Adapt your strategy & refine your hashtag strategy to stay in the game

Then vs now

Once upon a time, hashtags were known as pound sounds. When did things change?

started with Chris Messina, who posted #barcamp on August 23rd, 2007. Messina came up with the hashtag with the idea that it would help categorize discussions happening online about a particular topic.

Today, hashtags are a pervasive part of our digital world. Companies, influencers, and individuals all use hashtags to add their content to a larger discussion of a topic. You may be well familiar with the classics — #MotivationMonday, #ThrowbackThursday, #WisdomWednesday, #TBH, and #FridayFeeling.

Hashtags have become so popular that Jimmy Fallon created a comedy skit of hashtag conversations with guests such as Justin Timberlake and Jonah Hill.

The Now

With no signs of disappearing, it’s incredibly important to understand the why of hashtag and how to use hashtags to your advantage without #overkill.

#DYK Instagram posts posts with at least one hashtag tend to receive 12.6% more engagement.


When you put hashtags in your captions on the feed, those photos will end up in a public collection of other photos that share the hashtag. If your posts have higher engagement than those posted around the same time as yours, your post has the potential to appear in the top posts.

Quality > Quantity

Proper hashtag use can feel nuanced — especially when Instagram allows you to add up to 30, but it really comes down to understanding your audience and the larger conversations they are looking to be a part of.

It is not about reaching a ton of people — it is about reaching the RIGHT people.

🔎 Research Hashtags 🔍

Start by thinking about which keywords fit with the messages your social media will be conveying. For example, NAU’s UCAN program offers health coaching. Some keywords in their field might be wellness, nutrition, health coaching, etc. A quick search for #healthcoach shows over 3 million posts also using that tag. A search for #wellness turns up in over 24 million posts.

Lesson to learn — use the search feature and explore hashtags.

Take a look around and explore

Social media is social in nature. Look at the larger conversation out there and how you fit into it. Click on posts containing similar hashtags to see what content is being shared. Don’t be afraid to engage with users by leaving comments and likes!

Remember, the more specific your hashtag, the smaller its usage will be.

Creating a custom hashtag specific to your department or program is a great way to track your “brand” on social media, but it is best to pair that with high usage hashtags to ensure you are maximizing discoverability.

Make sure that you aren’t just copy and pasting the same long list of hashtags on every post. Instagram’s community guidelines state the repetitive posting of comments or contents will not be tolerated.

Hashtags on Instagram Stories

You’ve invested time and energy into creating your perfect Instagram Story — make sure you are getting the most of it.

ake your feed hashtag strategy and start implement it in your Stories strategy too.

Adding a location sticker or a hashtag gives your story the potential to end up in the public collection of stories with other stickers or hashtags that match yours. The tricky part about Instagram Story is it is dependent on engagement and quality of your posted story.

The question isn’t whether or not you should be using hashtags in your stories, but how you can use them to maximize your reach on both your stories and your feed.

  1. Geographically- Adding a location sticker/tag is essentially the same as a hashtag but you can only use one location tag per frame.
  2. Strategically- Adding hashtags that match your niche. For example, Campus Recreation can tap into the workout/exercise/wellness niche by jumping into the #WorkoutWednesday or #MotivationMonday hashtag scene.
  3. Creatively- Sometimes, adding a location sticker or hashtag can mess with the aesthetic of your story. Be creative! Don’t waste the opportunity to use a hashtag just hide those hashtag stickers under block texts, gifs, or emojis in stories and at the bottom of your captions in the story feed.
  4. Analytically- Use your post insights to see how many impressions you received from hashtags.

Simply swipe up on your posts, hit view insights and you will see how many impressions you received from hashtags.

Key Takeaway: Be strategic and thoughtful about your hashtag usage…

and don’t forget you can always tap into your built audience by using our NAU Hashtag Guide.

It’s always a great day to be a Lumberjack! Join the conversation and share your #NAU story.