Let's Get Popular on Instagram (A Follow-Along Guide For Brands): Part 1 - Introduction and Hashtag Analysis

Let's Get Popular on Instagram (A Follow-Along Guide For Brands): Part 1 - Introduction and Hashtag Analysis

Let's Get Popular on Instagram (A Follow-Along Guide For Brands): Part 1 - Introduction and Hashtag Analysis

Using Instagram for business? Want to grow your following and attract passionate new fans and customers? In this blog, I'll show you how to analyse your current Instagram hashtags ready to optimise them for maximum exposure. It's the first step in my own renewed ourney towards Instagram success, and I hope you can join in, too. First, though, a bit of background:

Why I'm Starting Instagram Fresh

I've long been fascinated with building an audience on Instagram, but after my initial "business" profile broke after I foolishly experimented with a tool that posted to Instagram from my desktop (hashtags ceased to function, against ToS, rendered account useless; won't be doing that again!), I concentrated my efforts back onto Facebook and Twitter and only used Instagram sporadically - until recently.

After several failed attempts at developing a consistent and coherent pattern of content and graphical style, I think I can finally say I'm ready to give it another really good go. I can't understate the importance of producing captivating photos and graphics for Instagram, and the hard graft of community engagement, too - and maybe I'll get into that more later on down the line - but for now, I'm comfortable I've found a formula that I can manage as far as content creation goes, and first will be looking at optimising my hashtag strategy - key, Instagram pros say, to attracting thousands of followers. This is Step 1.

In a previous post, I explained the importance of selecting the right hashtags on Instagram as a way to get your content discovered and to grow your Instagram following. I'd definitely recommend giving it a read so that the bulk of this post makes the most sense. In short, the strategy involves strategically choosing a variety of niche and popular hashtags to give yourself the best chance of being found in the top echelons of Instagram search, and in the top 9 Trendingimages/videos that are featured for several hours at the top of each search result.

Disclaimer and the reason for this project: I've only roughly followed my past advice on hashtag strategy, and am beginning to see some decent results. What follows, I hope, will be an over-the-shoulder journey into optimising my Instagram strategy to deliver more success - one that you can emulate for your own brand.

Step 1: Search Your Profile At SM Audience

At the time of writing, SM Audience offers a free Instagram analytics tool. Enter any Instagram username into its search bar, and the site will return a variety of valuable statistics, including:

  • number of followers and users you follow
  • average number of likes per post
  • average number of comments
  • overall engagement rate %

Here's the search result of my account, @500socialmedia:

You'll also see an overview of all of your most recent posts, and how they have performed. Above is my most recent content, with an overall engagement rate of 39.37% - not too shabby. Also notice my new style in the latest 10 posts versus the mish-mash of styles before that.

Step 2: Analysing Instagram Hashtags

As mentioned, I'm happy with my content and its style - very important! Now, let's nail down on the hashtags. Clicking on any individual post will provide a list of all of the hashtags used, along with:

Density - the number of posts also using that hashtag in Instagram search.

Row - The row number that this post was found on in Instagram search. The higher the number, the lower down search we go.

Position: The position of this post in Instagram hashtag search. Posts with this hashtag are presented in chronological order, 3 across, left to right.

Top 9 - The position number for this post within the Top 9 section when searching for this hashtag.

In the example above, the post I have chosen is roughly three days old and one of my most successful of the past two weeks. It won't be getting much more engagement (unless I pay to promote it), so provides a good base for analysis. Importantly, the hashtags used are - give or take one or two - the same set that I have used for each and every post. Using the same set of hashtags for each post gives this hashtag strategy some much-need consistency. In other words, a bunch of random hashtags won't cut it! Let's take a closer look:

In the image above, I clicked the "up" arrow to sort the hashtags by density. Ideally, I want to be aiming to include a variety of hashtags that hit between the 10K and 200K range, give or take. Collective wisdom tells us that these will give my post the best chance of getting spotted at the top of search, and even included in the Top 9 featured posts within search results.

What the analysis tells us:

  • Out of 24 hashtags used (6 not shown, below fold), most sat within my desired Density range of between 10K and 200K hashtag search results. Good!
  • The majority of these posts were well down the search results in terms of Row and Position, and none were featured in the Top 9. Of the top two hashtags that did get good Row and Position... well, no one else is using two of them.  Bad!

Next Steps

That's it for Part 1. My goal now is to keep posting consistently (one new post per day) and perform some more in-depth hashtag research. By studying the hashtags from other accounts within the social media marketing industry using SM Audience, I'll be looking to find a more even spread of niche and more popular hashtags between the 10K and 200K Density range, and using them in my own posts.

After a week has elapsed, I'll re-evaluate. In Part 2, I'll share with you my success (I hope), or failure. Perhaps you'll join me on this journey by re-evaluating or building your own Instagram audience using the same method as above. Hope to see you along the way!

Current Statistics - December 14th, 2016.
Followers: 252
Following: 14
Posts: 145

Andrew Macarthy is a social media consultant and the author of the #1 Amazon Web Marketing Bestseller, 500 Social Media Marketing Tips.

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