How to use Instagram hashtags

Over 95 million photos and videos are posted on Instagram every day. Hashtags matter on Instagram because they’ll help people find your content and thus help you get more likes, engagement and followers. There’s plenty of research which says that using hashtags can boost likes by up to 70%. Hashtags are an essential part of categorizing your content, and the more categories your post fits, the better are the chances that your feed will be exposed to more people.

But there is little advantage to your account or your business in getting lot of likes for the wrong hashtags, so it’s really important to use ones that will attract your ideal audience because you want  them to follow you, engage and hopefully take action – buy the product, download the ebook, send an email.

Klaxon: If your Instagram post is private, the hashtags WON’T be seen on a hashtag search page. So there’s not much point adding them to private posts.

How many Instagram hashtags should I use?

Instagram allows a maximum of 30 hashtags. I’ve seen countless discussions about whether it’s spammy to use all 30, and whether it affects how your post performs but I have never seen any evidence suggesting that there’s a problem in using all 30. It is up to you how many you use but research suggests that using 8+ will make the most impact.

Ten relevant tags are better than 30 irrelevant high volume ones which may get your account tagged as spammy and won’t attract the right audience.

You may think you can’t find 30 relevant hashtags, but I don’t think that lasts long for many people! Once accounts gain a certain number of followers they often stop using (so many) hashtags as they’re gaining attention via other means. You won’t find any hashtags on GaryVee’s feed for instance – why would he need them?

What’s a good mix of hashtags?

All the hashtags you use should be relevant to your brand, industry and target audience. It takes time to research hashtags and if you post different types of content you’ll need more than one set. It’s also a good idea to mix up your hashtags from day to day as overuse of the same ones could get you shadowbanned. Hashtag research is an ongoing task – as your account grows and/or the quality of your photos/feed improves you may want to start using higher-volume hashtags because your images could gain more exposure through them. You should also keep an eye out for new hashtags or hashtag challenges to join in (as One Purl Row has- this can be a great way to expand the reach of a small business.

Try to find relevant hashtags which have roughly between 10,000 and 500,000 posts – make these the majority of the ones you use and throw in a few higher volume ones. Bear in mind that some low volume hashtags could be perfect for your business if they’re highly relevant though.

Branded hashtags

Buffercommunity hashtag

You might want to use a hashtag or two that are specific to your business. They could be related to a campaign you’re running, an Instagram challenge or perhaps one to garner user-generated content. For example, Buffer use #bufferspace and #buffercommunity to invite contributions from followers.

Location hashtags

Local businesses should make sure to use some hashtags which will make sure they’re found by their community. For example, Three Angels in Hove come up top in a location search for Hove – why? Because they always feature location hashtags in their posts. For London, you may need to get quite location-specific as #london has over 90 million posts, but NW3 has only 20,000 so your business is much more likely to be found by local customers.

Klaxon: Don’t forget you can also tag location in Instagram stories and this can be a great way to extend your reach.

Is there any point using very popular hashtags

Short answer: Not really. The trouble with the very popular hashtags is the sheer number of posts using them means it’s highly unlikely your post will be found because new content will push yours down the search results. Plus content which gets to the top of some of these hashtag pages is usually drool-worthy posts by professional photographers. You’ll see a lot of people suggesting you use these popular hashtags to get more followers – but look at the top 10 hashtags below. Are any of these relevant to your business? Don’t waste your hashtags on ones that don’t convey what your business is about, where it’s located or your ideal audience. Include a couple of really high-volume tags for your best posts, but don’t go crazy.

Top 10 Hashtags 2017

#love #TagsForLikes #TagsForLikesApp #TFLers #tweegram #photooftheday #20likes #amazing #smile #follow4follow #like4like #look #instalike #igers #picoftheday #food #instadaily #instafollow #followme #girl #iphoneonly #instagood #bestoftheday #instacool #instago #all_shots #follow #webstagram #colorful #style #swag

Should hashtags go in the caption or the comment?

IT DOESN’T MATTER. People worry about putting hashtags into the first comment because they think Instagram will penalise them but Instagram’s help is very clear that hashtags can go in either location. Just make sure that you post the hashtags within a few minutes of posting.

It is quite a personal choice. I tend to add them in a comment because my workflow makes that easier for me and I like my captions to look neat! Social photographer Diana von Rettig is #teamcaption, saying “It’s harder to engage off hashtags as they get buried under the other comments. When someone reposts [an image] they already have hashtags. So I prefer reposting posts with the hashtags in the caption”.

Hashtags in the caption

  • + Easy to compose or edit
  • + Less likely to forget to add them!
  • + Can use Instagram’s hashtag suggest tool
  • + Easier for others to repost your content
  • – It can look a bit spammy (although you can get around this by adding a few rows of asterisks between the caption & the hashtags)

Hashtags in a comment

  • + Looks much neater & not spammy
  • + Doesn’t distract from the caption
  • – Can’t use Instagram’s hashtag suggest tool
  • – Have to remember to add straight after posting

Finding (the right) Instagram hashtags

I won’t lie, this can be a slow process. I’ve listed some tools below which might help, but I have always found the manual way more effective. By which I mean searching for a hashtag I know is relevant and then following up on the related ones, clicking through to similar posts to mine and seeing what hashtags others are using.

You should always check each hashtag directly in Instagram to see whether the kinds of posts that use the hashtag are similar to what you want to post. Don’t just assume!

Klaxon: Related hashtags are only shown in the Instagram app and not in the desktop version.

Hashtag search tools

Hope this advice helps with your feed(s) whatever they are!

If you need help managing your Instagram feed, I can provide training, support or manage it for you. Leave a comment or reach out to me on InstagramTwitter or email.