Are you looking to grow your audience on Instagram? Let me share with you the single most effective way to grow your audience… hashtags.
The best part? It’s free. All it takes is a little bit of time to research.
Here’s the strategy.
Avoid Using High Volume Hashtags
This is the most common mistake people make with their hashtags.
They upload their picture, write their post caption and then start typing hashtags based on their content clicking on the autocomplete hashtags that Instagram recommends.
Let’s use an example.
I have a soccer video featuring Lionel Messi that I’m about to post on Instagram. Once I’ve written my post copy, I start typing my three hashtags.
Since it’s about soccer, I type “football”, “soccer” and “messi”.
As you can see from the video, these hashtags are all recommended by Instagram.
The problem with these hashtags is they all have incredibly high volume of posts. (#football has 58.9m, #soccer 33.6m and #messi has 12.2m.)
If I went ahead and posted using these hashtags, I’d have very little chance of being discovered.
This is because people searching for content on Instagram can only discover us by either searching Top posts or Recent posts and I’m unlikely to show up on either of them.
When you pick high volume hashtags, your post will be visible in the Recent tab for a matter of seconds until newer content that uses that hashtag pushes it lower.
In other words, you have very little chance of being discovered.
This leaves the Top posts as your only other way of being seen.
But, when you’re competing with millions of posts on a popular hashtag, it’s very tough to be at the top when you have a small following and your posts receive low levels of engagement.
Choose Relevant Hashtags with Smaller Volume
To grow your Instagram audience, you want to get into the Top posts tab for as many hashtags as possible.
The trick is to find relevant hashtags that have a much smaller volume of content making it easier for you to take top position.
Let’s go back to our soccer example.
Instead of using #football which had almost 60 million posts, I could use #football⚽ (including the emoji) which has a much smaller volume of content with only 194k posts.
I could also include the hashtag #footballlove which has 135k posts.
Both of these hashtags give me a much better chance of appearing in the Top posts tab and thereby massively improve my chances of being discovered.
How do you decide which hashtags to use?
The best part of this strategy is that you don’t need any special apps. Everything you need is available inside the Instagram app.
Open Instagram, click on tags and start searching.
If I search #football, Instagram will recommend related hashtags with decreasing popularity.
You can see below, it’s giving me #soccer, #footballtime and others. Tapping any of these will then reveal additional suggestions and then so on.
So start with the high volume tags and spend time going all the way down the rabbit hole until you end up with a pretty comprehensive list of low volume hashtags suitable for your niche.
I keep a google sheet open and record the hashtag in one column with the volume in the next column.
What is a Suitable Volume to Target?
This will depend on a number of factors including how many followers you have, what engagement you typically receive for your posts and the size of your market.
For anyone just starting out, try to pick hashtags with volume in the tens of thousands.
Does It Work?
I have updated hashtags for lots of clients and have seen results every single time. This works.
You can easily check if it’s working (aside from seeing increases in your follower count). It’s available inside the Instagram app under the post’s “View Insights”.
Once you tap “View Insights”, swipe up to reveal all the statistics for that post and check the percentage of accounts you reached that weren’t following you.
This post was very successful reaching 97% of account who weren’t following us. Clearly my hashtags helped me get discovered!
Set a goal to reach over 50% for every post.
An effective hashtag strategy is the most effective method for growing your Instagram following for free.
Luckily, fixing your hashtag game is easy. All it takes is a bit of time researching relevant low volume hashtags in your niche and then including them on your posts.
I can assure you, if you’re trying to grow an audience on Instagram, this is the most fruitful way to spend your time.
Do it right, and you’ll see your followers grow immediately.