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So, You Think You Know Instagram?

Updated: Oct 31, 2022

About the author:

Codie Henry is a former stylist based in Arizona and the Vice President of The Sovereign Stylist. Having finished his bachelor's degree in public relations, he is working in the field of public relations. Codie’s blogs are typically focused on legal issues, marketing, and public relations topics. Codie believes that knowledge and language is the strongest weapon one can wield and that people always strive to be lifelong learners.

Instagram is a fantastic platform for visual industries, such as beauty.

The social media platform is one of the best when trying to reach a younger audience with the two highest age demographics being 13-17-year-olds at 72% of users and 18-29-year-olds at 67% of users.

The Issue:

On a platform that sees 95 million photos uploaded every day and more than 4.2 billion "likes," how does a brand shine on Instagram?

Know your Audience:

Whom are you trying to reach? If you are aiming for 60-year-olds, then, sadly, Instagram isn't gonna be the best platform. If you just shotgun it and try to target everyone, you are shooting into outer space while hoping to hit stars. Having a ten year age bracket is best as well as a gender and a few possible interests in mind. Let's say you want 25-34-year-old women who are interested in the latest hair trends.

Expand it out a bit more and create a persona. Sally is a 29-year-old straight woman who loves watching Guy Tang videos on YouTube. She works full-time at a comfortable corporate job and is a college graduate. She loves colorful yet professional hair.

Do you see how focused this allows you to be?

Step 1: What should you show Sally to make her stop scrolling through Instagram and look at your picture? What about a comparison shot between a Guy Tang creation and your interpretation of it?

Step 2: How do you ensure Sally will see your photo? Hashtags. #mydentity and #guy_tang will ensure you are in the same vicinity as Sally's feed.

The Photo

I mentioned the concept of 'Stopping the Scroll' in Step 1, but what do I mean? I want you to think about yourself on Instagram. What are you doing? Just scrolling and scrolling until . . . "oh, look at that!" *stops scrolling* That is what you are aiming to do. Is there a fool-proof way of doing that? No. It is the hardest and most frustrating damn aspect of Instagram. But always aim for a 'Wow' factor. Whether that be something surprising, enticing, or even provocative.


The next most crucial thing is Hashtags. Hashtags allow your photos to been seen by more than just your followers. With the right combination, you can potentially reach millions of users with a single photo. And, now that Instagram allows users to follow individual hashtags, your hashtag choice can put you right on the feed of your target audience.

A few things to keep in mind:

  1. Your profile has to be public.

  2. Hashtags cannot use spaces nor special characters, like @ or &.

  3. You can use up to 30 Hashtags on a post and ten Hashtags on a story.

  4. You should be using a business account for Instagram.

Let's start with Hashtag Don'ts:

  1. Don't use irrelevant hashtags

    1. This goes back to blindly shooting into outer space and hoping to hit a star. It's also rather annoying to see a photo in a hashtag directory that has nothing to do with the hashtag.

    2. Such a practice can also harm your reach on Instagram by the dreaded Instagram Algorithm. People can opt-out of your photo for a particular hashtag. If too many people select the dreaded 'Don't Show for This Hashtag,' the Instagram Algorithm is going to start thinking that it's not them but you - that is the problem.

  2. Don't get comfortable using the same ones over and over.

    1. This speaks to Instagram's Community Guidelines of "not artificially collecting likes, followers, or shares, posting repetitive comments or content." It's also dreadfully dull for you as a content creator.

  3. Ensure you understand the meaning of the hashtag.

    1. The last thing you want to unknowingly put your business in the middle of a reputational crisis and PR nightmare. Check the other photos that are linked to the hashtag you want to use and ensure it's the type of content you want to be next to.

  4. Don't refuse popular or pop culture hashtags.

    1. Some content creators don't like following the mob when a particular hashtag takes off. This is a mistake. If what you are posting is relevant to the hashtag, you should take advantage of it.

Time for the Hashtag Do's!

  1. Use hashtags in your bio.

    1. Now that Instagram allows you to follow hashtags, consider placing some which represent your brand in your bio to allow for easy follows.

  2. Keep track of your analytics.

    1. With a business account, you can see the impressions (number of people that have seen your stuff) that you have received from Hashtags. The information can be found under View Insights for a particular post.

  3. Make a list of Hashtags you want to use in the future.

    1. Finding the hashtags that fit your brand takes research. Using the built-in search feature on Instagram is the best way to find the right fit. In your search, you may find great things, but you have no use for it currently. Save them on your phone under Notes or the Android equivalent. But make sure you continue to update it.

  4. Hide the Hashtags in your captain.

    1. Like all marketing, the Hashtag gets them in the door, but skill and service are what makes them stay. In the world of Instagram, your captain is that first "Hello" when they walk in. You don't want your hashtags to interfere or detract from that. So a little trick to know is that Instagram hides after three lines. So, hit the return button your phone's keyboard about 5 times prior to entering your hashtags, which will ensure they don't mess with your caption.

  5. Consider branded Hashtags

    1. Branded Hashtags are the easiest way to carve out your own little slice of cyberspace. It also gives way for your follows to interact with your brand by giving them a hashtag dedicated to your work. The trick is to keep branded hashtags short and easy to remember.

  6. Limit the number of hashtags used.

a. Recently Instagram was nice enough to give us some insight into how many hashtags are the 'right' amount. Instagram recommends that creators use 3-5 hashtags per post.

We received a question regarding hashtags from Stephanie Harms Barton on our Facebook Group, "How do you decide what hashtags will work the best?"

Well, Stephanie, that is where research comes in. Searching for hashtags, looking at what industry leaders use, brands you love, as well as hot topics that are relevant to your brand. A big one is specific or niche hashtags, which speak directly to your target audience's interests. But the important thing is to look at your content and research hashtags that are relevant to what you are posting. It's important to use hashtags strategically. To do that, you must give the audience what they are looking for. This really goes back to what your target audience is interested in. There are programs that allow you for hashtag research and tracking such as Hootsuite, but they can be incredibly expensive and a bit overkill for small businesses outside of marketing or PR agencies.

Let's run through it real quick on a computer rather than a smartphone just to give it a visual:

First: Shoutout to ice_queen_hair on Instagram for this gorgeous work that we will use as an example.

Using the Sally persona we made earlier in the blog and using Guy Tang's Mydentity color line, say you created this and are posting t on Instagram. Well, Sally loves Guy Tang. So, we will hashtag the brand and the name #guy_tang #mydentity Another Guy Tang plug is what he calls his followers #hairbesties

The color is also giving me major rose gold vibes. So, I type in #rosegold into Instagram's search and take a look:

Look at that, #rosegoldhair is a thing. Let's check it out to ensure it's what we want.

It looks like an ok match, but also look right under the Follow button, Related Hashtags that we can also try out and keep an eye on. Well... all but the #copperhair one - just seems like bad juju.

Instagram Stories:

Instagram Stories are used 500 million people every day. Interaction is still one of the best ways to get to people. In the world of PR, we have a phrase we love - Calls to Action. Telling people to drop a comment or like a post goes very far, but Instagram Stories goes a bit further by allowing people to engage with you in a different way:

1. Polls

  1. Polls are an easy way to obtain an instant engagement boost. A simple question with just two answer choices will not only give the impression that you are listening to your followers, but it will give you direct insight into how they feel about certain topics. Let's not forget total strangers that find your story through a hashtag - and, I mean, let's be honest... people on the internet love to share their opinion on things.

  2. It helps to establish and reaffirm a sense of community. Having an online presence also involves running an online community. Polls are a great way to build trust and a sense of community with your followers because they were part of the result.

2. Emoji Slides

Emoji sliders are perfect for those questions that you don't want full-length

novels as a reply to. Questions like, "How do we feel about Platinum

Blonde?" Where people answer using a slider rather than a written reply.

Still With Me?:

If you can flush out a target audience and research your hashtags, Instagram is a very powerful platform to get your name out there and showcase your craft. But there is much more to it than just posting pictures and slapping on 20 hashtags. But it is entirely learnable even more so for a hairdresser's creative mind. As hairdressers, your personality is also your brand. Ensure you show the audience that side of you as well through your captions.

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