To hashtag or not to hashtag? That is the question every content creator, influencer or small business owner asks when attempting to make a name for themselves (and #money) on social media. Though the hashtag just celebrated its 13th (!) birthday, the truth is a lot of us are still trying to figure out the best way to use them. Combined with the never-ending stream of other social media features and even platforms (hello, TikTok!), it’s not as simple as knowing which hashtags to use. One must also master, where to use, when to use them and know how many is too many.
That being said, I barely update my Instagram page and need the advice as much as anyone else. So who better than LaQuishe “Q” Wright, social media maven to the stars, to school the masses? She’s a walking hashtag dictionary and instructor manual for novices and experts alike who want to make sure their #hashtag game is elite. “Hashtagging is important because 70% of Instagram posts can go unseen. Just adding one tag has been known to increase engagement by over 12%,” she says.
Read on for the 411 on everything to know before scheduling your next post.
More Is Not Always Better
“Because of how the searches work and the difference in user behavior on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, hashtag approaches tend to be a bit different. On Twitter and Facebook, I prefer to use 1 or 2 hashtags because their search tools allow your content to be found whether you use a hashtag or not.
For Instagram, where the hashtag is a key way that people find content of users they don’t already follow, you can use up to 30 tags, but 5 to 10 hashtags is more acceptable. Generally, people use between 1 and 3 in the main post content and/or in the comments on a post.”
Hashtag Type Depends on Your Goals
“Whether you use niche or popular hashtags depends on your goals of the post. There’s benefits for both. I tend to use very niche tags that no one has used before when I am running a contest for clients and we want to easily find entries or if we are creating a specific evergreen campaign. I use more popular, but relevant, tags for content that I would like a larger audience to find on the platforms.
The post count for popular or generic hashtags will generally be higher than niche hashtags. A high amount of posts (over 500K) means a high amount of competition for your content and makes it harder to find. When you use a niche hashtag with less than 500K posts, it will be more visible for viewers who search that hashtag. For example, if you use the hashtag #lake, there will be millions of posts of lakes everywhere and your content may get lost in the feed. Instead, if you use the more specific (yet still popular) hashtag #lakegeneva, it will have a higher chance of being viewed, because there are less posts than the more generic #lakes hashtag.”
Research Before You #Hashtag
“Research is an extremely important step for utilizing hashtags and creating social content in general. Overall, you want to research which tags are currently trending on the platforms’ Explore/Discover pages and which tags are most interesting to your specific audience. Finding a more specific niche is always important, so use your research to find community, audience, location, event or product descriptive hashtags that tie to your brand.
You also want to make sure the tags you choose are being used in a positive way so that you and/or your brand are not tied to something undesirable or misleading. I personally use the Instagram tag search to quickly find popular, relevant and related hashtags, but you can also use free tools on sites like All-hashtag.com, MetaHashtags.com, DisplayPuroposes.com, RiteTag.com or Webstagram.com and the Hashtag Expert app.”
Take Your Measurements
“You can measure the success or failure of your hashtag post/campaign by measuring how many times the niche hashtag was used after your post or by measuring how much traffic or engagement a hashtag generated. There are analytical tools like Hashtagify, Sprout Social, and Keyhole that you can use for Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to find out more specific information that meets your campaign metrics.
“This should go without saying, but you always want your hashtags to be relevant or related to your caption or status, otherwise your post can seem gimmicky or spammy.
It’s important to not copy and paste the exact same hashtags on every single post. Use a variety of related hashtags from post to post. Use a combination of niche and popular hashtags on each post to generate more engagement.
When you are using more than one or two hashtags on Instagram, you can move the hashtags from your main post copy to a comment instead. This can look more aesthetically pleasing to your followers.”
When to Avoid #Hashtags
“If you research a hashtag, and it has been used for negative purposes, don’t use it. Ever. During sensitive topics, I.e. the loss of an individual, a brand should use the person’s handle or spell out their name instead of hash tagging their name, as it could appear opportunistic or seem like a disrespectful attempt to capitalize on their loss.
Brands also have to be careful about using competitor’s niche hashtags.
Press play on our IG Live with Q for more insider hashtag advice
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Happy #HashtagDay! Did you know the hashtag first appeared on Twitter 13 years ago today? 🎂 Join us for an Instagram Live with social media expert to the stars ⭐️ @qfromctu of @qsocialmedialtd to chat rookie hashtags mistakes influencers need to stop making, and how to utilize hashtags across your platforms better.
About Nikki Brown
Nikki Brown is a bonafide Jersey girl and the Editorial Director of BlogHer. When she’s not creating content or connecting with our community, you’ll most likely find her taking way too many pictures of her cats or curled up with a book. She’s also pursuing a Master’s degree in Creative Publishing and Creative Journalism at The New School, so try to keep up by following her on Instagram @missnikkibrown.