#instagood, #tbt, #cute, #love, #fashion, #summer, #nofilter.

Your audience might fill each of their posts to the brim with these popular Instagram hashtags, but is your brand doing the same?

We know it’s a bit of a loaded question, but how does your brand take advantage of Instagram hashtags? Do you use the most popular tags? How many do you use per post? Did you include a branded hashtag? Have you ever even tested what works best?

It gets to #overkill pretty quickly. And if your brand isn’t focusing on the right questions or goals, all of this seems a bit worthless to invest your valuable marketing time.

Hashtags make your content discoverable and put you in front of users you may have never successfully targeted. But a lot of people learned tossing 30 hashtags on a post only does so much–especially for businesses.

The real question is how do you find the right balance of Instagram hashtags for your account? Every brand is unique to the audience who follows them to the product they sell. Some brands have it easier on Instagram, while others have to get a little more creative.

We’re here to help. So sit back and #followme through this guide on how to use Instagram hashtags that don’t suck:

Why Instagram Hashtags & What They Do

Instagram hashtags have a lot of purposes for brands and consumers alike. There’s definitely a method behind the madness as Instagram posts with at least one hashtag tend to receive 12.6% more engagement.

Brands have to be smart about their approach to Instagram hashtags or it seems forced or unconventional. Since nearly 60% of users between 18 and 29 years old use Instagram, you know you have a core demographic that is skeptical, trendsetting and willing to call you out for lame marketing ploys.

sprout social index on consumer behavior

The Sprout Social Q2 2017 dove into this exact issue with brands trying to be something their not. And the data showed 69% of people feel brands using slang is embarrassing. Instead, people prefer brand interactions to be honest, caring and to answer to their needs.

Again, using Instagram hashtags certainly has its benefits when brands do it right. Before we dig into what makes a good hashtag, let’s look at what they can do for you brand:

Instagram Hashtags to Get Followers

One of the most common questions is how to use Instagram hashtags to get followers. While it’s always a good idea to grow your community and build a solid follower count, we tend to get wrapped up in the vanity metrics.

Remember what you came here for–to grow your brand and hopefully generate a positive ROI. You’re not there just to get a bunch of followers and likes. That’s why you have to focus on the community aspect and build real relationships with your audience.

Instagram hashtags have the power to get users involved through branded and user-generated content. Check out how Forever 21 gets its followers engaged and encourages more people to follow along.

The message is clear–use their hashtags and have the chance to be mentioned as a #foreverbabe on the account. This is going to create a plethora of user-generated content and get plenty to follow to see if they’re mentioned.

Building followers through hashtags comes easier when you promote your followers and give content they actually want. Use hashtags that drive actions and participation. While a good hashtag could get discovered, having a ton of users involved helps your cause.

Just remember there is a recommended balance of total hashtags. Need help counting yours? Check out our free social media character counter tool to make sure you’re using the right amount!

Instagram Hashtags for Discoverability

Like we mentioned above, Instagram hashtags have the ability to get your brand discovered. To break it down, Instagram uses hashtags to categorize content. So a great analogy is to think of how you would organize paperwork in an office.

You have your papers which go inside folders, and the folders go inside a filing cabinet. In this scenario, the papers are Instagram posts, the folders are hashtags and the filing cabinet is the Instagram platform.

When someone searches #fitness, it’s like telling Instagram to search its cabinet for the “fitness” folder and show the latest posts containing that keyword. When you use hashtags in your posts, you let Instagram know to put your post in the appropriate folder in case anyone searches for it.

With approximately 70% of Instagram content going unseen and out of user’s feeds, hashtags help increase discoverability. This means you have to research and learn what and where your audience is searching.

Brands have to get into the habit of using hashtags for any main keywords you mention inside of your posts. Using keywords without a hashtag won’t make your post discoverable.

Instagram Hashtags for Community Engagement

In a lot of ways, Instagram is already seen as a community-style app and network. That’s why building communities is a nature progression with sharing, tagging and of course, Instagram hashtags.

So one of the biggest benefits to implementing a hashtag strategy is the growth in community engagement. Building a strong online community means providing valuable content people relate to. This means your brand has to build partnerships with power users in your industry, micro-influencers and location-specific content.

InvisionApp regularly uses the hashtag #designbetter in its posts to encourage more thoughtful creative processes. Additionally, when they’re out and about, they make sure to reach out with geolocations and specific location hashtags.

If you’re wanting to build a community, you have to show the locals respect. But you also most get their attention. For more information on geotagging and location-based Instagram marketing, check out this guide.

Related Article
How to Use Instagram Geotag to Engage With Local Followers

One of the best things about Instagram is the ability it gives you to reach people all around the globe. Read More …

Instagram Hashtags for Analyzing Content

What better way to improve your brand than through critical and sensical analysis? Wait–are we still talking about Instagram? Stick with me!

Every step of your social media marketing strategy requires set goals and the ability to measure and benchmark for future improvements. Without analysis, your brand initiatives turn sterile and have a much harder chance to improve.

Anthropologie is always a great example of how Instagram benefits from constantly looking for ways to improve. The brand’s content is fresh, plays off a similar color theme and uses amazing imagery to portray its aesthetic.

Where summer goes to thrive ✨ Photo via @a_ontheroad

A post shared by Anthropologie (@anthropologie) on

The best thing about the post above is its user-generated content. Anthropologie never shies away from various content types, but the brand still remains on the same style across the network.

Having the ability to view the analytics behind each of your posts could drive incredible insights. That’s why Sprout Social’s Instagram analytics tools make it so easy for brands and enterprise organizations to track, measure and dissect their Instagram data.

Sprout Social Hashtag Analytics

Our Outbound Hashtag Performance report helps you compare your most used Instagram hashtags to know what drives the most engagement. Get the power to visualize the performance of your branded hashtags relative to the broader industry or topical hashtags in your posts.

What Makes an Instagram Hashtag Good?

As simple as it may seem to just throw some hashtags at the end of your captions, it pays to be strategic. The first step is identifying the right hashtags to use and what makes the most sense for your social media goals.

To get better insights into what makes hashtags work best for you, we’ve compiled a few tips and pointers toward making the best hashtags possible on Instagram. Check this list to ensure you’re creating the best content:

Use the Right Type of Hashtag

There are two major types of hashtags on Instagram:

Branded hashtags: Branded hashtags are specific to your company. They might contain your brand name, your products or a specific campaign. It’s also worth noting that 70% of hashtags on Instagram are branded.

One benefit of branded hashtags, like Urban Outfitter’s #UOonYou, is they can be tied back directly to your company. So when you want to measure the success of a campaign, or see if your brand is becoming more popular on Instagram, you can analyze your branded hashtags with social media monitoring tools.

Community hashtags: Community hashtags are more general and don’t necessarily have anything to do with your company. Some examples are hashtags like #instafood or #picoftheday. They’re widely used and aren’t specific to any one person or company.

The benefit of community hashtags is they can make your content more discoverable and build your audience. Air Canada uses #thesix to locate its brand with Toronto. People actively search for community hashtags, so if your brand’s photos and videos show up in the search results, you get instant exposure to a new audience.

Match Hashtags With the Right Photo

When you’re targeting frequently-used hashtags, you need the photo that goes with your Instagram caption to stand out. As we mentioned earlier, the hashtags you use should be relevant to the photo you’re posting.

instagram hashtag search

Remember, even though adding hashtags in your captions can make your posts easier to discover, the image is what will pull in users. Do a search for your hashtag and pay attention to the photos that show up.

Specifically, you want to look for similarities between the images. If you find a lot of the same, this could be an opportunity to branch out. This is why you have to invest in high-quality photos or videos for your page.

The perfect #warbyblue sighting by @thepreppyhispanic 🏠💙

A post shared by Warby Parker (@warbyparker) on

Don’t just rely on someone who thinks they take good grams–instead, find a photographer that not only knows how to work a camera, but specializes in Instagram shoots too.

Jump on Trending Topics

Using hashtags that are already trending is a popular way to grow your audience. There are two approaches with this tactic:

  1. Wait until a hashtag related to your industry is trending.
  2. Use trending hashtags that aren’t directly related to your industry.

The first approach will give you more targeted results. However, depending on your industry, it might be rare that a topic related to it becomes trending.

With the second approach, you’re jumping on topics that are already trending but may not have a direct connection with your brand. If you go this route, you’ll want to stick with current events like holidays or special events because they’re easier to tie back to your company.

Take a look at our hashtag holidays calendar to get an idea of upcoming national holidays that you can create content around.

Hashtags Vary Across Your Content

Once you find popular hashtags that people engage with, it might be tempting to continue using those same hashtags in every post. However, eventually you’ll need to add some more variation.

simply measured hashtag analysis

That’s why it’s so important to analyze and evaluate what hashtags work the best. With the power of Sprout and Simply Measured combined, we offer truly some of the most powerful Instagram performance tools on the market.

Easily identify the reach of your Instagram hashtags and different campaigns. These tools make it simple to monitor the growth of your brand with new and total followers. Using a variety of hashtags allows you to reach more people.

If you’ve been using the same hashtags for months, there’s a chance people already saw your content and ignored it. By adding in a little variation, you increase the chances to reach new people.

Learn the Competition of Your Hashtag

You might be tempted to just use the hashtags with the most posts. However, another tactic is to focus on hashtags that aren’t used quite as frequently. The benefit of this approach is hashtags that are used less frequently are less competitive.

When you target hashtags that have been used millions of times, you’re competing against millions of other photos and videos to get your content seen. On the flip side, when you use hashtags that have been used in 20K posts or so, you’re competing with a smaller group of people.

instagram report example

That’s why we recommend measuring the performance of your competitors campaigns or brand hashtags to stay in the know. When you learn how to analyze competitor data, you improve your strategy by identifying the content and campaigns that work best for them.

How to Pull Everything Together

Knowing which hashtags to use and how to implement them is nice. But unless you’re tracking your efforts, you’ll have no idea what’s working and what’s not.

You need to know which hashtags are your top performers so you can build around them. It takes time to pull everything together. So let’s go ahead and refresh.

Here’s what we’ve learned:

  • Using Hashtags for Instagram makes your content more discoverable.
  • You don’t need to use 30 hashtags in every post.
  • Study your competitors and top influencers to find the best hashtags.
  • Make sure your hashtags are relevant.
  • Use trending hashtags and tie them back to your company.
  • Get familiar with Instagram lingo and evergreen hashtags. Make adding them a habit.
  • Measure the performance of your posts and most engaged hashtags.

Using the tips and strategies you’ve learned here, you’ll be well on your way to growing your audience on Instagram. With Sprout Social, you can simplify your engagement efforts with our Instagram management tools to monitor hashtags, manage comments and see your efforts through social reporting features.

Do you have any tips on using hashtags for Instagram that we missed? Leave a comment and let us know!