Are your hashtag groups in alignment with your Instagram goals? Believe it or not, not all hashtags are created equal. There is a strategy in deciding which hashtags you want to use for each post, and that totally depends on what your goal is for that specific post.

1. Determine your goal

What is your goal for the image you are about to post? Identify what you want to get from posting that specific post with that specific caption. Is it to get in front of your target audience and just be seen? Is it to get likes and engagement? Is it to target your ideal clients? Once you determine this, you can start getting your hashtag group together.

2. Do some digging

Before you ever slap a hashtag on your post, look into it first. Are the posts on that hashtag feed in alignment with what you are offering? At one point, before it got popular, the hashtag #BossBabe was filled with a bunch of risqué pictures. It wasn’t what I wanted my brand to be associated with, so I didn’t use it!

One of the most important things to look at is the amount of posts on that hashtag already. If a hashtag has over 1M posts on the hashtag already, you probably don’t want to use it! Why? Your post will get lost in a sea of other posts before it even has a chance to be seen. #BossBabe, for example, has over 11 MILLION posts on it (and counting). While it may be in alignment with your brand, it’s pretty much a useless hashtag when it comes to growth. 

PRO TIP: Try to keep your hashtags in the 20k-300k region, and avoid any hashtags over 1 million.

3. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes

When it comes to picking hashtags that are in alignment with your goals, putting yourself in the shoes of your audience is super important. Think of the explore feed like Google. Hashtags aren’t magic. People actually have to search for a hashtag for them to find you. Think about it this way, if you were someone looking for exactly what you are offering, what would you search for to find it?

If your goal is to gain new clients through your Instagram post: use hashtags that your ideal clients will physically search for in the explore search bar. If you are a hairstylist in San Diego looking to grow your client list, you should be using hashtags like #SanDiegoHair and #SanDiegoHairstylist. Don’t use hashtags like #LivingTheDream or #MondayHustle. Why? Your ideal clients aren’t using those hashtags to find someone to book an appointment with. Makes sense, right?

If your goal is to get likes and engagement: use hashtags that aren’t over populated, but still on-brand. What I mean by this is, keep your hashtags in the 20k-300k zone (in reference to step 2 above) and make sure they are relevant to what you are posting. Again, if you are looking to browse a topic for fun or for inspiration, what would you search for? Using the hairstylist example again, if you were someone looking for hair inspiration for your next cut/color, what would you search for to find it? If you are looking for the ever-popular Balayage hairstyle, you would maybe search for #BalayageGoals or #BalayageSpecialist.

Still keep your engagement-focused hashtags relevant to your post’s meaning and make sure they are on-brand. Again, don’t use hashtags like #LivingTheDream. Who really searches through hashtags like that anyway? 

4. Don’t use hashtags that only experts in your field would use

Are you targeting other experts in your field or are you targeting people who may not know the nitty gritty of your field? Chances are, you are targeting people who don’t know what you know, so why would you use hashtags that they wouldn’t even think to look for? What I mean by this is, don’t use terms or field-specific hashtags that your audience don’t even know.

Using the hairstylist example, if you are looking to target potential clients, you may want to stay away from hashtags like #OlaplexTreatment. You may target some people who know what that is, but chances are you are really targeting other hair experts who know what that is. Your target audience probably won’t outright search for that when trying to find someone to do their hair in their area. 

Not sure what your target audience would use to find you? Ask around! Ask a friend who doesn’t know the inner workings of your business how they would find you if they were to search on Instagram. 

5. Have a hashtag group for each type of post you have on your feed

I recommend having a few different hashtag groups that you can use for different posts. For example, I have a hashtag group for branding posts, website posts, social media-related posts, and random business or lifestyle posts. Why? Not every hashtag belongs on every post. Think about the categories you post about and curate a hashtag group for each one (maybe even two if you are feeling ambitious).

6. Keep an eye on your analytics

If you have a business account, you should absolutely be utilizing your analytics each time you post. In the Discovery area of your analytics, you can see how effective your hashtags are by looking at Impressions. If your “from hashtags” metric is in the single or double-digits, you may want to re-think your hashtag group. I recommend looking at your analytics 48 hours after you post and reassessing your hashtag group once a month.

The bottom line

Not every hashtag is created equal. Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience member and only use hashtags that you think they would use to find you depending on the goal of your post. Ask a friend what they would use to find your business if they didn’t know anything about you already. Keep an eye on your analytics and reassess your hashtag strategy once a month.

Questions about how to choose the right hashtags for your business? Drop a comment below!