Hashtags may have made their first appearance on Twitter, but they are now prevalent on most social media networks. They are particularly useful for organizing content and keeping similar posts on like-minded content together. Brands also create customized hashtags to represent their brand, and sometimes even encourage separate hashtags for each marketing campaign.
However, there is little point in using hashtags for the sake of it. Indeed a sea of hashtags in the comments can even put people off your post. Instagram has even reportedly been known to shadowban people who use the same set of hashtags in every post they make, regardless of the content of individual posts. You need to use hashtags strategically to help you reach your posting goals. You do have goals for your Instagram account, don’t you?
This means that you need to keep an eye on Instagram hashtag analytics, both relating to the hashtags you use, and potential hashtags you could use in the future.
Our Instagram Hashtag Analytics Tool
We have recently created a tool that can help you analyze any Instagram hashtag to see its value as a term. You can enter a hashtag, and our tool will show you important metrics relating to the hashtag's usage, such as follower reach, follower impressions, post likes, and comments.
What is a Hashtag?
Most people will probably have at least a basic understanding of hashtag usage on social media; they have almost become ubiquitous on social sites nowadays. However, many people may have forgotten that the # symbol was once better known as the pound symbol in the United States and other countries that didn’t call the £ symbol by that name.
The first user of a hashtag online was a Twitter user called Chris Messina. He suggested that the # symbol be repurposed as a way to differentiate groups and topics within Twitter. Twitter reacted well to Messina's suggestion, and before long, it became an official feature on the platform.
Other social networks followed suit. Before long users of Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Instagram were also using the hashtag to group posts on topics.
Instagram users really took to hashtags. Unlike most of the other social networks, which restricted hashtag usage to two or three per post, Instagram encouraged regular hashtag use to help people find relevant photos and videos. You can use up to 30 hashtags in an Instagram post. However, just because you can use 30 hashtags, it doesn't mean you should use all 30 hashtags in every Instagram post.
Why Should You Keep Track of Hashtag Analytics?
Simply creating a branded hashtag doesn't mean that you are going to be successful on Instagram. Many firms create branded hashtags with the best intentions, and then let the concept fizzle away.
Indeed, having an Instagram account at all is not necessarily a good thing for every business. There needs to be some connecting factor between your hashtag usage, your Instagram account, and a distinct measurable sign of success.
It is all too easy for some staff member to spend part of each day making Instagram posts (with or without hashtags) without any thought as to whether it is a good use of the employee’s time and the company resources.
As with all aspects of a business’s social media usage, you need to look at hashtags analytics to determine whether they help move you towards your goals.
There is little point telling your CEO that people used your branded hashtags 500 times in the last month. You need to go at least one stage further in your analysis. You would be better to report that people used your branded hashtag 500 times in the last month to share posts relating to your new product, which in turn gave you greater brand recognition.
So you need to ask yourself, why are you using hashtags, and why are you spending the time to track your hashtag usage? It may be so that new Instagrammers can find your content. They may have an interest in a topic on which you prepare a post, and if they like what they see, they may choose to follow you.
Hashtags can also help track your campaigns. You can use them as a way to group posts – not only will your own posts on the topic stay together, but you will also find posts made by your followers and other people interested enough to include the tag. You can monitor the performance of a branded hashtag in our hashtag tool or any other hashtag tool of your choice.
You can also use a hashtag analytics tool to measure the effectiveness of your competitors' hashtag usage. You might even discover some relevant and successful terms that you hadn't previously considered.
Hashtags Can Show You the People Truly Interested in Your Content
Many Instagrammers equate followers with interest, i.e., the more followers you have, the more people have an interest in your content. However, that is a very rough guide. Just because somebody followed you once, that doesn't mean that they take an active interest in what you post.
This becomes more obvious with larger accounts, celebrities, and Mega-influencers in particular. Sometimes people follow these accounts simply because they recognize the name. They might like the films of an actor, the books of a writer, the songs of a musician, or the game-playing of a sports competitor. That doesn’t mean that they take an active interest in that person's social postings, however.
Somebody who uses your branded hashtag in a post clearly has a genuine interest in your account, however. They are clearly more engaged and more likely to take notice of what you post.
Usage of your branded hashtags gives you a good idea of how active your community is on Instagram.
Hashtags Can Help You Select the Best Content to Create and Share
By looking closely at your hashtag analytics, you will gain an excellent guide to which hashtags resonate with your audience, and which are of little interest to them. Take a good look at your analytics and make a point of sharing more posts using your more popular hashtags.
For instance, a bakery might notice from its hashtag analytics that there is good engagement around hashtags featuring the word cookies, but little around bread. The business would then know to make more posts featuring images of cookies and less showing bread.
Hashtags Can Help You Optimize Your Instagram Strategy
You can use hashtags to introduce your brand to new people in an area in which you may want to focus. You can select suitable hashtags for your posts, to help you meet your goal.
For instance, if you were about to introduce a vegan item to your product range, you could make posts including the #vegan hashtag (and other related hashtags such as #veganfood). Any vegan consumers scrolling through Instagram posts using that tag will come across your post, and hopefully, take a closer look at your offerings.
Of course, this practice won’t always work. You might find, for instance, that people don't look at the #veganfood hashtag, and you have few people following through to your posts. In that case, your hashtag analytics tell you that it is time to move onto a different hashtag for future posts.
Be aware that some hashtags are overused. These can have a double effect. Firstly, they may be hashtags that are of little real interest to your possible customers. You may use them, but the people you would like to follow you may not be searching for that term. Alternatively, they may be popular hashtags, but so many people and brands use the tags, that your post may quickly become lost in a high volume of posts.
How to Track Hashtags on Instagram?
We referred above to our new Instagram Hashtag Analytics tool. If you want to try out additional tools, we have previously looked at quite a few in Hashtag Tracking Tools to Monitor Hashtag Performance Online.
If you have a business (or creator) Instagram account, you will also have access to Instagram Insights. You can gain insights on any post by tapping the “View Insights” button beneath it. If you swipe up, you will find much data about that post. One of the stats Instagram provides is Impressions. One of the stats listed beneath that term is your impression from hashtags. This tells you how many people came to your post from hashtags. Unfortunately, Instagram only gives you aggregated hashtag data on your posts, and you will have to use one fo the hashtag analytics tools if you want more details.
What Hashtag Research Should You Do Before Starting a New Campaign?
If you are a business using Instagram, you should continually be experimenting to see what gels with your audience. You will also want to experiment to determine which hashtags work for you and which fall flat. Don't expect every hashtag you use to be a resounding success.
You want to use hashtags that appeal to your target demographic, not just ones that are popular overall.
You will want to gradually build up a long list of relevant hashtags for your niche. From this, you might put together a shortlist of hashtags on which to focus. Take each of these hashtags in turn, and see how many times Instagrammers have used them. You will usually focus on the more popular hashtags first, although remember there is little point concentrating on general hashtags that are irrelevant to your target audience.
You should create one or more branded hashtags, adding them to your bio and other marketing materials. Publicize them in the same way you do your logo.
The key to successful hashtag use is to be strategic with them. Tie them in with your marketing goals, and don't just treat them as something random to include in your posts.