I joined Instagram in June 2015 to bring more traffic to my blog. Back then social media was a completely new field for me. When I heard the word ‘hashtag’, I had to google search the term to find out what it meant! Fast forward 2019, I have taken my Instagram handle @thingstodot to 45.7k (as of today), learnt everything about taking pictures, editing photos, creating an effective Instagram gallery and increasing account engagement through sponsored posts and hashtags.
In this post, I am going to talk mainly about hashtags, how to use them and why using correct hashtags is so important for your account. Before I get down to it, check out the following screenshots of post insights from a couple of recent photos I posted on Instagram. As you can see from the first screenshot (this photo was posted 48 hours before writing this post), the post reached 18,795 accounts only through hashtags! And the second post reached 52k+ accounts just by using correct hashtags! The results from my posts show that Instagram hashtags are indeed a great way of increasing account’s engagement and getting more followers.
Why correct and relevant hashtags are so important to use?
In 2018 Instagram introduced the ability to follow hashtags. This means that when I follow a particular hashtag, then photos posted with that hashtag will show up in my feed. If I am following for eg. #myswitzerland, then posts hashtagged #myswitzerland will show up in my feed. Alternatively, if I post a picture hashtagged #myswitzerland, then my post will show up in feeds following #myswitzerland.
However, it is very important to use hashtags relevant to the post. This is because if you use #myswitzerland for a photo you took in India, and it shows up in feeds following #myswitzerland, they can mark your photo as non-relevant. And if you get too many photos marked as non-relevant, it can negatively effect the reach of your account.
How to find correct hashtags?
This is what I do. Before posting a photo, I do a thorough search on Instagram of accounts with large followings that have content relevant to my photo. Then I look into their bio for hashtags I could use for my photo for a possible repost by that account. For eg. for a photo taken in Switzerland, I will look up accounts relevant to Switzerland by typing Switzerland in the search box. Then I will go to each account and check if they have a good following. If yes, then I will look into their bio to see if they have branded hashtags for a chance to get a repost. I will then use that hashtag for my photo. Also, I may look up more generic accounts like @allaboutadventures or @roamtheplanet or @stayandwander and use their hashtags if my photo is relevant to that account’s content. Again, it is a trial and error process. If you see that inspite of doing all of the above, hashtags are still not working for you, you need to not only improve the quality of your posts but also continually search for more hashtags till you start seeing results. It can be a time-consuming process but if you are serious about Instagram and increasing your account engagement, the time spent doing this is well worth it!
Instagram allows you to use upto 30 hashtags for every new post. Even though I prefer to use hashtags that have not been used more than 100k or 200k times, I mix them up with hashtags that have been used over a million times in the ratio 4:1. Imagine if @beautifuldestinations with a following of 11.9M (but whose hashtag #beautifuldestinations has been used over 31M times!) reposted one of my pictures, that would really mean something for my account!
Also, I have noticed that the hashtag reach for some countries is more than the others. Switzerland photos have always got more number of likes than photos taken in Japan or New Zealand.
Why is it so important to have a genuine account?
The hashtag reach is also greatly determined by how genuine your account is. If you have bought followers or using a bot to grow your account, Instagram may shadow ban you (if they don’t permanently delete your account!) and your posts may not even show up for the hashtags you have used!
How is hashtag reach affected by the Instagram algorithm?
Another thing to keep in mind is the Instagram algorithm. When you post a picture, Instagram first shows the picture to a small percentage of your followers, and if they like it, then Instagram shows it to the rest of your followers! And if a large number of your followers like the picture, the hashtag reach of the picture also increases and your post can show up as a top hashtagged photo! Remember the more likes a photo gets, the more will be its hashtag reach. From experience, I have learnt that the first hour after posting a picture is the most important. If I get about 1,500-2,000 likes (40k-45k following) in the first hour itself, I know my post will do really well and reach a large number of accounts.
All said and done, the only way to get more followers is to constantly work to create a stunning gallery so that when people come to your account through hashtags (or any other source!), they have to hit that follow button!
If you found this article useful, please type a YES in the comments! It will mean a lot to me :)