Growing Your Instagram Organically: Hashtags and Location Tags (2019)

hashtag drawn in the sand
What hashtags do you use to reach your audience?

I have split up my guide for growing your Instagram into multiple sections for them to be easier to understand. All of these are portions for you to understand Instagram better for you to grow your small business.

This is all with business objectives in mind. The goal here is not to expand your business’ Instagram to have the highest follower numbers, but instead to cultivate an audience that is actually invested in your brand and will actually make purchases from you. Forewarning: this isn’t just a one and done process and takes time and effort.

Location Tags

The hashtags and location tags allow people to find your posts, which will ultimately allow them to find your profile and your brand. The location tag is simple. Use the location of where the picture was taken, where the caption is explaining, or where your company’s services/products are centered. You add the location tag as you are posting a new post by tapping “Add Location”.

The Goldilocks Zone for Hashtags

Hashtags are a bit more complicated, as the hashtags you use will truly make or break whether your post gets found at all. It is important to find the “goldilocks zone” for hashtags. A hashtag that doesn’t have too many posts and a hashtag that doesn’t have too little posts. I generally look for posts that are anywhere between 5,000-1,000,000 so that is a pretty large zone to work with. It is important to realize that there are two goals to a hashtag strategy:

  • Staying near the top of the recent tab for long enough for a crowd of people to actually see your post.

  • Getting into the top posts tab. (This one is hard for new pages that are trying to gain their initial following)

For example, #adventure is way too broad of a hashtag. At the time of me writing this, #adventure had over 93 million posts. Looking at the recent posts, it looks like someone posts something with this hashtag ever 1 to 5 seconds. Your post will be drowned in this feed way too quickly to pick up any steam.

Also for example, #adventureisrad is way too specific of a hashtag. There were only 6 posts to use this hashtag when I wrote this. If you were to use this hashtag, no one would ever see your post either.

But now let’s look at #ILoveAdventure. This hashtag has around 30,000 posts right now. This means people are actually using this hashtag and you also won’t be immediately drowned in a wave of posts using the hashtag. This hashtag is in the goldilock zone.

Spreading Your Hashtags Across and Outside of the Zone

Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags a post. I recommend for every post you do, use 20-30 hashtags. The bulk of your hashtags, say 80 to 90 percent, should be within the goldilocks zone. However, you should also try one or two hashtags above the goldilocks zone and one or two hashtags below the goldilocks zone. I explain why below:

Why Above

Instagram’s algorithm prioritizes posts that have engagement, especially posts that have early engagement (meaning likes, comments, shares, views, and saves). Sometimes, not all the time unfortunately, using one or two hashtags above the goldilocks zone can give you 3-5 quick engagements on your post. This is because they are wildly popular hashtags with users almost always looking at them. However, if you overload your hashtags with these ambitious tags, you will most likely find that your posts are hardly found at all.

Why Below

Below is good because it keeps your post relevant for a longer amount of time. Generally after 2 days, posts on Instagram largely lose out on engagement, thus losing out on any kind of usefulness besides serving as a proof for anyone visiting your profile. However, if you use hashtags that are used less than 5,000 times, you may find that people are finding this post outside of your profile months after you posted. This is because it stays near the top of the feed for much, much longer as there aren’t many posts going to this feed.

Finding the Right Hashtag

There are a few ways to find the right hashtag:

  • Competitor research

  • Instagram’s hashtag auto-complete

  • Third party tools like Later

The first one is simple: look what your competitors are using. They are selling to the same group you are so they might have some good insights on the hashtags to use. Be careful though. You obviously don’t want to use a hashtag that involves your competitors name.

The second one is easy. When you are making a post simply look at what Instagram autocompletes for you. For example, if you are making a post about skiing, type in #ski and then look through the list Instagram automatically provides for you. They will even tell you the number of posts or that particular hashtag!

For the third recommendation, I use Later. However, I am sure there are other services that provide you with something similar. With Later, you can plug in a hashtag you are interested in using and then it recommends new hashtags based on what hashtags are regularly used together. Very helpful!

Diversifying Your Hashtags

Once you have found some good hashtags to use. It is important to diversify these hashtags. Remember, the goal is to get in front of the right audience, however the right audience might not be searching for exactly the same stuff. For example, imagine you are trying to target attendees of Dutch Comic Con this year. Think about all the ways this hashtag could be searched by your audience:

But then also remember that people could search for things that are minorly mispelled, why not also get in front of this audience? For example: #dutchcomicon (it should be #dutchcomiccon)

I hope this helps you begin to understand the importance of hashtags and how to use them. If you are completely new to Instagram, I recommend that you explore different hashtags and how they are used on the platform. Just dive in and play for a bit.

This post is part of a series on growing your Instagram organically:

  1. Don't Just Ask for More Followers

  2. What is Engagement?

  3. Hashtag and Location Tags (This Post)

  4. Live, Stories, and Videos

  5. Your Profile

  6. The Community

  7. Conclusion

Meet the Author : John Knetemann

John Knetemann smiling in a suit

From Denver, Colorado. Educated in Rapid City, South Dakota. Living in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

The most epic and daring content writer you will find on the east side of the Amstel... And sometimes the west side too. I am from the land of mountains, but now live in the land of very small hills and canals. Truly a native of the internet, I work with companies to build adventurous content, engaging social media identities, and addictively informative email campaigns.

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