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Hashtag (#) strategy leads to increased likes, followers of Instagram Micro-Influencers?


By Khyati Manchanda*
Today, Instagram has become an indispensable platform for social media marketing, for any kind of entity or individual. In this article, exploratory research carried out at Department of Management Studies at Indian Institute of Technology Delhi brings out the distinctive statistics about the Instagram and delves deeper into one of its interesting features – Hashtags.
With more than 1 billion monthly active users (MAU) and 500 million daily active users (DAU), Instagram ranks fourth in the list of most popular social media networks (after Facebook, YouTube, and WhatsApp) (Daniel Ruby, Demandsage)
Gen Z’s one of the favourite platforms to socialize, Instagram’s most active accounts are found to be in India (180 million), followed by the USA (170 million), and Brazil (110 million) (Statista).

Instagram’s official account is the most followed on the platform (473 million followers). Cristiano Ronaldo (footballer) tops the list of most-followed people on the platform with 404 million followers.
Other personalities in the top 5 are Kylie Jenner (Television personality, model, and businesswoman with 312 million followers), Lionel Messi (footballer with 308 million followers), Selena Gomez (Musician, stress, producer, and businesswoman with 299 million followers), Dwayne Johnson (Actor and professional wrestler with 298 million followers) (Josh Boyd, Brandwatch).
However, 53.62% of Instagrammers have less than 1000 followers, 38.03% users account for more than 1k and less than 10k followers, 6.2% for more than 10k to less than 50k followers, and 0.94% for more than 50k but less than 1lacs (Josh Boyd, Brandwatch).

Instagram motto: “We want Instagram to be a place where people can be inspired every day. We foster a safe and inclusive community where people can express themselves, feel closer to anyone they care about, and turn a passion into a living.”

Instagram brings people closer to each other and the things that they love. The interaction through Instagram creates business opportunities and a marketplace. Approximately 90 percent of Instagrammers follow at least one brand. Instagram has become a place to build brand networks and enhance engagement with existing and potential consumers. Meta, the parent company of Instagram, plans to invest over 1 billion dollars, by the end of 2022, to support micro-influencers in terms of rewards and development of new features (such as Stars, affiliate, Live Audio Rooms, Bulletin) (Meta Newsroom).
The influencers help in influencing consumer decision-making, thus becoming an imperative source of brand communications. 1 in 4 13-24-years-old agree that micro-influencers with loyal and highly engaged audiences are most important when creating new trends (Instagram Trend Report).
13.8% of Instagram influencers belong to the lifestyle domain, followed by 8.56% to the beauty, and 6.64% to the photography category. The indispensability of influencer marketing campaigns puts up the question of the choice of the right influencers. In this scenario, engagement or clicks is the most important criteria when evaluating the influencers (other criteria: content-type/category, views/reaches/impressions, sales, other) (Influencer Marketing Hub).
The Hashtag (#) is one such feature of Instagram that most users extensively use to reach the masses. Technically, a hashtag is a word or phrase – usually one to three words – that has a pound sign or number sign (#) upfront. Hashtags act as Instagram’s sorting process, giving more specific and targeted reach for users (Krystal Gillespie, HubSpot). The range of hashtags is versatile. The tags can be made for any purpose, for a specific location (#India) or event (#Expo2020) or conference (#GovernanceSummit) or campaign (#LoksabhaElections) or product (#hairsalon) or service (#knitwear) or industry (#HealthcareSector) or phrase (#bebrave) or cultural movements (#BlackLivesMatter). The number of hashtags that could be used for a single post is limited to thirty. It is advised to put space between the caption and hashtags of the post; to avoid spamming.
The number of hashtags used may also impact the reach of an account. Posts with at least one hashtag get 29% more interactions (for Instagrammers with 1k or fewer followers) and posts with 11+ hashtags have the highest interactions with 79.5% (for Instagram accounts with 1k or fewer followers) (Arthur Zuckerman, comparecamp). The most influential hashtags till today have been: #Ferguson, #MeToo, #LoveWins, #BlackLivesMatter, #Sandy, #IceBucketChallenge, #PrayforJapan (Arthur Zuckerman, Comparecamp).
Sometimes, Instagram initiates hashtags (#MonthofGood for Ramadan 2020) to celebrate and inspire everyone to come together, spread kindness and do good. The hashtag used, either in the post caption or post comment, helps to engage with a like-minded audience.
The research study further explores the Hashtag feature as to how the usage of Hashtags strategy impacts the likes and comments (engagement enhancement) of micro-influencers on Instagram (refer to the Appendix section for detailed statistical analysis).
It involves primary data collection about Instagrammers from 4 categories: Food, Travel, Event, and Education. It analyses randomly selected 5 micro-influencers first 50 posts from each category. The results indicate the impact of hashtags on the number of likes is highest in the Instagrammers posts’ which belong to the event category, followed by education, travel, and food. The impact on the number of comments is the highest in the case of travel category Instagram accounts.
Thus, the contemporary marketers cannot ignore the Instagram, specifically the Hashtags strategy which enhances the Instagram user’s engagement with like-minded audience on the platform.
Click HERE for appendix and references.

*Research Scholar in the Marketing Domain, Department of Management Studies, Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi

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