The Ultimate Instagram Hashtag Strategy to Grow Your Followers

ultimate instagram hashtag strategy

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Oh sis – the struggle is real! You’ve been working hard on creating beautiful graphics, writing witty captions, and making sure your product or service is the best on the market. But, your Instagram followers are just not where you want them to be. You have tried everything you can think of and that number still seems to be taking its sweet time getting to the point where you think it should be. 

One of the most effective (and free) marketing strategies you can use to gain more followers is to use hashtags.
A winning Instagram hashtag strategy for your brand will enable you to gain a lot more engagement on your posts and, in turn, see the followers go up as well. A post with at least one hashtag on Instagram tends to have about 12% more engagement than without, and if you could have this increase for no cost, why wouldn’t you? I always say, if someone handed you $30 million, would you just take $1 million, or would you take all $30 million? So why, oh why, are we not using all 30 hashtags, a free resource we can use to get more eyes on our posts, on every Instagram post we make?

As you read along, you will find 9 of the best and simplest strategies that can help you shape your hashtag strategy and organically increase your Instagram followers. Hashtags work when you make them work for you, and that is exactly what these strategies will show you how to do. As a result, the followers you gain will be more organic and interested in what you or your brand stand for. 

So, grab a pen and something to drink, and let’s dive into these expert Instagram hashtag strategies to get you some more followers. 

9 Super Effective Hashtag Strategies

1. You’re using the wrong Instagram hashtag strategy

Now, this doesn’t mean that all the hashtags you use are necessarily wrong, but it does mean that you may be missing out on using the Instagram hashtags that will get you the followers that matter because you don’t have the right strategy (or a strategy). If you use more popular hashtags, you will see that your post is being seen by some new people, but the engagement is still pretty low. That’s because large hashtags (which I consider to be over 1 million posts) become less targeted and more spammy.

best instagram hashtag strategy

Engagement increases when you have the right type of people being exposed to your posts, and this will only happen when you use hashtags that your customers will be using and looking for.

My best advice is to get into the mind of your customers and visualize what type of hashtags would attract you as a customer to your brand. Then use those hashtags to get them to engage in your posts. Instead of using hashtags that only describe your business, lean towards using customer-oriented hashtags. 

For reference, instead of using #blogger, use #digitalmarketingstrategy, and suddenly you’ll be attracting people who are interested in what your posts and brand have to offer. This will increase the quality of your engagement and followers.

2. Engage as soon as you post

Once you post on your Instagram, go on one of the hashtags that you have used in your posts and start interacting with the posts there. Now, what exactly does this mean? Well, hashtags have hyperlinks that will take you through to all the posts that they have been used in. This is where you will find people who are like-minded and will be interested in what you have to offer.

Go on the first few posts for both the “Top Posts” and “Most Recent Posts” and interact with the followers of that profile and the profile itself. Comment, like, and view as many stories as you can, and what this enables you to do is get your brand out in front of the people who will actually be interested in following your Instagram page.

So let’s go with the same hashtag as before, #digitalmarketingstrategy, and say you’ve clicked on that hashtag’s hyperlink. You come to a page that has a lot of posts. Go to the more recent ones and interact with those. The recent posts will still have people online and a lot of people interacting with them actively, and those are the people you want to target. I also will usually pick out a few of the top posts since those accounts tend to have a lot of engagement and followers. Even though their posts are not recent,  it would benefit me to also interact with them and their followers since their reach is broader than mine.

3. Use picture specific hashtags

You have to be very methodical with the hashtags you add to your posts, but sometimes the simplest of things can get you the increase in followers that you want. Whenever you are posting to your Instagram grid, apart from using brand-specific and customer-oriented hashtags, you should be throwing in a few descriptive hashtags.

Descriptive hashtags are just words that explain what the picture is and are usually pretty simple.

These hashtags will expand the reach of your posts and will enable a lot more engagement to come from people who are not specific to your niche, who you may otherwise miss. Use about 4-5 picture-specific hashtags in each of your posts and note the difference it can make in the engagement you have on them. 

Let’s say you have a subscription business, and you want to post a picture of your latest sub box as a flat lay outside in the sun. Well, you can use #sun, #freshair, and #natural as some of the hashtags that will explain what is happening in the picture and attract people outside the realm of subscription boxes. This is another strategy to expand your reach to a new following, simply by switching up the hashtags to describe your image vs. your business.

4. Use networking hashtags 

As it’s been made clear throughout this post, the type of hashtags that you use under your posts is so very important. They serve as a gateway to connecting you with potential followers and them with you. Hashtags can also help you gain a lot of exposure by keeping you in the loop of brands and conventions where your target customers are. 

Network hashtags are hashtags that are specific to certain conventions or trade shows. These hashtags will target only those people that are attending these trade shows or summits, but it will lead to a higher quality follower coming to your page. Using these hashtags will also allow you to connect with people that you could work with in the future within the industry that you operate in or in other complementary industries.

Once you have these hashtags in your posts, follow them and interact with the people who are also posting about these events. This also makes your brand more visible and helps with the recollection of you and your brand at a later point. 

For example, let’s say you have a content-creating service and one of the upcoming events in the content industry is the Content Tech Summit. My suggestion would be to make a post about content creation, add the hashtag #contenttechsummit and post your picture on the grid. Then click on this hashtag and go interact with the people that are active on this hashtag. This will help you connect on a much personal level with conference attendees.

5. Use a tier system of hashtags 

Using hashtags on your posts may not be working for you because you may be using hashtags that are too saturated. A saturated hashtag has been used in over a million posts, and the top posts that show up under it will be the posts that have a high level of engagement. If you’re just starting and don’t have a lot of engagement, your post will probably get lost in a sea of other posts, and you won’t get any new followers or exposure. 

A hashtag tier system is grouping the hashtags you use under your posts into thirds. Use 10 hashtags under your posts that have less than 100,000 posts, use 10 that have about 100,000 to 250,000 posts, and finally use 10 hashtags that have over 250,000 but less than a million posts. By using this tier system you are ensuring that your posts will have sustained exposure and long reach under the “Recent” hashtag hyperlink. 

Figuring out which hashtags to use is easy, and all it requires is a little hashtag research.
Once you have your hashtags ready, use and continue to test your hashtags to see the difference they can make in increasing both your followers and your engagement.

6. Use all 30 hashtags 

If someone is giving you $30 million, you’re not going to take just $10 million and leave the rest on the table. That is exactly how you should be seeing the hashtags that you get to use on each Instagram post.
They’re free, so you’re not losing anything when you utilize all 30.
Using all 30 hashtags that you are allowed to use will enable you to reach more niches and target customers with all of your posts.

Each hashtag has the potential to yield at least 10 -15 followers, and forgoing even one is pretty much losing your potential to gain more followers.

Throughout this whole post, you have seen the different kinds of hashtags that you can use and when you apply those strategies in combination with this one, you have a winning formula to gaining more Instagram followers through hashtags.

7. First comment hashtags 

When you post on your Instagram page, whether by yourself or through an automation service, you should be adding hashtags in the first comment below your post.

This lets you tap into more areas to grow exposure and engagement on your posts. This stems from an unproven but backed theory that hashtags in the posts don’t do as well as hashtags that are in the comment section. When you go to add your comment, start with 5 dots in a vertical line, creating some space between the post content and the comment. This will enable you to add more hashtags in a much cleaner way and your post won’t end up looking too cluttered. 

8. Use local hashtags 

This one is more for those brick-and-mortar businesses that have a physical presence, but again, it is something that everyone can benefit from. Using local hashtags enables you to focus on a very niche segment of the market you’re looking to target, and increases your local exposure and reach at the same time.

These hashtags can be anything like the location you’re in at the moment, a saying that is popular around the location, or any main area near to the location that you are in. This will expand your exposure to the local areas that you visit or live in and will help you tap into markets that you may have left out with your other hashtags. You can then retain those followers even when you’re not in the area to help your business grow. 

Use at least 2-3 hashtags that are very specific to the location you are in and the area you want to operate and gain customers from.

For example, I own a business in Hawaii, so I tend to use hashtags like #hawaiibusiness #madeinhawaii and #luckywelivehi quite a bit on my Instagram posts to connect with other Hawaii businesses. When I visit San Diego, I will use hashtags like #sandiegobusiness instead.

Bonus tip, outside this hashtag strategy, tagging your geo-location on your posts will also help you expand your reach. Locations are also hyperlinked on Instagram, both with “Top” and “Recent” post results, so tagging your location can give you additional exposure above and beyond the location’s hashtag.

9. Branded hashtags to gain UGC 

Now, UGC is just a fancy way of saying User Generated Content. It means that the followers and customers of your brand will bring in content that you can post on your Instagram page from time to time. The best way to do that is to use branded hashtags. 

Branded hashtags are hashtags that are specific to your brand and are unique enough that they will only be associated with your brand. Sometimes you may have to change or add a few words to your brand name and that is fine. You should be doing that to ensure that the branded hashtag will lead people only to your Instagram page and won’t be used by anyone that does not follow you.

For example, instead of using the hashtag #eyemakeup you would use the hashtag #hudabeautypalette to make it unique to only your brand and ensure anyone using the hashtag is part of your community.

fused hawaii instagram marketing
Fused Hawaii Instagram Profile

Once you have your branded hashtag set, add it into the bio of your page and your email footers to encourage your followers to use it to get featured on your Instagram grid. The content will start rolling in and with it, existing customer loyalty and new followers will start coming in as well.

More and more people will discover your Instagram profile through your branded hashtag and that will lead to a significant increase in your engagement as well.

Ready to Grow your Instagram Followers?

I hope you found my top  9 strategies to help you gain more followers on Instagram helpful. These are tried and tested and while all good things take time, a hashtag strategy that is based on these strategies will bring your results in a lot quicker.

I hope this helps you gain more followers, increase your engagement, and get your brand a lot more exposure, both on and off Instagram. 

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