Hashtags are a concept as simple as a pound key (#) followed by a keyword, and it is primarily used on social media to categorize content. Hashtags debuted (and are still used frequently) on Twitter, but they are also a key part of Instagram’s platform, and its native algorithm.
They can be annoying if overused, but the stats below make a clear and bullet-proof case that we should all be using hashtags on Instagram.
Hashtags are an integral part of the platform on Instagram (even more so now that they’ve added the ability to follow a certain hashtag), and the best part of it is, you can use up to 30 hashtags on each post! That means you can have your post show up for 30 keywords every time!
Research confirms that posts which use 11 or more hashtags have the best engagement (likes & comments). I see no reason to ignore them on Instagram.
However, it can sometimes be confusing or unclear to find out which hashtags you should (or shouldn’t) use on your posts. So, to help you get the most out of hashtags, here a few guidelines.
Which hashtags to avoid
Not all hashtags are created equal on Instagram, and some of them have been limited or should be downright avoided.
First, you should avoid hashtags that are banned or broken. For some hashtags, you will see that they will not show the most recent posts when you look them up. This means Instagram has put a limit on them, or that this hashtag has been frequently reported to contain inappropriate content. You just want to downright avoid these hashtags! There’s absolutely no reason to use any of them.
Secondly, avoid hashtags like #like4like #follow4follow #l4l or any others of this kind. Although a lot of guides write that these hashtags will get you a lot of engagement and followers, most of the interactions will come from bots or automated fake profiles. We don’t want this kind of attention!
And the third type of hashtags to avoid are hashtags that are totally unrelated to the type of content you are posting. Instagram uses hashtags as a way to categorize your posts, so you should make sure that the hashtags are always relevant. There is no logical reason to tag a post about your dog with #luxury (unless it’s a gold-plated statue of your dog). The people browsing this tag will not engage with your content and might even select that they don’t want to see this post for that hashtag (yes, that is an option!). If Instagram receives several of these requests, your reach will be lowered! And that’s to be avoided always.
Which hashtags should you use
Avoiding hashtags will not be enough. It is also key to use appropriate and relevant hashtags in relation to your content. One thing you should also pay attention to is the size of the hashtag. Instagram counts all posts that are tagged with a certain hashtag. For instance, #fashion is used on millions of posts, while a hashtag like #fashionistastyle is used on roughly 200,000 posts. This makes an enormous difference in the time your post will be shown either under the most recent or top post section of that hashtag.
If you use #fashion on your post, chances are your post will be pushed down immediately after posting, as #fashion is used on hundreds of posts every minute. Using a hashtag like #fashionistastyle; however, will show your posts in the most recent for a few hours, increasing the exposure and discoverability of your post. Ideally, you will always want to use a mix of bigger and smaller hashtags.
This is an important aspect, since using appropriate hashtags on your content allows for people who are not yet following your profile to find your posts.
If you are unsure about which hashtags you should use, one of the first places to look at are your competitors (or influencers in that niche). This can give you a good starting point.
A second way is to use Instagram’s built-in suggestions. Whenever you research a hashtag, Instagram will show you a bar with more hashtag suggestions. Convenient isn’t it?
Another great place to look for inspiration is by using any of the tools that are freely available on the internet. Here are two of our favorites:
Hashtagify.me is one of the most complete and comprehensive tools available and gives you a lot of data that you can use to analyzing hashtags. By entering a hashtag, the site will show you additional hashtags you can consider to use, and it will also show how popular the hashtag is.
Another great site that finds related hashtags is Display Purposes. You enter one (or multiple) hashtags and the service will show you other related ones, complete with a popularity and relatedness score. They even have a copy mode where they prepare the tags and allow you to simply copy them from the site and paste them to your Instagram caption.
And if that wasn’t enough, there are also mobile applications that you can use right on your phone.
This application allows you to upload your image to the app, and it will then suggest hashtags by applying image recognition on your image to identify objects, colors, etc. Available for iOs and Android.
Named one of the top 25 apps of 2017, Focalmark is specifically targeted at photographers. It allows you to enter a style, location and camera model. Based on the input you give it, Focalmark will then suggest up to 30 hashtags for you to use on your next post! Also available for iOs and Android.