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Instagram Hashtag Strategy Guide 2019
Julia Cohen
Julia Cohen
Posted Fri Sep 06 2019
In Guides, Instagram Hashtags

Our brand is built around Insta and helping you find the best hashtags for your Instagram posts if you want to grow your account. So, we’ve decided to take that one step further and put together this handy Instagram hashtag strategy guide, which will *hopefully* help you understand a little bit more about how to use hashtags in a strategic way, and actually see results. We’ll talk you through the basics, as well as more advanced techniques you can use, to make sure you’re really getting the most out of the hashtags you feature on your profile. 

Before we start, why implement an Instagram hashtag strategy? Did you know that some accounts have received 450,000 impressions just from hashtags? They can also help you hit that Instagram explore page if you rank highly, and provide just another tactic to gain followers. There’s a lot of potential for awareness, and a lot of potential for growth if you’re not already utilizing that character space in the best way possible. Hashtags can also prove 50% more visibility to your posts if you rank on them, so imploring a hashtag strategy is something you should look in to, if you want to up your Instagram game. 

Questions to ask yourself 🤔

Before we get into implementing your operational hashtag strategy, it’s important to ask yourself a few questions about your account, to build some clarity and achieve the best results.

Who?

The most important part of any Instagram marketing plan is to understand your audience. Who are they? How old are they? Where are they from? What do they search for? The best way to reach your ideal audience is to put yourself in their shoes and try to predict what sort of things they might be following or searching for on Instagram. Create customer personas for your audience members, as well as your targets. Here’s a persona card we’ve tailored for Instagram that you can download as a template!

 

 

Note that you will have more than one customer persona. A fitness-based account might attract people that are interested in eating healthily, or changing their fitness habits, but also might attract people who are already really into their fitness, and just looking to find new ideas – so try and think laterally when you are creating your own profiles. 

What is your aim?

What goals do you have for your account? Is it purely to gain a large following so you can increase the potential for future partnerships, or is it because you want to create conversions or sales from your content? Establish this, by setting out three key goals that you have when it comes to your Instagram account and your growth. Keep these in mind whenever you go to post and ask yourself – will this put me on the right path to achieve these goals?  

Throughout this Instagram strategy guide, we’re going to look at a worked example to try and help you visualize how you’d go through the steps in real life – our hypothetical profile is a fitness account, called @flick.gym.

hashtag strategy guide

What is your niche? 

Not only should you understand your audience, but you should also understand your own account. Once you have set out your goals, you need to think about what sets you apart, and what is going to attract your projected user-base. That way, when you start to look at the types of hashtags you use, it’ll make your job a lot easier as you have a specific category to go off of.

The basics ☝️

Like any good story, the best way to start is from the beginning. Before building up your knowledge and using more advanced tactics, you want to get to grips with the basics. Set your pace, and don’t rush – your Instagram hashtag strategy is a marathon, not a sprint. 

In our Complete Guide to Instagram Hashtags, we set out the types of hashtags you should be using on your account, so this is where you will start. It’s important to understand that different types of hashtags will help you reach different audiences and achieve different goals. 

Hashtags are like categories for your content. You wouldn’t send that cute puppy video to a #catlover, so you’re going to want to make sure your hashtags are relevant to the content you are producing. The more relevant the hashtags, the more likely you are to see results. 

Let’s go old school and create a spider diagram for our fitness account. Start by drawing out the types of content you are going to be producing, for example, healthy eating recipes or fitness tutorials: 

 

Once you’ve established what it is you’re going to be posting, create sub-categories under these sections. So, under healthy eating recipes, you might sub-categorize content that is about ‘plant-based food’, or ‘lunch ideas.’

When you think about your sub-categories, you can also speculate about what kind of hashtags might fit that theme. Get specific – depending on your post, you really want to describe what it is you’re putting out into the world of Instagram. What we are working towards here are different groups of hashtags, that help describe your content. 

On Flick, you can then create a folder for each of your sub-categories, to start building up the hashtags you use on your post. Let’s take a look:

instagram strategy

Here, we’ve created four specific folders as an example. These folders are going to help you pick the right hashtags, and keep them in one place, so it’s easier each time you make a new post and develop your Instagram hashtag strategy. 

Let’s talk strategy 🙇‍♀️

Half of the battle is already over – you’ve picked your sub-categories, and now you’re ready to get searching. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that the hashtags you put in each collection, should be specific and have some relevance to each other – if you want to get the best results and reach the people that will be most interested in your content. 

So, if you want to get results when it comes to hashtags, you want to rank. What this means, is that you want to perform well on the hashtags, so that your content is shown to a wider audience. But, in order to rank, you need to utilize hashtags that will work well for your account. This means you should be using hashtags that contain posts with a similar level of average likes and engagement as you, as well as a low level of competitiveness. Here’s something to help you visualize what you should be looking for in your hashtags:

hashtags instagram how to

 

Time to fill up our plant-based food collection with a list of hashtags that make the most sense for our account (psst, here’s where the Instagram hashtag strategy comes in, so pay attention). 

Let’s say our account, @flickhitsgym has 10k followers and gets an average amount of likes at about 2k. We can use 30 hashtags on our post, so 10 of those are going to be ones that we will most definitely rank on, 10 will be ones that we will maybe/probably rank on, and 10 of those will be larger hashtags that are harder to rank on (but if we do, our post will skyrocket). Here is a hashtag strategy for when you are making a post, but we would always suggest building up a library of hashtag options that you can pick and choose from when you are posting.

Here’s an outline of the Instagram hashtag strategy we’d recommend:

Starting at the lower end, we’ll adjust our Advanced Search Filters in Flick, and look at hashtags that contain posts with average likes under 2k. Since we usually get between 2k – 2.5k likes, we’re almost certain to rank on these hashtags.

So, we’ve set our filters – now we can start searching for our first ten hashtags. I’ve put plantbased in as my keyword, to see if I can find anything that suits the type of recipes I’d be posting on @flickhitsgym. 

As you can see, we’ve been given a bunch of options to pick from – but how do we decide on the best ones? First, we take a look at the competition score – look out for hashtags with a low competition score and high potential reach.

 

But, don’t be too meticulous, we can always optimize these at a later point! Finally, we want to make sure the hashtag we pick is actually relevant to the content we are going to post. 

Here – I’ve picked #meatlesseveryday, #veganmotivation and #igvegan. Next, I’m going to explore more hashtags that are similar, to niche down the search. So, I’m going to explore by hashtags that are textually similar to the keyword I’ve picked, by toggling the ‘textually similar hashtags’ button. 

instagram hashtag strategy

Another way I can look for similar hashtags is by expanding a hashtag that I like. If I click to find related hashtags to #meatlesseveryday for example, I will be given another set of hashtags related to that specific one – so the choices are endless, depending on the type of content I’m posting. Let’s expand and conquer: 

instagram hashtag strategy

This is what the list of hashtags looks like now that I have expanded #meatlesseveryday:

instagram hashtag strategy

Next, I’ll select the hashtags that I like, and add them all to my collection. 

instagram hashtag strategy

Here’s a look at our first ten hashtags, that we are highly likely to rank on for our account example. And now we rinse and repeat. 

instagram hashtag strategy

For our middle group, we might look at hashtags from 2k-3k likes, because this would represent around what we achieve on average when it comes to our engagement. From this, we’d repeat the above steps, and add another ten hashtags to our collection. 

Finally, for our ‘reach’ group, which contains harder hashtags to rank on (but if we do rank – big rewards), we might set our filters to 3k likes and above. Take these ten hashtags, add them to your collection, and voila that’s your first set of hashtags complete! Although, you’ll definitely want to keep adding options to your collections over time to give yourself a variety of options when it comes to posting.

Do this for each type of post you will be making, so you have a go-to bank of hashtags to add to your content each time. You can also swap hashtags in and out as you grow, and keep checking in on the group you’ve picked, in case any change.

Once you’ve done this a few times, your Hashtag Collections page in Flick will start to look like this!

We advise testing different variations of hashtags in each of these groups and finding something that works best for your account!

You can arrange your collections however you like, and in whichever way makes the most sense for your account. Some of our users arrange their collections by the number of likes, so they can easily pick out ten from each file when posting. Some categorize their hashtags like we did above, some do both! It’s really up to you and what fits your account and method of working the best. 

Here’s a few ways Flick users are already using Hashtag Collections to organize and manage their hashtags.

instagram hashtag strategy

Hashtags often change daily so it’s important to keep an eye on the key metrics that are provided in Flick when selecting hashtags for your post!

Last steps 🧗‍♀️

Now that you have your final collections to start using on your posts, let’s go full-circle. Picture yourself as your target audience – go back to your audience personas! If you were them, are these hashtags the type of content you would be searching for on Instagram? Are they also the hashtags you might follow? If the answer is yes – success! If not, revise the list you’ve chosen and make sure you are always keeping your target audience in mind, as well as your niche, hashtag relevancy, and specificity. 

The second thing you should be doing is analyzing your results to determine whether your strategy is working! If you have a business or creator account on Instagram, you can open one of the posts you’ve used your new hashtags on – and click insights. There, you’ll be able to see a rundown of where most of your impressions are being generated – including hashtags. This should give you a good view as to whether your hashtag strategy is working, but remember to be patient, as sometimes it takes a little time. 

 

 

If you’ve seen an improvement in your impressions, but not your engagement, this means you are using the correct hashtag sizes, but it may be worth checking if the content you are posting is right for the audience you are actually reaching in these hashtags. 

Finally, you can easily check if you have ranked on a hashtag, by visiting the hashtags you used on your most recent post, the day after. You will see if you have ranked if you are in the featured posts on a hashtag.

It’s also important to remember that you won’t see all your results immediately. You might also see fluctuations in your hashtag impressions per post, so don’t expect them to always be the same each time – on average, our users tend to see between 15-50% of their post impressions come from hashtags! There are a number of other variables that also affect how well a post might do, whether it’s the time of day or the number of posts being published in a specific hashtag when you post. The benefit of implementing a hashtag strategy is the potential it has to propel your account when your hashtags perform well. 

Let’s recap 🔁

So you’re on your way to implementing your Instagram hashtag strategy, but let’s go through a quick recap on what we’ve covered. 

  1. Do your research – consider your audience, account and your niche, before you start implementing your strategy. 
  2. Start planning – make decisions on the types of content you want to post and create sub-categories that describe these types of content. 
  3. Create your collections – pick from your subcategories, and create collections based on these.
  4. Find the right hashtags – the recipe is ⅓ hashtags you’re likely to rank on, ⅓ hashtags you might rank on, and ⅓ hashtags that are a reach for your account. 
  5. Remember – stay relevant, specific and consistent.