Hashtags are one of the oldest methods of increasing online visibility, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to understand.
There may be millions of them, but how do they really work?
In this post, we’ll show you everything you need to know about using effective LinkedIn and Instagram hashtags and performing hashtag research with a little help from real life examples.
Hashtags originally started with Twitter. Users wanted to organize information by interest groups, and easily find the conversations they cared about.
And ever since Chris Messina tweeted: “how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?” on August 27, 2007, the hashtag has been one of the best ways to find content we care about, and show our own content to the world.
Now, this is all well and good for people who understand technology.
However, if you’re not familiar with the way hashtags work, think of it like this:
LinkedIn, Instagram and other platforms are like filing cabinets. Every cabinet contains folders with names on them.
These folders are hashtags.
So for example, let’s say you’re interested in business advice. You wouldn’t open the filing cabinet and grab the folder titled: “Puppies.”
You’d grab the folder titled: “Business advice.”
Inside every filing cabinet are hundreds, thousands and even millions of folders (hashtags). And every single one of those hashtags contains images, posts, videos – everything pertinent to that topic.
So when Instagram or LinkedIn users use hashtags, they’re going straight for the topics they care about.
When they’re in the mood for business advice, they visit the #businessadvice hashtag.
So if that’s the topic you’re posting about, your leads won’t be able to find your post if you’re not tagging it properly.
Without hashtags, your Instagram or LinkedIn posts are like a folder dropped somewhere on the floor.
Yes, someone may find it, but it’s more a matter of luck than anything else.
So how do you use hashtags to improve your online visibility?
The first thing you need to do is research different hashtags.
On Instagram mobile, simply navigate to the Explore page and enter your basic keyword.
For example, #businessadvice.
You’ll see the hashtag community page with over 300k posts. However, you’ll also see a section with related hashtags such as:
List all of them, the number of posts that have been published in each, as well as content types that are featured on the Top page.
This’ll give you a good idea of what kind of content performs best for that particular hashtag.
In our #businessadvice case, you’ll see that people love sharing motivational quotes.
The number of posts in the hashtag will show you how popular it is.
Ideally, you want to select 10-20 hashtags that have at least 50k posts in them, but no more than 10 million.
Spammers often flood hashtags with more than 10m posts, leading Instagram to ban them. So if you’re using a lot of those to amplify your posts, your content may not appear to your leads.
If you don’t want to manually research hashtags, you can use social media tools that automatically suggest the best ones.
While LinkedIn isn’t similar to Instagram, the way hashtags are used are. Even the terms are similar.
Fortunately, LinkedIn automatically suggests hashtags as you start writing your post. It’s a great way to test the LinkedIn hashtag waters.
You can also take a look at which hashtags other influencers in your niche are using.
They may have found community hashtags, which are useful when you want to improve your brand awareness for a particular segment of your target audience.
Keep an open mind when researching hashtags.
For example, if you’re writing a post on business advice, don’t just tag it with the simple #businessadvice.
Instead, ask yourself: “Who could benefit from my post?”
If you’ve realized that the advice is appropriate for startup founders, you can tag it with #startupadvice.
Finally, you shouldn’t use more than 5-10 hashtags on LinkedIn.
When you use more, it disrupts the readers’ experience, and could lead to LinkedIn marking your post as spam.
In addition to hashtags directly linked to your posts, you can also increase your online visibility by creating content for and posting to currently relevant hashtags.
For example, the latest Facebook conference (where the company announced updates to the platform) has been a gold mine for many marketers who posted their comments in the appropriate event hashtag.
There’s always something happening in your industry, and a lot of people will be browsing those hashtags.
You can use that to get more leads by creating appropriate content and tagging it with the right hashtags.
When you’ve been using hashtags for a while, you can use the integrated analytics platforms both LinkedIn and Instagram offer.
These tools will help you understand which content performs best in which hashtag.
You can use it to modify your hashtag strategy and even identify content types that you should produce more.
You can even create branded hashtags.
This way, you can encourage your followers to share more of your content, increasing your leads’ awareness of your work.
On LinkedIn, this is fairly straightforward if you use LinkedIn Elevate to establish your company/brand hashtag. It’s then added to all of your (and your employees’) posts.
Finally, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with specific popular hashtags on each platform.
For example, Instagram has plenty of hashtags that use “insta” or “Instagram” as a prefix or a suffix:
Similarly, some of the most popular hashtags on LinkedIn use acronyms or particular phrases:
Using hashtags to increase online visibility really is as simple as that.
Just think of them as folders, and fill them with incredible content that is sure to amaze your leads!