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Research 10-15 hashtags
This response will be awarded full points automatically, but it can be reviewed and adjusted after submission.
First, what are hashtags?
Hashtags are commonly thought of as words you would use to describe your photo. So if you have a photo of a necklace, then you’d use #necklace #beads #handmade. This is a true statement, right? But it’s not a strategic use of hashtags.
Hashtags also place your photos in hashtag feeds. So if you used #necklace, your photo will show up in a list of other photos that have also used the hashtag #necklace. This is how I primarily want you to start thinking about hashtags. Not so much as a way to describe your photo but as a way of getting your photos to appear in feeds where your ideal customers are hanging out. Let me explain more.
The purpose of hashtags is to get your photos in front of your ideal customers who happen to be browsing through specific hashtag feeds.
There are right and wrong hashtags for your business, and the right ones can get you more views, likes and comments, follows to your Instagram account, clicks to your site and ultimately, more sales.
A big part of our Instagram strategy is hinged on your choice of hashtags, so this lesson is all about helping you find which hashtags are suitable for your business and that attract your ideal customers to you.
Here’s what the process of Instagram hashtag research looks like.
First, you’re just going to start with something. You’re going to make your best educated guess that you can now and just start using them.
Then, with trial and error, you’re going to see how certain hashtags work for you. Some will work better for you than others. Some will attract other shop owners and makers and maybe those people aren’t your ideal customers. Some hashtags can also attract spammy and unsavory accounts to follow you. But then some hashtags will bring you real people who look like they would be real customers. So you need to track your metrics so you can, with certainty, tell which hashtags are good for you or not. To do this, you would start with a list of hashtags. Then write down how many followers you have, how much engagement you get, which is how many likes and comments you get for each post and you can just take the average, you also want to write down how many clicks to your website you got. To track this, I recommend using something like bit.ly. It’s a free service where you take your website URL and give it to bit.ly and it’ll give you a shortened URL. Bit.ly will also track how many times your bit.ly link was clicked on. And you also want to document your follower quality. Out of say the new 10 followers you got in the last 2 days, how many of them looked like your ideal customer?
Then you’re going to change out your hashtags if they’re not working and replace it with a new list of hashtags. And then repeat the process of documenting your metrics. You can start a spreadsheet to keep things more organized.
This hashtag research is temporary. Once you find a list of hashtags that get you tons of ideal customers following you, then you can continue using those same hashtags. This process though, can take you anywhere from a few days to a few months. For some niches, it’s easier to find your hashtags than others.
But if after a while you’re feeling like you’ve tried every relevant hashtag that’s out there and nothing seems to be working, then the good news is, hashtags are not the only strategy for growth and sales. It’s a fundamental strategy that works for most of us, but it’s not the only strategy.
The rest of this lesson will be on how to find those hashtags and where to start. In the next lesson, I talk more about other Instagram growth strategies so I will cover alternatives to hashtags.
Now, let’s get into the actual process of finding these hashtags for your business. A question I get a lot is how do I know a hashtag will attract my ideal customers or not? The overarching concept of hashtags here is that people hang out in feeds of hashtags that they use or know of. People won’t browse a hashtag feed that they don’t know or think about, right?
If I was the type of person who all I do is post pictures of my food I’ve cooked on Instagram, then I’d use a hashtag like #homecooking. I’m more likely to browse other posts using #homecooking and meet new people who also post pictures of their food on Instagram. Say for example I was in the market to buy new chopping boards for my kitchen. I’m not going to search Instagram for #choppingboards because I don’t use Instagram to shop. That’s the nature of social media, you’re not really there with the intention to be sold to or to shop for stuff. No one likes to see ads all the time. But we buy things through social media all the time because we saw a post or a video of someone using their new chopping board set and they talked about how amazing it was. Sales through social media is mostly very indirect and roundabout.
So if I were a shop selling handmade wooden chopping boards, I wouldn’t use #choppingboards because my customers are not using that hashtag. They’re probably not even thinking about searching it in Instagram. But I’d use #homecooking because that will get my chopping boards in front of people who like who like to cook and have a need for chopping boards.
There are certain types of hashtags you want to avoid. These are the four types of hashtags I see other shops use over and over again but these are the same people who aren’t using Instagram effectively. So if you want Instagram to work hard for you, pay close attention to this part.
First, you want to avoid handmade focused hashtags unless you make a product that’s meant to be sold to other crafters and small business owners. Examples of handmade type hashtags are #handmade, #etsy and #etsyshop. These are hashtags that other crafters and makers are going to be using. If you used these hashtags, you would be kind of like joining the handmade community on Instagram. You would be surrounded by other people who make their own products and have dreams of selling them. These are the same people who are less likely to buy from you because they would just make things themselves. Generally speaking, the type of people you would be selling to are people who have no time to make a product like yours or who have no experience or training making it. That is not to say that other artists will never buy your products, but I want you to focus your marketing on the larger group of customers rather than a very small subset of your customers who might be artists.
So stay away from #handmade, #etsy and other hashtags like it. Remember, hashtags can be used to describe your photo, but in this course, we’re not going to do that because it’s not effective for bringing you sales.
Next, you want to avoid feature centric hashtags. What I mean by features are words that physically describe your photo. Say you make leather bags, you might be inclined to use #leather. And I’m saying to not do that. If you make jewelry, don’t use #jewelry. Don’t use hashtags that describe the color, like #blue or #red.
These are also short tail hashtags that have too much competition and attract too varied of a group of people. In many ways, hashtags are like search engine keywords, right? If you recall in Month 7 where we covered SEO, I talked about short tail and long tail keywords. The big reason why short tail hashtags won’t work for you is it will put your products in front of too many different kinds of people. Which, if you’ve learned anything from this course, you know that that’s not necessarily effective. You want to get your products in front of the right kind of people who will buy your stuff. If I had the choice to show my products to 100,000 random people versus 1,000 ideal customers, I would rather show my products to those ideal customers, even though there are fewer of them. That’s because I’m much more likely to make sales through ideal customers. Some hashtag examples of short tail hashtags are #rainbow, #family, #love, #fun. Think about who would use a hashtag like #family or #love. Basically every healthy human being under the sun, right? But you’ll get people from all walks of life and many will not care or appreciate what we make. So avoid those.
You also want to avoid other hashtags that are too general and that just attract a variety of people that’s hard to distinguish. For example #livecolorfully, #thatsdarling and #abmlifeiscolorful. These are hashtags that were started by bloggers and have gotten so popular and used by everyone that it’s just become a huge mishmash of types of people. These hashtags can apply to many different markets. But when you look closely and search for either of these hashtags, the people using these are other shop owners or bloggers. So it’s not helpful to use that unless maybe you made a product that helped make bloggers’ lives easier or something.
On that note, you might wonder, well if I want to get the attention of bloggers, I want to use these hastags so maybe they can feature you on their blog, right? I want to say yes, except I’ve very rarely seen bloggers find products they feature this way and anyway, it’s just way too competitive in these hashtags that it’s very unlikely many people will see your post. The most effective way for getting features is still through pitching directly to them via email, which we’ll cover in next month’s module.
So then what are good hashtags? We’ve talked about the bad hashtags. Now the good ones are hashtags that have
minimal or no spammy posts in its hashtag feed. I’ll share with you three specific methods for finding hashtags and each time, you want to verify if the hashtag is good or not by browsing through its hashtag feed. If it’s filled with spammy posts, you want to avoid using it.
Just like choosing keywords for SEO, you want hashtags that are a decent size but that’s not too competitive. How do you find the size of a hashtag? That’s how many posts that have that hashtag. When you search a hashtag on Instagram, it’ll show you how many posts use that hashtag. A hashtag that’s not too competitive is around the several hundreds of thousands range and not more than 1 million. Once you get to over a million posts, you start to enter highly competitive territory. Competition matters because when you publish a post on Instagram with a hashtag, your post will appear in that hashtag feed at the very top as the most recent post, so you’ve got prime real estate for a period of time. If there’s a lot of competition, that means you’ve got other people posting photos and it will push your photo down the list where eventually very few people will see it. With certain hashtags that are extremely competitive, you’d be lucky if you can hold your spot in the feed for one second before getting pushed down by someone else’s post.
On the other side of the coin, you also don’t want a hashtag that’s too niche and specific. For example, if you went with a really long tail hashtag, like #cookiesaremyweakness.That’s only got 1000 or so posts in it, and the there are only 8 posts in it for the whole month. Sure, your post will appear at the top of the Recent Posts list for a long time, but because it’s a hashtag that’s not widely used, very few people are browsing this feed.
A general good range is to stay above several tens of thousands of posts.
Ultimately you should try to diversify your hashtag sizes. Use a combination or larger hashtags and smaller ones.
As you’re checking out each hashtag, you want to make sure their feeds are not just filled with other products, shop owners and bloggers. If you used those hashtags, I can guarantee you you’ll only attract other shop owners and bloggers. Remember, we want to attract regular people who don’t own shops and have regular jobs. They’re more likely to buy from you. So you want a hashtag where it’s filled with photos taken by regular people. Usually this is easy to spot because business owners tend to take better photos because we have to learn how to, right? If you want to be sure, on a post then on the person’s username to go to their profile. If there is no link in bio and there’s no mention of them owning a shop or blog in their profile, then that’s what I’d call a regular person!
Now I’m going to show you three different ways to look for hashtags.
The first method is with using your Coattail list of brands on Instagram. You want to emulate successful brands that sell something similar as you or who serve the same audience and maybe they sell a different type of product. If they’re doing well, they’re doing something right.
So find them on Instagram and on their posts. What hashtags do they use? Not everyone uses hashtags, but the brands that do, check out what hashtags those are. Not all of them will be good hashtags. Again, just remember our list of hashtags to avoid. Anything else that looks promising, save them on a list so you can further do some more research on them later. With this method, it’s important that your Coattail brands are already doing well. Do they have tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of followers? Do they get thousands of likes and dozens or hundreds of comments per post? Those are great indicators of success.
For the second method, you’re still going to use your Coattail list of brands on Instagram.
Then I want you to look for their paying customers. You can usually find them as featured customer photos. Businesses like to share photos of their customers wearing or using their product because it helps build credibility and social proof for their business. You can tell it’s a customer photo by reading the post’s description. It will say something like “Thank you so and so for sharing a photo of you wearing our t-shirts” or “Here is so and so sporting one of our t-shirts!”
You can also find paying customers by reading the comments. Sometimes customers will say things like, “I love my necklace, thank you so much!” which indicates they’ve bought something from the business before.
Then what you want to do is on these customers on Instagram and check out their profile. You can follow them if you want and some of them will follow you back and even become your own customers. But as it relates to hashtags, I want you to check out their posts, see what they like to post on Instagram and see what hashtags they like to use.
Through this process, you’ll find hidden treasures of hashtags that you’ll never have thought of using or even heard of before.
Hashtag research method #3 is a little bit more cumbersome, but it’s a great option if you cannot find successful Coattail Brands on Instagram.
First, you’ll start with a general list of hashtags. These can be short tail hashtags and they can be general words that either describe your niche or customer like #mommy or #parenting. And they can also be words that describe what you think your customer is posting on Instagram. You may not know what exactly she’s using Instagram for, but you can take a wild guess. If she’s a mom, she probably loves taking photos of her kids. People generally like taking photos of things that mean something to them or that look cool or interesting or funny. So in the case of the mom, you could use hashtags like #kids #lovemykids #mybabies. I’m basically imagining myself posting a picture of my kids on Instagram and asking myself, what kind of hashtags would I use as a regular person with no business. Remember, regular people are not educated on business matters and the strategy behind what we do.
Once you have a list of 5-10 hashtags, that’s a good starting point. You want to take one hashtag, say #mommy and type that into Instagram’s search bar. Before you press enter, you want to see what hashatgs Instagram auto suggests for you. A list will appear showing you similar hashtags that start with #mommy. If you see any that look promising, add it to your list. Remember, you still need to verify if they are good hashtags, as we talked about a few slides back.
If you find a good hashtag, check out other hashtags used in posts that appear in the Top Posts area. The Top Posts are the top 9 posts that have gotten a lot of engagement in a short period of time for that specific hashtag. These posts stay in this top posts area for a while so it gets you a lot of free exposure. People who get their posts in Top Posts are doing something right. So on any photo that isn’t a spammy photo and read the description to see if there are any hashtags you can use. Check the first comment too in case the hashtags were added in as the first comment.
So, I’ll leave you with some extra hashtag advice based on common mistakes I see other makers make.
Don’t use a hashtag just because. Be very strategic and deliberate about your use of hashtags. Even just one hashtag is all it takes to attract spammy followers to you and that can be frustrating.
Also know that finding good hashtags takes time. Don’t fall for the trap of buying done for you hashtags where someone gives you a list of premade hashtags. What works for my business won’t work for yours and vice versa because our ideal customers are different. So your list of hashtags will truly be unique to you and your business.
Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags for each post. You’re welcome to use all 30 if you want, but it’ll take a long time for you to find that many good hashtags. I use only about 15 or so hashtags for my Tiny Hands account. A lot of people also wonder if it looks bad if you used so many hashtags and whether or not you should include them at the end of your post description or if you should add them as a comment on your post. The way the Instagram feed is set up is in such a way that your post description will be truncated, meaning that if you enter your hashtags at the end of your post, no one will see it until they on your photo to see more. However, if you include your hashtags as the first comment, and if there aren’t a lot of comments, everyone can see your hashtags. And I personally don’t get too caught up with where I put my hashtags. You’re not going to make anyone upset because they can see your hashtags and you’re not going to lose sales because of this. It’s too small of an issue to spend too much resources worrying about, okay?
So let’s do a recap on what we learned today.
First, I want you to reconfigure the way you think of hashtags. Don’t use them to describe your photos. Use them to place your photos in hashtag feeds where your ideal customers are hanging out.
We talked about the four types of hashtags to avoid. Handmade hashtags, feature hashtags, short tail and general hashtags.
We also talked about what makes a good hashtag.
For your homework, I want you to start your hashtag research using any or all of the three methods we talked about today. If you can find 10-15 good hashtags, you’re set and you can use them in your Instagram posts.
After this, I've included a few bonus videos that are walkthroughs for each of these methods. In the next lesson, I’ll show you some other ways to use your hashtags to help your business grow.j