Using hashtags can help you reach new customers, build your audience and boost engagement on Instagram.

Can Hashtags Improve Reach?

Social media marketing is all about getting your posts in front of the right people and consistently building your audience.

On Instagram, a clever tactic to grow reach is using hashtags. Connecting a word or word to the # symbol without spaces creates a hashtag. Instagram hashtags become clickable search tools that allow new followers to search, find and even follow topics of interest.

This increased visibility helps businesses that are trying to gain traction on the platform and improve their reach on Instagram. Instagram users are open to engaging with brands, with 90 percent of users following a business there. They aren’t just following; two-thirds of people surveyed by Instagram acknowledge the platform enables interaction between people and brands.

Let’s look at how you can use hashtags to improve reach on Instagram.

How do hashtags improve reach on Instagram?

When used strategically, Instagram hashtags can become powerful tools in your social media marketing to help you reach new customers and grow relevant audiences on the platform. Even better, hashtags attract organic traffic to your social posts, reducing your overall ad spending.

Let’s look at how to best use Instagram hashtags to help new customers find you. Hashtags allow users to:

  • Search for relevant topics and products in real-time when they want new information or ideas to see what turns up for posts and accounts related to that topic.
  • Find and engage with posts with content about the topics, products or services they are interested in so they can look for new information and find new accounts to follow.
  • Follow a particular hashtag, so any new content posted with that hashtag appears in their feed going forward, whether they follow the original account holder or not.

With some planning, you can use hashtags that help attract relevant users to your posts simply by making the posts more visible to these people based on their interests. These users are more likely to enjoy your content and become customers than the average Instagram user.

Build your Instagram hashtag strategy

It’s time to get creative and brainstorm groupings of hashtags you can pull from when posting. Consider what you know about your customers and apply those insights to how you use hashtags on the platform.

How to brainstorm a list of Instagram hashtags

Where are your customers located? What are they looking for? What problem do you solve for them? Answering these questions is a great jumping-off point when building your hashtag strategy for Instagram.

  • Make a list of words and phrases that describe who you serve and what you sell to get started. These might include your industry, products and services.
  • Consider related topics and ideas your customers are likely interested in to help cast a wider net of users. People may not always be consciously shopping for products or services on Instagram, but they certainly absorb information and take note of brands that post exciting and memorable content.
  • Try using the search function in the Instagram app to build from your starting list. Enter one of the words in the search bar with the # symbol in front of it, and watch as a list of related hashtags pops up. Pull any you think might be relevant.
  • Check out leading brands in your market and review their hashtag use. Take note of anything they’re doing differently, especially on posts with high engagement.

Types of Instagram hashtags

Imagine you own a company in Western Canada that sells camping equipment. You’ve invested time in creating compelling social media content and want to be sure as many people see it as possible. You can follow these steps to come up with the best hashtags to accomplish that goal.

1.      Product or product category

List the first words that come to mind when brainstorming. These may include tents, trailers, fishing gear, canoes, backpacks and hikers. Hashtags could include #camping, #campinggear, #tentlife, #tenting and #hiking. These can be a good jumping-off point for more creative hashtags.

2.      Related topics and interests

Keep in mind that Instagram isn’t a search engine. Users may not search for hashtags for individual products. Think of words and phrases people use when talking about your product or category. You could include #campinglife and #campingadventures, and then add #lakelife, #cabinweekend, #backcountry, #offroading, #tentingwithkids or #fishingtrip.

3.      The regional area you serve

People who camp tend to connect with places they explore, whether those are new adventures or familiar spots close to home. Where do your ideal customers live? Where do they use your products? You may gain traction with hashtags such as #ExploreBC, #ExploreBCparks, #BCcamping, #BeautifulBC, #ExploreBCtrails, #Bctourism or #ExploreCanada.

4.      Seasonal hashtags

You’ll see brands and individuals using hashtags that denote the time of year or specific time-sensitive topics. These should be used carefully and only during relevant timeframes but can be a great driver of additional attention to your posts. These could include terms like #summertime, #fallcamping, #longweekendvibes or a specific holiday.

5.      Engaging ideas that capture the imagination

You can engage people who follow hashtags that describe a certain idea or emotion. Would you consider a hashtag like #getoutside, #adventuretime, #liveoutdoors, #explorelocal, #happycamper, #ecofriendly or #keepitwild? People who follow these might not be searching for a product today but could be a relevant audience that will be buying camping gear for years to come.

6.      Branded hashtags

You can even create hashtags to help loyal customers follow your content and stay updated with new releases or promotions. You can even encourage users to adopt these hashtags on their content when running contests. A branded hashtag could be a tagline you create (search it first to see if it’s in use) or your company name combined with a broad area of interest.

These concepts apply to almost any business, whether it’s a floral shop, a real estate office, or a garden centre. It all comes down to knowing who you’re trying to reach with your social media marketing and thinking about what they want and need. If you’ve created buyer personas for your business, they’ll come in handy here.

Use hashtags mindfully

Research can help you stay on top of trends, tips and warnings for using hashtags on Instagram as best practices keep evolving.

Don’t go overboard

Remember that you don’t need to use every hashtag you’ve thought up on every post. In fact, too many can hurt your reach. You don’t want your posts to appear spammy. Using one or two from each group that most closely suits the content you’re posting can be a great way to add impact.

Keep testing

Don’t forget to test your ideas! As with any other type of advertising, there are no guarantees or magic formulas. Be prepared to try different ideas and split test similar ads to see which is most effective.

For individuals, Instagram hashtags can be fun additions to social posts. For businesses, they are powerful audience-building tools that can grow your visibility and boost engagement with your posts.

Looking for help with your social marketing campaigns? Book a free consultation with one of our experts to ensure you’re on track.