How to Grow Your Instagram Audience Organically Using Hashtags

Bluespin Blog | Using Hashtags to Grow Instagram Audience
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Today, I’m sharing top tips for small business owners who want to grow their Instagram audience organically, using hashtags.

Instagram is one of the fastest growing social platforms.  With over 600 million active users, it can be difficult to stand out on this noisy social platform. Even more challenging for small business owners, growing your Instagram audience organically (non-paid posts).

Before we dive into our top tips, let’s briefly explain what hashtags are and why they’re crucial to your social media growth.

Hashtag 101

What are Hashtags?

Hashtags are a word or phrase that is preceded by a # (or pound sign, for us old-timers).  Simply put, using a hashtag on a social media channel, help make your content discoverable and increase your chances for engagement with your target audience.

Why Should I Use Them?

As mentioned above, hashtags are what make your content discoverable on Instagram. Instagram uses them to categorize content.  Think of it like a filing cabinet with lots of folders and files.  In this example, Instagram is the filing cabinet. Your Instagram posts are the files and the Instagram hashtags become the folders which contain those posts.

For example, if someone is searching for #pottery on Instagram it’s like telling the filing cabinet (Instagram) to go look for files (posts) related to #pottery.  If you used the hashtag #pottery on Instagram, your posts just became discoverable to anyone searching with this hashtag.

Now, let’s dive into some top tips for using them to grow an Instagram audience organically.

How To Grow an Instagram Audience Organically

#1. Do your research.

When it comes to Instagram, the number one question I get asked is “How do I know which hashtags to use on Instagram?”. My number one answer is always — Do your hashtag research! Here are three ways you can do hashtag research to determine which hashtags to use for your business on Instagram.

Use a Third-Party Tool

Hashtagify is a fantastic tool to research and analyze hashtags for popularity, trends, and correlation to your brand.  The best part, it couldn’t be simpler to use.  Here’s an example of how I used Hashtagify to research hashtags related to small business.

By simply typing in “small business” in the search bar on Hashtagify, I am instantly rewarded with tons of insight and data on trends and correlations related to the topic small business.


Bluespin Blog | Using Hashtagify for hashtags research

Bluespin Blog | Using Hashtagify for hashtags research

Bluespin Blog | Using Hashtagify for hashtags research

Looking at the screen shots above, the Hashtagify tool returned lots of data to help me determine which hashtags I should be using for my Instagram posts if I want to reach small business owners.

Research Your Competition

Take a look at your competitors posts. Which ones are performing well? Which ones aren’t? Analyzing the successes (and failures) of your competitors will ensure you are on the right track for Instagram growth and engagement.

Search for Related Hashtags

Searching for related hashtags is one of the easiest ways to figure out which ones you should be using.  All you have to do is type a keyword into the Instagram search bar and you’ll be instantly rewarded a list of related searches, all of which could be used by you in your Instagram posts.

#2. Use Branded Hashtags for User-Generated Content.

Branded hashtags are specific to your company. For example, I use #BluespinWeb on all my Instagram posts. Did you know that 70% of hashtags on Instagram are branded?  Using these are a great way to tie posts directly back to your brand and a great way to promote user-generated content.

User-generated content encourages people to use your hashtag in photos and videos, which will in turn make your brand more discoverable to others.  You can also re-gram some of your favorite user-generated content, which is a great way to show authenticity and stay engaged with your audience.

#3. Use Multiples.

Did you know that you can use up to 30 hashtags on Instagram? It’s true.  One of the advantages of Instagram is that you aren’t limited to just one or two. You can use up to 30 to tell your story and help become more discoverable.

A word of caution, I don’t recommend using 30 hashtags for everything you post.  Some posts have better engagement results with only 4-5. Experiment to see what works best for you. Make sure your hashtags match the photo, otherwise this will be seen as spammy and likely get you banned from Instagram.

Putting It All Together

To recap:

  • Do your research
  • Create a hashtag unique to your brand
  • Re-gram some of your favorite user-generated content
  • Use multiple hashtags (up to 30) — some experimentation required.

These are just a few simple tips you can implement today to grow your Instagram audience without spending a single dollar on advertising.  Do you have a strategy that’s worked well for you? Drop a comment or send us a message. We’d love to hear your story!

Until next time, happy hashtagging!




About Jennifer Lee

Jennifer Lee is a digital marketing strategist with a passion for helping small businesses become more profitable, through social media. As the founder of Bluespin Web Consulting, she is committed to educating and empowering small businesses to leverage the power of the web for business success.
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