Hashtags. You see them everywhere, but what do they mean and how do they help your business? Well, in a nutshell, hashtags help make your content stand out from the billion other users currently using the app, whilst allowing you to reach a wider, more targeted audience, with content they are actively interested in and want to engage with. Once you’ve hooked them, they will want to follow you which will make converting them to customers a doddle. Not convinced? Read on as we explore the topic in more detail.

What are hashtags?

For anyone new to the world of hashtags let’s just recap what they are:

Hashtags are used on social networks such as Instagram, to group content together. The hashtag symbol (#) is used before a keyword, related to a certain topic, which when searched for, or clicked on, any post using it can be found. This makes it easier for users interested in the topic, to find content related to it.
Simply put, hashtags are a way to group conversations together.

How can hashtags on Instagram help your business?

There are four main ways that using hashtags on Instagram will help people find your business and help you grow:

  1. Hashtags make your content easier to find, and help you reach a bigger audience

Hashtags can get your content seen by more people than just followers.  Users on Instagram search for hashtags to find content they are interested in.

If your posts are using hashtags, you are automatically increasing the likelihood of being found by a new audience who are searching for the hashtags you have used.  They may have never even connected with you before, but by using hashtags, you are opening up your company to a much bigger audience.

The effect that Instagram hashtags have on boosting discoverability is very similar to how keywords can improve your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).  We know enough about Google’s algorithm to know that if you are trying to rank in Google’s search results for a specific keyword (let’s say you are a company of professional plumbers and you want to target the keyword phrase ‘plumbing services in London’), you need to create content that is optimised for that keyword phrase on your blog or website so that people (and potential customers) will find you online.  The same is true for Instagram hashtags.  If you have a public Instagram account and add a hashtag to a post, that post will be visible on the corresponding hashtag’s results page.  Using effective hashtags will put you in front of your target audience even if they haven’t connected with you before.

  1. Hashtags help you reach your target audience, and help them, see you.

When using the right hashtags, you can get in front of the “right” audience and help the “right” audience, find you.  Your target audience will have interests relevant to your industry for example, if you sell high end skincare products, your target audience will be interested in the quality skin care brands.

These users will be searching for, and following hashtags related to these interests, so it is your job to make sure that you are using those hashtags to ensure you are found by the “right” audience, and let the “right” audience find you.

  1. Hashtags help you reach your target audience, and help them, see you.

Followers engage with hashtags, whether that be searching for them, clicking through them, or following them.  In fact, even using just one hashtag can increase your user engagement by up to 12.6%, which is why so many businesses create their own hashtags for their customers to use.

Do you remember when the Coca Cola company replaced its iconic brand name with one of the most popular names of that time on the labels of their 500ml bottles and branded it as their “Share a Coke” campaign?  They used the hashtag #ShareACoke on every element of their marketing strategy and encouraged consumers to find bottles with names that held personal meaning to them, share them with friends and family, then share their experience on social media using the hashtag #ShareACoke.  It was a touch of genius.  It generated an incredible amount of audience interaction, causing a ton of user-generated content on social media.

The #ShareACoke campaign is just one example of how successful hashtags can be in encouraging users to get involved with a brand; spreading brand awareness, connecting with customers on a personal level, increasing a company’s reach, and getting them in front of a much bigger audience.

  1. Hashtags can help you understand industry trends

Hashtags are not only great for getting you seen but are also great for allowing you to understand industry trends.  You naturally want to be on top of your game when it comes to your industry.  You want to know the biggest trends, the hottest topics, and be a part of it. You can find all this information through hashtags.

Be sure to consistently follow popular hashtags within your industry and keep your company, your employees, and your followers up to date with what people are buzzing about.

Top tips for using hashtags

  • Hashtags will not work if you use spaces, punctuation, or symbols.
  • You need to have a ‘public’ Instagram account if you want your hashtags to be seen by people other than your followers. How can you check if your account is ‘public’ I hear you ask?  Well, by default, anyone can see your profile and posts on Instagram but if you’ve changed this to private before and want to change it back, you simply head over to settings, click privacy, and turn off the private account setting.
  • The best hashtags tend to be short and simple. The more complicated your hashtag is, the less likely it will be found.
  • Use relevant, specific, and trending hashtags. When typing out your hashtags, Instagram will automatically provide a drop list of the most popular hashtags related to the one you have just typed out. For example, if I type out #Christmas, a list will appear containing other popular hashtags such as #christmasdecor, #christmasgifts, #christmasiscoming etc. This will give you an idea of the most popular hashtags you should be using. You can also find the same feature when searching for a hashtag in your search bar.  Alternatively, there are lots of websites out there that can give you this information, such as Keyword Tool.
  • Too many hashtags can look spammy.  We recommend using 10 – 15 hashtags per post.

To conclude, if you want to engage with your customers more, get people talking about your business online and reach more potential customers…get hashtagging!