5 Instagram Hashtag Mistakes You’re Making

Did you know you can use up to 30 hashtags on Instagram? 

Hold on…back up. Let’s talk about WHY hashtags are important first…

Hashtags are a way for people to find your account/your photos on Instagram. Think of “search” on Instagram as similar to searching on Google. For example, people who want to find photos of cute dogs might search for #dogsofinstagram. 

When you use hashtags in your photos, your photos compile into a directory for that specific hashtag. So your #dogsofinstagram photo will now show up with all the other #dogsofinstagram photos. Using hashtags is what leads people to your account. If you’re not using hashtags, then how are people going to find you? I’ve connected with loads of people simply through the explore page and searching hashtags on Instagram.

So that leads us to our discussion about Instagram hashtag mistakes. If you want to grow your following and engagement, then you want to make sure you’re really harnessing the power of hashtags. Here are some mistakes you might be making:

Not Using 30 Hashtags.

If Instagram lets you use 30 hashtags, then make sure to use those 30 hashtags! You might be wondering, “How do I think of 30 hashtags.” Well, that’s where brainstorming comes in. Before you start posting any sort of content, sit down and think about WHO you’re talking to. Who is your target audience? For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, using hashtags that attract other photographers (like #shotwithnikon or something) won’t help you. Instead, think of what YOUR audience is probably searching for, like #weddingplanning or #bridetobe. Open Instagram on your phone and type in a hashtag. THEN, at the top you’ll see more suggested hashtags. Make a note in your phone with a list of hashtags you can copy and paste later on.

Not Researching Hashtags.

Why is research important? Because you need to make sure you’re targeting the right people. Here’s an example from my own life. My friend started a garden recently, and posted a picture of the pickles he grew. He used the hashtag #ticklemypickle. Initially, I was thinking that if I clicked through to that hashtag I’d be met with a bunch of inappropriate pictures. However, it’s mainly photos of pickles from pickle lovers! 

So what’s my point? Look through the photos of whatever hashtags you’re going to use to make sure the photos are congruent with your message and targeting. Imagine if you used #ticklemypickle thinking it would be mainly gardeners and pickle enthusiasts BUT it’s actually inappropriate photos. Probably not the followers you want on your account!

Not Using New Hashtags

So you found your top 10 or top 20 hashtags that work for you. You should just use those in every photo upload, right? Wrong. You constantly want to be doing research and testing out new hashtags. By using the Instagram search feature and seeing other hashtags at the top of the screen, you can regularly be looking for new ones to use. Test them out in your images and see how your engagement fluctuates. Who knows, you might find a hashtag that really increases your likes and comments. I’ve also read that switching up your hashtags regularly also means you’re less likely to get shadow banned.

Putting The Hashtags In The Comments.

Now, I’m not 100% sure about this, but here’s what I’ve read. Since Instagram has an algorithm now, and they’re cracking down on spammy accounts, they are flagging accounts that puts hashtags in the comments. This can lead to the infamous “shadow ban,” which prevents people who don’t follow you from seeing your posts in the explore page or through hashtag searches. A way around this is to put your hashtags directly in your caption. For those who don’t like the look of a list of hashtags right in the caption, they add periods so the hashtags move further down (and don’t show up in the IG feed). Here’s an example:

Using Hashtags With a Huge Reach

While it’s ok to sometimes use hashtags with millions of reach, you do want to also use those that may only have a couple thousand photos in the stream. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, start typing a hashtag in the IG search bar. You’ll see a number come up next to it. That is the number of photos already in that hashtag feed. You might thing bigger = better, however, you will probably have more success finding lesser-used hashtags. Why? Because those people may be more engaged and are more targeted. For example, if you’re an animal rescue for huskies, do you think you’ll reach more of your target audience using #dogsofinstagram or #huskyrescue? When you do your hashtag research, make sure to include popular hashtags as well as smaller hashtags in your list. Really try to get specific! Another plus of using smaller hashtags is that you could be featured in the “Top Posts” section of that hashtag. That means whenever someone searches that specific hashtag, your photo will be right at the top…aka easier for people to find and discover you!

Want to really nail down your Instagram strategy? Download my free Instagram Strategy guide below where I share 7 ways to build your Instagram and start getting new clients/sales:

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Hopefully that answers some of your hashtag questions. By doing research and using hashtags effectively, you will start to see your Instagram numbers grow. While you’re doing that research, start commenting on people’s images too! This will lead them back to your profile and help you start building relationships with your target audience.

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