Neha Awasthi

26 September 2019

Climbing the Mt Everest is something everyone can do. 

We know that’s far from the truth. It is a deed not for the faint-hearted.  

We know that. However, a sherpa (people who accompany climbers) carries backpacks weighing 90% of their body weights while climbing the world’s torturous climb. 

While some people find climbing the Mt Everest the hardest deed of their life, sherpas with the same human potential go on to doing it repeatedly. 

I have always pondered over their strength and stamina, even while living on basic wages, basic lifestyle and less than average resources. 

Something that escapes me. I don’t understand how they do what they do. Just like what you feel when you think about hashtags on Instagram. Am I right? 

When it comes to hashtags and getting your posts found on Instagram, it can seem like there is some top secret to it that FBI has locked and sealed away. And yes there are a lot of strategies you can use, but fret not because I am going to list down the basics you need to know about unlocking this “secret”. 

Like Sherpas, we must learn to climb the mountains step at a time and remember everyone has the same choice and battling with the same. 

So let’s look at what do we need to know about hashtags on Instagram. 

Whether you are a small accounts or a medium growing account – Hashtags are the way for you to get seen.

Big celebrity accounts can get a lot of views even without hashtags because they can get a lot of views from the Explore option or people already interested in them and their lives. But when you are in business and especially starting new on Instagram – hashtags are the only way to grow your account.

What are hashtags?

Think of Hashtag like different sections in the library. Each section has a different genre of books. Books can be your posts arranged in that hashtag section. Smaller hashtags contain fewer posts, and more prominent hashtags contain more books. All the posts are aggregated under each of these hashtags.

The purpose of hashtags is to make search easy for the people. People interested in topics can use that hashtags to look up the content associated with that hashtag. They may be interested in that type of content, may find it of utility or to create a community of like-minded people sharing similar things.

So now, with this understanding what hashtags are – next question can win the award for the most asked question.

How many Hashtags should you use?

You can use 30 hashtags on one account.

Some people say 10; some people say 15. There is no end-all answer to this. Just the fact there are so many opinions, it tells me no one knows besides Instagram itself. And even that’s still changing all the time.

I have experimented with the different number of hashtags. One post with 20 hashtags and 10 hashtags and some numbers in between. Of course, there are always more factors at play. Every time I posted, it was a different visual and may be at slightly different times too. So even after tracking, the post with more hashtags has always received more views than fewer hashtags.

It was evident as the post with more hashtags has more potential to show up at different places.

So the more hashtags you use – the more chances you have, of that post appearing in different places and getting in front of different audiences.

If you get business Instagram, it gives you an option to view insights so over time, and you can look at them to see the results of your experiments. In my opinion and experience, use all 30 hashtags but what’s also important is the type of Hashtags you use.

How to select which hashtag to use for your Instagram account?

The first step to this is by honing in on who you are talking to.

Who is your ideal customer? If you say “everyone who is into improving their health”, that’s too broad. That includes possibly everyone in the world. If you honed in on someone in the 50s dealing with menopausal problems, that’s far more specific.

Why it matters is because this person looks very different to someone who is, in general, trying to improve her health. She may be happy with general well-being reminders and tips, whereas the other person struggling with menopausal problems needs very specific advice and tips around her challenges.

It’s essential to define who is your best customer and who you can serve in the best possible way and make them feel heard and understood.

The second step is to look at the interests of this particular person.

Which are the accounts this person is likely to follow on Instagram? Where is she likely to hang out and is expected to be interested in. Is she into fashion or outdoors? Is she into hip-hop or yoga? You get the point.

Find brands and accounts which this person may already be following on Instagram.

Remember to think beyond your industry. She could be into personal development and business. Or Your ideal customer is already following and engaged in these accounts so it makes it easier for you to reach out to your ideal clients.

What should you watch out for?

If you see very low engagement on their posts and looks like they have not posted anything for a while – It is a not so good sign. I would recommend not looking into those accounts. They may have thousands of followers, but the followers are not invested in that brand or account. It is also likely they may be fake followers which you want to stay away from.

A simple trick you can use to select better hashtags.

I see this time and again, businesses and brands use hashtags that their competitors use. So they end up attracting their competitors instead of the right audience.

Instead, they should use the hashtags that their potential clients are using to get found by the right people. Those hashtags are usually smaller and more specific. This brings us to the next topic of the size of the hashtags.

Should you choose big hashtags or smaller ones or both?

Very tempting to use big ones thinking the bigger the hashtag more likelihood for your post to be seen. But that’s not the case. Every hashtag has it’s own page and when you go on the page – you can look at the TOP and RECENT section.

Top Section shows the posts with significant engagement and recent tab shows the posts that have been posted in chronological order.

 

You will find with the big hashtags, the posts tend to move through so quickly and your post can tend to get lost. 

So here is a better way to find hashtags for your post: 

1. Pick a hashtag that’s relevant to your niche. 

For example, you picked #healthysnacks – 1.7million

2. Instagram will show you the suggested hashtags to use underneath it. 

3. Pick the ones with less than 20K posts 

#Healthysnacksonthego 

So this will be a much better hashtag to use than the massive one with millions of posts. This is not to say you shouldn’t use the big ones at all. Just be sure to mix them up. For example, you could use:  

Big: 5-10 will have under 50K 

Medium: 5-10 will have under 10K

Small: 5 will have under 5K 

Keep in mind – If your hashtag is entirely unrelated to the visual, Instagram doesn’t show that image on that hashtag. This is a mistake I have personally made, so I don’t want you to make this mistake. So make sure you relate your hashtags with your visuals. 

 

An overlooked reason for choosing a smaller hashtag.

When you use smaller hashtags, your posts tend to stay on that page for long. Smaller hashtags don’t tend to have a lot of posts moving through them, so there is more likely that your post will stay on that page for long. Some of my posts have stayed in smaller hashtags for weeks and months. It helps the chances of getting found. So, I recommend using a good mix of both big and small hashtags. 

 

Where do you put the hashtags on your Instagram posts?

Comments – You can put the hashtags in the first comment on your comment. The main benefit of putting them in the comment is it keeps your caption section nice and clean. It keeps the focus on your writing instead of distracting from what you are saying. This is what I prefer to do. The downside is that you can’t copy and put them in a new post if you want to do it next time. 

Keeping them in Captions – The other option is to keep your hashtags in the caption section itself. If you don’t think it’s weird, keep them there. I prefer to keep it aesthetically pleasing for the readers. You could use dots to separate the text and the hashtags too. The great thing about this type of post is you can always go back in and copy those hashtags and use them at a later date. 

 

One common mistake to avoid while posting and using hashtags.

Often we get into the flow of posting and write our captions, get our photo-ready and post. Then we realise we don’t have our hashtags stored anywhere. 

If you wait too long between posting the post and putting in the hashtags, you lose the probability to appear on top of those hashtags. Because the posts that appear on the hashtag pages, appear in the chronological order. And your post timing is not based on the time you posted the post but when you post WITH the hashtags. 

Hashtags are what pick and select the posts, and you’d not have the chance to appear on that page. So it’s best to keep the hashtags ready, regardless of whether you post them in the comments or in the post itself. 

_____________

Using hashtags for your posts might seem hard, and an afterthought, but if you want to make it work on Instagram, it’s essential not to let your Instagram hashtags become an afterthought. A little planning goes a long way. Just like sherpas, perhaps. 

Talking about sherpas, I really wanted to know after all, how did sherpas make it look so easy when the rest of humanity found the world’s highest mountain simply insurmountable. So I went to my friend, everyone’s god. Google. 

Norman Heglund, a physiologist at the University of Louvain in Belgium – decided to study these sherpas to find after all, what makes them so special to achieve this tall feat of human potential. 

Guess what did he find? 

Nothing. 

(Sorry for the spoiler)

Norman found out had the same potential as others. On the surface, it’s easy to think that they must have a secret that others don’t know about. But sherpas could climb for days with heavy luggage only because they had pushed themselves to do that. 

I remain fascinated. 

“The Dusty Tracks” 

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They think you are crazy. Crazy enough to start this journey on the dusty tracks of freedom. To throw yourself into creating something from nothing. Some call it business. You call it Freedom. They say “This is a ridiculous plan. It will be exhausting.” You say “Some of us find normal …quite exhausting.”

You started the trek the dead centre of a seed of a crazy idea and now you know it will lead to the glorious ending of freedom and fulfilment. The winding road will be full of awkward, stumbling, messy points along the way. And very few people will be able to appreciate the beauty of trekking through this utterly barren land. That’s ok. As long as some people do. 

I am one of those crazy adventurers too. Because I see your fire, and the daredevil inside you. I see that person who refuses to shrink and valiantly pursues the calling of her heart. I do too.

So join me, and others who scream that failure is normal, pursuit of purpose is liberating and dusty tracks are exciting.

I think we’d have a great time sharing our journeys, exchanging maps, sipping some tea around the fierce campfire along The Dusty Tracks