Welcome to the another edition of our Expert Series! In this interview series, our goal is to bring you the most up to date tips, tricks and best practices according to the brightest people in the industry.

Meet Our Expert

Today we’re excited to chat about Instagram hashtags with Taylor Loren, Content Marketing Manager and all-around social media guru.

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A little about Taylor…

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Source: Local Wanderer

I’ll let Taylor elaborate…

“The best part of my job at Later is that I get to help people grow their business with Instagram! I love educating people about how social media can help them achieve their business goals, and Instagram can really make or break your success. We’re seeing a ton of “Insta-brands” come into the market and compete with more established brands in their industry which is really exciting.”

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Source: Later

Instagram in a nutshell

Instagram has been steadily climbing in the social platforms race since it debuted back in 2010. With over 700 million monthly active users, its popularity is surpassing mega social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat and is following closely behind its parent company, Facebook.

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Source: Sprout Social

According to Forbes, the key to Instagram’s impressive growth are its “visual nature, mobile functionality , ease of engagement“ and the success of influencer marketing. However, the use of hashtags has also been a huge factor in helping its users to continuously discover new content and profiles to engage with.

What is an Instagram hashtag

Hashtags are typically included in the caption or comments of your Instagram post as a way to organize your content on by topic – think of them as keywords that people would use to search for your post. It also adds context to your content. If you add a hashtag to a public post, the post will show up when someone searches for that specific hashtag. (Instagram)

There are two main types of hashtags that are used on Instagram – I’ll let our expert explain them:

1) Branded hashtags

“Branded hashtags are an awesome way to organize your campaigns and generate UGC that you can repost on Instagram.”

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“A branded hashtag is a hashtag that’s unique to your business. It can be as simple as your company name, tagline, or the name of one of your products or campaigns. Or it can be a hashtag that has nothing to do with your brand name, but has everything to do with your brand identity.

It’s worth noting that 7 out of 10 hashtags on Instagram are branded(Sprout social). Adding branded hashtags to your content can increase your brand visibility as it can be tied directly to your brand – all you have to do to measure its impact is to use the right monitoring tool.

2) Community hashtags

Community hashtags such as #dogsofinstagram or #dailycortado bring like-minded users together around specific topics. Including them in your posts is “a great way to connect with others, improve the SEO of your posts, gain followers, and grow your own community.” (Later)

“While community hashtags are meant to increase the reach of your message, branded hashtags are designed to connect themes for you and your audience. They can be used to promote a campaign or aggregate user-generated content (UGC).”

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When it comes to creating hashtags, Taylor’s rule of thumb is to keep it simple and catchy, “It should be short and easy to spell so that your fans and customers [and communities] can easily remember it — but also relevant and creative so that people will be enthusiastic about sharing it!”

Why should you use an Instagram Hashtag

Did you know that 70% of Instagram posts don’t get seen?(Smart Insights) Since Instagram introduced a new algorithm based feed in 2016, it became increasingly harder for posts to be seen organically.

Using the right hashtags not only helps your brand get discovered by new audiences, it can help you reach audiences who are relevant and perhaps already interested in your company or product. Not to mention, Instagram posts with at least one hashtag have 12.6% more engagement than those without.

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Taylor says, “Instagram hashtags are one of the best ways to grow your Instagram account. Using the right hashtag (or combination of hashtags) can help you expose your brand to large and targeted audiences. In fact, your chances of attracting new followers, getting more likes, and increasing engagement are vastly increased by the use of hashtags!”

The short answer? Instagram + hashtags = good.

Best practices for choosing Instagram hashtags

While it may seem like everyone has their opinion on hashtags, some of us love them, others don’t use them ever – here are 5 tried and tested tips from Taylor:

1) Choose relevance over popularity

“The most popular Instagram hashtags are just simple words, and while tagging #love, #happy, and #dog may get you a few more likes, it’s not going to do much for your growth in the long run. Instead of using the most popular Instagram hashtags, it’s better to use the top Instagram hashtags that have an engaging community behind them and are specific to your audience.”

2) Use hashtags used by your audience

“Research your audience and find out what hashtags they’re using, then see which ones fit the content that you’re publishing. Your hashtags should be relevant and contain keywords that users are actually searching for.”

3) Use hashtags used by your competitors

Swipe to add bacon. #InternationalBaconDay

A post shared by Burger King (@burgerking) on

“It’s always smart to find out what hashtags your competitors are using. By doing so, you can determine which hashtags provide the most engagement.”

Hunger got you seeing things again? Take a break with a hot (crispy) friend 🍟 #BackInSchool

A post shared by McDonald's (@mcdonalds) on

“While it may not be your intention to compete on those hashtags, you could still end up figuring out what your potential customers are talking about and which hashtags they’re using. And maybe you’ll discover new hashtags to add to your repertoire!”

4) Quality over quantity

“The days of using 30 of the same Instagram hashtags on each of your posts are over – with the recent Instagram shadowban, repeated behaviour like using the same exact hashtags over and over could now be considered “spammy”  behaviour.

This shouldn’t make you shy away from using hashtags, but if you are going to use them make sure that you are doing the proper research and switching up your hashtags for each photo…it’s important that your hashtags are tailored to each post, and this might mean that you’re not using up all 30 of your hashtags (which is totally fine!).”

5) Using hashtags for User Generated Content

“I think that using Instagram hashtags for UGC is the best way to use hashtags! Getting people to participate in your campaigns and submit content that you can then repost for free is an amazing advantage of Instagram.”

Brands doing hashtags right

There are countless ways that businesses can use Instagram for business, however, “hashtag campaigns prove to be one of the most efficient and effective.”(Mention) Here are some of Taylor’s favorite branded hashtags:

Girlboss’ #girlbossmoment

“What started as a Twitter hashtag has made it’s way over to Instagram, and @girlboss’ hashtag #girlbossmoment is full of empowering stories from women. Girlboss encourages their audience to post their proud moments and celebrate each others accomplishments, and highlights from #girlbossmoment are shared on the Girlboss podcast.”

Nailed that presentation at work? Proud of those 30 minutes you set aside to meditate? Or maybe you figured out a way to save $30 a week 🚨*thread alert* Share your #GirlbossMoment below. 🎨 by @daniesque of @kastorandpollux

A post shared by Girlboss® (@girlboss) on

Herschel Supply’s #welltravelled

“Herschel was one of the first brands to really tap into an aspirational, community oriented Instagram presence. Their hashtag #welltravelled is one of the first branded Instagram hashtags, and they do a great job of attracting their ideal target market through this travel focused hashtag. You’ll definitely see their products in this hashtag, but you’ll also find a lot of other travel inspiration that embodies the Herschel Supply brand.“

Discoverer @manueldietrichphotography with @frauke_hagen at Lago di Braies, Dolomites, Italy. "These are the mornings worth getting up for! Sitting in a wooden boat on mirror-smooth water, watching the sun rise behind the mountains – what else do you need to start your day right? That's what our morning at Lake Braies in the Italian Dolomites looked like." #thediscoverer

A post shared by The Discoverer (@thedscvrr) on

Start experimenting with Instagram Hashtags

There’s no time like the present to start testing out Instagram hashtags. If you want to learn more, check out Taylor’s ultimate guide to hashtags or head over to Later’s blog. You can also connect with her on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. A big thanks to Taylor for being a part of this interview! Join us for the next installment of Expert Series.

Ready to take your social media marketing game to the next level? Check out The Influencer Marketing Stack – our ultimate resource hub for influencer marketing in collaboration with Later, Bitly, Buzzstream, Shane Barker and The Shelf.

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Sandra is a content marketer at Mention. She hails from Vancouver, Canada, and keeps her pulse on all things digital marketing. She's also really into Game of Thrones and cats. You can find her writing cheeky tweets @sandrogynous

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