What's in this session?

  • Max out all 30 available hashtags on every post and post them in the first comment - not in the caption (add three periods with line breaks to hide hashtags in collapsed part of comment) (0:59)
  • Save your researched list of 30 hashtags in a note on your phone for easy copy and pasting (or create a keyword shortcut) (2:36)
  • Type of Hashtag #1: Custom (ie. #centralcommunitychurch or #centralliving) (4:35)
  • Type of Hashtag #2: Community (ie. #niagararegion or #niagarafallscanada) (5:12)
  • Type of Hashtag #3: Faith/Spiritual/Church (ie. #jesusislove or #churchfamily) (5:43)
  • Use hashtags with a post count between 1,000-200,000 (6:16)

Show notes and resources

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The Transcript

Brady Shearer: Pro Church Daily is brought to you by Story Tape. Unlimited, stock video downloads on a single monthly subscription. Head to Storytape.com and you can browse through every single video clip we have to offer for free.

Alex Mills: Well, hey there and welcome to Pro Church Daily, the show where in 10 minutes or less, you’ll get your daily dose of tips and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus while we navigate the biggest communications shift in the last 500 years.

I’m your host, Alex Mills, and I’m joined as always by the boss man, Brady Shearer. And today we’re talking about how to use hashtags on Instagram to gain more followers for your church.

Brady Shearer: We don’t know how long this will last, Alex, but Instagram still has certain tips, tactics, and strategies that you can leverage to “hack” the algorithms.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: With Facebook, we’ve gotten to the point where it’s basically you want to succeed, give us the money, but in Instagram, you can still hustle your way into organic growth, and one of the strategies that you can leverage to do this is through Instagram hashtags. You are allowed up to 30 different hashtags that you can include on every single post, and what these hashtags allow to happen is your post will become discoverable based on the hashtag that you use. How do you go about and do this? Well, the first thing is to maximize the number of chances you have to be discovered, you want to maximize the number of hashtags that you can include. You are allowed to include up to 30.

Now, on a recent episode of Pro Church Daily, you said that sometimes you keep it as low as 20.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: So, before we move on, do you want to just speak to that?

Alex Mills: Yeah, sometimes, and this is personal preference, and I think this is where we’re gonna find some resolution here between-

Brady Shearer: Yeah, I’m ready to fight that.

Alex Mills: No, but I think it’s personal preference. I like to choose quality hashtags over quantity, and, so, I mentioned AB testing, hashtags, and you can do that with the business profile. You can actually see how many people are coming to your profile and interacting with your photos based off your hashtags. So, you use a certain collection, monitor their performance, use another collection, test them that way. I prefer quality over quantity and not filling my captions or first-come it with 30 hashtags.

But, there’s nothing wrong with using up to 30 hashtags, because, like we were talking before this episode, every other hashtag is an opportunity for someone to interact with your content. So, it’s not wrong to maximize your hashtags and use all 30.

Brady Shearer: If you can use all 30 and they’re all quality, that’s the best thing that you can do.

Alex Mills: Absolutely.

Brady Shearer: But with that being said, Alex making the point that if you’re just gonna throw in 10 random ones just for the sake of maxing it up, maybe you don’t want to do that. We’re gonna go through a process that should allow you to get 30 quality hashtags if you’re willing to put the work in.

The first thing you want to do is you want to get 30 in there, 30 quality ones. We’ll get to how you can find those in just a moment. When it comes to actually pasting in the hashtags, one hack that we like to use is to put the hashtags in the first comment, not actually in the caption of your Instagram post, but in the comment. The reason for this is that hashtags are gross. Aesthetically, they’re not very pretty, and, so, if you can hide them, even better. What we do is we post our 30 hashtags in the first comment, and to hide them ever more, I will put a period and then a line break, a period and then a line break, a period and then a line break, and then the hashtags. What is that? Very weird, right?

The reason that I do that is so that when you have three lines that only have a period on each line, after the third line, Instagram will collapse that comment, because they’re like, “Man, this is a long comment. We’re not gonna show this full comment. If you want to see the full comment, click ‘view more’.” The great thing is you can hide every single hashtag in first comment using this technique.

Alex Mills: And you don’t want to fill your caption box with hashtags.

Brady Shearer: No.

Alex Mills: I feel like we often overlook our caption box. Captions on Instagram are super important. It’s a huge contributing factor to stalking the scroll, and we talk about that often. So, you don’t want to fill that box with a bunch of hashtags, even up to 30. So, that’s great. Put it in the first comment, for sure.

Brady Shearer: 30 hashtags, hide them in the first comment. What you can do to save time is save your list of researched hashtags, either in an Evernote. What I like to do even next level is to create a keyboard shortcut like *96. If I type *96 on my iPhone, 30 hashtags will immediately appear. That is the keyboard shortcut to pasting all those hashtags. Saves a bunch of time. Of course, you can use a tool like Grum or, as of now, Hootsuite to actually pre-schedule on Instagram, and you could even pre-schedule the first comment using one of those tools as well. But if you’re doing it manually from your phone, keyboard shortcut is a great way to get in those 30 hashtags without writing them out. Do not write them out manually. Copy and paste, or even better, save as a shortcut.

Next up, lets talk about the types of hashtags that you can use as a church. There are three types of hashtags that I recommend churches use. The first is a custom hashtag. So, for us, hashtag Pro Church Tools, hashtag Pro Church Nation, hashtag Story Tape. These are the hashtags that are 100% unique to us and our brand. If you’re a church, you could be #CentralCommunityChurch, #LifeAbundantNiagara. You want a hashtag that’s completely yours. This isn’t for discovery, but it’s for the brand and for the collection of all your posts in one place. So, maybe one, two, three of those max. The remaining 27, you want to have as the final two types of hashtags. Type number one, custom hashtags pertaining your church, your brand.

Hashtag type number two, your community. We live in the Niagara region of Ontario, Canada, so we could do #NiagaraRegion, #NiagaraFallsCanada. What’s great about this is these are local hashtags that are gonna lump and group your church’s posts into what everyone’s searching in your local community. Just go to the discovery tab within Instagram and just start typing in your city’s name, see what Instagram brings up. The types of hashtags that are already being used, jump on to one of those.

The third and final type of hashtag, these would be faith, spiritual, church-centered hashtags, i.e., #Jesusislove, #churchfamily, #churchfam.

Alex Mills: Nice.

Brady Shearer: #famischurch, #churchislyfe, life with a y. That being said, you want to use hashtags that people are actually using. It’s probably unlikely that churchislyfe with a y is gonna be a hashtag you want to use, because the volume for it probably doesn’t warrant you using one of those 30 limited spots on that hashtag. So, when you’re doing this hashtag research, you want to find hashtags that have a post-count between 1,000 and 200,000. All the way down to 500 would probably be worth it, but the sweet spot, 1,000 to 200,000. If there are already that many posts with a hashtag accompanying them, 1,000, that warrants probably use, because there are enough people posting about it. Any lower and it might just not be worth warranting a hashtag use. If it’s above 200,000, it’s probably so busy that you’re just gonna get lost in the noise.

So, that sweet spot is probably between 1,000 and 200,000, and the way to do this research is you just got to do the work. You’ve got to go to your Instagram search bar, just start typing stuff in. Look at the volume and quantity of the posts, compare it to the hashtag you’re typing in, and just start building that list.

Use those three types of hashtags. Number one, the custom, you can develop those without the actual search, and then you want to fill the remaining 20 to 27 with church-related hashtags, local/community-related hashtags. Do the search, do the work, create the list, create the shortcut, you’re good to go.

Alex Mills: For sure, and Instagram has just recently revolutionized the way we interact with hashtags, because now you can follow them. I believe they’re the first social media platform to ever try this where you can search a hashtag. I follow one hashtag, and it’s #NiagaraRiver.

Brady Shearer: Church’s Life with a y.

Alex Mills: No, no. I’ll start following that after this, because we’re starting that trend today. #NiagaraRiver, because I like to fish. I like to fish this river, but you have to hike down 30 minutes to get to the river. So, I follow the hashtag to see how the fishing is, to see people posting how the fishing is, so I don’t have to go [crosstalk 00:07:46] and find it for myself.

Following hashtags is a completely new way to interact with hashtags, and it’s probably just the beginning of, probably, an increasingly popular trend, and, so, all the more reason to dial this in now, get people following hashtags that you’re involved with, and interacting with your community online.

Brady Shearer: Smart, and if you’re Instagram is an Instagram business profile, which you can convert to for free, and you most definitely should, it will give you analytics, including analytics on your hashtags, so you can see how many people are actually using them, interacting with them. And you can probably identify which ones are pretty much useless, which ones are just noise. Then, what you can do is you can take out the 10 that aren’t working well and experiment with 10 new ones. Eventually, you can find 30 that are working great for you and keep going with that.

Alex Mills: Awesome. That’ll do it for today’s episode of Pro Church Daily. Speaking of Instagram, you want to follow the @bradyshearer account on Instagram, #churchislyfe with a y, because we are doing a bunch of giveaways throughout the month of February. The best way to get involved in those giveaways is to hear about them first and exclusively on Instagram @bradyshearer. You got to follow that account to be eligible for the giveaways. Follow @breadyshearer on Instagram. Get involved with the giveaways. Maybe win something. All you do is win.

Brady Shearer: Maybe win something big.

Alex Mills: Wow. That’ll do it for today’s episode of Pro Church Daily. We’ll see you tomorrow.

Brady Shearer: Hey, thanks for listening to today’s episode of Pro Church Daily. If you haven’t already, make sure to subscribe to the Pro Church podcast for new podcasts just like this one every single day. And, if you’d to support this podcast, leave us a rating or a review. It doesn’t cost you much, but it means the world to us. Talk to you tomorrow.

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