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Staircase/Ladder Instagram Hashtag Strategy

The ‘staircase’ method is an effective way to use Instagram hashtags and is the number one Instagram hashtag strategy for both beginners and experts.

Posted 2 years ago
staircase ladder theory

Written by

Sam King
Posted 2 years ago
Today we’ll be explaining an Instagram hashtag strategy that has been frequently praised by Instagram pros over the past few years – we’ve also seen great success from hundreds of our Flick users who implement it in their hashtag research. 🎉
A solid hashtag strategy is essential if you want to increase your potential for growth on Instagram. Once you understand how hashtags work in hand with Instagram’s algorithm, it will become a lot easier for you to learn how to use them effectively, to your advantage. There are a few basic principles and terms you should be familiar with before we get started, but if you would like an in-depth run-through of all things hashtags, check out our comprehensive Instagram guide 2023.

Important terms and principles to know❗️

  1. The hashtags you use should be relative to the performance of your account. What do we mean by this? If you tend to get a certain amount of likes or engagement when you post content on Instagram, the hashtags you use should match up with your typical performance. For example, if you get around 200 likes per post, it’s unlikely you will perform as well on a hashtag where users are getting 10k likes per post…
  2. …And this is where Average Likes Comes in. Your ‘Average Likes’ is the average amount of likes you get on a post, which you can compare with the Average Likes that users who rank on a specific hashtag get. By comparing these numbers, you can easily predict which hashtags might work for you, and which might not.
  3. You can rank on hashtags that are higher-performing or competitive for your account, however, the best way to do this is by ranking on smaller, comparative hashtags first, which help propel your content to wider audiences.
  4. Other indicators of the level of competition on a hashtag are the DAPC (Daily Average Post Count – the number of times a hashtag is used on average per day) and Media Count (the number of posts overall in a specific hashtag). If there is a high volume of posts in a hashtag, it is likely more competitive and thus harder to rank on.

The ‘Staircase’ Instagram Hashtag Strategy 📶:

The ‘staircase’ method is an effective way to research Instagram hashtags to increase your reach, engagement, and following on Instagram, it’s also the number one Instagram hashtag strategy for both beginners and experts. We see a lot of users use this strategy as a base and tweak it for what works best for their Instagram accounts.
The name of the technique is a fairly accurate representation of how it works. Let’s look at the basic ‘rules:
  • Use 10 hashtags that are 30% below your Average Likes (Set 1)
  • Use 10 hashtags that are similar to your Average Likes (Set 2)
  • Use 10 hashtags that are 30% and above your Average Likes (Set 3)
You simply use clusters of hashtags as a step to boost yourself onto the next cluster of hashtags.
instagram hashtag strategy
Let’s visualize a worked example. Say you post some amazing puppy content, and want as many people to see it as possible:
dog hashtag strategy
If you research hashtags that are easy for you to rank on, (Set 1) you will start to build up traction, as users searching that hashtag may find and interact with your content – these easier hashtags might be more niche, such as #goldenretrieverplaytime.
Although less searched, using 10 of these easier hashtags might give you the interactions you need to rank on the ‘medium’ level set of hashtags (Set 2). These will still be niche, but slightly broader, such as #goldenretrievertips.
Finally, if you get enough engagement off the back of your medium-sized, and smaller-sized hashtags, you may be able to rank on competitive hashtags (Set 3), that are more popular, and searched often. Ranking on these may be tricky, but you’ll see a high reward, as the amount of new eyes on your posts has been multiplied. These hashtags will be broader such as #goldenretriever.

How to work out your Average Likes:

There are two ways to calculate your Average Likes – either manually, or by using Flick. Within Flick, we will calculate and apply filters based on your Average Likes, in order to search and provide you with hashtags that are tailored to your account, and are more likely to perform. You can also view the Average Likes of a hashtag within our tool, making it easier for you to pick and predict which ones will work the best for you.
You can also calculate your Average Likes manually:
(Work out your Average Likes by adding up all the likes over your last 12 posts, then divide that by 12).
Average Likes = 600
30% of 600 = 180 (600*0.3)
30% below Average Likes = 420 (600-180)
30% above Average Likes = 780 (600+180)
instagram strategy
This Instagram hashtag strategy is effective because it increases your chances of ‘climbing the stairs’. This means that if you rank highly on the first 10 hashtags (below your Average Likes) then you have a better chance of ranking on the next 10 and so on.
There are also a number of ways you can use the staircase strategy, depending on what works for you. For example, instead of creating sets based on Average Likes, you could create them based on the size of the hashtag or the Daily Average Post Count. Within Flick, we have a feature that allows you to save your groups of hashtags into Collections – so we recommend saving your low, medium and high competition hashtags into separate sets!
After you have started using the staircase strategy, you can check on your results by seeing which specific hashtags you ranked on, in our Analytics Suite. Otherwise, you can head to a post on Instagram and view a more general metric of how many Impressions you received on that post via hashtags.
instagram hashtag strategy
Whilst this may seem like a lot of effort, it’s absolutely worth it. If you would like to save time when it comes to implementing and executing your new hashtag strategy and research, you can sign up for a free trial with Flick, which makes things a whole lot easier (and faster!).
Feel free to try Flick out – find relevant hashtags for your next post.
Good luck, enjoy your new Instagram hashtag strategy, and don’t hesitate to contact the Flick team if you have any questions! 🎉

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