There are two major ways to grow your following on Instagram: 1) create content that can’t be ignored because it’s so damn good 2) make sure that content gets in front of new people by utilizing hashtags strategically.
Instagram hashtags are a word or phrase with a hash sign in front of them such as: #art or #iloveart or #maketimeforart or #contemporaryart or #artist
If you post a picture, visual or video on Instagram without hashtags, you’re only getting your content in front of the people already following you.
If you include hashtags in your caption, anyone who searches for that hashtag or follows that hashtag could find your content. All of a sudden, you’ve opened up your content to a lot more people. And, with the semi-new ‘follow hashtags’ feature, it’s never been a better time to try to rank for hashtags!
Now that we all get it’s important to use hashtags, I’m going to give you five tips on making sure you’re using hashtags in the most effective way possible on Instagram:
1. Use relevant hashtags.
This may seem obvious, but there are plenty of people who have tried to game the system and use popular hashtags for content that has nothing to do with those hashtags. The thing about this is Instagram allows users to fight back.
You know those three dots at the top right-hand corner of every post? Well all of you have to do is click on that to report a post that isn’t playing by the rules. You can also unfollow that content (if you’re following a specific hashtag) and if a lot of people unfollow that same content, it tells Instagram that something is up.
This is one of the main reasons you don’t want to use irrelevant hashtags. You don’t want to get banned from showing up for hashtags which happens to people when they try to game the system.
The other reason you don’t want to do this is because it’s really not going to help you. If you have a business around selling jewelry and you’re using hashtags about horror movies and interior decorating, how is that going to attract someone who wants to buy jewelry or follow a jewelry-related account?
You want to attract the RIGHT followers to your account. Numbers don’t mean anything if they’re the wrong numbers.
Also, if you’re posting a photo and use a hashtag that relates to your brand but doesn’t relate to the photo, you’re also making a huge mistake. People who find your photo through that hashtag don’t want to see your photo that has nothing to do with your hashtag even if your brand does! Use relevant hashtags for specific photos.
If you’re an artist, I have amazing news for you. I spent over 15 hours finding more than 500 hashtags directly related to art and put them all together into a hashtag cheatsheet.
The hashtags are categorized and listed in order of popularity. The work has been done for you, so you’ll always have relevant hashtags to use.
2. Vary the number of hashtags you use.
I’m not an Instagram expert but I do know one thing for sure: you can only use 30 hashtags per post.
Instagram does this to avoid spammy accounts–THANK YOU Instagram!
The other thing that’s up for debate is whether or not you should vary how many hashtags you use in your posts. Some experts say that you should use 30 hashtags in every post, but others say that you should use 30 hashtags in about every other post and much less in the other posts. They say this signals to Instagram that you’re not a spammy account.
Before I heard the tip about varying how many hashtags you use, I always used 30 hashtags. Now, I vary how many I use. I use 29-30 in about 40-50% of my posts and anywhere from 5-20 in the others. I’ve actually seen a major difference in the amount of times I end up in the most popular posts for specific hashtags since I’ve been varying the amount I use.
I’m now on team vary it up.
For your best posts, use all 30. For the other posts, hold yourself back and try to use less. I do believe this has an impact in your Instagram algorithm and how Instagram views your account.
3. Don’t use the same hashtags with every photo/video.
For some reason, Instagram doesn’t like it when you use the same hashtag over and over and over. This signals to them that your account might be a spam account.
It doesn’t mean you can’t use the same hashtags regularly, but you can’t use them picture after picture after picture. That’s a good way to get banned from showing up for that hashtag.
You need to curate a long list of hashtags that you can choose from. This can take hours of research. Like I said above, if you’re an artist, I’ve already done the hard work for you. Just download the cheatsheet I’ve created for you and you’ll find hundreds of hashtags to choose from.
4. Put the hashtags in your caption.
In 2017, it was the hip thing to put your hashtags in the first comment after your caption. Instagram does NOT like this anymore. Instagram experts have now said that you should put your hashtags in your caption.
It doesn’t matter if it’s pretty if it doesn’t work, right?
Write your caption, then put a couple dots or dashes, and then add your hashtags.5
5. Use the hashtags you’re most likely to rank for.
When you’re deciding which hashtags to use, you shouldn’t just rely on what’s relevant to your visual/video and brand. You also need to consider how big your Instagram account is and how many likes you get per photo which will tell you how likely you are to rank for a hashtag.
If you get buried in a hashtag immediately, the likelihood of it doing anything for it is zilch. However, if you become one of the top nine most popular photos or videos for that hashtag, you’re much more likely to get new followers and more likes.
The way I figured out I should be focusing on hashtags that have 15-100k uses is through experimentation.
I put up a photo and used 3-5 hashtags in each category: less than 1k, 1-5k, 5-10k, 10k-20k, 20k-50k, 50k-100k, 100k-500k, 500k-1million.
I knew that I wouldn’t rank for anything over 1,000,000 or probably anywhere close. Now when I post and I’m using 30 hashtags, I usually post 10 in the 5k-30k range, 10 in the 30k-75k range and 10 in the 75k to 200k range.
The reason I go past the 100k range is because every once in a while I do end up in the nine most popular for those bigger hashtags…and that’s how you grow!
If you don’t know where you rank yet, that’s the experiment I would try to find out where you can rank. Then, I would do a similar strategy of posting some in the lower range that you know you’ll rank for which will then boost you into that middle range which might then boost you into the top range. You never know.
I would repeat this strategy as you grow.
One of the biggest mistakes I see creative entrepreneurs making is using these huge hashtags like #art and #artist when they have 548 followers and will never get anywhere using those popular hashtags.
Start where you’re at and grow. You’ll see growth and it’ll encourage you to want to keep going!