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Hashtags for Dummies

We all know the name of the game on Instagram these days is engagement! Well, hashtags, meet your new best friend. The truth is, if you’re blindly using them right now, you’re likely not getting that boost of engagement necessary to show up in the feeds of your dream clients! According to Quicksprout, Instagram posts with 11 or more hashtags get the highest engagement. So how are you making sure that you’re using the RIGHT ones? Let me help! This guide will walk you through the basics and help you choose the right hashtags to land in the feeds of your dream clients - you know, the ones that are helping you pay the bills!

Why use hashtags?

Hashtags allow you to categorize and label your images so that they will show up in basic searches and enable you to connect with content that falls under those categories and seek out other users sharing content aligned with that topic.

Think of Instagram as a giant filing cabinet and a hashtag is a file folder, when you tag it using the pound symbol, you’re filing that post into that category so that not only you can show up in that category, others can seek you out and find you there.

FUN FACT: You can only use 30 hashtags per post, so it’s important you are using the BEST ones based on the content you are sharing.

How can you use hashtags intentionally?

• Choose hashtags that will connect you to your ideal clients, not just your peers! • Use local hashtags to reach people in your community!

• Use industry specific hashtags so you can collaborate with others in your field!

• Research hashtags your clients are using on a day to day basis so they can find you!

Develop your hashtag strategy

Brainstorm ideas and topics that apply to your business and enter those ideas as a hashtag into Instagram. What is your business about? Where is your business serving clients? What does your brand signify? If you’re feeling a little lost, let’s chat about it a little more…

With hashtags you can:

Be a big fish in a small pond: (#teddingtonweddingphotographer vs. #wedding)

OR be a small fish in a giant pond: (#bride vs. #teddingtonbride)

To me, being a giant fish in a small pond will always be more effective in finding the RIGHT followers. So what does this mean? Let me use wedding photography as an example (because trust me, a lot of my brides have found me on Instagram!) You have to get more specific and not land yourself in hashtag feeds that you’ll be drowned out in.

If I were going to post a photo of a bride and groom, I could use a few different hashtags strategically. I would have to ask myself a few questions to determine which set of hashtags to use. Would I want to use #wedding or #teddingtonewedding ?

Before you post, ask yourself these three things:

1.) What is the main goal/objective of this post. (Ex: Do I want blogs to see it to get it featured? Do I want potential clients to find me and see it?)

2.) What categories does this image fall under? (Ex: Is it in a specific geographic area? Does it feature any brands or companies? What would people type in to find it?)

3.) Do I have time to be intentional with hashtags? (Ex: Am I willing to seek out and type in specific hashtags for this post or should I fall back on a past list for speed/efficiency!)

To find the best hashtags, you might need to do research:

Seek out peers in your industry both located near you geographically and nationally and see what hashtags they are using! Click on ones that make you want to take action and see if that tag holds contents that would be on brand with you! It’s important to dive a little deeper than just copy/pasting a generic list for every single post, but when you research, you can compile lists of different hashtags based on the content that you are looking at. Research can pay off big time if you’re looking at individuals that are in a similar industry and sharing work that is similar to your brand message and imagery.

Note - Make sure to pay attention to the number of people who have used the hashtags and prioritise them by popularity to reach the RIGHT people, not just the most. Remember, it’s more important to land on a specific hashtag with less posts that’s more pertinent than to land on a hashtag that is being inundated with new content every minute.

Think of your clients and what they are likely searching:

To return back to the wedding photography example, it’s pretty easy to think of what my clients might be searching for: #teddingtonphotographer #teddingtonwedding, #tw11bride, etc. It’s important to focus more on your CLIENTS than you PEERS. A lot of times we get caught up in showing up “where the cool kids” are hanging but popularity doesn’t pay the bills, so in being strategic with hashtags think of what your clients are typing in to search.

Still not sure? Open up the app and click on the “search” or magnifying glass, start typing in your field or product or service and click on “tags” at the top of the menu so that Instagram will search out pertinent hashtags.

• If I type in “wedding,” Instagram will populate a ton of ideas for me to use: #weddingdress, #wedding, #weddinghair, #weddingday, #weddings etc. I need to spend a little time looking at the number of posts on each of them and then…

• Get more specific using the findings: what happens when I try: #teddingtonwedding? That category has tens of thousands of posts vs. hundreds of millions! I’m on to something. Use the search function to generate ideas and then further pinpoint!

Company specific hashtags are a great way to connect with current clients:

Creating a specific hashtag for your business (ex: #lovephotographicaweddings) allows you to categorize your posts, create a place for your clients to share YOUR work and gives you an Instagram portfolio of sorts.

There are many benefits to starting your own hashtags, from remembering specific vacations (ex: #kentsouthafrica) or milestones (#kentfirststep) to encouraging people to share their own work using your tag! It’s a great way for your clients to feel encouraged to share your work and gives you an opportunity to get more content to feature based off of what people are tagging!

Create your list of hashtags:

Now that you’ve done the research, it’s important to break up your hashtags into lists based on the content you’re sharing! For example, I had separate lists of hashtags for separate things that I post. Wedding photos use a different set of hashtags than my watercolour quotes, those use different hashtags than when I share my podcast episodes etc.

If you do more research up front and create separate lists, it will simplify the process and take out the guess work each time you go to post new content!

Still needing help?

Don’t worry, I’ve got more resources for you:

1.) Take your list that you’ve created and head to: and test it out! It will show you how popular a hashtag is and populate similar ones that work well in that bucket. As always, I encourage you to niche it down to be more specific for YOUR market.

2.) Check out how relevant your list is: go to and enter the hashtags that you’ve created or been using. It will rate each hashtag based on poor, good, overused, etc. It rates based on the density of posts and helps you see that you are using effective hashtags!

**********************************PRO TIP: *************************************

Create keyboard shortcuts in your phone so that you don’t have to always copy/paste in your hashtags, you can simply type in a word to populate the hashtags for the category you are posting!

• Launch the Settings app.

• Tap General.

• Tap on Keyboard.

• Tap on Text Replacement.

• Tap on the + in the top right corner.

• In the Phrase field, type in the entire phrase you'd like to create a shortcut for.

Map out your tags!

Start with your category (ex: weddings) and then map out 10 effective hashtags you can use and save as a shortcut in your phone! Don’t be afraid to use some broad and some super specific ones in each category!

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