When it comes to Instagram hashtags, I get a lot of creative biz owners asking me,

“I make (this and this), so what kind of hashtags should I use on Instagram?”

Or they tell me,

“I feel like my hashtags are getting me followers that are other makers and not actual customers.”

Two very easily addressed concerns IF you know this one little fact:

Hashtags are less about you, and more about your customers.

 

Just like with everything else in your biz, you have to think about your customers and target audience first and foremost.

The best way to reach someone is to speak their language. And on Instagram, a big part of that language is hashtags.

What Do Hashtags DO Anyways?

Hashtags help get you found by followers.

When a hashtag is used on a post, that post gets automatically filed away into an Instagram “folder” of sorts. Here’s what I mean…

When @academyofhandmade uses the hashtag #handmadebiz…
handmadebiz
…it shows up here when someone searches for #handmadebiz or clicks on the hashtag #handmadebiz from any post:

hashtag_folder

So the goal of using a hashtag, is to be found here, on the “Top Post” page because when their followers search for #handmadebiz, The Academy’s post shows up!

To get on the Top Post page you have to be one of the most liked photos using that hashtag… which totally depends on your competition.

So even if you don’t score on the top page, if you post using the right hashtags consistently, then you’ll  be seen more often on the “Most Recent” page – which is great too!  

And that’s exactly why it’s SO important to use hashtags that your audience uses and searches for.

So I’m going to walk you through how to find the right hashtags that will work for YOUR biz.

Step 1. Choose 3 of your followers

Step 2. Scope out their accounts – which hashtags do they use? Try and find about 5.

Say you make super cool gemstone jewelry, and you’ve been using the hashtags #handmadejewelry and #makersgonnamake, and you’ve been getting followers that are other makers. That’s because your hashtags are the ones used by other makers! You gotta find what you CUSTOMERS use.

So look for patterns between the 3 accounts. Try to find the hashtags they all use (then you know it’s relevant.)

You might notice that all three (or maybe 2 of those followers) always use #boho in their posts.

I mean, it makes sense – if they are into the whole boho style, then your gemstone jewelry is right up their alley! Noticing this hashtag pattern let’s you know you’re onto something.

Step 3. Take those hashtags and start a list

PSST! If you make the list as a note or memo on your phone, you’ll have it for easy access when you are posting. (Instead of having to open a Google doc or something like that.)

Eventually you’ll have these tags memorized, but for now, a memo is the way to go!

Step 4. Search for those 5 hashtags on Iconosquare

Iconosquare will show you a list of similar and relevant hashtags, and in order of popularity:

hashtag_search_iconosuare

The trick here is to not choose just the very top ones.

Why?

Because the top ones have SO MUCH FREAKING COMPETITION.

You gotta mix it up and throw in some popular tags that aren’t quiiiite so saturated.

So for this example, I would snag #bohochic (a top one) and then a lower one like #bohobride.

Step 5. Repeat this step for all 5 original hashtags you chose. (You’ll have about 15 total).

Step 6. Add the new hashtags to your list.

Now you have a list of relevant and targeted hashtags to reference when you post.

“How Many Hashtags Should I Use Per Post?”

Between 3 – 6 hashtags is solid.

You’ll see other research that says 8 or 11 is the magic number, but really what’s more important is using the RIGHT ones, and it always depends on how popular they are.

So we say 3-6 because it’s plenty of opportunities for you to “score” for those hashtags, without looking spammy by using 20 in your caption.

But there is a way to use more hashtags without looking spammy…

How to Use Hashtags Without Looking Spammy

I’ve got a trick for using those 6 (or more, if you want to go ham with 10 or so) hashtags in a way that makes your post caption look a lot cleaner, and not like you’re trying so hard.

Write your hashtags in a comment!

  1. Post your image and caption like you normally would, but leave out the hashtags.
  2. Right after posting, add a comment to your own post just using your hashtags.

Now when other people comment on your post, the hashtag comment will be hidden!

hashtag_comment

On your phone you won’t even see that comment, and your followers will  be able to focus on your caption instead. So much cleaner right?

If you don’t usually get a ton of comments and are worried your hashtag comment will be the only one… first, stop worrying because this isn’t a bad thing to see hashtags in your comment.

And second, ask a couple friends to comment on your post.

This way your hashtag comment will be hidden (which again, isn’t a deal breaker!) and plus, when your followers see other people commenting on your post, it kind of starts a chain reaction and you’ll notice you start to get more comments anyways.

Problem solved!

“Should I Create and Promote My Own Hashtag?”

Creating your own unique hashtag can be super powerful for your brand. But you have to do it right.

The goal of a custom hashtag is to get followers to start to use it on their posts. That way your branding is spread!

But without incentive they just probably aren’t going to use it, no offense.

Accounts that feature customer photos take advantage of custom hashtags in a great way:

@frank_bod asks their customers to post photos of themselves using their coffee scrub, and if they use the hashtag #letsbefrank, they have a chance at being featured on the @frank_bod account. That’s their incentive – people want to be instafamous!

frank1

@izzigadgets does a similar thing, telling followers to use the hashtag #izziographer when posting photos taken using their camera phone lenses to have a chance at getting their photography showcased on the iZZi account.

izzi_hashtag

Again, incentive to use the hashtag!

So if you came up with your own hashtag to match your branding and are just hoping people will use it – you just gotta step up your game a little bit and give them a reason they care about to actually use it.

That isn’t to say you HAVE to use a custom hashtag.

If you can stick to the strategy you learned above, using the Iconosquare hashtag research technique, you’ll be on your way to getting found by the right people that will actually buy from you.

What You Should Do Right Now

  1. Start your hashtag research and make your list
  2. Share your newfound hashtags with the Makers Makin’ It Happen Facebook Group and get some feedback and brainstorm ideas!

If you aren’t already part of the exclusive Makers Makin’ It Happen FB Group, click here!

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Rachel Daley
Rachel is the resident Content Fairy at MadeFreshly, the ecommerce platform that makes your passion pay off. Click here to get her actionable tips and inspiration for entrepreneurs every week!