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How to Make the Power of the Hashtag Work for You

Using this little symbol properly will help you reap big rewards on Instagram.
How to Make the Power of the Hashtag Work for You
Image credit: Cláudio Policarpo/EyeEm | Getty Images

The following excerpt is from Kim Walsh Phillips’s book Ultimate Guide to Instagram for Business. Buy it now from Amazon Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

You can’t use Instagram for business without the almighty hashtag. According to Simply Measured, using even a single hashtag increases post engagement by 12.6 percent. Hashtags are an effective way to drive organic traffic to your content.

Related: Harness the Power of Stardom with Instagram

The most popular hashtags are general words like #love and #summer. However, these really don’t do anything to drive engaged, quality traffic, as they’re not specific and just attract numbers instead of potential tribers (cool-kids jargon for those who use Instagram).

The more specific you can get, while still staying with a frequently used hashtag, the more successful you’ll be at attracting an engaged and on-point audience. So how do you find the right hashtags to use?

Start by reviewing 20 of the most popular brands/companies in your niche, and check out the hashtags they’re using. Make a list of these, and start to test them on your posts. You’ll quickly determine what works and what doesn’t and varying degrees of each. Remember, the more specific, the better. Be sure to keep track of each of yours while you’re testing.

Also, it may be super frustrating to type all of these in each time -- don’t do it! Instead, create an Instagram post signature and save it in an online list keeper -- like Apple or Google Notes or Evernote. This way, you only need to select and paste. Plus, you can first type out the hashtags on your desktop so you can work seamlessly between desktop and mobile.

The most hashtags you’re allowed to use is 30. If you use more, Instagram will delete your comment. Start slowly, and as you find hashtags that work, build on them.

Beyond growing followers

Besides using hashtags to grow followers, categorizing content using the # symbol can be a powerful marketing tool. Among your list of hashtags, include a signature one that’s just yours as reinforcement of your brand. For example, when I launched my last book, No B.S. Guide to Direct Response Social Media Marketing: The Ultimate No Holds Barred Guide to Producing Measurable, Monetizable Results with Social Media Marketing with Dan Kennedy, we used the hashtag phrase #NoBSsm. This not only created a brand for the book but also built a tribe around it.

Whether to grow your followers or build your brand, hashtags remain one of the most powerful tools of the Instagram network. Leverage them to grow your following and online authority.

Related: 9 Tools to Improve Your Instagram Marketing

The 25 most popular hashtags

According to Post Planner, they are:

1. #love

More than 696 million Instagram posts have the #love hashtag.

2. #instagood

This hashtag has appeared on about 314 million posts and counting.

3. #me

More than 297 million posts have the #me hashtag.

4. #tbt

This is a popular hashtag for those learning how to market on Instagram or for “Throw Back Thursday” where you post a picture of the past on -- you guessed it -- Thursday.

5. #cute

This hashtag has appeared on more than 258 million posts: Anything with puppies and babies wins!

6. #follow

The #follow hashtag has appeared on more than 258 million posts.

7. #followme

Another hashtag all about follower growth. As in, I want you to follow me and I’m obvious about it.

8. #photooftheday

Reserved for your best pictures -- only one per day that you call the best, or any picture you put this hashtag on.

9. #happy

Not related to the Pharrell Williams song, “Happy,” although that one is smile-worthy.

10. #tagforlikes

This popular hashtag asks people to tag them in posts so they can get more likes. I think this is crazy; it’s kind of like a business standing on the corner and begging folks to “Like me! Like me!” Not very good for premium brand building.

11. #beautiful

Instagram users have typed this hashtag more than 250 million times.

12. #girl

Again, I’m not sure you can get more generic, but good to know my gender is often featured in Instagram.  

13. #like

Not sure about any ROI here, but again, it’s very clear what people are going for with this hashtag.

14. #selfie

There’s nothing like a good selfie angle to make one’s photo unrealistically gorgeous, which is why I love a good selfie.

15. #picoftheday

Similar to #8 (#photooftheday), these are for some of your best pictures, or the ones you apply this hashtag to.

16. #summer

No matter what time of year, this seasonal hashtag rules.

Related: How to Make Your Instagram Account Impressive

17. #fun

Where photos are marked with things that are not awful.

18. #smile

This sunshiney-day hashtag has been used millions of times.

19. #friends

This hashtag is used for gatherings of people you like to associate with.

20. #like4like

This “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” hashtag does work to get more followers -- quality followers, I’m not sure about, but followers nonetheless.

21. #instadaily

This hashtag says, “Hey, it’s today, and I’m on Instagram!” A bit obvious, yes, but many people use it.

22. #fashion

This hashtag is where you start to see niches, with fashion being one of the most popular.

23. #igers

Sounds bizarre, but this hashtag -- short for “Instagram Users” -- has been used hundreds of millions of times.

24. #instalike

Another “Please like this post” hashtag.

25. #food

Another very popular niche filled with yummy pictures of recipes I’ll never make but will save in a denial-like insistence that I’ll create this culinary masterpiece for my future imaginary dinner party (#InstaDelusional).

A Note From The Editor

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