Instagram Training Series: #Hashtags!
First things first, what the heck are these hashtags the kids are all talking about?? You might recognize this schizophrenic character as a “number sign,” a “pound sign,” or if you are in the UK, you might call it a “hash.” Since 2007 you can also add “hashtag” to its list of identities. Resist all you want, the hashtag is here to stay.
Hashtags are basically a link you create on the fly. It is a way to categorize content. One of the easiest ways to understand how hashtags work is to use the example of a party or a wedding. Everyone at the wedding reception puts the same wedding hashtag (#bobandjane4ever or something like that) on their photo and when someone clicks it, they will be able to see all the photos that were posted and hashtagged from that event. (Note that if your account is private, only your followers will be able to see your posts, no matter what hashtags you use.)
Did you know? A hashtag can be made up of letters, numbers, and/or emoji. ??? (But no spaces or dashes!)
Instagram hashtags categorize content. Click on a hashtag and you’ll be able to browse posts that have been tagged with it. This helps Instagram users discover content they are interested in, and accounts to follow. The right hashtag (or combination of hashtags) will expose your brand to large and targeted audiences. By making yourself more discoverable on Instagram, you have a better chance of attracting new followers, getting more likes, and increasing engagement. Users can even follow hashtags just like they follow a friend’s account. This gives you a huge opportunity to show up in the feeds of prospective clients who are definitely interested in your product!
Throughout this article, I’ll use our buddies at Commoners Brewing Company as guinea pigs. Whether you are a brewery or not, these tips apply to just about any business trying to increase followers, likes, and engagement using hashtags. And if you are in the Charlotte area, I highly recommend you pop up to Concord, NC for a little “market research” at Commoners! ??
Click and see! Using your “@” tag shows all of your posts. Note that this shows only what YOU have posted. On the other hand, clicking on your branded hashtag shows your posts AND any post hashtagged by your fans. The advantage of this “social proof” is huge. You can tell people how awesome you are all day long…but if their friends (or even strangers!) say great things about you, it carries a lot more weight.
Sweet Tea Tip: Encourage your clients, friends, and fans to use your HASHTAG instead of the @ tag when posting about your business. That way when their friends click on it, they will see all public posts with that hashtag, not just YOUR posts.
Don’t Reinvent The Wheel
Charlotte is overflowing with amazing breweries, and many of them are crushing it at the social game. Make a list of 4 or 5 of your favorites and watch what they do. Here’s a few of our faves:
If you hit those links on a computer, you can hover over the posts and see how many likes, views, comments, etc they got. See one with a high number…ask WHY?
- Is it the photo? (Do beer fans like behind the scenes brewing shots, food shots, venue shots, or do they like to see THE BEER?)
- Is it the format? (Notice engagement on videos or galleries vs static posts.)
- Could it be the caption? (Are they funny, educational, informative, fun?)
Lather, Rinse, Repeat!
When it comes to not reinventing the wheel, remember that YOU are awesome, too! If you’ve been at this for a while now, hit up your own profile and see what has been working, and what fizzled.
Sweet Tea Tip: Pretend you are the customer.
You love IPAs and live in the Charlotte area. What would you click on? Just go play on Instagram a little and see where you end up. Take note of the hashtags you click on, what photos or graphics were used, what captions, etc. Did you find a new place you’d like to check out or a beer you’d like to try? Then their hashtags worked! Let’s imitate their methods!
How Many Is Too Many?
You are allowed up to 30 hashtags per post. But…just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD. There are many varying opinions on this subject, but a general consensus seems to be using somewhere around 10-12 has the best result, without seeming too “spammy.”
Broad vs. Narrow
#beer has almost 50 million posts. Wow! You can be a part of that huge pack! Lots and lots of people will click on or search for that hashtag all over the place. But…will they find your business? It can be easy to get lost in a crowd that big.
If you go narrow with the name of a specific beer (or product) only you serve (#firstkissblondeale, for example), it will have a LOT fewer posts and a lot less traffic, but the beer geeks who do click on it are much more qualified leads for your business.
You will have to find the “sweet spot” between popular and targeted. This isn’t easy, and you won’t always get it right, but the more aware of it you are, the better you’ll become at generating those sweet perfect hashtags. Remember, sometimes a combination of the two extremes will work, as well.
If your business is a brick and mortar shop that customers visit (hello, breweries!) or that services a specific area, you want to consider utilizing some “geo” hashtags. To continue guinea pigging our buds at Commoners, there are some great options. As with many cities in the US right now, craft beer is booming, but for the vast majority it is truly a local business. So how do you rise to the top of #craftbeer and get the attention of beer drinkers in your town?
Again, don’t recreate the wheel. Check what your competitors or local heroes are using. In the case of Commoners, #ncbeer narrows things down from international or national to the state level. They also utilize #concordbeer or #cltbeer to bring it even more local.
You can likely find a number of Instagram accounts dedicated to events and happenings in your town. In Charlotte, #charlottesgotalot, #cltagenda, or #eatdrinkclt are go-to resources for finding something to do (or drink!) any day of the week.
Sweet Tea Tip: To find local resources, try typing a hashtag and the name or abbreviation of your city into the Instagram search box and see what suggestions pop up. Then click on a few posts and see what additional local hashtags they are using.
Don’t make work for yourself. Invest a little time up front to establish your core hashtags (maybe 6 or so?) that you will use on most posts. Put them in the notes app on your phone. Maybe even make a couple different lists…One for a beer release. One for the Friday music announcement. One for background pics of the brewing process. You get the idea. Then you can just copy/paste them right into your post. Leave a little room to add one or two specific hashtags on each post, as well.
That being said…don’t be lazy either. ? Every couple posts, take a few minutes to click on your own hashtags. What do you find? If the results look similar to your own, you are in the zone! If you see a bunch of half naked Russian models lounging on the hoods of sports cars….you might want to rethink that one. Maybe it isn’t even as spammy as that, but do you think someone who clicks on #wedofunstuff is looking for beer in Charlotte, NC? Maybe. Maybe not.
Like #wedofunstuff, sometimes a hashtag can be used as a witty or funny commentary on your post. As long as there isn’t anything damaging to your image (see previously mentioned Russian models), then it’s no big deal. But if #wedofunstuff is buried in a list of a dozen or more hashtags, will anyone get the joke? That space might be better used with a more appropriate hashtag or even just one less hashtag in the list.
You Got This!
Social Media Marketing is more of an art than an exact science. It can be frustrating at times, but just remember, there is another post just around the corner. Stay alert to what’s happening on your own feed, trends you notice, or what accounts you get sucked into.
Keep up the great work!
If you have any questions or suggestions for future social media tips — hit us up in the comments below.
The Instagram Six
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