Using hashtags can expand the reach of your social posts to anyone interested in that hashtag, phrase, or keyword. Not sure how hashtags work? Get a crash course with our post on #HashtagTips. Hashtags can increase followers and likes, but using them correctly is the key to getting results.
So, how do you find the best hashtags to amplify your posts? You can use popular hashtags or jump on the trending bandwagon, but if those hashtags don't apply to your content, is there really a point?
Are a few random likes or favorites really worth it? The short answer is no, but there are some exceptions. I'll get to those exceptions in a minute, but right now, let's start with the popular hashtags.
Iconosquare lists the top tags on Instagram, and I love that they mention "try using them when relevant." Because that's important; using relevant hashtags gives you quality reach.
You can use hashtags like #likeforlike or #followforfollow to gain more likes or followers, but these usually don't lead to long-term engagement or followers.
Keep in mind the quantity of hashtags in your posts affects engagement. For Twitter, tweets with 1-2 hashtags perform better than tweets with 3 or more.
There are some people out there who argue that you can and should use more, as many as a dozen, on Instagram. Wow, that's a lot of hashtags! I didn't believe them until I conducted a little experiment of my own. I posted a picture of my cat, because Instagram loves cats and I thought that would also help naturally boosts likes.
Aww, look at Mr. Wendell and his adorable stank face! If you look at my post, you can see that I added a few cat-related hashtags, but then in a comment I added 25 more from the top tags list. Look at that beautiful mess! If you actually read through them, you'll see that I added a couple random non-related hashtags. The results? Mr. Wendell got 21 likes within the first hour and a couple of spam comments. But wow, seriously! My posts usually average around 15 likes with no comments.
Take a look at one of my favorite people to follow: peppermintpine. If you browse through my Instagram feed, you can see I like to post yarn and cats, so it shouldn't be a shocker to see that my favorite IGer is a knitter and crocheter, and she actually interacts with people who comment on her photos. With every post, she adds a handful of hashtags as a comment, but the difference between one of her posts and the one above? All of her hashtags are related to her post, and mine were just random ones from a top hashtag list.
Topic-related hashtags help reach people who are actually interested in the things you post and weed out those who just like your images in the hope that you'll like them back.
Need help finding hashtags to amplify your post's engagement? Try Hashtagify. You can just type in one of the hashtags you are using in your post and Hastagify will generate the all-time top 10 related hashtags and their performance, including popularity, week-by-week popularity trends, and correlation to your search term.
Here's a post I created just to test out Hastagify. I used the basic hashtag #yarn, then added some of the suggested tags. After an hour, I got a total of 10 likes and a comment, and nine of them are from people who aren't my followers. Not too shabby for an hour! Actually, it's probably one of my better engagement rates.
I'm one of those people who will creep on the people who engage with my posts, so when I looked through all the people who favorited my post, I saw that they use similar hashtags. The engagement for my lunchtime knitting didn't go quite as crazy as Mr. Wendell, but I still call it successful (especially if you measure success by engagement from people you could actually build a relationship with).
Don't be afraid to do a little research when it comes to the best hashtags for your posts and followers. You want to come across as human and not a social media bot that posts just to boost engagement. Using content-related hashtags makes your posts look more natural, and that's what you want to achieve.
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