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How and Why You Should Do Hashtag Research

Hashtag research is the process of searching for the right hashtags for you. Why should you do this? Because you want your content to be seen by a certain type of person, and using hashtags that they wouldn’t be using won’t help your visibility. How do you know if a hashtag is right for you? Short answer: it depends. Long answer: it aligns with your content, your ideal customer, your current following size, and your brand goals. Let's break down these factors you should be taking into consideration when deciding what hashtags to use, shall we?

Content alignment: If your photo is about cupcakes, you wouldn’t use #steak under it right? Right. It’s because #steak is obviously not the same as #cupcakes. It’s not relevant to the content, and therefore you won’t be reaching people who are looking for delicious desserts. When conducting hashtag research in this scenario, you’d be looking for hashtags that are relevant to cupcakes like #Cupcakes, #CupcakesofInstagram, #CupcakesofIG, and #CupcakeSwag.

Ideal customer: Do you know what your ideal customer likes? Do you know how they talk? Do you know where they live or hang out? Knowing your ideal customer is helpful for your hashtag research, because it helps you narrow down which hashtags to include and which to rule out. For example, if you’re trying to reach dessert buyers in Hoe-down, Kentucky, you’ll probably want to stay away from #CupcakeSwag.

Current following size: I’m just going to come right out and say it. Instagram is saturated. It’s so saturated that there’s hashtags that have over 20 million posts with them. When conducting hashtag research, it certainly is tempting to just use the hashtags that have millions of posts. I mean, there’s millions of posts for a reason so it must be a great way to get seen! Right? Wrong. The thing is, the more people there are using a hashtag, the faster your post is going to sink to the bottom of that hashtag’s black hole because of the constant competition going on in there. This is why it’s important to take into consideration your following size when posting. If you have hundreds of thousands, or even millions of followers, large hashtags like #Cupcakes (8 million posts) might work for you. But if your following is in the lower thousands or hundreds, you’ll want to niche down to #CupcakesofIG (37k posts). You can see how many posts a hashtag has when it pops up in search. Here’s a rule of thumb for the hashtag post size you should be using based on your followers:

0 - 2,000 = 0 - 80k posts

2,001 - 8,000 = 80k - 300k posts

8,001 - 20,000 = 300k - 600k posts

20,000 and up = 600k+ posts

So now that we’ve discussed how to choose your hashtags, let's talk about where to find them. Here’s some places to look:

  1. Search tab

  2. Hashtags the people you follow are following

  3. Related hashtags feature

  4. Look what others in industry are using

  5. Look what hashtags your followers are using

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