Instagram Growth Hacking

Targeting Your Audience Through Hashtags

Now that you have taken the time to narrow down and define your target audience you’re ready to maximize the reach of your content.  While the last step was primarily about searching through data and determining how to find your audience, this one is more about finding the best ways to direct your audience to you.


Why the hashtags?

A combination of letters and sometimes numbers preceded by the # sign, hashtags categorize content across social media and make it more discoverable (read more about hashtags in our earlier blog).  Although they may look messy and unnecessary, hashtags are actually quite the key to success if you know how to use them properly.  

Of course anybody can choose any series of hashtags with hopes of getting more likes on their posts.  In fact that is exactly what most people do, basing their choice of hashtags solely on the number of times they have been posted or how often they appear on popular posts.  This strategy will certainly send more people to your posts, but what if your use of hashtags could direct more of the “right” people to your content and move interested followers to your blog, website, or even generate a sale?


Photo by CMDR Shane


Determining the best Target Hashtags to reach your audience

It is very unlikely that you will attract the right people and make your content go viral with any posts accompanied by overly generic hashtags such as, #instalove, #like4like, or #awesome.  Finding unique, creative, and niche ways to get your message across makes all the difference in social media strategy and should be a high priority when crafting your content.

First, create a list of several different keywords and phrases that really relate to you and your industry.  Be sure to think of specific keywords that help distinguish you from the crowd as the clever combinations of these keywords, terms, or industry phrases will become some of your first Target Hashtags.

Some examples of a Target Hashtag could be:




While it is definitely important to know what sets you apart from everyone else it is also just as, if not more important to be well aware of what your audience is looking for.  You could have the best keywords in the world but if they aren’t what your audience is typing in the search bar you’ll be wasting your time and hashtag space wondering when all the “likes” are supposed to arrive.  

Once you have a few hashtags to start with, type them into Instagram search and pay attention to the related hashtags that come up in the results.  If you find one that strikes you as having potential check out it’s feed. What do the top and most recent posts look like? Are they seemingly about the same topic as yours?  What kind of quality are the images? Most often you will recognize a hashtag’s worthiness within a few seconds of looking at it’s feed. Doing this exercise might seem like diving down the rabbit hole, and that’s because it is.  However, through the process you will find several relevant hashtags, a few hidden gems, and gain some solid insight into what makes your audience move.

Do your best to come up with as many hashtags as you can.  Instagram allows you to have up to 30 hashtags in your posts or comments so the more you have the better.  Having more than 30 hashtags means you can switch up which ones you include in each post helping you extend your reach just a little bit further.

Take a little time, do a bit more research, and choose the best hashtags that represent your brand, business, and target audience’s interests.



5 steps to optimize your hashtag strategy

  1. Go with anywhere from 15 to 30 hashtags per post.  You can include up to 30 hashtags but any more than 30 will prevent you from being able to post a caption.
  2. Use 4 or 5 really popular hashtags.  These are hashtags that are related to your content but that fall in the spectrum of millions of posts with that hashtag.  A few examples we use are #onlinemarketing, #entrepreneur, and #socialmedia. All of which are very popular but still relate to the content we’re posting and work we do.  Don’t just grab at any popular hashtag for the purpose of being seen. All the hashtags you decide to use should be relevant to your business, your brand, or the theme of your content.
  3. Use 5 to 7 moderately popular hashtags.  Hashtags that have tens to hundreds of thousands of posts including them.  Again, these hashtags should relate to your content and brand but should also be getting a bit more targeted in terms of scope and context.
  4. Use 2 to 5 niche specific hashtags.  These are the top targeted keywords you’ve decided on during your research.  Hashtags that don’t have a lot of content associated with them in the explore galleries.  These are the ones your audience is looking for.
  5. Use 1 or 2 branded hashtags that are only for your branded content.  Whether it’s you, your team, or your clients / customers, these will be the hashtags that reference your brand’s content.

Although short lived, the first set of popular hashtags will capture the initial burst of engagement you need to get Instagram’s eyes on your post.  You might see activity from bots or users who just stumbled across your content but that’s ok. What we want from these hashtags is simply that first spark of engagement.

Now on to your moderately popular set of hashtags.  These hashtags will keep your content fresh in their feed for several hours or even days helping your posts stay actively engaged longer.

You’re also receiving steady engagement from your followers so your content is staying active in both your existing and new audience views which is exactly what Instagram’s algorithm looks for.  Good immediate engagement, good long term engagement, and good engagement across new and existing audiences. When Instagram sees this it determines your content is worth showing to more people and is more likely to show your posts not only on the “Explore” page but also in top posts related to your niche market.

Posts that show up in the top posts section of hashtag hubs can stay there for days and weeks!  Giving ample opportunity for your content to show up in front of all the right people looking for exactly what you’re offering.


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