If you’re wanting to grow your Instagram following in time for a new product launch or you’re searching in vain for the ‘right’ people to engage with, don’t underestimate the power of the hashtag.
We used to be skeptical about using a block of hashtags in Instagram posts, but we decided to give it a go to see if it would really have a negative impact. After a little research, we’ve successfully used hashtags to grow Instagram accounts for our clients (and *ahem* maybe our own).
Here’s what we’ve learned along our hashtag experiment and how you can make #s work for your brand:
Learn from the best
Don’t be afraid to take inspiration from your favourite influencers.
We’re big fans of lifestyle company A Beautiful Mess. They’ve helped to shape Instagram by creating hashtags for every theme, giving bloggers everywhere the opportunity to build a meaningful community.
Tap a hashtag you use regularly and Instagram will show you suggestions. Using complementary hashtags together will make sure your posts are seen by people who really get you.
By using #WritersOfInstagram on our Instagram posts, we discovered #CreateEveryday which has helped us connect with other types of creative business. (Perfect for those days when we need some #inspo.)
You can also try taking things one step further and create your own hashtag. We’re starting to separate our posts into subcategories such as #CrocstarOffice. We can find our own posts quicker, which makes showing snaps to clients a breeze (no more frantic scrolling!).
Just a heads up, hashtags work best when you keep them short and capitalise each word to keep them easy to read (also known as camel casing).
Put user needs first
We often see posts that tag the components of the photo in hashtags (#cat #chair #window #lasagne – you get the idea). Put yourself the shoes of your target audience, would you ever search #chair?
We’ve seen likes and meaningful engagement double for our client GB Labels, just by using hashtags targeted specifically towards designer-makers. You can find hashtags for most industries: #TheArtOfSlowLiving is one for lifestyle brands and #StyleHunter is ideal for budding fashion bloggers.
It’s now easier to get sales via Instagram Business Profiles, so you can afford to take your focus away from numbers. Aim to create a thriving destination for your audience to ‘hang out’ and get a visual insight into your brand – rather than fixate on how many followers are clicking through to your site.
Customers are getting savvier by the minute and crave authenticity. An organic community of 1,000 followers who interact with your brand (and each other) are more likely to buy from you than 10,000 disinterested followers who aren’t engaging.
Slow and steady wins the race
Building an organic following using hashtags takes time. You may be tempted to ditch hashtags and turn to sponsored posts and paid likes. (If you’re in a hurry to grow your numbers, then sponsored posts are great.)
We’ve found that follows and likes from sponsored posts offer an initial boost that quickly drops off, whereas relevant hashtags seem to promote slow but steady growth. Build a core community first and save the paid posts for campaigns, promotions and launches.
We set aside a couple of minutes each day to do our Team Crocstar Instagram snap and use relevant hashtags with each post (it’s all about consistency). As a result, a bulk of our engagement comes from businesses and professional creatives that are similar to us. We’ve been able to network and make Insta-friends all in one go, and we’ve seen a steady increase in followers. Although we do still get the occasional weird comment!
Let us know how hashtags work for you
Have some fun finding the right hashtags for you. Trial them for a month and let us know how well they’ve worked. And don’t forget to follow our shiny, new Instagram account to see what we’re up to in the Crocstar office.