With Instagram’s latest update, users can now follow hashtags, along with fellow users and brands they love.
What does this mean for social marketers?
- It’s easier to discover content and engage with trending topics. Instagram is setting itself up to be a major player in this “real time” ecosystem, alongside constant developments in its Instagram Live and Instagram Stories features
It’s a new way for Instagram users to discover your brand. Whereas you previously might not have carefully considered which hashtags you use on Instagram (if any), discovery-oriented hashtags are now necessary and should be wielded with more thoughtfulness.
It’s perfect for targeting niche communities—and will increase usership. This feature makes it easy for Instagram users to delve deeper into the specific worlds they find appealing. Chances are, multiple niche communities are potential buyers for your brand.This means that you’ll benefit from a segmented hashtag strategy. More on that later.
It’ll make a beautiful ad product someday. While Instagram isn’t using this feature for ads now, hashtag following could give the app more powerful ad targeting data.
- There will be spam. And Instagram is battling this with manual and automatic spam targeting practices.
It’s always been important to have an Instagram strategy, and within that strategy, a hashtag approach. But this development, and many of Instagram's other recent feature roll-outs, requires a shift from approach to dedicated strategy. Here are some guidelines as you put yours together.
1. Know Which Topics Are Trending with Your Target Audience
First, know which topics and hashtags are trending with your target audience, on Instagram and across other social networks and forums. This is where a listening solution comes in.
Social media listening enables you to identify key topics of conversation that are of highest interest to your audience, providing insight into the minds of the two types of people that matter most: (1) your customers and (2) the people you want to become your customers.
There is a ton of noise on social media. Millions of conversations are happening simultaneously, and it’s important for your brand to identify which conversations are most relevant to your brand.
When you begin your listening quest, listen to the conversations happening on a broader scale. Listen to the conversations regarding your industry first, then dive deeper into those brand- or product-specific conversations.
For example, Gymboree can identify trending conversations about children’s clothing or clothing retail in general, before finding trends in the conversations relevant or including their brand in any of their products and offerings. This then allows Gymboree to leverage the most popular and effective hashtags.
2. Understand the Difference Between Hashtag Types
The key to an Instagram hashtag strategy is, you guessed it, using hashtags on Instagram strategically! This means you need to know why you’re using the hashtag(s) you’re using.
To acquire a new audience. These posts and the hashtags which accompany them are specific, relevant to your brand, and composed with an awareness/discovery focus.
To engage a current audience. These posts and the hashtags which accompany them are targeted towards your current Instagram followers and customers—for instance, asking for feedback or customer stories in return for a chance to win a prize. This is a great category in which to use your owned hashtag.
To drive purchases directly. These posts and the hashtags which accompany them are targeted towards getting Instagram users to click through and buy your product. Especially appropriate when you are having a limited-time sale or offer.
Don’t try to do too many things at once (and use too many hashtags at once). This compromises your brand and dilutes the effect of your Instagram content. Don’t get lost in a deluge of hashtags.
3. Segment Your Hashtag Strategies
One of the most useful attributes of the new Instagram hashtag follow feature is the ability to target smaller niche communities.
For instance, let’s say that your brand sells cookware. There are many different groups of people that buy cookware: moms, young professionals, young professional moms, bakers, vegetarians, meat lovers…and they all are interested in different topics related to your brand, which means different hashtags.
Of course, there will be overlap, but I suggest creating different hashtag strategies for each of these communities/personas so that your content and not your competitor's is what each persona sees when they click through on a relevant hashtag.
4. Do Some Historical Research
This tip goes with #1 above. By pulling historical social data and looking at which social content has performed best for you—and which hashtags you were using/trends you were leveraging within that content—you can put together an informed, foundational content calendar based around events, interests, and seasonal topics that land well with your audience. You can then add to this calendar over time, as new relevant hashtags arise.
5. Leverage Influencers Accordingly
Who are the influencers within Instagram's niche communities? You don’t have to spend endless hours scouring Instagram and clicking through on hashtags to find out. Instead, you can use tools like Simply Measured Listening to track social media conversations and find the influencers who are already talking about your brand and/or relevant hashtags across multiple platforms.
6. Recency and Quality
Instagram algorithmically selects posts to reveal within a hashtag based on recency and quality. Users can also downvote posts with a drop-down menu in the top right corner. Long story short, the spam approach won’t work. Using a ton of hashtags with no rhyme or reason won’t give you the results you want.
Instead, focus your strategy around consistent posting with a high likelihood of relevance to the hashtag followers you are targeting.
Overwhelmed? Don’t know where to begin? Visit us over at Simply Measured for help!