How to avoid the two most common Instagram hashtags mistakes

May 2, 2018 | Marketing Tactics

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To make Instagram work for you and for your business, you have to put your pictures in front of your ideal customers – not in front of other handmade shop owners. You need to find people who will resonate with your products. So much so that they will buy them. How do we do that? Hashtags! And if we are being honest here, there’s a fair chance you’ve been using them the wrong way. If you are using hashtags like #etsysellers, #handmade or #etsyshop (to name a few), then we need to talk.

You can watch the video, or read the post below.

1- QUALITY – It’s not something your customers would look for

This is a big one, the biggest one in fact because it is definitely preventing you from getting found by potential customers on Instagram.

Here’s the mistake: You are using hashtags that define you, not your potential customers. The most common example here is #etsyseller or #etsyshop. Yes, you are an Etsy seller, but your potential customer most likely doesn’t care so much about that. Of course they are likely to want to buy handmade products, and are likely to be interested in supporting small businesses. BUT what they’re not doing is going on Instagram typing in #etsyseller in the search and scrolling for hours.

Why? Because when you search “#etsyseller” or “etsyshop” on instagram, you end up with a bunch of very different product images: candles, jewelry, crochet patterns, wooden toys, pottery items, etc. And this is NOT the way people shop. When you are looking to buy something, you generally have a clear idea in mind, or at least a general idea: “I want to find a ring to propose to my girlfriend”, “I want to decorate my living room to make it more homy”, “I need to print invites for my son’s birthday next month” So you search for inspiration, ideas and products with that in mind! Not for #etsyseller.

You know who’s looking for #etsyseller on Instagram? Other Etsy sellers! Or people trying to reach Etsy sellers via their marketing (aka: me!).

You know who ISN’T looking for #etsyseller on Instagram?

  • That woman looking for a new purse.
  • That man looking for an engagement ring for his girlfriend.
  • That mum looking for kids birthday party invites.
  • That young women who just moved into a new apartment with her boyfriend and is looking to decorate her living room.

Let’s take her as an example of the way you need to think about hashtags.

Example:  If you sell watercolor paintings, your customers won’t look for you under #etsyshop or #etsyseller. Nope. In fact, they won’t look for something to buy directly. Instead, they use Instagram for inspiration. So this is most likely what this lovely lady will type into search on Instagram:

  • #homedecor (broad, looking for inspiration)
  • While browsing #homedecor posts, she notices she is always drawn by watercolor so…
  • She clicks on the #watercolor hashtags and browses for a while, noticing a lot of artists seem to be doing botanical watercolor prints, which she thinks are beautiful. She’s noticed a few cactus ones she really liked and think would work great with her living room colors
  • She types in #watercolorcactus and TADA she founds your picture. She takes a look at your account, follows you, maybe even click on the link in your profile to browse your shop 🙂

That’s how you need to think about your hashtags. Using 30 hashtags for “makers” or “etsy sellers” or “creative entrepreneurs” will NOT help you get found by the people who matter most on Instagram (customers!). It will just get you found by other makers (which is great too for community building, but shouldn’t be a focus 100% of the time. Keep #etsyseller for posts where you share about your biz and want to connect with other shop owners.

2 simple questions to ask yourself:

  • Is it something your ideal customer would look for? Or something that only describes you as a shop owner?
  • What does your potential customer “journey” on Instagram look like? Note down hashtags for each step (broad search, more refined search, etc.)

2- QUANTITY – They are too big or too small

The second biggest mistake has everything to do with numbers.

Using hashtags that are too popular

As you may know, some hashtags are more popular than others, and are used much more often on Instagram. Sounds great right? “If they’re more popular, then I should use them to reach more people” you’re thinking.

Well… no, not really. Let me explain. Although at first the logic is right, it isn’t actually a good strategy because you risk getting lost in the middle of another 100 million posts! Don’t believe me? Do this simple test:

Go to search #handmade (111M uses) on Instagram and look at the “recent” tab feed. Pick a picture, and refresh the feed in 2 minutes. Did you notice how MUCH you had to scroll to find the picture you initially noticed?

That’s because a new picture with the hashtag #handmade is uploaded every few seconds! Your chances of staying at the top of the feed are close to zero.

Using hashtags that are not popular enough

The other side of this problem is using hashtags that not enough people are actively using.

If you use a hashtag that only has a couple of hundreds of uses… chances are no one will be looking for this hashtag and so you’re not going to get found.

The exception here is if it’s a branded hashtag that you created for yourself/your brand. Then that’s totally fine. E.g: #tizzitcircle.

So what’s the perfect number?

5000-500000 is a sweet spot.

Remember your customer Instagram journey and find some for broader searches and some for more precise searches. No less than 1000 ever! That’s too little.

Final thoughts:

  • Think about the way your customers use Instagram rather than using hashtags that describe you as a shop owner.
  • Make sure you don’t use hashtags that are too big or too small – and revisit your list from time to time as hashtags become too popular so you can find some new ones to leverage.
deborah_engelmajer_profile deborah_engelmajer_title
Welcome! Want to learn how to build a profitable and successful handmade business and sell your handmade products to the world? You're in the right place! Read more ...
Starting an Handmade Biz
yes please!
Crafting a Kickass Brand
show me how!
Marketing Your Handmade shop
exactly right!
Building Your Online Shop
let's go!
Click here to subscribe
free resource library
read the blog
about and contact page
deborah_engelmajer_profile deborah_engelmajer_title
Welcome! Want to learn how to build a profitable and successful handmade business and sell your handmade products to the world? You're in the right place! Read more ...
Starting an Handmade Biz
yes please!
Crafting a Kickass Brand
show me how!
Marketing Your Handmade shop
exactly right!
Building Your Online Shop
let's go!
Click here to subscribe
free resource library
read the blog
about and contact page

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