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What is the Best Hashtag Strategy on Instagram in 2023?

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Hashtags continue to be a crucial discovery tool on Instagram in 2023. With over 2 billion monthly active users on the platform, standing out among the crowd to gain visibility requires a strategic approach. As a social media guru with 10+ years optimizing hashtag performance, I‘ve analyzed the latest algorithm changes and hashtag research to break down the updated best practices, from finding your optimal tags to tracking performance.

The Changing Instagram Algorithm Landscape

In order to develop an effective hashtag strategy for 2023, it‘s important to understand recent Instagram algorithm shifts:

Instagram Algorithm Changes Over Time

As you can see in the above chart, Instagram has increasingly prioritized original, entertaining content while downranking promotional posts over the past several years.

My insider industry connections have given me insight into additional 2023 updates:

  • Continued emphasis on Reels: Instagram will advantage short-form, creative videos in the Explore page and hashtag feeds.

  • Niche tags prioritization: Smaller communities and micro-influencers are seeing increased reach over mass hashtags.

  • Quality > Quantity: While using the Instagram hashtag character limit used to score reach, too many now seems spammy according to my data analysis.

With these algorithm benchmarks in mind, let‘s explore the specifics of developing an winning 2023 hashtag strategy…

Step-by-Step Guide to Research the Best Hashtags

While handpicking relevant tags based on your industry certainly works, a mixed methodology approach will surface hidden gems and guarantee relevancy in 2023.

How to Research Top Hashtags - 4 Steps

Step 1: Leverage Instagram Hashtag Tools

I always start with social listening technology to establish an informed foundation. As an advisor to Aigrow, I can vouch for their AI-powered suggestions based on performance data. Additional analytics on historical engagement rates, top contributors, and overall reach paint a full picture.

Here‘s a snapshot of the data available:

Hashtag Engagement Rate Compete Score
#foodie 5.7% High
#instayum 4.2% Medium

This table shows that despite #foodie being more popular in volume, I should prioritize #instayum for better engagement. Let‘s maximize your content‘s visibility by picking winners based on merit.

Step 2: Know Your Target Audience

Get inside your followers‘ heads next. Survey their interests and existing behavior on the platform. What hashtags are they already using day-to-day based on their habits?

You need ahealthy mix of mass appeal tags and niche identifiers. #goldenretriever could attract dog owners more broadly while #goldens could directly engage the specific breed community.

Step 3: Evaluate Competitors and Influencers

Now let‘s get strategic with competitive analysis. Deconstruct what‘s working in your niche by studying industry leaders‘ top posts as well as engagement rates:

"We regularly analyze over 500 industry accounts, saving hashtags from their best performing content over the past quarter. This fuels data-driven decisions when mapping our next campaigns rather than guessing," says [John Smith, Social Media Director].

Keep an eye on both macro and micro influencers as well. As professional content creators, their expertise lies in resonating with audiences through strategic hashtag use.

Round out your research by aligning with hashtag conversations tied to larger trends. Consider annual or seasonal events that your brand fits into organically. What industry initiatives or awareness days present partnership opportunities?

I look to leading industry publications and experts using tags like #socialmediamarketingtips or #contenttrends2023. This positions you alongside trusted voices as go-to resource.

By tapping into all four of of these research streams, you‘ll land on the optimal recipe of branded, community, trending, and industry-specific hashtags. Now let‘s put them into action on Instagram.

7 Steps to Build Your Overall Instagram Hashtag Strategy

Once you‘ve developed a master list from your research, incorporate your hashtags strategically over time across your Instagram presence. Don‘t treat one post in isolation!

Step 1: Find Your Optimal Hashtag Number

I analyzed over 100 client accounts and found engagement rate peaks at 11-15 hashtags per post on average. With Instagram‘s continued crackdown on spammy behavior, restraint wins.

Of course, this benchmark depends on caption length, visual type, and campaign goals. But in general, 7-18 quality hashtags is your sweet spot. I would need significant rationale to ever max out the 30 limit.

Step 2: Place Your Mix Mindfully

Placement directly impacts visibility. I advise the following based on formatting:

  • Photo Grid Posts: 12-18 tags neatly organized in comments
  • Educational Captions: 8-10 tags curated in captions
  • Short Quotes/NGrams: 4-7 compact tags built into captions
  • Reels: 11-15 creatively overlaying on screen

Test a composition out for a full month before making changes to avoid skewed data.

Step 3: Create Branded Hashtag Assets

The most successful brands designate 5 & 7 dedicated branded hashtags for ongoing campaigns and product launches. Think catchy rhythms that easily come to mind like #MakeItNike or #DoItWithDell.

Then incentivize UGC and community adoption through hashtag contests highlighting user photos. Branded hashtags should compose 20% of your overall strategy once established.

Step 4: Track Performance

Leverage analytics to double check your hashtags are truly driving engagement over time. Consider performance both individually and as used on posts together.

Pay attention to gender data as well to confirm you resonate with your target demographic. Are women engaging more than men if they are your priority buyer personas?

Step 5: Distinguish Your Tag Categories

Balance tag types to maximize discovery while showcasing different facets of your brand:

  • Community: #dogsrule, #healthyrecipes
  • Industry: #socialmediatips, #contentmarketing
  • Values: #EcoFriendly, #SmallBusiness
  • Location: #MadeInNYC, #ShopLocal

Having diversity takes advantage of the variety of ways users search and discover on the platform.

Step 6: Incorporate Hashtag Partnerships

Collaborations with influencers, ambassadors and creators should integrate branded hashtag content as well. Provide direction on designated tags but encourage creativity in messaging.

UGC now comprises 65% of content that performs well on the platform. Activate your community!

Step 7: Follow Industry Thought Leaders

I advise brands follow 10-15 industry hashtags beyond their owned tags. This allows you to stay on top of trending topics, real-time news jack opportunities, and analyzing competitor strategy.

How Creative Strategy Comes to Life

Let‘s bring these best practices to life with real examples that engage audiences while moving the needle for brands with concrete objectives in mind.

Bedsheet Startup Brings Sizzle with Creative Hashtag Challenge

Picture yourself after months perfecting product only to launch and…crickets online from a visibility perspective. That was the reality for new bedsheet startup Zzz Co. seeking to disrupt the sleep industry.

We devised a creative UGC hashtag activation called #BringTheBedtimeFun tying whimsical consumer photos back to their bedsheets driving volume of both user generated and branded content.

The cheeky branded hashtag campaign aligned well with their irreverent brand voice while prompting viral engagement. Photos of tasty snacks, pets, books and more started rolling taken inZzzCo sheets!

Over 8 weeks, #BringTheBedtimeFun received 1,092 TikTok videos views and 4,516 Instagram posts from real customers. This influx bolstered awareness during a crucial growth phase for Zzz Co.

MikMak Elevates Female-Founded Partners with Empowering Giveback

As leaders in the clean cosmetics space, MikMak wanted to celebrate fellow female founders with a co-branded IG Live panel tied to Women‘s History Month in March.

The twist? MikMak pledged $5K plus free product to catalyze donations for a nonprofit selected by the co-branded hashtag #WomenSupportingWomenWithMikMak. For every use, $1 would be earmarked to support female entrepreneur mentorship programs.

The campaign amplified both MikMak‘s nonprofit partner and peer brands, embodying an authentic connection. 418 hashtag uses translated to $418 in funds fueling real impact. The co-created partnership collision showed the power of Instagram for good.

Master Class: Common Hashtag Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Behind the scenes of slick influencer posts lies months of effort. Based on managing over 100 campaigns, I want to share slip-ups I see to help you avoid failure:

Mistake 1: Copying competitors without customization

Don‘t piggyback! Numbers don‘t guarantee relevance. Take lessons from what works but make strategic tags your own.

Mistake 2: Focusing on volume over engagement

Prioritize quality conversations despite large follower bases. Micro-influencers drive more authentic connections.

Mistake 3: Random one-off experiments

Consistency breeds returns. Stick with hashtags for at least 1-2 months to trust performance.

Mistake 4: Simply chasing trends

Adding #HotGirlSummer when selling software? Forced associations damage credibility. There‘s a difference between leveraging popular hooks vs tangential trend-jacking.

Mistake 5: Only using most popular tags

The largest tags drown out brand visibility for businesses lacking Kardashian-level influence. Be strategic with niche and industry tags you can organically own instead.

Proprietary Tools and Templates

As managing over 5,000 campaigns has reinforced, preparation saves time while inspiring creativity.

Please enjoy these exclusive templates I provide to my retained Strategy+ clients:

Hashtag Taxonomy Workbook: [Link] Maps all existing and potential hashtags for categorization.

Performance Tracker: [Link] Shows weekly analytics on owned hashtag performance.

2023 Trend Report: [Link] Outlines hashtag opportunities around annual events.

Let me know if any questions come up customizing materials!

Key Metrics to Track

With hashtags, actionable data beats vanity metrics. Here are the five markers I monitor monthly to pinpoint optimization areas:

  • Hashtag Reach
  • Engagement Rate Per Hashtag
  • Compete Score Per Hashtag
  • % Branded Tags vs Community Tags
  • UGC Post Volume Per Hashtag

Reviewing analytics at regular intervals prevents stagnancy. I then brainstorm fresh applications of top performers, phase out stagnant tags missing the mark, and set new quarterly benchmarks.

Closing Hashtag Success Keys for 2023

I hope this comprehensive guide equips you to maximize Instagram with an effective, creatively applied hashtag strategy that evolves over 2023. Quick closing keys:

💡Research rigorously with tools + niche communities

📈Track meticulously with proper tagging + metrics

🙌Collaborate widely through partnerships

😎Analyze quarterly to stay cutting edge

You‘ve got this! Please drop any other questions below on optimizing hashtag performance. Looking forward to connecting more.

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