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  • Writer's pictureSusan Dosier

Target Your Instagram Following With Hashtags

Instagram Hashtag
Who are you trying to reach with your Instagram post? Hashtags open the doors to the audiences you want to target.

Here's the best non-paid Instagram boost I know: Use #hashtags. And not just one or two. Use five to nine (some people are using up to 14--sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't--experiment with what works for your account).

Use hashtags with intention, and you'll notice an uptick in your Likes and Followers:

- For the topics you promote most, look at accounts with similar content and an established following. Start clicking through the list of hashtags--are the hastags national in their scope? Regional? Local? For instance, #CLTFood focuses on Charlotte restaurants and food while #eeeeeats has a national following of restaurants, blogs and food lovers. Use a mix of both.

- Explore hashtags with key words relevant to your main topics in instagram search. Scroll down the offerings to see what gets the most use. Choose the hashtags with high follower numbers. When I recently highlighted NC's Seagrove Pottery on a feed, I found the hashtags #potterywheel#madebyhand#potterystudio and#artistsoninstagram had hefty followings--and I ended up receiving comments from gallery owners and artisans all over the world. Not all of them followed me because my feed wasn't exclusively art, but some did--and I loved the comments and exchange. (Hint:#ChefsofInstagram is powerful, too!)

- When researching hashtags in the Instagram search, observe whether the singular or plural term has the most following. For example, 23 million people have used #hotel while just under 3 million have used #hotels

- You can also follow a hashtag. (Put your favorite hashtag into the search bar in Instagram, then click on "follow.") Take a look at the feeds consistently posting here; you may want to follow them. They'll often follow back. The same is true if you are promoting outdoor activities, beer, hiking and more. #VisitSC, #VisitNC or #DiscoverSC are well-established state tourism hashtags that benefit you. You can begin searching on your state name and letters to find high-traffic hashtags.

- Have you recently worked with writers, bloggers or influencers? Follow them...and study the hashtags they use. You may notice that their hashtag selection changes, depending on the content. Yours should, too. Consider using the hashtags for key media outlets or blogs as you announce news and events. If you use the exact same hashtags on every post, Instagram doesn't like it. In addition to your basics, add hashtags specific to the photo you are posting.

- What audience do you want to see your post? Find the hashtags people use in your key travel drive markets--and then write your post and perhaps mention how far your destination is from a key drive market such as #ATL, #CLT, #WashingtonDC, etc. 

- Have a conference coming to town? Attending one? Start using the conference hashtag well in advance--attendees want the early scoop on where the best dinner reservations are and what you recommend. You will also connect EARLY with the savviest influencers or media.

- Pro tip: To save time, make a list of the hashtags you use frequently in a "Notes" app on your phone. Copy and paste your list into your instagram post as you create it. Remember, add or change up this list based on your image content.

- HOW DO I KNOW hashtags matter? A colleague quit using hashtags as an experiment, and her likes and interaction decreased by almost half. Why? People search on hashtags to find things they like--and other people who share those same interests. For example, military service members often search on #militarydiscount (lots more users there than at #militarydiscounts). 

- See how your hashtags are working for you: Click on "View insights" at the top of your post.

  • Scroll down to see the circle graphic with "Accounts reached"

  • Underneath that circle, you'll be able to see how many people saw you based on hashtags. If you deliver content they like, consistently, some of these people will follow you. Hashtags help more with awareness than follower recruitment....reels are still one of the best ways to get new followers, but this gives you an idea of the way you can extend your reach with hashtags.

Hashtags can help on Twitter, too--only use one or two at a time. Hashtags can occasionally boost traction on Facebook. Their real strength is on Instagram. Once you get more comments and interaction, be sure you respond to ALL of your feedback. 

#SocialMediaMarketing is a hashtag I'm using to follow what other social media pros are saying. 

Have fun playing with this. I'd love to hear your questions and what you learn or encounter. Stay warm out there--and keep an eye out for those daffodils. --Susan PS....If you'd like to get hints, tips and marketing-savvy information like this on a monthly basis, be sure to sign up for our monthly email.



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