Do you know how Instagram’s hashtags work? Can you explain why you choose the ones you do–and identify your most effective hashtags? What about creating your own hashtags, piggybacking on popular hashtags, or following hashtags? Today, we’re discussing some hashtag basics to help you up your Instagram game.
What is a hashtag?
A hashtag is a word combined (preceded by) the pound sign: #. When combined on Instagram (and some other media platforms, like Twitter), hashtags provide a way for those following you to find related, similar content. For instance, the hashtag #naturaldyes turns up lots of photos on Instagram of naturally dyed everything:
#naturaldyes hashtag search
How are hashtags organized?
Within Instagram, Hashtags are organized into two sections: Most Popular, which is at the very top of the screen when you search for the tag, and Most Recent, which is everything else. These are put in the order in which they where posted (unlike most of Instagram, which follows an algorithm). The ones at the top–Most Popular–should be your goal position. These photos often stay in their position for some length of time, until something more popular or viral takes their place. This means a LOT of people will see them if they click on this hashtag. Let’s talk about how to get your posts up at the top.
As an indie dyer, it’s tempting to use indie dyer related tags. Let’s look at how some of these are divided up by reading the post count on each of these three:
So, these hashtags all say that you’re an independent dye studio, but some are going to be more effective than others. #indiedyer has almost 300k posts–you’re likely to get lost in the mix here, while going with a smaller hashtag that is more specific: #indiedyedyarn or #indieyarndyer will help you find a more specific audience that will be actively seeking your product.
#indieyarndyer hashtag sample
Creating a hashtag for your brand is important and should be as simple as possible, but also not something everyone else is going to start using. Usually, your brand name is best, since it’s likely to be the hashtag others will use on their own photos, too. Don’t be discouraged by a lack of control over content in your custom hashtag’s feed–you want people to post using your tag, but only on yarn and projects that have to do with your brand. If you’re seeing a lot of overlap, it might be time to pick a different hashtag, or even different brand name–it’s likely that what you’ve gone with is too generic. If you’re seeing nothing at all (and you’re getting lots of sales), try advertising your hashtags on your labels, website, and media so people know what to use.
This is a new Instagram feature that makes it easy to track hashtags you want to watch! If you have a brand hashtag, this is a great place to find content for reposts and comments. It will make your customers feel extra-special if the dyer they love takes the time to comment on their photos (and encourages them to post again when they buy from you in the future)! You can follow a hashtag by searching for it on Instagram and then hitting that blue follow button (just like you would for a personal account)! Note–as of right now, this feature is ONLY available on your phone app, not through the browser/computer version.
It might be tempting to look at a big brand’s beautiful following and hope that some of their followers might notice you by using the other brand’s hashtag. This practice is called ‘piggybacking’, and it’s not only a bit tacky and rude, but also has the opposite intended effect. Let’s say one of your beautiful photos shows up among the other brand’s photos, and the customer clicks through, believing that the yarn they’ve seen is that brand–only to discover that it’s a different brand, masquerading under their favorite brands’ custom hashtag. They’re going to feel deceived, and associate that feeling with your brand. That’s not what you want! Be original and be okay with slow, meaningful growth. Look for hashtags that will help with that growth!
Hashtag Best Practices
When using hashtags, don’t overwhelm your readers by putting them into the main caption (or even beneath it). Let’s get real–hashtag clouds aren’t attractive. It’s okay to use one or two in the description if they fit into the sentence naturally, but move the rest of your desired hashtags into the first comment on your post. It cleans your account up and doesn’t make you look hashtag-desperate.
Also, don’t use the same hashtags every time! Tag speckled yarn with speckle-relevant tags like #specklesaresohotrightnow (a Steven West tag that has blown up the speckle scene), or tag naturally dyed yarns with #knitnatural or #naturallydyedyarn . Search for terms as hashtags that describe your brand and mix those in to your relevant posts.
All in all, use hashtags to identify your audience, streamline their search, and help people find YOU! They are a good tool, not just an addition on the end of every post.