Tag Your Way to Instagram Success

Since my last blog post explaining why an organization should join Instagram, the next step is illustrating how to dominate this visual platform by using hashtags.

While hashtags are supported by most social networks, most associate the # with Instagram and Twitter.

Hashtags have achieved mainstream status by being
integrated into pop culture and are included in many ads and TV shows.

The hashtag has become a reference point which basically enables cross-channel engagement and marketing over all platforms.

On Instagram, probably more so than Twitter, because there is no character limit, hashtags are extremely important. Adding tags to your photos is a great way to find new followers and share your photos with more people.

If your photos don’t include any hashtags you’re not leveraging the social sharing potential of the platform and severely minimizing the valuable brand equity that accompanies a good picture. Besides, no hashtags means that your target audience might never know you exist.

However, adding any old hashtag, overstuffing your post with too many, or just praying that you land on the right one is probably a waste of time.

In order to achieve the ideal results and ensure the greatest reach of viewers, choosing the right set of hashtags that match your brand is critical.

Applying these tips to your day-to-day sharing activities will improve your followers’ experience when it comes to interactive campaigns, as well as benefit your account’s discoverability.

When to Use Hashtags

You should use them on every single picture you add.

The more information you provide the greater the chance for a large audience to see it.

A few ideas on what to tag your pics with:

  • Subject of the picture: describe the picture. Each picture is a short story so give them a title and be creative. 
  • Topic: giving the main topic of your picture will help people searching for that topic to find it. Examples: Cars, Food, NFL, etc.
    Place: Many Instagramers, or Igers, are constantly searching for places that they’ve been to or are interested in visiting. Think the Olympics #London2012.
  • Important events: Share pictures during an important event or campaign. Many brands now plan their content according to the calendar and the events to come (some ideas: labor day, independence day, the VMAs, The Super Bowl, and so forth…). 

The most popular brands somehow manage to react to breaking news or integrate a relevant branded picture.

Be Specific

Choosing specific tags will help you connect with other like-minded people on Instagram.

If you’re a car fan like me here’s a great shot by @mercedesbenz. They create appeal to the event, pepper a few hashtags, and give photo credit.

SEO Keywords and Instagram

If your organization is using Instagram but not sure how to find the right topics or hashtags, try starting with your SEO keywords. These keywords directly define your niche market, activity, and your audience is familiar with them. In a sense, many people search Instagram like they would use Google. So why not capitalize on that fact?

For instance, if your business is selling men’s fashion wear, like @gentsplaybook, you’re probably trying to rank well for “men’s wear” on Google.

Igers use similar keywords or hashtags to find brands. If I were in charge of social media for them, I probably would not have included #inspiration and #windowpane since these are too broad and may reach an audience beyond their target market.

When it comes to picking the right topical hashtags, biding your time and learning about your Instagram community is the only way to go.

Banned Hashtags

To keep Instagram somewhat pure and safe from inappropriate content, Instagram has blocked specific hashtags and prevents strings of text from being used.

While this index of banned Instagram hashtags surfaced online is pretty complete, the list continues to grow. While I’m not sure why #instagram, #IG, and #iphone are on the list, be careful to avoid the #’s.

Useful Tools

  • Statigr.am: This desktop search tool gives users the ability to see which users and hashtags based on the keywords that you determine. The tool also gives provides you with personalized stats about your account and your hashtag usage.
  • Tagboard: Probably my favorite tool. It gives you the full picture of any given hashtag. This tool shows you how people are using a specific hashtag across all social media platforms including:Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Vine, and Google+.
  • RiteTag: This helps you identify hashtags that can be added to content across the various social networks. The results
    appear on one page and are prioritized based on the frequency of usage.

    Start hashtagging your brand to Instagram #success!