Hashtags have emerged as a natural way for consumers to categorize their content and are the key to brand discoverability on Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter. While Twitter and Tumblr have strong virality features such as retweet and reblog, Instagram has chosen not to build a “regram” feature as it emphasizes original content and creativity from its users. Given the absence of “regramming”, hashtags are really the only way a brand can get visibility beyond its followers and grow their community.
Hashtags are a prominent way to discover new photos on Instagram: Whether clicking on them in the feed or entering them into the search bar, hashtags are leading consumers to the content they are looking for. Clicking on a hashtag is tantamount to searching for a key phrase on Google.
With Instagram users’ apparent appetite for hashtags, and the number that users add being all over the map, just how many should brand marketers be using? The answer is not obvious, so we decided to dig into our data and crunch some numbers. We looked at 150,000 Instagram posts by 200 brands, and what we found makes it clear that marketers making optimal use of hashtags have a huge advantage.
One of our most important findings is that likes increase with hashtags and seven hashtags generate the most post likes. It appears that you can get away with adding up to eight, but there’s a huge drop off at nine. It’s possible that more than eight will be perceived as spam.
Brands Underutilizing Hashtags
Brands are severely underutilizing hashtags: nearly 30% of posts have no hashtags, while more than half average one or less. Adding just three can result in huge gains, but only 10% of brands are doing so, while just 4% are in the optimal range.
Adding Even Just a Few Hashtags Boosts Likes A Lot
By going from just 2 to 3 hashtags, brands can gain a 110% increase in likes on their Instagram posts, while adding 5 results in a 180% increase. So, 3 hashtags should be considered the bare minimum, but more is better.
Here are some specific recommendations to help you get most out of research and find success on Instagram.
1. Think & Act like Instagram users
Do your best to make your brand feel more native and less brand(y). Don’t just use your branded hashtag – it looks too promotional. Learn which hashtags your target audience is already using, especially influencers, and add them regularly to your posts so long as they are relevant. When selecting hashtags, think about what users want. Hashtags are like web links;they have to look interesting and relevant for users to click. Use natural keywords like #fitness and also try spicing it up (for e.g. #fitnessaddict). Avoid long hastags: they are difficult to read and don’t have mass appeal.
2. Make hashtags appropriate for your business vertical
Contextualizing things based on your business vertical is a great way to figure out the best hashtags to use. Here are a few quick examples. For e-commerce consider expanding your hashtags by using color names (#cutepink), product attributes (i.e. #rustic), and product category (i.e. #outdoorfurniture). For Fitness, consider category hashtags such as #yoga, #crossfit and result-oriented hashtags like #lookgood, #feelstrong etc. For Food, use hashtags that describe taste, cuisine, recipe etc. Again, emulate other Instagram users posting about your category.
3. Want to get discovered? Think SEO.
Getting your brand discovered on Instagram, and increasing likes and engagement on your posts, actually have a lot in common with getting found on Google. Luckily, Instagram SEO is much easier that Web SEO. Search Marketers who want to get found on Google are thinking about one thing: Am I using the keywords that my target audience is searching for? Users are effectively searching Instagram in the same way they search Google, but instead of punching keywords of interest into a search bar they click on hashtags they are interested in. As an Instagram SEO’er, your goal is to add relevant hashtags that your target audience is searching for. Be sure that some have broad appeal and are commonly used: those help you get incremental reach and visibility beyond your profile followers.
Download a detailed copy of the hashtag research at go.piqora.com/Dec2013InstagramStudyLP.html
Piqora, today shared the latest data available on Pinterest’s performance on Cyber Monday, Black Friday and during Thanksgiving in terms of site traffic and revenue/visit, after analyzing 400 brands on the network.
- Traffic from Pinterest remained unchanged on Cyber Monday, Black Friday and the Thanksgiving weekend. This is not surprising as people were in buying mode not in discovery mode.
- Revenue from Pinterest however was up by 2x over the Thanksgiving weekend and on Black Friday, and up by 3.6x on Cyber Monday (as compared to a 30-day average preceding Thanksgiving). This is very telling about the power of Pinterest in driving e-commerce transactions.
- Top tags and images on Pinterest were related to people pinning and buying boots and coats.
On Cyber Monday, people were more in ‘buying’ mode and less in ‘collecting or discovery’ mode. Pinterest is a discovery network — hence the overall clicks on pins and outbound traffic didn’t see any meaningful jump. But the shopping intent of those clicks was really high due to the Cyber Monday effect. And that resulted in 3.6x higher revenue from those visits on Cyber Monday (and 2x on Black Friday and over the Thanksgiving weekend).
This proves that people aren’t just pinning for the sake of pinning. They are pinning to buy and they are going to Pinterest to look for products to buy. Pinners pin before they buy and they click on their past pins when they are ready to buy them. A bulk of those purchases (from self pins) happen between the 2nd day – 4 weeks of pinning.
Retailers who had optimized their website for pinning before and during the month of November had their catalog on Pinner’s boards waiting to be bought. Both pinning actively as well as optimizing the website for pinning contributes towards higher share of a retailer’s catalog on Pinterest. The higher the share of pins, the more clicks and ultimately, more revenue. Read more about Pinterest’s viral loop here.
Retailers and brands who pinned actively in the weeks leading up to Cyber Monday would have seen the benefits. Pinterest pin’s have a very long half life of over 2.5 months. Brands should get active now to take full advantage of the holiday shopping season. Pinners pin before they buy! And right now revenue and traffic from Pinterest is essentially free.
The virality and the value of a pin is growing rapidly. Pinning is becoming a verb in our lives while Pinterest matures as a social commerce platform with more brands implementing Pin-It buttons on their sites and more pins leading to product pages where consumers can buy products. Pinterest’s mobile user base grew by 50% this year with 75% of the usage happening on mobile (according to AllThingsD).
Pinterest, we believe, is leading the convergence of mobile and visual networks. While there have been numerous surveys about Pinterest’s potential in e-commerce, Piqora has just finished the first scientific research to quantify the economic value of a pin. We analyzed 100s of brands on Pinterest between February 1-October 31, 2013.
Key findings from Piqora Research –
- Orders from Pinterest spike on Mondays – but in general are uniform through out the week. That could be due to users discovering a lot of products on the weekend and buying them on mondays after more research and consulting with their spouses.
For a more detailed copy of the report, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay tuned for a full holiday report slated to come out in Q1, 2014.
I gave a talk on the #SMX panel in Las Vegas today about the shifting landscape of media formats with images leading that wave. The talk also covered some of the data research and insights about the ROI of Pinterest and the contribution of hashtags to brand and post discoverability on Instagram.
- Sharad Verma (CEO, Piqora)
Everyone knows that promotions and the holidays go hand-in-hand, regardless of the marketing channel. Whether it’s social media or traditional advertising, with consumer spending at its peak brands need to be promoting their products as much as possible. Consumer spending is at it’s highest: According to ComScore, 30% of retail e-commerce consumer spending took place in Q4 2012, with a majority concentrated in the second half of Q4. Consumer use of social media is also at its peak, especially on mobile devices.
Avid Instagrammer @Julesfan went Christmas shopping and took nearly a dozen photos at her favorite boutiques and, in typical Instagram fashion, she added a ton or hashtags to each photo: #gucci, #gold, #stores, #shopping, #new, #newstore, #departmentstores, #tistheseason, #malls, #bloomys, #bloomingdals, #glendale, #glendalegalleria, #christmasshopping, #fun, #money, and #christmasshopping. Wow!
Pinterest and Instagram Are the Place for Your Brand to Be
The best social media contests are promoted across all available marketing channels, but are still typically based primarily on one social network. Pinterest and Instagram are ideal platforms for holiday promotions and have a many advantages over incumbents like Facebook. Here are our top 6 reasons why Instagram and Pinterest are great options for holiday promotions:
- Consumers spend more than 27% of total time online during Q4 on social networking apps according to Experian. They are extremely active on social networks and are creating lots of content that relates to products and brands. They are creating holiday wish lists on Pinterest, using Instagram to take pictures at events, and Instagramming their presents on Christmas day.
- Because consumers are so active on Pinterest and Instagram already during the holidays, it’s easy for them to participate in contests, effectively lowering the barrier to entry.
- Like Instagrammer @Julesfan, consumers are using social networks on their mobile devices while shopping – a lot. According to a recent study by Useablenet, 30% of US shoppers and 40% of UK shoppers use their smartphones when shopping in brick-and-mortar stores, with 64% engaging on social networks in the US, and 45% in the UK.
- Regardless of the time of year, promotions are by far the fastest way to increase followers, engagement, community and loyalty – but they are at their most efficient around the holidays. Given that Instagram and Pinterest are extremely viral (more viral than Facebook) holiday promotions are a very efficient way to build communities.
- Pinterest promotions consistently increase website referral traffic and sales, and we’ve also seen them increase AOV. With the holiday pinning fervor on Pinterest you can get even more traffic than usual – don’t miss out! And be sure to enable Rich Pins on your website.
- Brand storytelling is intrinsic to the holiday season – or at least it should be – and Instagram is an ideal platform for telling a story about your brand. In the age of price-driven e-commerce, many retailers are so focused on direct response advertising that they inadvertently neglect good creative. You can use Instagram to make a connection with consumers that leads them to feel good about your brand and the experience of purchasing your product. This will help to create awareness early on in the customer decision-making process and may enable you to rely less on direct-response advertising.
Holiday Promotions We Like
With 150M users now on Instagram and 70M more on Pinterest, and the holiday-friendliess of the two platforms, retailers are jumping onboard. London’s Lanes of Mayfair upscale shopping district is partnering with jewelry retailer Butler and Wilson and has incorporated the famed song “When You Wish Upon a Star” into their messaging.
The holiday season and using condensed milk for baked goods go hand-in-hand, and with the spike in consumer demand for condensed milk Eagle Brand is smart to keep itself top-of-mind this time of year.
Who knew, but Eagle Brand condensed milk has 32k Pinterest followers and is running an awesome promotion.
‘Tis the season for promotions, and it’s not too late to get started. We’ve run hundreds of promotions across business verticals, so we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. We’re brimming with ideas and we’d love to share. Ready to learn more? Get in touch.
Like with other social networks, there are a lot of do’s and don’ts when it comes to Pinterest promotions. Social network guidelines can seem to be in a perpetual state of change – no surprise given that the platforms themselves are constantly evolving. From a marketer’s standpoint, these changes can be a mixed bag and are sometimes befuddling.
To try to make sense of them, remember that it almost always comes down to optimizing User Experience, one way or another. Pinterest in particular has made it very clear that their users will always come first, and in the case of contests, they understandably want to minimize spam.
To avoid snafus and make sure your promotions are as successful as possible, it’s a good idea to stay abreast of changes. The biggest change that is likely to impact pretty much anyone running a promotion is that brands can no longer require users to pin from a specific board or website. At first this seems like it could spell big trouble for marketers, but don’t worry, there’s an easy workaround: Suggest a place to start pinning that will provide the user with “inspiration”, rather than making it mandatory to pin from that location. For example, “Pin your holiday wish list with inspiration from our Stocking Stuffer Board.” Here’s an example of how MacKenzie-Childs worked around the issue.
Mackenzie-Childs invites participants to be inspired by their “A MacKenizie-Childs Holiday” Pinterest board.
You can’t exclude users who pin from different locations, but you can provide a link to the inspiration location and the vast majority of users will go there. This includes directing participants to wherever you’d like after the form is filled out, such as a board or a website. You can still require a profile follow, and for the user to create a board, however the latter is a high barrier to entry and may reduce participation. Read more »
Twitter just made their timeline visual with previews of images and short videos from Vine. And in doing so it joins the ranks of Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr making Visual Web a very large composite social network with over 400 million users across age and sex demographics that are consuming media via self-selected in-stream images.
Twitter joins the visual web
We are not surprised by this. First generation social networks are becoming visual. They have to. Today’s mobile and tablet consumers are very visual. The form factor of the devices and the fat internet pipes are fueling this shift. Read more »
We’re delighted to announce that our Instagram Promotions and Tracking platform is out of beta! Like with Pinterest, promotions are hands down the most effective way to build your audience on Instagram, and without exception the most successful Instagram promotions are powered by robust backend software like ours. Instagram is hot hot hot, and with the holidays upon us there’s never been a better time to build your community with promotions.
Want to take a peak under the hood? Check out the results from Pilperlime’s Booties and Besties promotion. They gained hundreds of new followers, reached tens of thousands of users, and generated a ton of valuable UGC – and their promotion was up and running in less than an hour.
Piperlime Dashboard Report: Top Participants by Influence
Pinterest has begun started testing the concept of promoted pins. The idea is to increase the visibility of the content from retailers, marketers and advertisers. This is the first ad product from Pinterest and they are doing it in a way that is tasteful, gradual and sustainable. At this point Pinterest is working with a small and private set of advertisers to test out how consumers respond to promoted pins. These advertisers are not paying Pinterest.
Promoted Pins are going to show up in search results and category feeds. User feeds are left out. However given that more than 70% of pins on Pinterest are discovered via search and browsing behavior — this is a really smart move as users are really picky and rightfully sensitive about their self-selected and carefully crafted feeds.
Read more »
We’re delighted to announce that we’ve just launched a rich content library dedicated to helping marketing professionals of all stripes get the most out of Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr. Complete with ebooks, guides, whitepapers, case studies, and research reports our Resources Center has something for everyone. Whether you are just looking to get started on the Big Three visual networks or take your strategy to the next level, we’ve got you covered.
We work closely with hundreds of brands such as Sephora, Zappos, and Steve Madden, and we’ve gained insights from both our extensive experience and massive repository of data. We think the Visual Web presents an enormous, untapped opportunity for marketers, and with its explosive growth there’s never been a better time to share what we’ve learned.
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