How to do Instagram hashtag research for tourism marketing
Which hashtags will get your Instagram posts in front of the right people?
An amazing photo is not enough to get people’s attention on Instagram; it is merely a first step. The rest of the recipe for success is a compelling description, and the right hashtags. That’s because hashtags help more people see your posts, even if they don’t already follow your account.
Hashtags work on Twitter, Facebook, and even LinkedIn, but right now they are most effective on Instagram.
Hashtags are just words with the pound or hash symbol (#) in front of them. Most social platforms turn hashtagged words into clickable links, so you can see all similarly-hashtagged content in one place.
For example, if your visitors include people who like to fish, here are all IG posts hashtagged #FishingLife, a popular community hashtag. If you specifically want to reach women who fish, here are all the IG posts hashtagged #FishingGirls.
Hashtags are not case-sensitive (we are using capitalization for the ones in this blog post, to make them easier for you to read) and you can use up to 30. We recommend using only one or two relevant ones in the actual IG post description, and putting the rest into a comment below the post.
People can also follow a hashtag on Instagram – hit the blue Follow button, then photos and videos with that hashtag will show up periodically in your IG feed.
(Our related blog post – 5 tips to make it easy to get started on Instagram)
How do we know that fishing enthusiasts, or any visitor market, tend to use and follow certain hashtags? Read on…
Start With the Most Obvious Word
Let’s say you decide that one of your marketing goals over the next year is to attract more homeschooling family visitors, along with remote workers and remote schoolers while the COVID pandemic has so many people working and learning online.
It is one way to fill those empty hotel rooms, mostly for day use but also for more extended escapes.
You’ll want to lead parent visitors to your attractions that are good for remote learning, or “schoolcations” as Port Aransas and Mustang Island, Texas, calls it in this blog post.
Which Instagram hashtags would help support this marketing goal?
The top (most popular) photos and videos show up at the top of the Instagram search results page, and most recent ones if you scroll a little further down (see note below.) You’ll also notice that when you search a particular hashtag, there’s a dropdown showing you the numbers for how people have used that tag in a post, plus related hashtags. Very handy for research.
Note – right now, as we approach Election Day (November 3, 2020) in the U.S., Instagram has turned off the Most Recent posts feature to stop the spread of disinformation. We expect to see it restored once the election is over. Most Recent hashtags listings have been restored.
Instagram will tell you how many posts have used a hashtag, so you can quickly tell which ones are most popular – #homeschool was used on 4,735,547 posts as of this writing.
That means it’s popular, but that also means it’s “noisy” and your particular post may be overlooked as it has to compete with millions of others.
—->> You want hashtags that have “mid-range” popularity but are still used a lot in a particular community of Instagrammers.
One example relates to bicycle tourism – cyclists posting on Instagram usually use the obvious hashtag – #cycling – but they also include community tags such as #RoadsLikeThese and #FromWhereIRide. A few minutes of Instagram hashtag research will help you find those organic, community hashtags that really resonate with a particular visitor group.
More focused, niche hashtags are still used on thousands, even millions of posts, but it’s not as hard to break out and be visible with them.
Instagram Hashtag Research After
“The Obvious Words”
Using those obvious hashtags as a jumping-off point, dig into which other hashtags the most popular posts tend to use. That is when you will start to see patterns that help you select the most effective hashtags to reach a certain visitor, guest, or customer.
Let’s go back to our example of trying to attract remote workers, remote learners, and homeschoolers.
You’ll find variations on the obvious #homeschool hashtag, like #homeschooling or #homeschooler, but you’ll also notice opportunity-rich community tags like #ThisIsHomeschool (60,000+ posts in a variety of settings) and #WildAndFreeChildren (over 1 million posts mostly of kids doing outdoorsy activities.)
Are any of your destination Instagram photos or videos appealing to parents of “wild and free children” doing outdoor-related learning? Include the hashtag in those IG posts!
Is one hashtag going to fill your destination, attraction, or hotel with visitors? Probably not, but no hashtags at all – or not taking the necessary time to research the best ones – guarantees that a particular post will not have nearly the reach that it might have had otherwise.
Have you had success with using a particular hashtag to get in front of certain visitors on Instagram? Tell us about it down in the Comments.
PS. Our whole focus is teaching you and/or your partners how to use digital destination marketing to bring more visitors to your town (when the time is right for that.)
If you want to bounce some ideas around about working with us, ping us through our Contact page.
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