How To Use Instagram Hashtags and Find The Best Ones

how to user instagram hashtags

Hashtags have been through the ringer for the last decade; from being a cheesy gimmick that everyone mocked, to being a mainstay of marketing on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. While still the butt of an occasional “OMG hashtag blessed” joke here and there, most of us are using or following hashtags in our daily lives to find content that we love on the internet. That means brands and businesses have a huge opportunity to engage with a massive customer base if they can use hashtags right. 

Why Hashtags Matter on Instagram

Hashtags have basically become Instagram’s internal keywording network. They’re used to sort content by topic, then highlight the most popular and relevant content within that topic. If you’re not using hashtags to your advantage on your posts to get more visibility on your page, you need to get on board ASAP! Not convinced? Here’s what hashtags can do for you.

Encourage Engagement

Users engage with hashtags, plain and simple. Accounts that use them get more likes, more comments, and more followers. As a user of Instagram, you can “follow” certain hashtags so they show up alongside regular accounts in your feed. That means as a brand, if you are showing up in that feed, you get seen by people who don’t already follow you. Better yet, if your content is awesome, they might click through to your profile and follow you! If you limit your reach to only the people who are already followers, you’re missing out on huge growth, new followers, and potential customers.

Make content easier to find

By using a relevant hashtag on the image you post, you make it searchable. Plain and simple. If someone types in the hashtag that you post, your post will show up under that tag! If you use two or three hashtags that are relevant, and descriptive of what is in your post, it will show up in searches more often, and bring new users to your profile. There are also tags for locations, communities, and products that can be huge if you add them to your posts. If you’re a travel blogger who visits a landmark and hashtags the location, you’ll get tons of people using your photo as a reference for a travel destination. 

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Tap into trends

The popularity of hashtags waxes and wanes, sometimes predictably, sometimes not. But, if you can tap into one of the hashtags going viral that’s relevant to your content, you might just be able to ride that popularity wave. The more predictable ones might be holiday or shopping trends like #blackfriday or #smallbusinesssaturday. If you know those events are on the horizon, it’s a good idea to make content that fits them ahead of time so you can post right when it’s relevant. Random social media trends happen almost constantly in different social circles, you just have to find them. Some of them might be applicable to just your industry, and those can be some of the best ones for you to get involved in.

While posting on a hashtag that’s trending for millions of people sounds like a great way to get a bunch of traffic, you quickly become a small fish in a very big pond. But, if you can find a smaller, more niche movement, you’ll have better luck connecting with your target audience. A tag like #throwbackthursday has millions of posts on it every week, but you might have a local version like #throwbackthursdaychicago that would be better suited for you. Better yet, there may be a niche keyword for your industry like #beeroftheday for people who frequent microbreweries.

Promote brands, events, and specials

If you take any international brand and look at their social media, they are guaranteed to have at least one branded hashtag that they are using to engage followers. For example, Levi’s jeans has a huge instagram following on their main page, but encourages their users to use the tag #lifeinlevis to show off their products. Levi’s gets amazing content from their audience that emphasizes their jeans are hard wearing and part of daily life–exactly what the brand already promotes. Having a hashtag associated with your brand can double down on the hard work you already do to brand your business, and get users more involved in your online community.

If you take any international brand and look at their social media, they are guaranteed to have at least one branded hashtag that they are using to engage followers. For example, Levi’s jeans has a huge instagram following on their main page, but encourages their users to use the tag #lifeinlevis to show off their products. Levi’s gets amazing content from their audience that emphasizes their jeans are hard wearing and part of daily life–exactly what the brand already promotes. Having a hashtag associated with your brand can double down on the hard work you already do to brand your business, and get users more involved in your online community. 

One of the best ways to create your own hashtag and get a following on it is by hosting a giveaway or contest. You have to follow the regulations and guidelines for it, of course, but you can generate content on a new hashtag by having people follow you, post using the hashtag you specify, then tag a friend in the comments. All of a sudden you have a boom of traffic on your page, and the only cost to you is the giveaway to one person. You can apply the same logic to sales and other specials as well. Maybe you give a coupon to people if they share a post using the hashtag! The possibilities are endless. 

How To Use Instagram Hashtags...And How To Do It Right

Rumors tear through the internet like wildfire about the best ways to hashtag posts, what will get you blacklisted or “shadowbanned,” (don’t worry, there’s still no confirmation that’s a real thing) and how the algorithm works. But, let’s be real. The only people who really know that work at Instagram and probably signed an NDA. However, using programs that analyze posts based on hashtag use, times posted, etc. we can work out some best practices that will help engage your followers.

You can use 30 tags total on your post, but the general consensus is that you shouldn’t use all 30. It tends to look spammy and turn off your followers even if all those tags are useful to your brand. Hiding the hashtags in the first comment of your post is a great strategy to combat this. It’s super helpful if you also crosspost to Facebook and Twitter, since hashtags work differently on various social platforms. From analytics data taken from accounts with good engagement, posts that have between 2 and 5 hashtags seem to perform the best. You should include a mix of popular and niche hashtags to increase your reach to your target audience, and vary your hashtags from post to post. If you use the same 5 tags every time, your reach after a while will be diminished and you’ll stop getting new followers.

Since you don’t want to use every hashtag that comes to mind on every post, how do you decide which ones to use? We highly recommend taking a peek at your competition and seeing what tags they’re using successfully to give you a starting point. There are also a ton of hashtag generating tools out there that can give you some great data. Websites like All-Hashtag, Sistrix, and Ingramer will generate tags based off of your keywords, or another hashtag. 

Once you have some great tags working for you, you need to track how your hashtags are doing, and analyze which of your posts are the most successful. You guessed it, there’s tools for that too, like Sprout Social. You can compare the hashtags you used with the time of day you posted, and the content in the post to see what the best combination is. If you start using a scheduling program, like many businesses do, most  include analytics data as well. 

Ready to Start Hashtagging?

And no, we don’t mean that you should start using them in text messages to your kids. Have you learned nothing? Here’s what you have to do to take your Instagram hashtagging to the next level. Start using hashtags now. You’ll get tons more engagement, make your content easier for users to find, and give yourself valuable tools for branding your business. 

Using specific tags for events, sales, and contests can give you a leg up and instantly ramp up your following within a target audience. But, it can be easy to overdo it, or use tags in a way that won’t help you. Don’t use the same tags over and over again, or use only super popular tags with millions of followers. But, do vary the popularity of your tags, and use tags that are trending for your industry. 

Get creative with your hashtag marketing strategy, and encourage your online community to engage with your brand. Don’t forget to analyze all your hard work and use tools to get fresh tags to add to your posts, and show you what’s working for you.

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