The Smart Way to Use Hashtags

Why using a combination of different sized hashtags is important

Hashtags are great for helping people find your photos. You add a couple hashtags at the bottom of your post or in your comments you might get a couple new followers and likes from people that don’t follow you! This is great and an easy thing to do. However, did you know that there is a way to optimize your hashtag use?

I recently had Eric, the creator of Humans of Ottawa on the My Social Life podcast and Eric did a deep dive into ranking your posts on different hashtags.

How this method works is you post different sizes of hashtags so it can quickly rise through the ranks being deemed a top post by Instagram so it then promotes it on bigger hashtags. Let me explain in a little more detail.

When you click on a hashtag on Instagram you will notice two different tabs “Top” and “Recent”. Your goal should be to try and get your photos on the “Top” tab. These are the posts that Instagram has deemed to be the best content on that hashtag where as the “Recent” tab is just that… the most recent photos posted.

If your photo does not make it to the “Top” tab it can easily disappear in the near 100 million photos posted to Instagram every day (Wordstream, 2018).

“woman taking wacky pose beside man in gray denim top” by rawpixel on Unsplash

So… how do you get your post as one of the “Top” posts?

The primary way is through engagement. If a lot of people are liking and commenting on your post, especially within the first hour after you upload it, Instagram will pick it up as one if the top posts.

But what if you’re a smaller creator that doesn’t get as much engagement as some Instagram influencers? Is there still a way to make it onto the “Top” posts? You bet!

“You want to have combination of the higher hashtags, the mid hashtags, and the lower hashtags.”

What does Eric mean by the size of hashtag? When you’re making your post and you type your hashtag Instagram shows the amount of posts made with that same hashtag.

So you want to get a combination of all the different sizes. For the sake of this article we will say that the small hashtags are less than 100,000 posts, the mid 100,001 to 999,999 and the big hashtags is 1,000,000+. I would personally recommend you start with a smaller scale than those numbers but use your own discretion.

When you’re typing in your hashtags, you want a good combination of all three. The easiest way to do it is to go into your niche, as narrow as possible to find the small hashtag and broaden out your tags to find the mid hashtags and even more to find the big ones.

How does this help you get picked up as a top post though?

“You want the small to promote you to the medium, and you want the medium to promote you to the high.”

When we look at the small, medium, and big hashtags the amount of engagement it takes to be picked up as a top post is more for the bigger hashtags.

So what you want to do is try to get enough engagement early to get picked up as a top post on your smaller hashtags because Instagram will see that you are a top post on one hashtag that you have good content and should be promoted on other hashtags.

Instagram wants to show people the best content to keep them on the app as long as they can. So when the algorithm sees a post become a “top post” it assumes that people like this post more than others so it will show it to other people by making it a top post on other hashtags.

Therefore, if you get picked up as a top post for a small hashtag, Instagram could then put your photo as a top post on a mid hashtag which could then boost your engagement and, if it gets enough could then be pushed to the higher hashtag.

It all starts with the smaller hashtags, if you can get ranked as a top post it increases your chances of getting picked up as a top post in other hashtags. This means it takes less engagement to be picked up as a top post. In turn though by being picked up as a top post more people will see it and therefore you could get more engagement.

Now, it should be noted that this is not a guarantee. It’s not like you’re going to sit down now, make one post with a group of different sized hashtags and all of a sudden you’re going to go viral. This can help you gain some more likes and followers but it’s not a for sure thing. It will be an incremental improvement that will take time to learn and master to see the best results.

If you try this method out (more than once) I would love to hear your findings and see if it actually worked for you. You can reach out to me on Instagram at @TheJacobKelly. I’m going to try and use it as well for the podcast’s Instagram to see how well it works for me.

The full episode of the My Social Life podcast is available here. If you listen, be sure to screenshot it and post it to your story and tag @MySocialPod and I will share it to the account.