Trying to stand out on an app with over 1 billion monthly users is no easy task – but Instagram hashtags make it easier!

That’s because hashtags are great at increasing the discoverability of the content you share. In fact, according to our research, influencers who post with 10+ hashtags get an average engagement rate of 6%.

So it really is worth creating a hashtag strategy for your brand if you want to grow your account in 2020 and beyond.

Why You Need a Strong Instagram Hashtag Strategy in 2020

We’ve talked about the importance of having a strong hashtag strategy before, but it’s always good to refresh your strategy every once in a while!

Using relevant, targeted hashtags on your posts and stories is still one of the best ways to get discovered by new audiences on Instagram. And this can translate into more engagement, more followers, and more customers for your business.

To draw a comparison, the effect that Instagram hashtags have on boosting discoverability is a lot like how keywords can improve your SEO (search engine optimization).

If you’re trying to rank for a keyword on Google (like “best acai bowls” or “Toronto salsa class”), you need to create content that’s optimized for that keyword on your blog or website. How else are people going to find you?

The same is true for Instagram hashtags.

If you have a public Instagram account and add a hashtag to a post, that post will be visible on the corresponding hashtag’s results page.

And since hashtags are used with the intent to discover new content, using the “right” hashtags can put you in front of your target audience, even if they haven’t connected with you before.

But hashtags have plenty of uses beyond improving your discoverability. You can use them for community-building, sourcing user-generated content (UGC), running campaigns, researching your audience, and more.

That’s why it’s so important to have a clear and well-crafted hashtag strategy – without one, you could be missing out on opportunities to optimize your account and drive more engagement and followers.

On Later’s Instagram account, we use hyper-relevant hashtags in all of our post captions and first comments:

As well as in some of our stories:

We also include a branded hashtags in our Instagram bio:

What you don’t see is all the behind-the-scenes work to organize and sort our hashtags, find new relevant hashtags, and track how they’re performing. But that’s one of the most important parts of nailing your strategy!

Remember: Your Instagram hashtag strategy doesn’t have to be overly complex. What’s most important is that you test and track your efforts so you can see what’s working and what isn’t.

Instagram Hashtag Trends in 2020

Instagram has gone through a lot of changes in the past few years, including new features, tools, and a whole new video platform.

But one thing that stayed the same – the importance of hashtags on Instagram.

We recently teamed up with the experts at Fohr to learn more about how hashtags are being used and what the biggest trends are for 2020.

Our biggest insight? Instagram hashtags aren’t going anywhere in 2020 – in fact, we expect to see more of them.

We’ve tracked the numbers over the last 4 years, and the average number of hashtags in an influencer’s post has almost quadrupled!

We also learned that Instagram posts that include hashtags get more engagement.

After analyzing influencer posts that contain hashtags, the data shows using more hashtags actually results in a higher engagement rate.

The sweet spot? 10+ hashtags per post!

This is especially true for accounts with less than 25K followers.

So if you’re a new brand or a micro-influencer looking for new ways to grow your following, having a strong Instagram hashtag strategy could be a fast-pass to a boosted follower count.

Ready to learn more about Instagram influencer marketing and how it’s shaping up in 2020? Download our free State of Influencer Marketing Report to learn more from the experts at Fohr and Later!

All of this is to say that the importance of hashtags hasn’t waned in recent years – if anything, they’ve become more important.

And part of this stems from Instagram’s continued investment in hashtag features, including new capabilities and even better tracking.

For example, just last year, Instagram added the ability to analyze how effective your hashtags are in getting more views (or impressions) on your posts – all available from your Instagram Insights.

While in 2018, Instagram rolled out the ability to “follow” hashtags and add clickable hashtags to your Instagram bio.

We expect this trend to continue in 2020 with Instagram releasing more hashtag features to improve how and where we use hashtags in our posts and stories. Watch this space!

4 Tips to Optimize Your Instagram Hashtag Strategy in 2020

Instagram hashtags can be a powerful tool for discovery when used properly — but they can also look spammy and hurt your account when used incorrectly.

Here are some tips to get more from your Instagram hashtags in 2020:

Tip #1: Give More Thought to What Hashtags You Use

We’ve said it a hundred times: instead of using the most popular hashtags on Instagram, it’s best to find and use hashtags that are smaller, more niche, and have an engaged audience that’s relevant to your industry.

But how do you actually do this?

The best way is to look and see what Instagram hashtags your audience, competitors, and industry leaders are already using.

We’ve noticed that the more niche the topic, the more conversations users are having around it, so it pays off to really hone-in on a topic or theme. And you’d be surprised by how niche hashtags can get!

If you need some help finding niche and industry-specific hashtags then you may want to check out Later’s Hashtag Suggestions feature.

Hashtag Suggestions works by automatically finding relevant hashtags for your posts based on other hashtags that you use.

Once you’ve created a list of good hashtags, you can use Later’s Saved Captions feature, you can create multiple hashtag lists based on your frequently used hashtag categories.

For example, if you’re a business that targets small business owners in the fashion industry, you may have multiple hashtags that you use on different topics.

Some may be specifically for small businesses, while others might be about fashion and e-commerce. The key is to collect and categorize them so that when they are used in a post, you can easily tell which pulls in the most engagement on your post.

Tip #2: Keep Your Hashtags Organized

As we mentioned above, using 10+ hashtags in your posts and stories is a good sweet spot and could improve your engagement rate.

But does that mean you always have to use that many hashtags?

No, not at all! We’ve seen all sorts of strategies and ideas on how many hashtags you should be using, but at the end of the day, it’s really up to you. If you can find 30 super-relevant hashtags to add to each post, then you should definitely go for it.

Another consideration is how your hashtags look next to your caption.

While adding hashtags to your posts is one of the best ways to boost your engagement and get your posts in front of your target audience, too many hashtags in your captions can look untidy (or worse, spammy!).

For this, we have two suggestions:

The first is to simply add line breaks before your hashtags – something you can easily do with the Later app!

All you have to do is press the return key while writing your caption and you’ll have lovely, spaced out captions for your Instagram posts.

A second option is to add your hashtags to the first comment of your Instagram post.

Posting your hashtags in the first comment is a great way to make your caption the star of the show, without compromising any of the engagement you can get with hashtags.

And it’s oh-so-easy with Later’s new First Comment feature!

  1. Open up the post scheduler in Later. You can do this from anywhere — Later on desktop, iOS, or Android.

  2. You’ll see a text box called “First Comment.” Enter your hashtags or any text you’d rather have in the first comment.

  3. Schedule your post as usual (including adding your Linkin.bio link!) and the first comment is scheduled along with it.

  4. You’re done!

You can now craft, schedule and automatically post the first comment on your Instagram posts — available on all Later paid plans!

But what about your Instagram Stories?

As we’ve already mentioned, adding hashtags to your story is a great way to give your content an added chance to be discovered by new audiences. When people search for a hashtag on Instagram, if it’s popular enough, they’ll be able to view active, real-time stories on that hashtag’s page – including your own.

Unfortunately, hashtags can also ruin the aesthetic of an Instagram story and look overwhelming if you’re posting a ton on each story.

Luckily, there are tricks to get around it!

If you want to hide hashtags in your Instagram Stories, type out your hashtags, and then pinch them to make them smaller.

Now place a GIF or image sticker over the hashtag text so it’s perfectly hidden!

Or you can select the color tool from the text option and choose a color that perfectly matches your Instagram story background (this works a lot better if the background is a solid color). With just two taps, your hashtag content will magically blend into the background but still be searchable!

Keep in mind that if you make the hashtags too small, Instagram won’t register them! So the best way is to camouflage them with the background or hide them behind another design element.

Tip #3: Use Branded Hashtags to Build an Instagram Community

Branded Instagram hashtags are a great way to help spread the word about your business, find content created about you by your followers, create a community around your business, and attract new followers.

In fact, according to a study by Simply Measured, 70% of the most-used hashtags on Instagram are branded hashtags created by businesses.

Some brands like Airbnb use branded hashtags to curate their whole feed by reposting and sharing their fans’ photos, videos, and stories with a strong strategy in hand.

Using the hashtag #airbnbphotos, the Airbnb social team is able to find and share images of their stays to their Instagram feed. The result is a curated Instagram feed made up entirely of user-generated content (UGC).

So if you’re looking to grow your business (especially within younger demographics) UGC can seriously help skyrocket your sales and build true brand loyalty.

In fact, UGC is so important when it comes to successfully marketing your business online, that Later has created some great tools and features to help you find, organize, and schedule user-generated content in minutes!

Tip #4: Pay Close Attention to Your Hashtag Analytics

If you want to increase your Instagram engagement, understanding which hashtags are driving more people to your posts is really important.

One option for this is to check your Instagram Insights for each post by tapping the blue bar underneath your post.

From there, you can see how many impressions you gained from hashtags under the Discovery section. The stronger your hashtag game, the more impressions you can expect!

Unfortunately, Instagram doesn’t tell you which hashtags were the most effective in getting your posts discovered — so the takeaways can be somewhat limited.

If you’re looking for more in-depth analytics around your hashtag success, you may want to check out Later’s Hashtag Analytics tool, which lets you track key insights about the hashtags you use, including a breakdown of which hashtags are driving the most likes, comments, impressions, saves, and reach on your Instagram posts.

You can use this data to see which hashtags are driving the most engagement on your posts. Once you find your top-performing hashtags, you can use them regularly to get even more engagement and traction for your business.

As you can see, hashtags aren’t going anywhere in 2020!

If you’re looking to really amp up your strategy this year, you should definitely check out all of Later’s hashtag tools and features that help you extend your reach, get more engagement on your posts, and save a ton of time while managing your profile.

Ready to get moving with your Instagram marketing strategy? Later makes it easy for you to plan, manage, and schedule your Instagram posts!


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