How to Use Hashtags on Instagram

Let's be real for a minute. Do you know what a hashtag is? Do you know why you use them (be honest!)? Are you just throwing #selfie or #weekend on a few posts and hoping for engagement? Listen, there's no shame in that game. I did it for YEARS. Now, I know there IS a better way – a way that can get you closer to your goals a whole helluva lot faster. Hashtags can be a really incredible tool for getting new eyes on your account when used strategically. Start here.

How to Use Hashtags on Instagram

WHAT IS A HASHTAG?

A hashtag is simply the pound sign (#) plus a word or phrase. No spaces, no symbols, no dashes. Just the pound sign (#) plus a word or phrase.

 

WHY SHOULD I USE THEM?

Hashtags are a way to be found by new accounts and grow your account to not just any followers, but the right followers by showing up in relevant hashtag feeds. For this reason, you don't use hashtags that are too huge or you may get lost in the hashtag feed.

WHAT'S A HASHTAG FEED?

A hashtag feed is where you're taken when you click on a blue clickable hashtag on Instagram. In the hashtag feed, you see everyone's posts about that hashtag. It's essentially one place for people to hang out around one conversation topic.

WHICH HASHTAGS SHOULD I USE?

Find out the hashtags that your audience is already using – these are the hashtags that you want to use. A mistake I see frequently is using tags that target your peers and competitors rather than your potential clients and customers.

 

HOW DO I GET SEEN IN A HASHTAG FEED?

There are two ways to be seen in the hashtag feed:

  1. In the top posts. These are top 9 most popular photos in the hashtag feed. The top 9 is influenced by the algorithm, so the top posts will be slightly different for everyone. Depending on the size of the hashtag, it can be hard to make it to the top 9.
  2. In the most recent posts. These are not influenced by the algorithm (woohoo!), so this is a GREAT place to be found. 

WHAT SIZE SHOULD I BE LOOKING FOR?

So that you're not pushed down in the most recent feed before anyone can find you, it's a good rule to not post to hashtags that have more than 1,000,000 posts.

For the opposite reason, don't use hashtags with less than 1,000 posts. 

Hashtags that have between 5,000 and 500,000 are the perfect sweet spot.

BRAINSTORM IDEAS

Start to think about your dream customer and what hashtags they're naturally using...

  • What hashtags do they use?
  • What stores do they like to shop?
  • What do they do on their weekends?
  • What's their favorite restaurant?
  • Where do they like to hang out?
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DON'T FORGET TO MIX IT UP

You get 30 hashtags (maximum) on each post. If you've got a fairly new account and are focused on growth, I recommend using close to 30 tags. If you're more established and have a large following, feel free to start to taper it down and get more specific with your tags.

You really want to tailor your hashtags to your post content and not repeat the same tags on every post. Instagram thinks this behavior is spammy and robotic and could shadowban you for it.

IN SHORT

  1. Use the hashtags that your dream audience is naturally using.
  2. Make sure your hashtags are never over 1,000,000 or under 1,000. 
  3. Aim for hashtags between 5,000 and 500,000 posts.

How are hashtags working for you? Have more questions? Let me know in the comments and let's start a conversation.

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.