We get it. You should use hashtags. There are a billion and one blog posts on the subject, and — while they all provide valuable information — no one wants (or needs) to read another post about why you should be using hashtags. What we DO need to know is how to use hashtags to get more followers and boost engagement because hashtags can actually be your secret weapon to be MORE successful on social media with LESS work.
1. You don’t need to hashtag single words.
On Twitter, using too many hashtags actually *decreases* engagement (yep), and hashtagging single words is actually super counterintuitive. If you search the word #writing on Twitter, you’ll pull up all of the tweets using that hashtag. Great, right? However, if you search the word ‘writing’ without the hashtag, you’ll see both tweets with the hashtag and tweets without.
Save your hashtags for compound words or phrases that make more sense (like #writingcommunity). As a bonus? It’ll keep your tweets from looking to spammy and boost your overall engagement.
And on Instagram, well, you’ll read about why you should avoid those crazy popular single word hashtags now.
2. Try “midsize” hashtags.
Let’s get back to those super popular hashtags on Instagram that have over a million posts using them. (#friday am I right?) What do you think the chances are that someone is going to see YOUR post out of those millions? Especially considering more people are tagging their posts with that tag every minute?
That’s right, slim. (Unless you have a massively popular account, that is.)
It’s time to ditch crazy popular hashtags in favor of hashtags that aren’t *quite* as popular. Throw in a couple of the popular ones if you’d like, but you should be using a wide range of hashtags. I use hashtags that have anywhere between 10k and 500k posts, and I like to experiment. Don’t be afraid to try new strategies!
3. Use hashtags for strategic engagement.
Think about your ideal audience and the kinds of hashtags they’re likely to use. Now, don’t just include them in your posts — go out and *engage* with them! You don’t have to dive into the follow/unfollow technique (which is almost as bad as buying followers), but even simply liking a few posts per day can get you new followers.
Here’s how it works: If I “follow” the #authorsofig hashtag on Instagram, I can get those posts in my feed. Whenever they pop up (sometimes I’ll scroll through the hashtag intentionally too), I make a point to like the post. That’s it, just a like. I spend a few minutes here and there sprinkling likes across Instagram, and I leave it at that.
As a result? Those people see my username, many of whom click it, and a percentage of those people will see my profile and think, “Hey, this is someone with great content. I’m gonna follow her.”
Obviously, you have to make sure your profile passes the Five Second Rule, meaning it needs to look enticing enough for someone’s attention to be captured within five seconds or less. You want them to take one look at your profile and immediately tap that follow button!
4. Don’t overuse the same hashtags.
This is one of the most common mistakes I see on social media. You should be *constantly* trying new things — even something as simple as a new hashtag — to grow your brand. You can’t keep using the same hashtags day in and day out expecting them to magically turn into massive growth, especially if the SAME PEOPLE are seeing those posts over and over again.
Diversify your social media a little bit and start rotating your hashtag use so you’re reaching different people with each post. What works well for one group might not work for the other, and you can gradually learn which audience resonates most with your content.
5. Do your hashtag research.
You can use a tool like Hashtagify.me to search for new tags to use on Twitter or Instagram, or you can do it manually through the app. Don’t just rely on what’s popular — check out related hashtags and see what other people are using successfully.
If you don’t have time to do your research, you can download a free copy of my Writer’s Guide to Hashtags. Not only does it include more information on how to use hashtags successfully, it also includes the Ultimate List of Hashtags for Writers. With over 150+ hashtags for writers and bookstagrammers, it’s a great place to start!