How To Find Good Instagram Hashtags For Your Business
Ah, hashtags. They’re ubiquitous on nearly every social media platform, especially Instagram.
But do you actually know how to use them?
First, let's talk about what hashtags are: they’re just a way to search.
From Dictionary.com, hashtags are “a word or phrase preceded by a hash mark (#), used within a message to identify a keyword or topic of interest and facilitate a search for it.” They’re used on many platforms, but you’ll be most likely to find them on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
If you want to know what people are saying about a specific topic, event, person, or place, put a hash mark in front of it and search. Disney World, Winter Olympics, six-toed cats, there’s a hashtag for everything!
But they’re not all created equal. And yes, you have to use them! They’re not the only thing that makes a successful social media campaign but posts with hashtags get seen more and have higher engagement than those without.
And that’s what we want!
The Most Common Mistake I See
There’s one major mistake I see people using when it comes to hashtags: they use super general tags and see lackluster results. This is especially ineffective if you're trying to promote a local brick and mortar business.
For the rest of this article, let’s pretend that you run a bakery in Louisville, Kentucky. You regularly post pictures to your business Instagram page with hashtags like “bakery,” “cookies,” and “cake.” Good to go, right?
While people are no doubt looking for pictures of cookies and cake on social media, I wouldn’t advise using those hashtags for two reasons:
Too many people are using that hashtag.
Your customers probably aren’t using that hashtag.
I know those reasons sound like they’re at odds with each other, but they’re not!
To address my first point, let’s look at what happens when we search for bakery, cookies, and cake on Instagram:
“Bakery” yields nearly 7.6 million results, “Cookies” gets 16.5 million, and “Cake” turns up 60.8 million!
Basically, these hashtags are so general and so many people are using them (sometimes hundreds of posts per minute), your content will be buried almost immediately. That's bad. Look for hashtags that have tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of posts. That means people are searching for and using it, but not in overwhelming numbers. Your content won’t be buried! Huzzah!
And for my second point, your potential customers in Louisville probably aren’t looking for new dessert places by searching for such general terms. Your goal is to reach potential customers, and you need to use targeted, relevant hashtags to do it.
How to Find Relevant Instagram Hashtags
Ok, general terms are out. We need to hone in and find hashtags people in your area are using. How do we do that?
First, it’s important to note that you shouldn’t use the same tags on all platforms. While these work on Instagram, they may not work on Twitter (and let's not even talk about Facebook.) You can definitely try some Instagram hashtags on Twitter, but this is a great guide to finding some specifically for Twitter.
To find Instagram hashtags for a Louisville, KY audience, I’m going to take inspiration from an actual client of mine: a bakery/coffee shop here in Raleigh, NC. They fell into the trap of using broad hashtags and saw very little engagement and growth on their Instagram. When I was hired to manage their social media accounts, one of the first things I knew I needed to do was find more targeted hashtags.
With just a little digging, I found several good ones that I began using. Here’s what I did:
1. I started a note on my iPhone to compile all of my Instagram hashtags. It's easy to copy & paste them from my note into the Instagram caption.
2. I typed “Raleigh” into Instagram’s search bar and looked at the suggested tags. Instantly, I found #raleigheats and #raleighfoodpics, both of which are perfect. When I search “Louisville,” I get quite a few that I’m going to add to my list:
#louisvillelove (all things Louisville)
#louisvillelocal (local businesses in Louisville, perfect for my bakery!)
#louisvilleeats (no brainer here!)
#louisvillenoms (noms = food in internet speak, so I’m definitely hanging on to this one!)
#louisvillefoodies (I want those foodies in my bakery!)
Take a minute and try this with your city and your niche.
3. I looked for accounts that featured small businesses and used their hashtag. Look into the hashtags above and see if you can find any.
I know it sounds time-consuming, but you’re going to be surprised at how easy it is. I found one within thirty seconds by clicking on #louisvilleeats and tapping the second image I saw (I chose the second one simply because the picture caught my eye). It was from an account called Louisville Food. This woman eats her way around the city and shares it with her 14.4K followers. That ain’t nothing! We’re definitely going to use her hashtag, #louisvillefood, which she has so helpfully put right in her bio.
So with less than five minutes of work, we’ve got six hashtags that will reach potential customers in Louisville. We’re off to a good start!
Other ways to find useful Instagram hashtags:
Create one for your business. Use it and encourage your customers to use it, as well. If your bakery is called “Betty’s Bakery,” the hashtag that makes the most sense would be #bettysbakery. It’s straightforward, making it easy for customers to remember and use when they share pictures of your delicious cakes.
Look at similar businesses in your area. What hashtags are they using? If they’ve got some relevant ones you can use, add them to your Google Doc!
Are there any magazines in your area, or even your state? Follow them on social media and use their hashtag (if it’s relevant, of course. You wouldn’t use a fishing magazine’s hashtag to promote your bakery!)
Look for “National ___ Day” hashtags that are related to your business. Sprout Social made it easy by putting together a super handy Hashtag Holiday calendar!
Similarly, pay attention to trending topics and use relevant trending hashtags.
How Many Hashtags Should You Use on Instagram?
Another major mistake I see with hashtags is people using ALL OF THEM.
There is no “right” number, but I stick to somewhere between 5-10 per post. Why? Because too many:
Look spammy and sloppy
Distract from your message
May get you shadowbanned
Sort of tells people “I don’t know what I’m doing on social media!”
And I think we can agree that none of those things are good! Stick to just a handful of relevant hashtags and you’ll be much better off than if you try to cram 15 or 20 tags in your caption.
Now customers are ready to find you!
With your targeted hashtags, consistent posting, and clear, eye-catching pictures, you should see engagement increase and more customers in your store and on your website!