Why you need to use hashtags

Let's talk about #. Oh hashtags, how we all make fun of you. From the hilarious 2013 Jimmy Fallon x Justin Timberlake skit through to the never-ending memes, hashtags have become almost a joke...but, the thing is, they're not.

Hashtags help you grow your biz.

Shock! Horror! #OhNoSheDidn't

Yes, I did.

If you run a business today, chances are you're on social media, namely, Instagram, and the best way to get discovered by people who will benefit from your product or service on Insta is via hashtags.

Now, I am 100% open about my love-hate relationship with social media (and anyone who's attended my workshops knows I DRUM it home that you should invest more time in spaces you own (like email and website), than borrowed playgrounds (like social)), but social IS a part of business and for those in the creative and eCommerce space, it's a massive way to help people discover and buy your product or service.

So, how do hashtags work?

Social media is a search engine and should be used as such. In addition to following people, you can now follow hashtags (and no doubt brands will have some kind of cash-bidding for these in future...). Hashtags enable people to discover accounts they may be interested in or be part of a community (such as all the people attending an event/conference, or people experiencing a similar moment in life i.e. #firsttimemom).

Why do you need them?

Even if you have crazy amounts of followers, there's still PLENTY of people who don't follow you (and even your most loyal followers will, on average, only see 30% of what you post) so hashtags act to help people find you. Hashtags also work chronologically, unlike posts, so if you're aiming to have people see your posts or chat at a certain time (i.e. new mums who are breastfeeding at 2am and you sell breastfeeding accessories) you may wish to post at 2am. While your post may not get seen until later in the day or week, it will get shown straightaway under the hashtags you use (i.e., #breastfeedingmama). You can also find entire communities via hashtags such as #wahm (work-at-home-mums) which you can't access any other way.

What sort of hashtags should I use?

While this will really depend on your industry, you should aim to mix it up with some more broad hashtags like #smallbizowners and some more niche #shopsmallmelbourne. I also like to test hashtag groups. I have three main target audiences for my biz (larger corporate clients, smaller creative biz clients and then people starting out who may buy an eBook from me, but may not be able to afford a workshop or 1:1 consultation). These people will be following and using different hashtags. For example, I may attract some via hashtags like #estymakers or #makersgonnamake and others via things like #futureofecommerce or #adtech, or even by using the hashtag connected with conferences happening around that time that I know my ideal client is attending.

Where do I find hashtags to use?

The easiest way is to look at the types of brands / people you would love to work with or sell to, and see which hashtags they're using. You can also look at the hashtags used by influencers in your space. Once you click on these hashtags you'll also be shown a bunch of similar hashtags by Instagram (these appear in blue at the top of the screen). You can also go into your competitor's profiles and see which hashtags they're using and following (click on the 'following' section of their bio and then click 'hashtags' at the top (the default setting is "people")). Tools like Hashtagify and RiteTag can help, but I find just pure experimentation is the best way to learn.

Where do I put hashtags?

While you can add a few into your posts, the best place is the first comment. You can have a max of 30 hashtags per post and I believe you should try to use up that number for most posts. That's NOT 30 hashtags in your actual post, rather use 3-5 in the post and then add the rest in the first comment. This "hides" the hashtags from your main post but still utilises their power. You should also use hashtags in IG stories. You can either add these in like you would add text in a story, OR hide them by making the font colour the same as the background. (You simply go into stories, tap on the "Aa", type in the hashtag, then jump down the colours at the bottom, tap on the little dropper icon and tap on the background colour of your picture. This will make the font that colour, so anything written in that font won't be visible.)

How can I make hashtagging easier?

Copy and paste my friend! Use either notes or Evernote on your phone or just use your smartphone's keyboard shortcut tool. I have a variety of hashtag groups I use depending on the post. All of these are stored in my keyboard shortcuts on my iPhone (settings > general > keyboard > text replacement). I then, for example, only need to type 'create1' for 25 hashtags on creative business to appear. I can then tweak these before posting.

Hashtags shouldn't be scary, nor feel sales-y. If you're aiming to get discovered by people whose lives could be improved through your product or service, then adding hashtags to social posts is essential.  I like to look at them as a challenge and experiment, in the same way tweaking content in your Google Adwords or blog copy can help your site get discovered.


Fiona Killackey