You know your winery is supposed to be using hashtags in its Instagram posts. But how do you know if you’re using the right ones? Are they even doing anything to get your posts noticed by potential visitors, customers, or wine club members?
Hashtags are a great tool for signaling what your content is about for those who search similar topics on Instagram. Users who like to know about wineries, the wine industry, and food and drink in general will be following hashtags so that posts from these categories show up in their feeds, and you can use key hashtags to make sure you’re among those posts.
Therefore – including hashtags in your winery’s Instagram posts is an excellent way to ensure that MORE than your existing followers are seeing your updates. If you use the right keywords, you’ll reach potential new followers and customers, as well.
So how do you choose the right hashtags to reach more of your target audience? Follow the tips below.
Unused hashtags are unused search potential
The age-old debate about using hashtags on Instagram is whether you should use as many as you can (Instagram sets a limit of 30 per post), or if you should try to use less, for a less cluttered-looking post. In my experience as a social media manager for wineries and restaurants, I’ve found that it isn’t using too many hashtags that decreases engagement (meaning likes, comments, and clicks) on Instagram posts. It’s using the WRONG hashtags. If you’re using half of the 30 hashtags allotted, that’s 15 opportunities to make yourself search-friendly to potential followers and customers that you’re not using! So my philosophy is: don’t be afraid to use all 30. We’ll go over how to use all 30 to reach the right people more below.
P.S. Don’t like the way a block of 30 hashtags looks on a post? See my separate post on how to add line breaks to separate your captions from your hashtags and clean things up.
Do your research
Before you pick the list of hashtags you want to use in your winery’s Instagram marketing, start by jotting down any keywords you can think of about your business, and common phrases associated with what you do. These could include: wine, winemaking, vineyard, wine tasting, small plates, foodie, harvest, wine bar, wine pairing, etc. Then take a step further and jot down some more phrases and keywords you’d associate with your industry and location. Some Virginia Wine examples include: “VA lifestyle, VA foodie, Virginia travel, visit Virginia, etc”
Once you’ve thought of as many keywords as you can, it’s time to start researching. Open the Instagram app (or website on your computer), and start typing in these keywords and phrases. Are there existing hashtags similar to your keywords that people are already using? Click on some of the hashtags that show up in your search and see what kinds of content people are using them for. Are they relevant to your winery? Take note of all the hashtags that are actually in use that are related to your list.
Finding the sweet spot
It’s not enough to know that a hashtag exists and is in use. One of the ultimate keys to finding the right hashtags for your posts is finding those that are in what I like to call “the sweet spot” of how often they are used. A hashtag that is too specific may only be be used by a few people just occasionally (or just by you, or not at all) – and that’s not a good way to reach new winery customers. When you search hashtags on Instagram, you can see how many people are using them. A healthy minimum number to look for is around 1,000 uses.
On the other side of the spectrum, you may think it makes total sense to hashtag each of your posts with #wine, #vineyard, #winetasting, and other general terms – but you should be very careful to check how many people are using those same terms. For such general keywords, the numbers are often in the high hundreds of thousands or even millions of uses – meaning that if you’re tagging posts in there, your content is going to get lost among the sea of other posts.
So what’s the happy medium to aim for? Anything between that minimum I noted of 1,000+ to around 750,000 uses at the highest is a good range to start with – with the caveat that as long as people are frequently using a hashtag, the lower you can go, the more chance you have of getting your posts seen through the crowd. For my winery clients, I love to pick hashtags that are getting around 45,000 uses. It means they’re in very regular use, and that my clients’ posts actually have a chance of becoming one of the “top posts” listed under that hashtag when you view it in Instagram.
Think 75% local (neighborhood, city, county, state, region), and 25% general
In the vein of making sure you’re not using super-general hashtags that millions of other people are using, if your goal is to bring in new followers that you want to become real customers, you should always make sure that the majority of your hashtags are targeting a local audience.
That’s not to say that you should never use national hashtags like #winecountry, etc. But if you want people in the local area to see your post and be inspired to visit your tasting room, avoid using too many hashtags that people all over the country are using, like #tastingroom! In your search of hashtags related to your winery keywords, make sure to cross search using your neighborhood, city, county, and state names to find popular hashtags that your local audience pays attention to. Some Washington, DC/Virginia examples of this include: #vawine, #valifestyle, #vafoodie #loudounwine, #visitloudoun, #dcwine, #dcswinecountry #dmvfood #dcdrinks, etc.
Tailor your hashtags for different kinds of posts
So am I saying that once you’ve found your ideal list of 30 hashtags based on your target audience, that you should use these same exact hashtags in every post? Not exactly. Certain hashtags can be part of your “core” group – those that will be relevant for every kind of post you share. But you should always make a point to rotate out a few in every post depending on what the content is.
Sharing an update about what your winemaker is doing in the vineyard? Use vineyard and winemaking hashtags, but leave out anything related to tasting. Showcasing a new food item you serve? Find some specific, localized hashtags about food you can swap in in place of some of your wino tags (and look for #winepairing tags if you’re talking about that in the caption!).
The point is that you want the hashtags to be as relevant as possible to the content itself, to make sure you’re reaching the people who are actually interested in seeing it.
So there you have it – if you stick to the tips above, you’ll have a more smartly targeted arsenal of hashtags to use in your posts in no time.
Meaghan Webster is a wine and food photographer, marketing consultant, and results-based social media manager for wineries in Washington, DC, Virginia, and New York. Learn more about her services at meaghanwebster.com or see her latest work and tips at instagram.com/meaghanwmarketing.