I posted the 7 Essentials to Marketing Your Blog on Instagram a few weeks ago, and got a lot of great feedback from IFB’ers who have yet to get their feet wet on Instagram, as well as those who are far more well-versed than I am on IG marketing. I’d say my personal use of Instagram is average for a blogger marketing herself. I’ve got a good grip on the basics and make sure I have all the right hashtags and usernames tagged (especially when I’m working with – or want to work with – brands.) I’ve never really delved too seriously into growing my follower base, specifically with the use of hashtags.
So many social media professionals and Instagram users will tell you not to overdo it with hashtags – and yet, user behavior data proves that quite the opposite works well. After writing that blog, I was curious about how much hashtags would affect my Instagram community. Would the conscious use of hashtags help grow my likes and follower numbers? I decided to experiment for a week to see what I’d find.
What I did:
I already aim to post at least one Instagram a day. During my experiment, I’d only post 1-3 hashtags in my caption (also like I’ve normally done before.) Anywhere from a few hours to a few days later, I’d add around 10 more hashtags that were relevant. This gave me time to see how my ‘normal’ use compared to increased hashtag usage. It also gave me time to think about some good hashtags to use!
What I learned:
Holy cow! Using 10-15 hashtags definitely helped boost my likes, anywhere from 25% – 50% over the couple of hashtags I’d post normally. I also got a few new follows out of each photo, averaging around 10 new ones daily. After the first few Instagrams, I was convinced this was always the way to go from that point on. Then one day, I posted an instagram that immediately prompted 7 unlikes. What gives?! More reflection & analyzing helped me see that while the extra hashtags helped me get likes & followers more quickly than usual, they aren’t necessarily quality likes and follows. There are even ‘cut & paste’ sites that exist solely to give you the most popular Instagram hashtags to take and use in your photos. Those users might stick around for a bit, but are more quick to unfollow. They’re looking for a follow and some likes back, because they’re primarily interested in growing their own following.
Spammy or savvy?
In sum, the only person who can decide what's right for your Instagram is you. Use as many hashtags as you’re comfortable with. I’ve always loved using Instagram, and perhaps I don’t take full advantage of growing my audience to the likes of Song of Style or Sincerely Jules’ massive numbers. While I’m very serious about growing my personal brand & blog strategically, I’m a person before my brand. Sometimes I just want to share a photo of my bulldog to my friends and awesome blog readers, regardless of how many likes it gets. Using lots of hashtags definitely works, and it doesn’t have to be spammy if it’s helping achieve your goals in growing a following. I’ll continue using more hashtags – when it makes sense for my blog and brand.
Some other notes & tips
- Don’t forget the other best practices for putting out the best Instagrams as possible.
- Check your stats. Just like your blog, study who your audience is, what they like and when they’re most likely to engage with you. I like using Iconoquare (formerly Statigram), but there are a few other great ones out there.
- Use custom hashtags! Make ones that are unique to you and your brand, so that you can track photos for your blog/brand, or a specific event, trip or campaign. For example, #_IFB essentially creates an album of IFB-related Instagrams that you can come back to again & again.
- Know your goals. It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game, but your work should always come back to those blog goals.