Beginner's Guide to Understanding Hashtags

Hashtags can be really freaking confusing right? After talking to a handful of peers, I found out that pretty much all them wanted to kind of light themselves on fire when they hear the word hashtag. I think the reason for this is that there’s so much information (and so much misinformation). It’s actually not that confusing, it’s pretty freaking easy and pretty freaking crucial to growing your Instagram, so I’m going to give it to you straight. Here’s an easy-to-understand beginner’s guide to using hashtags on Instagram.

A Beginner's Guide to Understanding Hashtags on Instagram - Social Media Marketing -

Hashtags get you seen. Not just by the people already following you, but by the people who are your exact target audience (who may not be following you yet).


How it works

When you click on a hashtag (the blue underlined text on a Instagram that occurs when you post a # with a word after it, you’re taken into the hub for that specific hashtag. This is where there is a conversation going on around one specific topic.

By hanging out in the right hashtag hubs, you can find and target the right audience for your content. This is crucial in getting the right eyes on your account, rather than just any eyes on your account.


Once you’re in the hashtag hub, there are two places to be found. 


  1. The top posts. 

    • These are the nine post that Instagram thinks you are most likely to interact with in that hub. This area is influenced by the algorithm, meaning that the top post that you see in your top section will be different then the top posts someone else sees. Instagram chooses what they think you will love the most based on what you’ve interacted with (liked and commented on) in the past.
  2. The most recent posts 

    • Now I don’t know about you, but I’m probably not going to show up in the top post for most hashtags that I post to. It’s definitely not impossible, but a little bit more tough to break into. Somewhere that both you and I can easily be found, however, is in the most recent. Literally, all you have to do to be in the most recent is to be shown under most recent. Generally, people interact with the top six most recent post in the hub.

The Right Size Hashtags to Look For

For this reason, you want to be posting to hashtags that are not too popular. Let’s use #love as an example – this particular hashtag has over 1.2 million posts. Simply because of how many people are constantly posting to this hub, the hashtag juice isn’t really worth the squeeze. You will only show up in the most recent posts for about 30 seconds, before you get pushed down into the feed deeper below.

If you want to get really specific, the sweet spot is somewhere between 5000 and 500,000 posts to a hub.

Because of this, I recommend not posting to hashtags with more than 1 million posts. On the opposite side of the spectrum – if the hub is too small, there’s a chance that they’ll be no eyes on it. For this reason, I recommend not posting to hubs smaller than 1000. If you want to get really specific, the sweet spot is somewhere between 5000 and 500,000 posts to a hub.

How to Pick the Right Hashtags

The trick is to be sure that you’re posting to hashtags that your target audience is posting to, not that your competitors are using.

If you're a copywriter who works with creative entrepreneurs, you wouldn’t want to use #copywriter, you would want to use #creativeentrepreneur. 

Make sense? Do you want to target the audience that is most likely to purchase and enjoy your product or service… not the people who already offer, and therefore will not need, your product or service.


So pretty easy right?

It’s not so complicated once you understand the purpose of posting to a hub. It’s not just blind guesswork, there’s a really good, un-complicated way to start using tags to grow your account today.

In the comments, let me know any other questions that you have about tags. I promise to answer all your questions and remove that headache once and for all!


Chris Emmer

Grand Rapids, MI

Graphic Designer / Branding and Social Media Strategist / Yoga + Meditation Guide / Your New BFF.

West Michigan based, small business + wellness obsessed.