Hashtag used to be a controversial thing back in 2007, as many people found it distracting and unnecessary. However, people began to appreciate its technical use as well as its tendency to create a unique tone of content. Hashtag on Instagram is now an integral part of caption writing and helps to increase relevance of each post.
In this short guide on hashtag, we’ll go over what a hashtag is and what it is for, as well as best practices to use them on Instagram.
What are hashtags and why do they exist?
Hashtags are links that are preceded by the ‘#’ symbol – the pound, or number sign. On Instagram, you can search for a particular hashtag. Once you choose or tap on a hashtag, Instagram will display a feed of all posts that mention the hashtag. A hashtags is like an index in a book, or keywords for search engines.
In this particular function, a hashtag serves as one of the ranking signals used by the Instagram algorithm to include your post in such a feed.
Another function of hashtags is to sound credible and up to date. It’s also used to categorize and emphasize important and trending topics in your caption. To compare what a caption looks like with and without hashtags, let’s take a look at a post below:
Get your #McFlurry on the go at the #AeonMall stands! 2nd Floor near #Tamani.
Get your McFlurry on the go at the Aeon Mall stand! 2nd Floor near Tamani.
The hashtags in the first caption are branded hashtags. These hashtags are used by more than 500,000 users combined and will make your post more relevant and engaging (users will tap the hashtags to see what’s new in Aeon Mall BSD City, for example).
The hashtags also make your post look interesting and credible. It’s difficult to explain why, but essentially your audience has spent thousands of hours exposed to hashtags and expects a business to use one as well.
How to make a hashtag (and make it yours)
Making a hashtag is easy. Making a hashtag yours is harder.
An effective hashtag on Instagram is simple, short, and memorable. The rule of thumb is that the longer the hashtag, the least likely it is for a user to use it. Let’s say you own a local branded online clothing store, called TeetimeTees for golfers who rather wear a t-shirt than a polo.
Simply type in a ‘#’ and add a word or phrase (without any spaces or punctuation marks) that you want to brand as a hashtag.
#golftshirts, #golfwear, #tshirtforgolfers, #golfwithcotton and #comfortgolf are all relevant hashtags that you make (that no one else have ever used before) that can also be associated with your brand.
Avoid generic hashtags such as #golf and #tshirt, as these are too broad with high search volumes, and extremely high competition.
Try not to focus on targeting high-volume broad hashtags. You’ll never be discovered, and even if you were discovered, a very small proportion of people would be interested in your product at all.
Don’t forget to include your brand’s hashtags as well, such as #TeetimeTees, and protect them by constantly referring to it in all of your posts.
Best way to use hashtags in Instagram captions
Keep the number of hashtags in the body to a maximum 3 in the first two lines (visible parts). When your audience taps the caption to see more, avoid jamming in more than 4 hashtags in total for the main body.
You can then include other hashtags underneath the main body – to be used as a kind of ‘signal hook’ for Instagram’s algorithms.
Remember, a hashtag doesn’t provide context. Good content with hashtags have context.
So do this:
Don’t sweat it. Get yourself a #TeetimeTees t-shirt in four colors. Pure cotton, easy to wash, fast drying.
#golfertshirts #golfwear #tshirtforgolfers #golfwithcotton #cottontshirt
And not this:
Don’t #sweat it. Get yourself a #TeetimeTees #tshirt in four colors. Pure #cotton, easy wash, #fastdrying.
Writing #sweat is #redudant because it’s not a unique concept and nobody would search #sweat on Instagram anyway.
#tshirt is relevant, but its use on the main body is distracting. It belongs below the body with the rest of the supporting hashtags.
#cotton is also relevant and can be kept for emphasis, provided that the #sweat and #tshirt are taken out.
If fast drying is truly a unique selling point, and you have made campaigns that promote this feature, then it can be included, provided that other distracting hashtags are out of the way.