People always tell you to use hashtags on Instagram so you can reach more people outside your little social bubble, but they’re never sure what to do with them. Instagram hashtags, when used correctly, can be a valuable nugget to your shop’s success. They can connect you with interested parties and like-minded communities that share your passion. But if you use them carelessly and follow the mantra of more is more, you’ll get nowhere.
In 2021 when there’s so much competition among businesses – let alone ones that share a niche area of interest – it’s important to have the right hashtags with the right intentions behind them to help grow YOUR brand awareness and connect with YOUR audience on Instagram.
Why Hashtags Are Important
You can’t expect that when you build your profile and start posting about your products/services that people are immediately going to flock to your content. In 2021, you have to find channels that are best suited to what you’re creating with people that are engaged and actively interested in what you’re doing.
Say you have a merch shop dedicated to all things knitting. You turn insider knitting terms into cute and playful designs that fit your aesthetic and can appeal to those who knit. Or create your own crafting jokes that only crafters will get. You’re making stuff for a specific type of person.
People love knitting all over the globe. Miles or oceans could be between potential customers, but hashtags help to bridge that gap.
Using #knitting creates a wide umbrella for potential content and fellow creatives – 19.4 million Instagram posts to be exact. If playing with patterns is more your thing, use something like #knittingpattern to narrow down your search and appeal to those people – you’ll get a slimmer 608,000 posts.
It doesn’t make sense to not use hashtags when it’s essentially free promotion for your business. It’s a way to interact with an audience that relates to the same things you do, and why shouldn’t they relate to your shop, too?
They may be looking for ways to show their love of knitting, and your merch designs play right into everything they were looking for. People want to show what they’re passionate about – you just need to give them the opportunity.
Finding Your Hashtags
If you can’t put your shop into words, then who can? Being able to define your shop in different keywords is essential to not only strengthening your brand, but ultimately helping you find the right hashtags.
If we continue to use the knitting-themed merch shop as an example, we’ll start to see a pattern with the types of Instagram hashtags we have that best suit our audience.
With a shop as specific as this, you have the more standard and popular options. Hashtags like #knitting, #knitwear, and #yarn are all obvious. They describe what area you want to appeal to in basic, broad terms.
When you type these hashtags into the Tags search bar, other options will pop up below that can be relevant. You can also see how popular each hashtag is by the number of times it has been used.
When you just type the #knitting, other options will come up like #knittingaddict and #knittingismytherapy that each caters to different types of knitting enthusiasts. The word “addict” describes someone that is more hardcore about their passion for the crafting pastime. “Therapy” captures a person that uses knitting as an escape to help ground them.
Breaking It Down
This all might sound very obvious, but understanding what words you want to use determines what kind of person you want to appeal to.
Do you want a potential customer that’s whole life is living and breathing knitting? Or a potential customer that turns to knitting in their “me time”? Does your shop cater to one over the other? These are the kinds of questions that you need to be asking yourself to build a hashtag list.
It’s best to stick to the area of interest your shop centers around. Even though it’s technically knitting merchandise that you’re selling, you need to focus on attracting the knitting community. The #merch is in 3.6 million posts on Instagram. And even if you try to get more specific, it doesn’t work out: #craftmerch is in 301 posts.
You can’t dip your toe into every field imaginable, so you need to be strong with the more specific hashtags that you do use.
Types of Hashtags
Depending on what you’re posting about, there’s different types of hashtags you can use to best represent content.
If you’re promoting a shop/business, you want to avoid anything to do with individual hashtags. These include personal hashtags (#selfie, #vacay), daily hashtags (#workoutwednesday, #motivationmonday), and acronym hashtags (#tbt, #lol).
They’re not relevant to what you’re posting and will be a waste of time because they are such wide areas for content. The chances of you finding users in those hashtags who will have any investment in your shop are incredibly slim.
Instead, stick to professional hashtags that increase your exposure to important areas of your community.
Instagram community hashtags are the most common when you’re trying to appeal to a particular kind of user. They’re all the hashtags having to do with what you’re promoting, like knitting, yet again.
The broad hashtags of knitting apply, while other hashtags like #knittingismytherapy and #nevernotknitting would also be considered community hashtags because they’re related to the topic.
Cultural movement hashtags are anything related to social change. This includes #blacklivesmatter, #pridemonth, #stopasianhate. If something in your shop is themed around a cultural movement, or you are donating a portion of your sales to one of these charities, these would be ideal to use. Just make sure the post you’re using these hashtags with has relevant information.
You can use location hashtags if you want to appeal to a certain area. If you live in Chicago and want to reach to those in your area, try something like #chicagoknittingcommunity, even its that’s specific. You can even search what state knitting is most popular in (turns out it’s Idaho) to use that statistic to your advantage in a hashtag.
Event hashtags might also be useful. Look to see if there are any knitting or craft conventions happening in the United States, or even abroad. Maybe they want to wear shirts and other merch that shows how dedicated they are to knitting. This makes them more relatable to the people around them, as if they didn’t have enough in common just being there.
Hashtag Best Practices
Finding the hashtags you want to use is half the battle, now you must put them into action.
You should use hashtags on every Instagram post, because why not? People might want to stray away from that because they feel they can make your posts look clunky. But if you’re concerned about that, I recommend typing them in the comment section of your posts. This way, they won’t be right next to your captions, and will still work just as well.
The maximum number of hashtags you can use on an Instagram post is 30, but that doesn’t mean you should. I would stick somewhere between 8 to 12 hashtags per post. This narrows down the people you want to connect with and won’t distract or alarm users with a big clump of hashtags.
Diversify Your Hashtags
We talked about creating a go-to list for your brand but remember there are different types of hashtags that won’t work for every Instagram post. You want to make sure you’re using them effectively. If you continue to use the same hashtags over and over, Instagram might get suspicious of your account and ban you for spamming users and operating like a bot.
The Instagram algorithm – which determines the way and order in which users will see your posts – rewards proper hashtag usage with diversification. You want to be as specific as possible. Even if what you’re posting is similar, you need to find various words that represent what you’re showing as mentioned before. Instead of using #knitting all the time, try #yarnwork, #knitwear; slightly different words that are still accessible for your target demographic.
When you do this, it lets the Instagram algorithm know you are engaged with your posts and doing the work to properly promote them in different hashtags.
To best use hashtags on Instagram, you always need to be thinking about who would most benefit/be most interested in what you have to offer. Know the ins and out of your shop. How you would describe it to a friend gives you everything you need to use Instagram hashtags effectively and efficiently.