Instagram announced in June that their user base has grown to more than 500 million Instagrammers—with over 300 million (60%+) using the platform daily. And according to eMarketer, there will be 48.2 million millennial Instagram users in the US this year. By 2019, nearly two-thirds of all millennial smartphone users will use Instagram.
As the stats show, this platform has huge potential for brands to connect with consumers. One of the simplest ways to fuel content discovery and brand awareness is through hashtags. MtoM’s resident Instagram guru/social strategist, Sam Trotman, shares tips for using hashtags as a marketing tactic:
- Think about Instagram as the new Google. People are using the platform to search for information. But the results encompass so much more than what you’d find on the first page of Google results. They’re curated in a cleaner, more digestible way for a mobile audience. Let’s say you want to research Nike running shoes. The content generated goes well beyond a pair of sneakers. You might see training facilities, athletes, people working out, specific styles of Nike running shoes, local retailers, information on sales, and more. So when determining hashtags for posts, think about how the audience would actually search to ensure they’re more discoverable. This approach is unique to Instagram—people aren’t seeking information this way on Facebook or Twitter.
- You can cast a wider net and narrow in on key target audiences: Hashtags showcase what an image is all about (kind of like a word cloud). They bring people in who are searching for similar content, but might not know about your brand, or actively be seeking it out. By using Instagram’s search function, brands can hone in on the most popular hashtags for content, as well as those with a more specific, niche focus. Let’s say a hotel posts a photo of their pool. #pool is included in over 16 million posts, whereas #poolbar has 93,000. Generic hashtags can help cast a wider net, but it’s important to weave in hashtags more tailored to your image and demographic.
- Post the hashtags in the comments, rather than as the description for the post. You actually can use a lot of hashtags (20-30 is the sweet spot) without overwhelming the photo, by putting them in the comments. Once several people comment, they’ll be hidden, but still offer the same benefits. It can look inauthentic to post a large amount of hashtags in the description.
- Create your own hashtag: A branded hashtag needs to be catchy and relevant or else people won’t find it or feel compelled to use it. Unique hashtags also make it simple to host a contest or sweepstakes by inspiring fans to snap a photo of a product and use the hashtag to be entered to win something. This spurs content creation, increases the reach of a brand’s hashtag, and promotes the product in an authentic way. Brands also can learn more about their audience by analyzing the profiles of people who used the hashtag.
- Diversify your hashtags: You don’t need to have just one branded hashtag. Create several for different product lines or key audiences. For example, Nike has hashtags like #nikewomen, #nikerunning, #nikeplus, #nikelunar (you get the idea).
The bottom line: A picture is worth a thousand words, but you need to be strategic when it comes to the words you choose for Instagram hashtags.