illustration of an instagram hashtag with people standing around it

There are lots of things that go into great Instagram marketing: beautiful visuals, engaging captions, frequent posting, and more. But your Instagram hashtags are one of the most important aspects. Follow the tips below and create a stellar hashtag strategy that enhances your Instagram marketing well into 2020.

On Instagram, hashtags are essential. They are what tie everything together on the visual platform, so it’s important to get your hashtag strategy perfect.
But what makes a solid Instagram hashtag strategy? Read on to learn the ropes and discover how to get the most from hashtags in your Instagram marketing.

Conduct solid research for maximum impact

If you want your Instagram posts to land, some solid research is required. Just as your keyword research is important, so too is the work that goes into finding the right Instagram hashtags for your brand.
Start by selecting a root keyword. This is generally (but not exclusively) related to your business keywords, but it can often relate to the specific post in question. Use this as a seed to generate related ideas — use a spider diagram to help you ideate.
It’s worth leaning on tools here. There are a plethora of tools available to help you conduct comprehensive hashtag research. Hashtagify is the most popular tool, but there are plenty of free or paid hashtag research tools that can help you create a solid bank of Instagram hashtags to lean on.
Beware of cross-contamination during your research too. What’s popular on Instagram isn’t necessarily popular on Twitter and vice versa.

Embrace a diverse Instagram hashtag strategy for targeted traffic

Armed with the Instagram hashtag research you conducted above, create a spreadsheet of each prospective hashtag. Use a tool or a cursory check to pull statistics on the popularity, usage, frequency, and so on for each hashtag.
Once you’ve created a bank of Instagram hashtags, select a blend to use in your Instagram posts. The key here is diversity. Select a combination of both generic and specific Instagram hashtags to drive impressions and engagement with your posts, respectively.
As an example, let’s say you’re an activewear brand and you’re creating a post about your new range of ski equipment.
A generic Instagram hashtag such as #skiequipment attracts people who are interested in general ski gear. But more specific hashtags, such as #skiboots, drive more targeted traffic from people who are actively looking for that piece of equipment.
Of course, these are just examples. But they illustrate the value of driving different kinds of traffic with different kinds of hashtags — use your Instagram hashtag research to inform your selection.

An example of well-thought out Instagram hashtags

screesnhot showing BayArts Instagram hastagsexample of good instagram hashtags from BayArts in Cleveland

Get your technical specs right

There is something of a science to using Instagram hashtags, so it’s worth getting the technical stuff right first.
The optimum number of hashtags to use per post is between 9 and 11. Opting for the former is fine, but using 11 helps you drive more traffic, so shoot for that if you can. Bigger brands can get away with using fewer hashtags by merit of their large followings, but sticking to 9-11 is a good rule of thumb for smaller businesses.
There’s also the question of hashtag placement. Some brands opt for including them immediately after the caption, while others still use bullet points to separate hashtags from caption copy.
However, most brands (and indeed, most users) opt for including their Instagram hashtags as the first comment on the post. It looks neater and reduces clutter on your captions, plus you can easily copy and paste your Instagram hashtags in bulk after writing your caption.
Ultimately, it all comes down to personal preference. Just try to consider what your Instagram post will look like aesthetically when people view it on the app.
Know your limitations too. Instagram is a powerful UGC tool, but brands can no longer source it from hashtags. This means you need to look to other ways to implement your UGC strategy — account tagging and @mentions are a good place to start.
Understand the technical aspects of your hashtags and you’ll get more out of your hashtags as a result.

Strive for relevance

The hashtag research mentioned earlier will result in a big bank of prospective hashtags to use. But don’t just include these on your posts indiscriminately — your hashtags need to be relevant to your posts.
This might seem obvious, but it’s important to emphasize. While including Instagram hashtags on your posts gets you traffic, it’s the image itself that actually draws people in.
To that end, it’s worth conducting a quick check to see what kind of images accompany the Instagram hashtag you’re using. Look for qualities that each image has in common and try to include these in your own imagery.
That said, if there’s a lot of generic imagery out there, consider using it as a jumping-off point to try something new to attract users. Be sure to keep it relevant while eschewing the tried-and-tested content of your competitors.

illustration of Rodney LawsThis is a guest post by Rodney Laws, an ecommerce platform specialist and online business consultant from Ecommerce Platforms. He’s worked in the ecommerce industry for nearly two decades, helping brands big and small achieve their business goals. For more tips and advice, reach out to Rodney on Twitter @EcomPlatformsio.