Doing hashtag research to find relevant hashtags for your niche(s) is one of the best strategies to locate your ideal target audience and to reach out to them organically. The key is to look beyond ‘surface-level’ hashtags, and uncover what I call ‘insider’ hashtags.
WHAT ARE THEY?
Let’s say your Instagram account is on the topic of food. For your industry, hashtags like #food is a surface-level hashtag, i.e. anyone can think of using that hashtag without having to do any research.
If you post an image with #food, chances are, your post will be pushed down/ drowned out by other posts very quickly since so many people are using the hashtag. In addition, surface-level hashtags have a higher amount of spam posts, posted by people who are simply 'fishing' for likes and aren't really relevant to the topic.
On the other hand, #wimfdt & #forkfeed are examples of insider hashtags, which are the hashtags that the ‘inner circle’ of the food community on Instagram uses.
If you scroll through the posts of such insider hashtags, there are less likely to be irrelevant spam posts, and the people that use these hashtags are more likely to be insiders in the food community, such as food bloggers or true foodies. These people more likely to be your target audience.
DIG INTO SUB-NICHES too
To take it a step further, there are even more niche hashtags within each community. Take for instance the dieting/ healthy eating community since we’re on the topic of food. Putting #diet or #healthyfood on your post won’t be enough. Is your audience more interested in #rawtill4 or #hclf? Or perhaps they’re the type that uses #801010?
Subgroups of each niche community tend to have even more specific niche hashtags that they use, and you have to truly dig deep in your Instagram research and understand your audience well to avoid just spamming a bunch of irrelevant hashtags.
There may be niches that do not have as large an Instagram community, but as far as possible, uncover as many of those insider hashtags as you can– it helps you to break into that inner circle that your target audience is at.
This is more efficient than spamming a bunch of surface-level hashtags in hopes that you’ll hit one or two of your ideal audience, because surface-level hashtags tend to have more spammy posts and less of actively involved insiders.
A word of caution
If a particular hashtag only has 10 posts, that's not the kind of hashtag that you want. Look for insider hashtags that are used by a substantial number of people in your niche, not hashtags that were just made up by random people on a whim.
Most of the legit insider hashtags can be traced back to a particular Instagram account, website, or personality/ influencer. For instance, #flashesofdelight is an insider lifestyle hashtag that started from theglitterguide.com, a digital lifestyle site for women.
How Many Hashtags Do I need?
For starters, Instagram currently allows up to 30 hashtags per post. Out of that 30, aim to find at least 15 insider hashtags that you can use, i.e. have 50% of insider hashtags for each post.