Instagram For Indie Dyers Part Four: Hashtags

If you're using Instagram, you should be using hashtags on every post. What are hashtags? The nerdy definition is:

hash-tag: A word or phrase preceded by a hash mark (#), used within a message to identify a keyword or topic of interest and facilitate a search to it.

As a business, you want to make sure your content gets seen by your target audience. If you're an indie dyer, your target audience is most likely knitters, weavers, knitwear designers, knitting magazines, yarn get the picture. You want your target audience to discover you. Instagram's a vast place-- hashtags are how you stand out; they're the SEO of Instagram.

There are two types of hashtags: Branded hashtags and community hashtags. 


A branded hashtag

A branded hashtag

A branded hashtag is a hashtag that's unique to your business. It can be as simple as the name of your business, like the one I use, #pigeonroofstudios. A branded hashtag is a fantastic way to aggregate user related content. Remember how we talked about reposting in the last article? This is how you can find posts that you want to repost on your feed. Branded hashtags are designed to connect themes for you and your audience. 



Community hashtag

Community hashtag

A community hashtag is one that connects users around a specific subject or topic, like #indiedyer, or #indiedyersofinstagram. 

So how do you figure out what hashtags to use? First, look at other popular posts to see what hashtags other indie dyers are using. 


@uschitita, one of the dyers we looked at in the last article, uses the above hashtags. I'm not in Europe, so I would probably use all English hashtags myself, although someone on Facebook did mention that they use a few foreign language ones, which is something I'm going to play around with to see if it expands my reach. The English ones she uses are:


She came up top when I typed in the hashtag #indiedyer, so that's why I'm looking at what hashtags she used. I would also go look at other posts that came up and investigate what they're using.

For finding even more hashtags, look at the top of the image. It says Related: and then a bunch of other hashtags that might be relevant. 

Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags, and you can post them either in the caption or in the comments. 


When posting in the captions, I like to separate my hashtags from my caption, so that there isn't a big distracting hashtag mess that might take attention away from my words. So I'll use a period and the return key to place the hashtags further down. When someone clicks on my post they'll see them, but when scrolling through their feed, they won't. 


If you place them in the comments, they get hidden nicely by the following comments; it's only when clicking to view other comments that they show up. It looks nice and clean. You want to make sure, however, that you comment with your hashtags instantly so your post performs well. 

You also want to make sure you mix up your hashtags. Posting the same hashtags on every post can actually work against you, making you not show up in hashtag searches. That brings me to another issue that you might see around the internet: "Shadowbanning". Is it real? Not really. People will notice that their posts won't be showing up in hashtag searches of those who aren't following them sometimes. It's confusing, but Facebook has admitted that there is a filtering of the content that appears in the hashtag searches. Hashtag searches are personalized, so not the same for each user. High volume or top-performing posts are more likely to appear in a hashtag search. There can be other factors, too....the Instagram algorithms are not always understandable, but it seems like mixing up the hashtags is definitely something that you want to do. 

Jenn's Trends has a fantastic blog post on strategically using hashtags. Basically, first you want to figure out which hashtags are the most relevant for you. Start off with using 4-5 really popular hashtags. When you type in a hashtag in search, it'll show how many posts have that hashtag. 

If I type in #knitting, there are over 7 million posts related to that hashtag. So for your super popular hashtags you want to use ones like #knitting, #yarn, etc. 


Next, Jenn advises using 5-7 moderately popular hashtags. Ones related to your content, but are a little more targeted. #handdyedyarn and #indiedyer are an example-- they still have a lot of posts, but are in the hundreds of thousands instead of a million. 


Then, she suggests using 2-5 niche-specific hashtags. Since speckle dyed yarn IS hot right now, and let's say I'm posting some, #speckledyarnissohotrightnow and #speckledyedyarn are perfect. 

Finally, use 1-2 branded hashtags; I would use #pigeonroofstudios. 

I like to use all 30 hashtags when possible, so I might also throw in hashtags like #mycreativebiz or #makersgonnamake, hashtags that aren't specifically yarn related but are craft/art related. 

You might be asking yourself, "Do I have to type each individual hashtag every time? That seems like a hassle." I suggest putting together several batches of hashtags and saving them in your Notes (at least it's Notes on an iPhone; I don't know what it's called on Android), so then you can just copy and paste. Just remember to not use all the same hashtags on every post. 

Finally, just experiment, and see what works for you! 

Instagram for Indie Dyers Part Two: Applying Analytics

Now that you have a business profile and access to analytics, what do you do with them? 

First, you need to be aware of the Instagram Algorithm. Much to the chagrin of pretty much everyone, Instagram is no longer chronological. The algorithm works to show only the best content to the most people. That means good content is key. Gone are the days of posting five times a day to reach people. Less has become more when it comes to posting.

Instagram displays posts "based on the likelihood you'll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting, and the timeliness of the post." So the algorithm determines which posts it thinks you will be interested in seeing based on your activity. It's similar to Facebook in that way...which isn't surprising, seeing as Facebook owns Instagram. 

When you post on Instagram, IG will serve that post up to a small amount of your followers. How they respond will determine how high the post ranks in other followers' feeds. If someone you follow has engaged with the post, it will also rank higher. No matter how popular, however, IG takes into consideration how relevant they think the content of the post will be to the user. The algorithm knows what genres users have interacted with in the past. Instagram also combines that with hashtags to figure out what to show users as well. Hashtags will help you reach users that aren't following you yet. 

Is your head spinning yet? 

This is where analytics come in. 

So here are my posts sorted by Engagement. Unfortunately, because of my stupid attempt to deal with what I imagined was "shadow banning" by switching back to a personal account temporarily, when I switched back to a business account, I'd lost all my previous analytics. Obviously the more data one has the better. 

Engagement is the combined likes and comments on your post. Since we want high engagement, we not only want likes, but comments, and one way to do that is, in your caption, always ask a question. 


The post with the highest engagement.

The post with the highest engagement.

As you can see, I had a good dialogue going on, asking my followers to suggest colorways to me. Make sure you respond to every comment-- besides being good manners, it helps the engagement-- you are literally engaging with your viewers. 



The post with the second highest engagement.

The post with the second highest engagement.

On the post with the second highest engagement, I also have asked a question, this time asking my followers what they are planning to buy in my update, as many have been buying from me or at least seeing my fiber and yarn for years. That familiarity is a great advantage for me, because there is so much history to mine. 


The post with the third highest engagement rate.

The post with the third highest engagement rate.

On this post, that has the third highest engagement rate, I don't ask a question, but I tell a story. Think of your IG posts as mini blog posts, and tell stories. Maybe the history of the color way, maybe some musings on knitting or spinning or some story of your life. There are a million options, but try to have more than "Just put these up in the shop!" 

Also, really look at the photography. The top three posts have vivid colors and interesting perspectives and angles. Piles of yarn are always fun to look at. You want your posts to be eye-catching, because remember how Instagram first shows your posts to a small selection of your followers to see how it does?

Why people engage with your posts will vary, but really try to reach out to your audience. These top three photos weren't top three engagement because they were just pretty pictures. They were the top three because I reached out to my audience and I know who my audience is. 


Posts sorted by reach.

Posts sorted by reach.

So let's go to reach now. Reach is the number of unique viewers who saw your posts. Unsurprisingly, the two posts that had the highest engagement also had the largest reach. However, reach isn't just from likes and comments; it's also based on how your hashtags perform.


Hashtags will be the next blog post, but you can see what hashtags I used. Since these posts had high engagement, the likelihood of them showing up in hashtag searches increased. Notice how I switched up the hashtags between the two images. You can use up to 30. There's debate about whether or not hashtags in the comments will affect the reach, but I split the two. I don't really know if this helps or not, but it doesn't seem to hurt. I decided to try it after someone said it seemed to work out for her on The Manly Pinterest Tips Podcast.  (Listen to it. It's good.) I do the dot dot dot so that there isn't a glut of hashtags immediately after my caption. 



The third highest reach 

The third highest reach 

Here's where it gets a little interesting. The post that got the third highest reach is not the post that had the third highest engagement rate. Why? The answer is video. Video appears to be the most powerful form one can use in social media these days. There are actually 7 key factors in the Instagram algorithm. They are:

  1. Engagement
  2. Relevancy
  3. Relationships
  4. Timeliness
  5. Profile Searches
  6. Direct Shares
  7. Time Spent. 

Notice that last one. Time Spent. What is going to capture a viewer's time? Video is going to trump still image every time. Try to give some value with your video. This video is a how-to on braiding spinning fiber. It's simple, and just shot with my iPad, but I'm giving value by showing my technique. A how-to video is likely to get repeat views by someone. The above factors, by the way, are from the Buffer blog post on the Instagram Algorithm, and I highly recommend checking it out. 


Let's get into the Followers information. The more posts you have analytics of, the more insight you will have, which is why I'm kicking myself for that brief switch to a personal profile. Above on the left, it's showing me the days my followers are the most active on, which is Thursday and Saturday. However, keep in mind that this may change as I get insights on more posts. Another reason these analytics are so valuable! 

On the left, it's showing me the time of day my followers are the most active each day. 

We'll take one of the most popular days, Thursday. According to the bar graph, on Thursdays my followers are the most active at 1 p.m. That means I should make sure that on Thursdays, I post at around 1 p.m. Remember, how your post performs in the short time after you post it is going to decide the amount of reach it will have. 

See why analytics are so important? They give me important feedback about my posts, so that I can have a better sense of what content performs the best and when. If we go back to the 7 key factors, number four, timeliness is how recent the posts are. That's why you want to schedule your posts strategically. 

There are third party apps you can use for analytics, like Iconosquare, but, although I actually use Iconosquare myself, I still like to be able to easily see throughout the day how my posts are doing.  Hopefully this post helps you up your Instagram game!