Hashtags are everywhere on Instagram because they are the platform’s primary way of categorizing and communicating the type of content that people are posting about. So far we haven’t talked a lot about how hashtags work on Instagram Stories, as opposed to IGTV, static feed images, or carousel content. Today, we wanted to give you the lowdown on how to use hashtags on Instagram Stories, as well as answer your common questions.
Watch our YouTube Video on How to use Hashtags on your IG Stories
Do Hashtags On Instagram Stories Work?
We’re often asked the question “do hashtags on Instagram Stories work?” Our response? Yes, but you have to keep up to date with the ever-changing rules.
Over 500 million Instagram accounts use Stories every day. And a survey by Facebook found that 58% of people have become more interested in a brand or product after seeing it in Stories. Clearly, the potential reach of hashtagging your Instagram Stories to reach a wider audience is pretty sizable.
That said, we’ve learned that some of the old techniques aren’t working under the new Instagram hashtag rules implemented in late-2020. For example, Instagram isn’t showing Stories in location-based hashtags any longer, which eliminates a vital distribution channel for the format.
That said, hashtags on Stories can still be effective, provided that you have different expectations around using them:
- Brand recognition. As you will later see, Nike uses its #JustDoIt slogan to encourage viral sharing on various campaigns through Stories.
- Active engagement. For instance, even if Instagram doesn’t show Stories in their respective hashtag topics anymore, including clickable hashtags provides active engagement to your Stories, which encourages Instagram to share your Stories more frequently with your followers. If your viewers are just watching your story, you’re less likely to see results. Instagram won’t rank passive engagement as well as it ranks click-through.
- Topical relevance. Through active engagement, you’ll be seen as a topical authority for relevant hashtags and allow your posts to rank more effectively for them. For instance, a yoga apparel company may want to gain topical relevance on the hashtags #yogapants and #yogalife. In that case, they may want to include these hashtags visibly in their Stories to get clicks.
What Types Of Stories Prevail When Targeting Hashtag Viewers?
It’s all very well learning how to post hashtags in your Stories to help them reach a bigger audience. But if your Stories themselves aren’t effective, they’re not going to have much impact. When looking at the most successful Stories, we found some commonalities.
Optimize your story for mobile. Let’s face it, Instagram for the web is … not that great. Most of your target audience is probably using the mobile app. By creating full-screen vertical Stories suited for mobile viewing, you’re more likely to immerse your viewers. A study by Instagram found that mobile-shot Stories ads had a 63% chance of outperforming studio shot ads.
So while you may be tempted to post slick, pre-filmed studio content in a 16:9 format, the best way to immerse your audience is targeting them with content in a 9:16 format. Keep these dimensions in mind when creating Stories through apps such as Canva on desktop. It’s a little easier when posting to Stories from mobile, as you’ll be able to immediately see the best size for your videos.
Include interactive elements. The best Stories will encourage active engagement over passive viewing. Luckily, Instagram makes this easy, by providing sticker options like polls and questions. This is a great way of seeing the number of viewers who are actually engaging with your content, as well.
Make any products easily shoppable by tagging them. This is mostly relevant if you’re looking to sell a product through your Stories, but the best way to do this, unsurprisingly, is by linking to the product! Take the hard work out of purchasing from your users. If they see a product they like, they should be able to tap on it and be taken to its page on your website.
In addition to linking directly to the product, they can also link to other campaigns. For example, when clicking on a link sticker in Stories, users could be linked to a mini-survey on what type of winter wear suits their personality. Little quizzes and surveys like this can be a great way to learn more about the demographic of your users while providing them with a feeling of having an experience uniquely tailored to them. It’s also a campaign likely to be shared with friends. Make it even easier by providing a ‘share your result to Stories’ option!
How To Post Hashtags On Stories
Hashtags can be added in 3 different ways:
- In a hashtag sticker (one per Story post)
- In normal Story text
- In a location tag (one per Story post)
You know a hashtag is actually working in normal story text if it is underlined, just like if you tag a friend in a Story post.
How are story hashtags different from post hashtags?
When someone searches for something on Instagram, each hashtag will have an Instagram story in the top left-hand corner. Just like a normal story, if you click on this, you will see a curation of Story posts that have been created within that given day.
But, here’s the catch. Unlike your feed posts, which will appear within a hashtag (whether it ranks or not) if you use it, Stories are curated. This means that just because you use a hashtag on a Story, it isn’t guaranteed that your Story will appear or be featured on that hashtag. Essentially, Story hashtags are a little bit more selective, as Story engagement metrics are harder to apply to display the top-ranking content, and the volume of Story posts in a day is much higher.
Additionally, Stories can appear on your Explore page. If your Story is highly engaged with, it may appear on your target audience’s Explore page, and the best way to increase the chances of this happening is by using hashtags. This signifies to Instagram exactly what your content is about, so it can suggest your Stories to users who consume that type of content or may be interested in what you share.
How to use hashtags on Instagram Stories like a pro:
Avoid banned hashtags 👋
First things first: you’ve probably heard us talk about banned hashtags, right? If not, you can read more about them and how they impact your account, here. Banned hashtags work the same way on Stories as they do on feed posts. If a hashtag is banned on Instagram, it will not display, or show a limited number of posts when someone searches that hashtag. Banned hashtags display no story content, so if your goal is to reach more people when using a Story hashtag, make sure it isn’t a banned one. You can check this manually, or by using our Banned Hashtag Scanner, within Flick.
Utilize location hashtags to your advantage 📍
The hashtags you are most likely to rank on when it comes to Stories, are location-based hashtags, as well as location tags. Each location that is registered via Instagram, has an associated hashtag. Because a location hashtag is more niche (it essentially whittles down your competition to just the people in your area), it is a lot more likely your Story content will be displayed, or ‘rank’. So, make use of the rankability of location hashtags, by applying them to your Story content, to up your chances of increasing your reach.
Consider your audience 🗣
As you probably already know, people can follow hashtags. If someone follows a hashtag, sometimes, they will see the Stories from that hashtag in their Story bar at the top of their homepage, or Instagram feed. If you know your audience or target audience is likely to search for a certain hashtag, you can use this to your advantage by putting yourself in their shoes. Think about what kind of hashtags people would go out of their way to follow. If you are a fishing influencer, for example, your target might follow the hashtag #catchoftheday. If you have a Collection of hashtags that you think your ideal audience is likely to follow, you can make sure to include these in your future Stories whenever you post.
Target a range of hashtag sizes 🎯
Not all hashtags are created equally. Some are consistently popular, like #health, whereas others fall victim to current trends. For example, when was the last time you saw anyone post #YOLO? Instead of trying to keep up to date with trends, consider using hashtags with differing popularity.
Try mixing a hashtag with roughly 250k uses with one in the 500k – 1m range. Check the popularity of these hashtags in the Instagram Hashtag Search Tool. This will increase the likelihood of your posts being seen.
How to hide your hashtags 👻
Some people don’t like using too many hashtags in their Stories, because it might take away from the content itself, or cloud your image/video with too much text. The simple answer to this is to hide your hashtags within your content, meaning they will still work, but won’t be clickable or visible. There are two methods for this:
- Pinch the hashtag you have written out to make the text much smaller, and place it in the corner of an image.
- Place a Gif or image over your hashtag to hide them, or, after writing our your hashtags, place the image you are sharing back into the foreground, so they disappear completely (this works better when re-sharing feed posts or Stories)
Showcase your hashtags using Story Highlights ✨
Although you might think Stories are just limited to a 24-hour window, you can also showcase old Stories in the highlights section on your profile. This is a perfect place to cultivate all your Stories that use your branded hashtag.
You can even name this after the hashtag itself, so users know exactly what they’re getting when they click on it. This highlight reel of your Stories will show your users the versatility of your hashtag, and drive active engagement by providing examples! It’s also a good idea to share Stories from your users and add the hashtag – this way you can add their Stories to your highlight reel too.
Instagram Stories examples with hashtags that work
Nike’s amazing use of branded hashtags on Stories
Do you know one brand that’s killing it with hashtags? Nike. Their most prominent hashtag is their slogan, #justdoit. And it’s so recognizable, they don’t even have to ask customers to use it. Customers are already posting it for free.
The best part about this hashtag is that it doesn’t just describe the company, it also is a call to action. It’s so versatile in its application – it can be used when you’re posting a story of you exercising, or when you’re showcasing the shoes you bought purely for fashion.
Clearly, Nike has found their goldmine. The best way for you to do the same is to find your niche and fill it.
Microsoft’s use of creativity-based hashtags on Stories to become a topical authority in the niche
Microsoft is a large technology company that attracts many different types of people and professionals. That said, it understands that Instagram is one of the best social media platforms for designers and creatives and that many of its followers consist of people in the creative industry.
So what does it do? Take note of the relevant hashtag topics frequented by these people and become a topical authority in the niche to increase its chances of ranking high for them.
For instance, to market its Concepts app, it creates a series of Stories that highlights its Stories hashtag strategy in action:
Every single hashtag in the Stories is searched by designers, namely #creativity, #digitalpen, #palettes, and #watercolor. While these Stories won’t show up in the individual hashtags, Instagram may come to see Windows as an important player in the niche and show its relevant posts more prominently in these hashtags in the future.
Furthermore, it also uses Highlights to cater to the creative crowd. In fact, there is a whole highlight dedicated to #CreativeInspo, another hashtag around creativity.
Gap’s #GapLogoRemix campaign on Stories
One case study that comes directly from Instagram is Gap and their #GapLogoRemix campaign. The story hit on a number of different demographics, ranging from people interested in fashion to fans of hip-hop and r&b and people following the star of the ad, SZA.
Each story was clickable, allowing users to “swipe up to see the collection” – a simple and clear call to action. As a result of this campaign, Gap saw a 73% higher click-through rate than their previous Instagram campaign.
It’s also a great idea to inspire creatives to do some free advertising for you. By showcasing the history of Gap logos in their different art forms, there’s a great call to action for artists and designers to showcase their takes on the logo, and to share their work with the same hashtag #GapLogoRemix. The inclusion of the word remix is especially smart – it doesn’t directly ask for others to create their own version, but definitely encourages them to think of the idea for themselves.
How can Flick help you optimize your hashtags for Stories?:
Hashtag rules are hashtag rules, you can apply a strategy for Instagram hashtags on your Stories – just like you would for your feed. Here’s where we can help.
- Niche still matters. In fact, it really matters. Because Story hashtags are even more competitive, if you want to be featured, you need to make sure you are using the right hashtags in terms of your engagement as well as your niche. The more tailored the hashtag, the more likely you are to rank, and the more relevant the hashtag is to your Story content, the more likely your audience will engage, increasing your chances of ranking. So, make sure you are still using Suggested filters on Flick when you search for hashtags for Stories and search for keywords that are relevant to your post. More on our recommendations for hashtag strategy, here.
- Avoid banned hashtags. Flick has an integrated Banned Hashtag Scanner, which allows you to check which hashtags from your selected list are banned before you post.
- Use multiple hashtags. You don’t have to overload your Stories, but in our Analytics Suite, you can understand which hashtags perform the best for you on average, as well as which hashtags you tend to rank on. If you use your top-performing hashtags on your Story content, you are much more likely to rank, and therefore see results!