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instagram hashtag campaigns

We are publishing this article in order reflect how the latest changes in the Instagram Hashtag Search API might impact your future hashtag campaigns and most importantly how to better prepare for 2019 in order to achieve your goals.

The main topics in the article are the following:

1. Why do marketers use hashtag campaigns?

With the growth of Instagram’s user base and the increased usage of hashtags, this little # sign has gained a valuable spot in the marketing campaigns for almost every type of business.

Having this in mind, the main purposes of Instagram hashtags and why marketers will continue using them in 2019, are the following:

  • Launch a new product
  • Increase reach and engagement thus resulting in followers increase
  • Spread information about a cause
  • Increase overall brand awareness
  • Increase the participation of visitors on events
  • Monitor what users are talking about the business by using hashtags
  • Collect user-generated content about the business
  • Get direct results, such as web traffic or even sales

2. What are the hashtag campaign steps?

When you think about a hashtag campaign, usually you think about using some interesting brand keyword or keywords or maybe a related topic to the industry you are in, in order to reach and engage with your audience on Instagram.

Once you have defined the purpose and the value you want to bring with the campaign, you will need an actionable plan divided into two-phase: Planning and Execution.

Hashtag campaign planning phase:

  1. Create the hashtag with emotion and value in mind
  2. Define the actual content plan
  3. Produce the content
  4. Find a tool to schedule the content, image or video posts

Hashtag campaign execution phase:

  1. List different outreach channels
  2. Combine it with other social media networks and channels, beyond Instagram
  3. If possible, bring it offline
  4. Over-obsessed with the response to each comment you get
  5. Do not forget to measure

Please note (although this step is at the end of the list) that as soon as you start defining your hashtag campaign you must have in mind the possibilities to measure its success.

So, you will need to know which metrics to follow at the very beginning. For example:

  • Number of posts published with the hashtag
  • Engagement rate, including the number of video views, likes, or comments
  • The overall reach of the hashtagged posts

Once all this is defined, let’s start with brainstorming about the actual hashtag.

3. How to create your branded hashtag?

Defining the hashtag(s) of the campaign is the key step in your campaign planning process.

But, what needs to be considered when planning for the new hashtag campaign is that the mainstream usage of hashtags in many cases results with overstuffing, over-usage of the hashtags. And this ‘un-esthetic’ use of the hashtags might not have any impact on the goals of the campaign, such as engagement, number of followers or any other goal.

A recent study by Mention, reveals that posts who have more hashtags have not gained any result in an increase in the engagement. So, the finding is that the highly engaging posts contain 5.44 hashtags on average. Here are some of the hashtags who drive the biggest engagement:

instagram engagement hashtags

In order to avoid this, before you begin with your action steps just remind yourself about the basic definition of a hashtag campaign:

A hashtag campaign is a brand tactic used to stimulate, reach, engage or drive direct results by providing value for users to participate in.

The key in this definition is “by providing value”. It seems obvious but sometimes brands think that they need to do a hashtag campaign because everyone is doing this, and miss the core purpose of it. So, the idea of this phrase is to actually define WHY hashtags should be used in your marketing efforts and make a more planned strategy that will not just include inventing some ‘creative’ hashtag and overposting with this hashtag.

Need an Instagram Hashtag Wall?

Generate and embed your Instagram hashtag feeds on your website

So let’s brainstorm some ‘value’ items that can stimulate users to engage with your hashtag:

  • Create a very quality content that people will actually want to engage or evet save
  • Give a sense of a community and involve people in a movement
  • Invest in greater cause and things that matter
  • Organize giveaway contests, the most mainstream but can be effective

Once you define what you stand for and the purpose of the campaign, the best approach for this phase is to outline an initial hashtag planning document that will include some words or keywords that you usually use and search them directly on Instagram to find the number of posts published with this hashtags.

So when brainstorming the first list of hashtags you need to have in mind the following:

  • Easy to remember and write
  • Fun, interesting, happy, bring an emotion
  • Represent a value, for example, #MBphotocredit,
  • Words that you or your customers frequently use about your brand
  • Check the hashtags of your competition
  • Check if something similar exists

Once having all the above in mind, let’s start writing some potential hashtags and even categorize them by type, such as Branded, Campaign, Topic hashtags.

If you have more people in the team, it will be great to involve all of them to see different perspectives, especially for collecting quantitive rating that will help you make the right decision

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So the plan will include these steps:

  1. Create an Excel sheet with a list of 30 keywords – potential hashtags
  2. Replace myhashtag in this link to check if they exist
  3. Repeat step 2 to check similar hashtags and write down in the table the number of posts per hashtag
  4. Look for posts in similar hashtags by the competition
  5. Add a qualitative rating for each hashtag, by team member
  6. Run a simple survey if possible, to ask current customers about their favorite hashtags -and write their rating for each hashtag

I’ve added the quantitive rating by the teammates in this process so you can easily narrow down to the top 3 hashtags and make your decision much easier. Also, the possibility to ask some power users on Instagram about their habits in using hashtags can be very helpful in decision making.

Here is a list of hashtags for inspiration:

  • #dishpics by OpenTable
  • #mbphotocredit by Mercedes Benz
  • #MacysParade by Macy’s
  • #PrimeDay by Amazon
  • #OneTimeInNOLA by Visit New Orleans
  • #MeetMeInTheGap by Gap

Define the content for your hashtag campaign

Once you’ve identified your hashtag and the overall theme of the campaign, it is time to define the content that you will post or expect your audience to post whiles using the hashtag.

Here are a few tips:

1. Join the mainstream, too – I know that this might seem to defocus but you will need to fit your strategy to the most common and most natural content to Instagram, such as food, makeup, exercise, celebrities, (nudes), exotic destinations, motivation, design, vintage, art, furniture and similar.

2. Organize a giveaway – I know I know, it sounds non-creative (it doesn’t have to be) but as mentioned many times it gives results.
For example, the OpenTable reservation app uses the hashtag #dishpics to inspire people to share their dish photos.

open table Instagram hashtag

It is not direct branding approach to the app but very relatable with the common topics on Instagram and also the business domain of Open Table. Here are the Open Table giveaway rules for more inspiration.

oreo hashtag campaign

3. Find your unique style – a specific, new and unique image or video format can have a tremendous impact on the engagement. People on Instagram love esthetics and your fresh approach to delivering them value through the design of the content can be a great sauce for success. Here is an example of Oreo and how they uniquely target followers of different hashtags:

The famous cookie brand Orea has a unique shout out strategy, that is reflected by tagging specific hashtags and saying hi to all their followers. Here is an example of the post that shouts out to the #MickeyMouse fans.

This OREO cookie goes out to the 7,355,965 #MickeyMouse fans who still remember that 60’s intro song.

4. Feature UGC – inspiring user-generated content is usually the easiest content and most effective content strategy. For example, Mercedes Benz uses the hashtag #mbphotocredit to credit photographers of their car models.

mercedes bez Instagram

By using this hashtag the automaker Mercedes creatively engages with photographers and uses the hashtag to give them credit while reposting the photos in their official Instagram profile. The hashtag currently has 25,014 posts.

5. Include product in a contest – If you plan a contest that will involve people to compete with their posts, please make sure it is unique and interesting for your audience. People are overwhelmed with contests and if this is something that you want to proceed to do in 2019, check one of my favorite hashtag contests by Starbucks #redcupcontest and featuring their famous holiday red cup:

Starbucks hashtag campaign

This is one of does campaigns that bring offline activities to a brand’s online presence. Also, it gets people excited about the novelty of a product, makes them engaged and also gives that moment of being the first to have tried a coffee in a red cup, an urgency emotion that usually works in marketing.

4. How to execute the hashtag campaign?

Here are 4 tips you can use in order to make sure your hash-tagged content resonates with your targeted audience:

1. Outreach through your current channels – send email to your audience, post on other social media profiles, print it on menus, flyers or posters to communicate the existence of the campaign to your current audience.

2. Involve a celebrity or influencer to spread the word – if there is any possibility to contract an influencer for the campaign this should be one of your first steps to spread the information about your campaign.

3. Target trending hashtags – find hashtags in your industry that are trending and make sure you create compelling content. These hashtags sometimes can be related to an event, holiday, or some viral content. For example, events like Royal weddings or Super bowl connect larger audiences. Or popular shopping days, such as #MacysParade or #PrimeDay. And just think out of the box when trying to create that appealing photo or video that can reach to the people following these hashtags.

4. Take your hashtags offline – this is a common tactic of boosting the initial engagement. The easiest way to spread the word around your hashtags is to make a cool offline happening that will incentivize and engage people to take photos and post directly on Instagram. Think of special, invite-only events, invite a celebrity or maybe create a unique product, packaging that selected customers will be first to see it or buy it.

5. Ask to tag you and get featured – Some brands such as Merced Benz, mentioned above use this strategy in a very ‘productive’ way. The only thing is that this works only if your brand has a long-term focus in keeping this hashtag and building a community around it. If done right, it can be great in your outreach efforts and getting help from the community to help you with spreading the word. Start by adding this in your bio: Here is an example: “Tag #MeUndies for a chance to be featured”.

meundies instagram bio

4. How to use hashtags to generate UGC?

This section is very important for your brand. The importance is becoming more obvious due to the latest changes in Instagram hashtags Search API. Now, Instagram will only allow generating hashtagged photos published over a period of 24 hours. Well, of course, you can always go to Instagram and search for your hashtag, but third-party apps such as EmbedFeed can safely store your brands hashtagged content in one place and in an organized dashboard allowing you to reuse this content for various purposes.

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One of the main purposes is to create your website’s social wall or if you ever want to showcase a user’s activity around an event.

Generate hashtagged UGC with an app

I mentioned EmbedFeed Instagram hashtag tool, approved by Facebook to help you fetch and store all the user-generated content posted with your hashtag. The system works by requiring you to have an Instagram business account that needs to be connected with the app. That’s it. No other requirements or hustles. The app will provide you a simple option to submit your hashtag and pre-generate the posts in just seconds.

add Instagram hashtag

Embed hashtag campaign on your website

This common practice is very helpful in expanding the reach of your campaign beyond Instagram. It is also very effective that you give tons of value to your UGC and on the other hand make other people aware that you are doing this campaign and they can also involve.

In order to fetch the hashtag you are using and display the photos, EmbedFeed can provide you with a simple code that works on any website and syncs all the posts published with your hashtag in a period of 24 hours.

instagram embeddable code

The best thing about using the third-party apps is that you can filter, moderate or get more settings to manage your hashtag campaigns. To learn more about the

5. Top 3 Instagram hashtag campaigns

There are tons of campaigns that you can search for and get some inspiration. For this post, I’ve chosen these 3 because of their novelty, are happening right now or are still active. And also are giving the value, the positive energy and the fell of community that most of the campaigns lack.

1. Nike’s iconic slogan as a hashtag

Nike is using their slogan #justdoit as one of the most recognizable brand values that inspire people to relate to the brand, achieving 15,857,590 posts using this hashtags. Here is an example of using the hashtag to demonstrate the amazing comeback.

nike instagram hashtag

Please note that recently Nike had a PR problem with a trending negative hashtag. Their favorite slogan was used in another context. People who were not agreeing with their epic campaign featuring the NFL player Colin Kaepernick were using the hashtag #JustBurnIt to demonstrate their revolt. This is a good example of how a hashtag can affect people in demonstrating their voice especially in exposing negative behavior from social media users.

2. Visit New Orleans shares user stories published with a hashtag

The official handle for NOLA tourism on Instagram uses the hashtag #OneTimeInNOLA to engage with the people who have visited New Orleans and shared their interesting perspective. The posts that are published with this hashtag are re-used by the official account in order to amplify other people’s stories who had an amazing experience in New Orleans. The end goal is to showcase to prospective visitors the unique places, spirit, and style of the city shared by people who have really experienced this. The hashtag has attracted 71,507 posts till now.

hashtag campaign onetimeinnola

3. Coca-Cola engages followers to share kindness through a hashtag

To make the World Kindness Day more special, starting from November 13th, 2018, Coca-Cola is running a campaign to make the internet a more optimistic place. They invite everyone to use the hashtag #RefreshTheFeed and share their artwork of kindness.

coca cola instagram

6. New hashtag features to expect in 2019

When it comes to new Instagram features that we might see in 2019, the most probable ones regarding hashtags are the following:

Hashtag selector

This feature is buzzing for the last months and was first spotted by the app researcher Jane Manchun Wong:

As explained by Jane, it is obvious that Instagram wants to make your captions hashtag free and is testing an option to include the hashtags in a separate field.

The reason behind this feature is probably the idea to make sure hashtags are not that intrusive and annoying.

Conclusion

Hashtags are a powerful way to bring people together around a certain cause or in stimulating user-generated content, that brands can collect and analyze.

Additionally, brands need to be aware of the over-usage of hashtags that have especially skyrocketed in the past year that might not have any help in achieving the campaign results

Therefore, in 2019 hashtag campaigns will need to include more planning, more innovative way of creativity in giving and bringing value, through high-quality content and user empowerment.

Need an Instagram Hashtag Wall?

Generate and embed your Instagram hashtag feeds on your website

Avatar for Nikola Bojkov
Nikola Bojkov

CEO of EmbedSocial | Facebook ads craftsmen | Previous founder of a Facebook Partner Company | Lena's Dad.