I’m excited to announce that I have a new love affair, I’m in love with hashtags! Yup, I could spend all day scrolling through Instagram looking for the perfect hashtag and getting lost in the Insta-abyss. Gone are the days when I would half-heartedly tag my photos with #love and #life. Booooooring! Now I have a whole library of ideas saved into my phone, categorised by theme and updated on a monthly basis!
Unfortunately not everyone has jumped on the bandwagon with me and I have to regularly explain to my clients how hashtags work. “I actually thought they were a joke,” one client laughed at me.
Posting an image without hashtags means that you're only reaching your current followers.
So if you’re ready to jump on board, here is the foolproof process for using hashtags on Instagram!
Step 1: Finding and researching your hashtags
Before you get started on using them, it’s good to get clear on what types of hashtags you’ll need and when and where you can use them. This will differ from business to business and depends on the type of content you’re posting.
To get clear on what you’ll need, take a look at your profile and identify the types of content you’re posting. If your branding is on point then you’ll certainly be able to see some patterns and themes in your content. You might be regularly talking about sisterhood and connection or you might be reposting a lot of coffee snaps.
For example, I work with an online business who regularly posts about financial abundance so our hashtags fit into the following categories: wealth, abundance, mindfulness and gratitude.
Once you’ve identified what types of content that you post then start searching for hashtags that relate to those categories. The first step that I take is to check out what ones my competition are using. You don’t want to copy them (because that’s simply unoriginal) but definitely use them for ideas. For example, you’ve done your research and found that your competition uses #ladyboss and #girltribe. Now search for related tags!
You can do this by clicking the magnifying glass symbol, selecting tags and typing in the hashtag. For example, #ladyboss. Once you’ve hit enter, a list will appear with indication of how many times this specific hashtag has been used.
Take this one step further by selecting a hashtag. This will bring up all of the photos that have been tagged with that phrase as well as a list of ‘related tags’ up the top. Go through this process with all of the hashtags that you can think of and write them down. Keep going until you have a list as big as your heart desires!
Not sure where to start? Download the Ultimate Hashtag Library for Coaches and Creatives below!
Step 2: Creating a hashtag library
Now that you have a list, it’s time to create a library! This means gathering your hashtags into groups that relate to the themes you identified in the previous step. Instagram doesn’t allow more than 30 hashtags in one status so make sure that each group is less than that.
For example, a hashtag group for my client who posts about financial abundance is:
#mindful #mindfulness #mindfullness #bemindful #mindfulliving #mindfulmovement #mindfulmonday #meditate #meditation #mindset #mindfulnessmatters #mantra #affirmation #meditate #gratitude #gratitudeadventure #attitudeofgratitude #gratitudes #grateful #yogratitude #gratitudemonday #gratitudemoment
Can you see how all of the hashtags relate to each other?
Once you have grouped your tags into 4-5 categories then you need to save them somewhere accessible. This all depends on how you use Instagram. If you schedule your Instagram posts on your computer using a platform like Hootsuite then you may want to save your hashtags into a Word Document or Excel Spreadsheet. This way you can easily access them and copy and paste them into the status when you’re scheduling posts. For all of the off-the-cuff kinda ladies who like to post spontaneously from their phone, you might like to save the hashtags into your notes or use an app like PLANN that allows you to save them.
And if you’re after a real time saver then set up a keyboard shortcut on your iPhone for each of the themes and categories. You can do this by going to Settings > General > Keyboard > Shortcuts. Then click the plus sign, copy and paste your hashtags into the Phrase section and select a shortcut.
For example, I pasted the following hashtags into the phrase section:
#abundance #abundancemindset #abundancenow #abundanceoflove #lawofattraction #manifest #affirmation #abundancementality #gratitude #spiritjunkie #mindbodysoul #kindnessmatters #growthmindset #begentlewithyourself
And chose #abundance as my short cut. This means that every time I type #abundance on my iPhone, the hashtag group will appear. Super time-saver!
Step 3: Using hashtags
You have a list of hashtags, you’ve categorised them into themes and you’ve saved them somewhere easy peasy to access. It’s time to actually use them! Using a bunch of hashtags on your Instagram photos isn’t always aesthetically-pleasing so best practice is to copy and paste your hashtags into the first comment after your caption (as opposed to directly into the caption). You shouldn’t try to hide the fact that you’re using hashtags but it’s nice to keep it as pretty as possible.
It’s also important to regularly update your hashtags so that you aren’t constantly reaching the same people. This is the reason why I suggest having multiple groups of tags as opposed to just one. It allows you to reach a wider audience with varied interests. Ideally, hashtag libraries should be updated every six weeks.
Finally, there is no point spending all of the time and effort researching, grouping and using hashtags if you aren’t going to analyse their performance. Some great tools for analysing performance are Sprout Social and Iconosquare. Sprout Social will even tell you the performance of your hashtags so that you know which ones work and can arrange accordingly!