Lunch and Learn: How to improve your visibility with Instagram hashtags

Kat Haylock
Kat Haylock

Posted: Wed 17th Jun 2020

After the popularity of her Pinterest Lunch and Learn, Pineapple White Media founder Georgina White joined us once again to share her social media insights.

This week, we're talking about Instagram hashtags and why they're essential to engagement and growth.

What is a hashtag?

Hashtags are used to group content together and help people discover your posts. When someone types in a hashtag, Instagram will show them all the images that use that hashtag.

Georgina explains that hashtags are key to Instagram activity and growth, but many people use them without knowing why.

How do you determine the best hashtags to use?

The first step is to think about the words you'd associate with your business. Finding hashtags is similar to identifying keywords - how might users search to find you?

"I could do a brainstorming session and write down things to do with social media, my location, my USP and things I specialise in.

"You also want to think about the specific piece of content you're putting out. For example, if it's a pineapple on a beach, I'm going to use hashtags that are associated with that image, as well as the broader message I'm trying to get across," Georgina said.

Avoiding high volume hashtags

It's important to make sure that the hashtags you're using aren't too broad. Your goal for hashtags is to get your content found. If you're tagging your post to a hashtag that's been used millions of times, the chances of your content being found is relatively low.

You can view the popularity of a hashtag by clicking the magnifying glass "Explore" tab. Type in a word that's associated with your business and Instagram will show you how many times it's been used.

Underneath that hashtag, there will be similar hashtags that are more niche. Georgina gives the example of "#wedding", which might have been used millions of times. Hashtags like "#weddingstyle" or "#weddingdress" will likely have lower volumes and may be more relevant to your business.

"For a really small business with less than 10k followers, you don't want to be using hashtags that have been used over 500k times. If your account is even smaller, look for hashtags with 100k uses or 50k uses. I wouldn't go any lower because it means that people aren't searching for that content often," she advised.

What's the optimum number of hashtags?

Using lots of hashtags isn't essential if you have a strong community and your posts get hundreds of likes. But if you're a small business and you're still building up your engagement, you need to utilise the tools that Instagram is giving you.

"Instagram gives you the space to use 30 hashtags; why only use three? You're basically losing out on 27 chances of discovery," Georgina said.

When you're using a lot of hashtags, it's crucial to make sure they're all relevant to your business and post. Georgina recommends varying your hashtags and trying to avoid using the same hashtag on every post. When you use the same hashtag, you're competing against yourself and your own posts to be seen.

Should you put hashtags in a caption or comment?

Historically, people would put hashtags in their captions. But as Georgina explains, this approach can make your captions look cramped and messy. Since Instagram doesn't naturally add white space between captions and hashtags, many people use full stops and the return tab to space text out.

Putting hashtags in your captions also restricts the amount of text you can use. There's a 2,200 character limit; if a lot of those characters are spent on hashtags, you lose space for your caption.

Georgina suggests adding your hashtags into the first comment instead. You need to do this quickly - add the comment within one or two minutes of posting. If you add the hashtags 10 minutes later, Instagram's algorithm will have already decided where your post ranks and may not factor in your edits.

Should you plan hashtags in advance?

It's a good idea to have your hashtags ready, particularly if you only have a couple of minutes to post them. Group sets of hashtags by themes to make them relevant: one set might relate to your business and another to a particular product range.

Georgina recommends putting 15 hashtags in each set, so you can mix them together. If you want your hashtags to be as relevant as possible you'll need to vary them each post. Take out a few and add in some niche ones that fit the specific content.

What's the best scheduling tool?

Georgina has alternated between a number of tools like Planoly, Plann and Later. She likes Plann in particular, because it has a useful hashtag tool and good interface.

While many businesses will need to schedule content, Georgina prefers to post manually whenever possible.

"If you're relying on a scheduler, you're not going to get the best engagement. When you post manually, you're going to be there to answer people's questions in the moment," she said.

You can follow Georgina (@pineapplewhitemedia) and Enterprise Nation (@e_nation) on Instagram.

Kat Haylock
Kat Haylock
Kat is a writer for Enterprise Nation, The Pitch and Side Hustle Club. She's worked with small businesses for the last four years, championing Britain's startup scene and anyone who has snacks. 

You might also like…

Get business support right to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive business tips, learn about new funding programmes, join upcoming events, take e-learning courses, and more.