To Hashtag or Not to Hashtag?
One of the questions we get from clients is whether or not they should be using hashtags, and if Instagram allows for 30 per post, should that be their goal?
Later has an excellent write up on the Best Practices for Instagram Hashtags in 2020, and in response to whether or not hashtags should be used they write "as often as possible!" and we couldn't agree more.
Think of hashtags as keywords in a search engine, (because that is exactly how they work) each hashtag creates another way for your post to be found. If you post an image of a cheeseboard and tag it #cheeseboard anyone on Instagram may come across that post when searching for that hashtag, regardless of whether or not they currently follow you. With that in mind it makes it seem like you'd want to put 30 on each post right? Well no... not exactly.
Make sure your hashtags make sense:
Hashtags need to accurately represent what your post is about and the way to put your best foot forward is to think of it exactly like you would a search engine. If you type "cheeseboard" into Google and you get web pages showing you bottles, you'd probably think the search engine was broken. Keep this in mind when you are adding hashtags to your post. You want to provide anyone searching with exactly what they are looking for. In addition misused hashtags can be identified by any Instagram user. It takes 2 seconds to select the post and report it or mark it "Don't show for this Hashtag". And while one or two of these flags on your posts won't do any damage, if you start to wrack up misuse flags you could find your posts not appearing in searches altogether.
Our advice, use as many hashtags as you can, but don't force something if it doesn't fit.
Two more tips to keep in mind when using hashtags:
One, think about your target customer or demographic. What are the hashtags they are likely to be searching for? If someone is looking for a branded cheeseboard do you think they'll be searching #promotionalproducts and sifting through a sea of random products? Probably not, most likely they'll search for #cheeseboards or #brandedcheeseboards.
Two, stay in the smaller niche hashtags if you can, and don't be afraid to use a hashtag that's never been seen before. It's very tempting to use hashtags that we see are trending (over 500,000 uses etc), but in reality the smaller the search results, the more likely your post is to be seen. Using the same example above if your posting about an oak cheeseboard you'll have more luck tagging #oakcheeseboard (less than 100 uses) than you might with #cheeseboard (805,000 uses). As it is much easier to be found out of 100 posts vs 805,000.
It can be tricky at first to create a good rhythm of using hashtags, but creating new ways to be found is priceless.