Hashtags aren’t a trend. They’re powerful marketing and branding tools that work like a funnel for your target audience, helping you be discovered among the one billion (and 25 million businesses) on Instagram. Instagram users on a mission will search for what they need using hashtags. Whether you’re a graphic designer specializing in #handletteredsigns or you’re promoting your San Francisco-based fitness services with #SFpersonaltrainer, your hashtags help identify who you are.
Even better, people interested in topics, like #InstagramTipsandTricks, can follow hashtags. So if you use the right hashtags for your posts, you’ll show up in your future customers’ feeds more often. Better than magic.
The Nitty Gritty
It’s okay if you’re unclear on what a hashtag is. We’ve got a simple breakdown to help you know how and how not to use one. Structurally, a hashtag is any word or phrase immediately preceded by the number sign, aka hashtag (#). This lets the app know to hyperlink the word or phrase that follows. That hyperlink is what makes you findable on Instagram. To create a hashtag, be sure there isn’t any space between the number sign and the words you are using. Remember that you can’t use symbols or special characters in your hashtags, either. You can, however, use numbers! Here are some examples of all these tips using the phrase “Sunday Funday.” Check it out!
- Yes: #SundayFunday
- No: # Sunday Funday
- No: # SundayFunday
- No: #Sunday Funday
- No: #SundayFunday!
The first is a functioning hashtag because there are no spaces between the words or the number sign and there are no special characters or symbols. Hashtagging emojis is gaining popularity, too. (#🥳) Once you have the structure down, you’re ready to rock. Remember, hashtags work best if you add them as you post, instead of going back later and adding them. Keep it timely for maximum traction.
Hashtags are your marketing funnel. They allow users to find you amongst the one billion other users on Instagram. When you add the right hashtags, you help customers find you and connect to the online community you are creating.
How to Include Hashtags in Your Captions
Once you’ve mastered writing hashtags, it’s time to include them in your Instagram posts. There are several ways to add these magical marketing tools to your posts.
Instagram and IGTV
The same strategies that work for traditional Instagram posts also work for IGTV. Some of the most common hashtag strategies are to:
- Weave hashtags naturally into the body of the caption.
If you go this route, make sure the hashtagged words and phrases weave organically into your message and avoid multi-word hashtags. #Alwayswritecaptionsthatareeasytoread. Unless you’re going for #irony. See what we did there?
- Bury hashtags at the bottom of the caption, completely separated from the main caption through the use of white space.
With this tactic, be sure to use a symbol to define the line break below your main caption. This is crucial because returns and spaces don’t register in the IG app. You can also format your caption in a separate app (like your phone Notes) and copy and paste it into Instagram.
- Write hashtags into the first comment of the post.
With this tactic, write your hashtags in Notes (or another app) before you post, so that you can copy and paste your hashtags immediately into the first comment of your own post.
Which way is best? According to the Instagram experts at Later.com, there’s no wrong way to hashtag (meaning there’s no data showing that one place is better than the others for hashtags). That said, a 2019 study by Social Insider of ~ 650,000 posts found that accounts with fewer than 100k followers reached more people with hashtags in captions while accounts with more than 100k followers had a better reach rate with hashtags in the comments.
However you hashtag, remember that Instagram is all about visuals, so consider how you want your brand to come across in your posts and be consistent. It’s okay to experiment while you’re getting started to see what style you like the best. You can also mix and match, like @moomomens. Check out how they wrote a simple caption followed by a standalone hashtag. Then, they immediately added a comment, depositing all the rest of their hashtags in the first comment on the post. Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags, so have fun but also be true to your post and to your brand. After you write your caption and you hit ‘Share,’ you’ll know your hashtags are hyperlinked (meaning they are clickable and discoverable) if they are blue.
Did you know you can add up to 10 hashtags and 1 clickable hashtag stick to each of your Instagram Stories? If you want a clean aesthetic, without adding a bunch of hashtags over your Story, try these three tricks:
- Minimize your hashtags after you write (not too small, though or the app may not recognize them) and drag them down to the bottom of the screen. They’ll be hidden below the frame (just be sure not to toss them in the trash can!)
- Minimize your hashtags then cover them with a sticker. Animated stickers will make your IG Story stand out
- Make your hashtags invisible using the eyedropper tool. This works best with a solid color background and you can color match the hashtag text to blend in with backdrop
Try it out with Instagram Story templates made in Spark, like the ones below:
Most Popular Hashtags
The most popular hashtags for Instagram are easy and appealing. But if you’re a small business owner or solopreneur, relying solely on the biggest hashtags might mean you get lost in the crowd. When you type a hashtag into your Instagram caption, you’ll see it’s popularity. For example, #love has been tagged in over 1.7 billion posts. That’s a lot of competition to have your voice heard. When using the most popular hashtags, be sure to weave in niche hashtags that help people find you. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, these are the most popular Instagram hashtags around:
How to Find Hashtags to Use
Now that you know everything about hashtags and the most popular hashtags, here are tips on finding the best hashtags to use. The key is to aim for hashtags that have low competition and high engagement. If you have an Instagram business account (which is free to set up), you can use Instagram Insights to track your audience’s engagement with the hashtags you are using.
Still not sure which hashtags to use?Instagram expert Alex Toobey recommends using hashtags with between 5,000 – 500,000 associated posts.
You may also consider investing in a hashtag generating tool like Later.com. Hashtag generators analyze the most relevant hashtags for each of your posts and make suggestions for you, saving you time and sharpening your audience focus.
Tips for Creating Stellar Branded Hashtag
Since 68% of users say they come to Instagram to interact with creators, and 60% of people say they discover new products on Instagram, creating a branded hashtag helps people find you and stay connected with you. Customers use branded hashtags to include your brand in a conversation, share your brand with other people, and engage with your company. Branded hashtags are also a way for you to show love to your users by sharing their user generated content that they have tagged. Sharing the love boosts engagement. Here are some branded hashtag tips:
- Incorporate your company name into your branded hashtag. Smaller businesses especially benefit from people associating their hashtag with their brand. In many cases, this is the best and most obvious choice.
- Make your hashtag easy to type. People are less like to type out long phrases.
- If your brand name is a common word or you’re looking to get a little cheeky, consider creating a pun out of a part of your brandname or using your tagline if it’s short and snappy.
When you’re building branded hashtags and your community starts to grow, it’s helpful to have a community-based hashtag that people connect with. As an example, GoPro uses #GoProAthlete and #GoProFamily. Check out these awesome real-world examples:
Activewear company Lululemon asserts itself as more than a label with the lifestyle-centric hashtag #thesweatlife.
Sports-centric video recorder GoPro uses the hashtag #GoPro as their branded hashtag and encourages user generated content by re-posting creations from their customers.
Tips for Creating Killer Campaign Hashtags
Launching a new product, kicking off a campaign, or creating buzz about a new endeavor? A catchy campaign hashtag helps you drive awareness and even measure impact. A campaign hashtag is different than your branded hashtag because they are tied to a moment in time, specific creative, or a vertical in your brand. They direct customers to specific products or help create excitement and relevance around your brand. Try out these tips for a campaign hashtag that sticks:
- If your goal is to encourage user-generated contributions around your hashtag, consider framing it as a verb or call-to-action or using the word challenge. This could help compel people to create relevant content and tag it with your campaign hashtag.
- Experiment to see what works with your audience. If your audience isn’t responsive, for your next campaign, try shifting the length, tone, or grammar of the campaign hashtag you choose (while keeping true to your brand voice).
- Repost quality user generated content that was created for your campaign hashtag. Share it in your IG Stories or feed and tag the creator. This adds to your buzz and feeds the positive creation loop.
Want to see successful campaign hashtags in action? Scope how Audi and United Airlines have built online buzz around specific products in their brand.
Audi’s #wantanr8 campaign hashtag creates a feeling of excitement and desire around their R8 luxury sports car. customers, car retailers, and the Audi brand all use the campaign hashtag.
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ABT R8 #audi #r8 #audir8 #r8v10plus #r8v10 #audir8v10plus #audir8spyder #audir8lms #wantanr8 #audir8v8 #audiv8quattro #audi.merc.bmw #amazingcars247 #carswithoutlimits #dailydriven #caroftheday #follow #photooftheday #instagood #followme #likethis #teamaudi #rs #rsgang #officialrs #audidaily #r888 #audir8v10spyder #abt #abtaudi #abtr8
United Airlines nailed their campaign hashtag. The airline invites frequent fliers to tag their travel photos with #hemigram for a chance to be featured in their inflight magazine, Hemispheres. The campaign hashtag inspires audience engagement, free marketing (“flash our magazine cover in all your travel pics!”) for the magazine, and a sense of fun and adventure associated with the United Airlines brand.
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Happy #Hemigram Friday! Here's @tatianamauirealtor and her friends, @taraleemurphy @laurenmillermoss @js1546 @kasgggg, with their copy of Hemispheres! If you want a chance to be featured next week, be sure to tag all your travel photos with #Hemigram and tag us @hemispheresmag • • • • • • #hemispheresmagazine #hemispheres #hemigramfriday #photocontest #readercontest #competition #instagramcontest #photosubmission #submissioncontest #favoritephotos #travelphotocontest #travel #photographycontest #flightcrew #exploremore #travel #goingplaces
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Happy #Hemigram Friday! Here's @ashleycurlll with her copy of Hemispheres, standing in both the Southern Hemisphere and the Northern Hemisphere! If you want a chance to be featured next week, be sure to tag all your travel photos with #Hemigram and tag us @hemispheresmag • • • • • • #hemispheresmagazine #hemispheres #hemigramfriday #photocontest #readercontest #competition #instagramcontest #photosubmission #submissioncontest #favoritephotos #travelphotocontest #travel #photographycontest
In 2014, the ALS Association’s #icebucketchallenge campaign hashtag went viral when celebrities got on board. The organization used a call to action (do the ice bucket challenge, and then tag a friend) as a way to raise money for and awareness about their efforts to combat what is commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. This is the ultimate example of a great campaign hashtag in motion. Here are some videos of the action:
Ready to step into 2020 with your new Instagram hashtag strategy? As you create content and post to Insta, remember to tag #AdobeSpark for the chance to be featured on our social channels.