtag every minute.

Instagram also recently changed the way they display hashtagged posts to the end user when you actually look up a specific hashtag, so they split them now into two buckets.  There is top and recent, and top is the default setting.  These are the posts that Instagram deems the most relevant and engaging to you, the end user - they can be different for everybody.  So, this makes it a lot harder for smaller brands who may not have the same level of reach and followers as larger brands to get their content noticed using those larger hashtags.

However, if you think you have a piece of content that is truly a standout - it's amazing, it's ten times better than all your competitors' content - then by all means, you can use some of those larger hashtags.  Just remember to track the reach and engagement you're getting when you use them to see if it's working for you.


What's the optimal number of hashtags to use?

More hashtags is always better, right?  That's not really the case.  Around nine has been found to be the optimal number for smaller businesses.  Obviously, larger businesses can get away with using far fewer (or none at all), just because they're banking on their brand recognition and brand equity.  So people don't need to be told who Target is or what their social media handle is.


Quality over quantity

But for smaller brands, it's really a good idea to remember relevance over the number of hashtags.  So if I'm scrolling through the hashtag #dfweats, for example, I want to see pictures of food, not pictures of the jeans your company sells.  You want to make sure that you're using hashtags that are relevant to each individual post.  That way you can show people the content that they're looking for and show them that your brand is able to provide it to them.