Hashtags have changed a lot but they are still an effective way of growing your audience and engagement. Those changes have made hashtags a little more complicated to use so grab a coffee and let’s get through this.
First up I’m not going to fill this article with useless stuff like what is a hashtag and why are they important. You should know already!
Do Your Research
I’m going to run through the steps we use to do hashtag research. It’s not difficult but it does take time and like with most things on the internet (see Can you stop doing SEO?) you must constantly be doing this and updating your findings.
Hashtags must be specific to the photo or video that you are posting. Instagram knows what your content is about. They use AI to determine what your photo or video is.
So, open your next post and jot down the first few hashtags that come to mind. Chances are you’re thinking of the most popular and highly competitive hashtags. So, let’s dig a bit deeper.
For those of you that live on your phones, now’s the time to pull out your laptop. Open Instagram and login (yes you can do that) and search your first hashtag.
You’ll see the total number of posts that hashtag has. Right now, you’re thinking yes, I know this. You pick a couple with a substantial number of posts, some with a medium number of posts and some with a small number of posts.
Well, your right but we are going to dig a bit deeper cause the total number of posts while important, is not as important as engagement velocity.
The first nine posts on your screen are what’s known as the top 9 and they are above the fold. Meaning when a user gets onto that hashtag he or she doesn’t need to scroll. They see the top 9 posts straight away. This is one of the other reasons your hashtags need to specific to your photo or video.
The reason we are on the laptop and not the Instagram app is because the web version still shows how many likes a post has which makes this part a little easier.
We want to discover the average engagement velocity of the top nine posts. To do that we need to do a bit of maths.
Add up all the likes the top nine received and divide the total by nine. That’s your average. We want to do the same with comments. You now have the engagement velocity of the top nine for one hashtag.
Open Excel (or Google Sheets but who uses that) and write down the hashtag the total amount of posts and the two engagement velocity numbers.
You’ll also notice on that hashtag search result (and this shows up on the app as well), Instagram gives us a list of related hashtags. Add them to your research list. You’ll want to find a range of total post figures from low to high.
You now want to work your way through the list. I told you it will take a bit of time.
The Staircase Method
So, what do you do with all this data? We are looking to build a set of four hashtag groups. Based on the engagement velocity and your own engagement stats. By looking at your own posts you can determine if your engagement per post is lower or higher than the engagement velocity you discovered for each hashtag.
Easy – These are your bread and butter, if your engagement figures are better than the engagement velocity on the TOP 9 for this post. This means the chances of you getting ranked on these hashtags is extremely high.
Medium – These figures are the same or slightly higher than your own engagement numbers. The thought process is if you pick up extra engagement through the first step on the staircase (Easy) you’ll have a bit of momentum to push you up to the next step.
Hard – Now we are moving into those first set of hashtags you produced right at the beginning. These have high total post numbers and much larger engagement velocity figures but if you’ve managed to climb step 1 (Easy) and step 2 (Medium) you have a bit of momentum behind you, so this is suddenly achievable.
The Hail Mary – These are the hashtags with obscene figures. Their totals posts are ridiculous, and their engagement velocity is through the roof, but Instagram is a strange beast, and your post might blow up so you may as well roll the dice and see what happens.
It’s not a quick process, and you still need to make sure your content is strong. So be patient and just get stuck into it. Let us know how you go.