Hashtags have become one of the primary ways in which Internet users engage and curate their social media experience and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon, so now more than ever is a great time to learn how to use them best.

Hashtags are denoted by the hash or pound sign (#) in front of a word or phrase. Adding the hash symbol to the beginning of a word or phrase on Instagram turns the word or phrase into a searchable link.  For example using #Brooklynbarber #tumericchailatte or #whitebikini in your description on Instagram would make each of those phrases searchable to other users.

Just remember that spaces between words you are trying to tag as a single phrase are a big no-no when it comes to hash tags, and whilst numbers are registered in hashtags, other symbols such as commas, exclamation points and question marks are not, so avoid using these if you are trying to create a searchable link.

Hashtags have become a crucial way to increase your discoverability on Instagram. By using them to compliment your photos, you are enabling other users who are interested in a particular topic you have tagged to find your post regardless of whether they are or are not already a follower, customer or even have prior knowledge of your business.

Some businesses even create specific hashtags that they encourage their fans/customers/followers to use for competitions, photo challenges and to create an online community of users posting images around an event or product. Having people use specific hashtags means that you can easily search content relating to your business for a range of purposes such as determining a winner to a photo competition or re-posting on your own channel.

How to know what hashtags to use on your businesses posts?

The number of possible hashtags is almost limitless as they can be made up of any word or phrase in any language you choose. They don’t even need to already exist, you can make up new ones and start your own trend online. So how do you decide which ones to use on your Instagram posts?

Here are a few of our top guiding principles for choosing hashtags on your Instagram posts.

  1. What is your post’s topic?
    If you are a travel tour company perhaps your post is a photo of a group of people in front of a the Gaudi Basilica in Barcelona during an English walking tour your business operates. Therefore, the topics covered by your post include things like: Travel, Spain, Europe, Barcelona, Tours and the Gaudi Basilica.
  1. How can you turn these topics into hashtags?
    Think about how people would search for these topics with words or phrases and turn them into hashtags. For the example in no. 1 this could include these hashtags: #BarcelonaTours #BestSpanishTours #TouringSpain #TravelSpain #TravelEurope #GaudiBasilica #GroupToursBarcelona #TravelEurope
  1. Think about which hashtags best represent what your business does?
    Determine which of the hashtags you have chosen are most closely aligned to the reasons why users would be interested in your business. For instance, if you only run tours out of Barcelona then #TravelEurope isn’t very specific to your business and what you will find is that users trying to find Europe tours will find your posts but then ignore them realizing that you don’t cater to their needs. Instead including hashtags like #BarcelonaTours and #GaudiBasilica or even #GaudiBarcelonaTour will ensure that the users who are searching Instagram and finding your posts will be directly interested in your business or product.
  1. Quality not quantity
    This age old saying holds up on Instagram too. While you can include a countless number of hashtags on any given post, sometimes less is more. Pushgram users generally find that the more specific their hashtags are, the more engaged users are when they find their posts on Instagram. Therefore, the users finding their posts are more likely to like or comment on the post as well as following the respective account.
  1. Checking your hashtags before you use them
    Before you ever use a hashtag, do a hashtag search on Instagram so you can see what sort of accounts are using this hashtag, and if they are people who fit your target audience. This is one of the best ways to test what sort of people will also be searching for these hashtags, and ultimately find your posts.

Checking your hashtags on Instagram

How to determine what hashtags you should use in your Pushgram settings?

Similar to choosing hashtags to go on your account posts, when choosing what hashtags to use in your Pushgram settings, we recommend picking tags that are both specific and directly relevant to your business offerings. However, you may not always want to use the same hashtags that you do in your own posts.

Using the same example of a Barcelona Tour company consider these things.

  1. What are the users you want to target going to be posting about?
    If you want people to do your Barcelona Tour that includes the Gaudi Basilica then you don’t want to target people who have already been. You might instead want to target travelers who are travelling in Spain, but not necessarily in Barcelona. So instead you might use the hashtags #travelspain #TravellingMadrid #Wanderer and combine this with other relevant hashtags such as #Madrid or #Spain to create more specific searches for your Pushgram account. It is really important that you consider what hashtags your target audience will be using on Instagram opposed to the hashtags your competitors will be using, otherwise you will fall into the trap of engaging with your competitors instead of your customers. Real estate agents often use the hashtag #realestate, fitness trainers use the hashtag #fitness, and makeup artist use #makeupartist, these are all hashtags used predominately by people offering that same service and not the target audience you want to reach.
  2. Who are your target Instagram users?
    Are you targeting people of a certain age, nationality, gender etc. Try to think of the hashtags that your users would be more likely to use. If your users are English speakers, they are less likely to understand differences in the Spanish language. For example, while #pinxos might be the correct word for finger food in San Sebastian, your target audience might not know this as #tapas is the more commonly associated word by English speakers. Therefore, if you are targeting travelers while they are in the north of Spain you should consider tracking both #pinxos and #tapas to ensure you aren’t missing valuable customers.
  3. Checking your hashtags before you use them
    Before you ever use a hashtag, do a hashtag search on Instagram so you can see what sort of accounts are using this hashtag, and if they are people who fit your target audience. This is one of the best ways to test what sort of people your Pushgram account will engage with, it you use these hashtags in your preferences.

 Hashtags are a great way to refine your social media marketing activity on Instagram, but just remember that like all marketing strategies, the best results come from the best planned, researched, considered and tested hashtags.  Hashtagging is both effective and easy when done correctly but ill-considered hashtags won’t enhance your activity and can have a negative impact on your businesses ability to build a following online if they are perceived as random or worse, blatantly commercial.

You should also remember that hashtags are only one targeting element for both Instagram and Pushgram and that location tags can be just as, if not more effective depending on what business you are and who your target customers are, so make sure to utilize both kinds of tagging.

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