Instagram hashtags can make or break your Instagram strategy. Use them correctly and you’ll get your posts seen by more people likely to be interested in your products or brand.
But use the wrong and you can actually do damage, from annoying potential followers to getting penalized by Instagram’s algorithm.
To use hashtags for Instagram effectively, you need to understand exactly how they work and put some thought into a strategy.
What are Instagram hashtags?
A hashtag is a combination of letters, numbers, and/or emoji preceded by the # symbol (e.g., #NoFilter). They are used to categorize content and make it more discoverable.
Hashtags are clickable. Anyone who clicks on an Instagram hashtag or conducts an Instagram hashtag search will see a page showing all the posts tagged with that hashtag.
Why use Instagram hashtags?
Hashtags are an important way to expand your Instagram audience. When you use a hashtag, your post will appear on the page for that hashtag (a directory of all the photos and videos that were tagged with that hashtag). If you use a hashtag on your Story, it could be included in the relevant hashtag Story, which also appears on the hashtag page.
People can also choose to follow hashtags, which means they could see your hashtagged post in their feed even if they don’t follow you (yet).
For example, a food blogger might post a picture of a gorgeous smoothie bowl, and then use the hashtags #superfoods, #cleaneating, and #vegansofig when it’s uploaded to Instagram.
By using these three hashtags, the image is catalogued so other Instagram users who enjoy healthy foods can easily find it.
A few things to keep in mind:
- When people with private profiles tag posts, they won’t appear publicly on hashtag pages
- Numbers are allowed in hashtags. However, spaces and special characters, like $ or %, won’t work.
- You can only add hashtags to your own posts. You can’t tag other people’s photos/videos.
- You can use up to 30 hashtags on a post and 10 on a story. If you try to include more, your comment or caption won’t post.
Types of popular Instagram hashtags
Understanding the different types of hashtags and their corresponding audiences is key to developing an effective Instagram hashtag strategy:
These are hashtags that connect like-minded users around a specific subject. They’re a great way to connect with others, improve the searchability of your posts, gain followers, and grow your own community.
Here are 9 different types of community hashtags you can use for your business:
- Product or service hashtags: These are basic keywords to describe your product or service, like #handbag or #divebar
- Niche hashtags: These get a little more specific, showing where you fit in the context of your industry, like #travelblogger or #foodblogger
- Hashtags for Instagram communities in your industry: Communities exist on Instagram, and these hashtags help you find and join them. Example #foodiesofinstagram or #bakersofinstgram
- Special event or seasonal hashtags: These can refer to real holidays or seasons, like #summerdays, or they can be used for all those National [Thing] Day holidays, like #nationalicecreamday or #nationalnailpolishday
- Location hashtags: Even if you geotag your Instagram post, it can still be a good idea to include a hashtag that refers to your location, like #madeinNigeria or #lagosfiesta
- Daily hashtags: Every day has plenty of its own hashtags, from #Mondaymotivation right through to #SundayFunday. Hootsuite has created a whole list of daily hashtags for you to choose from if you’re looking for an easy source of hashtags to add to your posts.
- Hashtags with phrases relevant to what you do: These hashtags combine elements of product hashtags, niche hashtags, and community hashtags. Basically, they’re phrases people use on Instagram to connect to existing communities in a slightly insider way, like #amwriting or #bakerylove
- Acronym hashtags: Perhaps the best-known acronym hashtag is #TBT for Throwback Thursday. Other popular acronym hashtags include #OOTD for outfit of the day, #FBF for flashback Friday, and #YOLO for you only live once.
- Emoji hashtags: These hashtags can include emojis on their own, like #????, #shoe👟, # or words or phrases with emojis attached, like #sunglasses????.
We recommend using a variety of hashtags on your posts and stories so your posts can reach different communities. For instance, if you have a bakery in NYC, you can use #nycbakeries to reach those looking specifically for bakeries in NYC, but also use #bakerslife for those who are interested in your day-to-day life as a baker.
The best way to find these community-oriented hashtags is by looking to see which hashtags your audience or favourite accounts are already using.
A branded hashtag is simply a tag that you create to promote your own brand or campaign.
It can be as simple as your company name, tagline, or the name of one of your products or campaigns. Or it can be a hashtag that has nothing to do with your brand name but everything to do with your brand identity!
You can then let your audience know about your hashtag by including it in your Instagram bio and highlighting it in your captions and Instagram Stories. You could also consider running a contest with a branded hashtag to popularize the hashtag while also collecting user-generated content.
Make sure to follow your branded hashtag, both within the Instagram app and using a stream in your social media dashboard, so you can monitor how it’s being used. Look for opportunities to reshare great content or connect with influential members of your audience.
To follow a hashtag within Instagram, simply tap it, then tap the blue Follow button on the hashtag page.
While community hashtags are meant to increase the reach of your message, branded hashtags are designed to connect themes for you and your audience. They can be used to promote a campaign or collect user-generated content (UGC).
While branded and community hashtags are meant to last, campaign hashtags are usually shorter-term and run for just a few days, a season, or a year.
The reason campaign hashtags are shorter-term is that they’re usually tied to specific campaigns, like new product launches, special events, or partnerships.
How many hashtags do I use per post on Instagram?
Just because you can use 30 hashtags on a post and 10 on a story doesn’t mean you should. There’s no right number of hashtags for every business, or even for every post by the same business.
The consensus is that about 11 hashtags are a good number to start with. You’ll need to do some testing to determine what works best for your particular business.
How to Find the Best Instagram Hashtags for Your Account
Instead of using the most popular Instagram hashtags, it’s better to find and use hashtags that are smaller, more niche, and have an engaged audience that’s relevant to your industry.
So, how can you find these cool, creative, and community-oriented hashtags?
The best way is to look and see what Instagram hashtags your audience, competitors, and industry leaders are already using.
How to find trending hashtags on Instagram
Unlike Twitter, Instagram doesn’t publicize a list of trending hashtags. However, if you search for a hashtag on Instagram, you’ll see how many posts use that hashtag. You’ll also see a list of other popular Instagram hashtags using similar words, with post counts included too.
To search for a hashtag on desktop, enter the hashtag including the # symbol into the search box. On mobile, enter your search term in the search box, then tap Tags.
If you’re paying attention to your Instagram feed, you’ll learn to quickly spot trending hashtags as they emerge. Don’t be too quick to jump on a trend, though. Only post using a trending hashtag if it really makes sense for your business, and for the specific content in your post.
How to search multiple hashtags on Instagram
The easiest way to search multiple hashtags on Instagram is to set up search streams in a social listening tool like Hootsuite to track the hashtags you’re interested in so you can see all the relevant content on one screen without having to conduct each one as an individual Instagram hashtag search.
Instagram business profiles can conduct up to 30 unique hashtag searches in any given seven-day period.
Here’s some more information about how to set up search streams so you can keep track of multiple Instagram hashtags easily on one dashboard.
Top Instagram hashtags as of 5th September;
Top best Instagram hashtags for likes as of 1st September 2020, according to statistics from All Hashtag, an Instagram analytics tool.
Keep in mind that the most popular Instagram hashtags are not necessarily the most effective.
A large number of posts may mean lots of people follow that hashtag, but it also means there’s a ton of content on it and your posts might get lost. Instagram suggests using a combination of popular and niche hashtags to reach different audiences, from broad to specific.
Instagram hashtag search: How to find the best hashtags for Instagram for YOUR brand
- Research Your Audience
Find out what hashtags your audience is using and see which ones fit the content that you’re publishing. Your hashtags should be relevant and contain keywords that your audience is actually searching for.
Keep an eye on your top followers and see what hashtags they’re using. Instagram’s search tool can give you some additional information about which hashtags the people you follow care about.
When you conduct an Instagram hashtag search, the search tool will show you if anyone you follow also follows that hashtag. (Note that this only works on mobile, not on desktop).
- Research your competition
You don’t necessarily want to model your competition’s strategy too closely, but taking a look at the hashtags they use can give you some good clues about what’s working for others in your industry and which hashtags provide the most engagement.
While it may not be your intention to compete on those hashtags, you could still end up figuring out what your potential customers are talking about and which hashtags they’re using and maybe you’ll discover new hashtags to add to your repertoire.
3. Use Later’s Hashtag Suggestions Feature
If you need some help finding a niche and industry-specific hashtags then you may want to check out Later’s Hashtag Suggestions feature.
Hashtag Suggestions works by automatically finding relevant hashtags for your posts based on other hashtags that you use.
All you have to do is click Hashtag Suggestions beneath your post, and a menu will open up on the right. Put in one relevant hashtag into Hashtag Suggestions, hit “Suggest,” and the feature will immediately generate 30 other hashtags, sorted by relevance.
You can then pick and choose which of these hashtags to add you to your post. All you have to do is click “Insert Hashtags” and they’ll be added to the end of your caption.
4. Use Instagram’s Related Hashtags feature
Simply type your hashtag into the app’s search bar, and then select “tags” from the dropdown menu. You’ll then be able to see all of the top hashtags that are closely related to your own hashtag, revealing additional ways to reach, monitor, and engage with your community.
You can also browse through posts containing a hashtag you’re already having success with.
On the hashtag page, right above the “Top” and “Recent” tabs, you’ll find a list of related hashtags. Do you see a trend of any other common hashtags that could be included in future posts? If yes, write them down.
5. Research Industry Leaders
Every industry has its respective key influencers. Find out who these people are in your niche and use their posts as inspiration. These people are already well-established with your target audience, so why not learn from the best?
How to hide hashtags on Instagram
When you’ve spent time crafting a great Instagram caption, you may not want to end your post with a prominent collection of hashtags. Fortunately, there are a couple of easy ways to make your hashtags less visible.
- How to hide Instagram hashtags in a comment:
Hashtags can be used and hidden in comment following the below steps;
- Write your caption as usual but don’t include any hashtags.
- Once your post is published, simply click the speech bubble icon under your post to leave a comment.
- Write out or paste the hashtags you want to include in the comment box and tap Post.
- On mobile, your hashtags won’t be visible unless a user taps View all comments. However, on desktop, your comment will remain in the top position, so this trick works better if you’re targeting a mobile audience.
- How to hide Instagram hashtags in the caption:
You can also use hashtags within the caption itself without them being super-visible.
- At the bottom of your caption, tap Return or Enter. If you don’t see a Return or Enter button, tap 123 to bring it up.
- Enter a punctuation mark (try a period, bullet, or dash), then hit Return again.
- Repeat steps 2 to 4 at least three times.
- Instagram hides captions after three lines, so your hashtags won’t be viewable unless your followers tap … more. Even then, your hashtags will be visually separated from your caption so they don’t distract from your copy.
- How to hide captions on Instagram Stories:
You can hide hashtags on Instagram Stories, too. One option is simply to minimize the appearance of your hashtags by pinching and shrinking them to make them quite small. You can also tap the hashtag sticker to change it from a white background to a semi-transparent one.
If you want to hide your hashtags entirely, you can paste an emoji, sticker, or GIF overtop to obscure them.
TIP: Don’t make your hashtag text too small — if it becomes illegible, Instagram won’t pick up on it and it’s unlikely your post will appear in any hashtag searches.
How to use hashtags on Instagram—7 tips and tricks
1. Use Insights to see which tags work best
If you’ve made the switch to an Instagram business profile, you have access to post insights that tell you how many impressions you received from hashtags.
- Select the post you want data on and tap View Insights below the post on the left.
- Swipe up to see all the insights for that post, including the number of impressions from hashtags.
This data helps you figure out which hashtags are most effective for improving reach.
2. Include hashtags on Instagram Stories
Hashtag pages have an Instagram Story icon in the top left corner. Click on it and you’ll see a collection of Stories posts tagged with the hashtag from people with public profiles.
There are two ways to add hashtags to your Stories. The first method is to use the hashtag sticker.
Or you can simply use the text tool and the # symbol to type out the hashtag the same way you would on a photo or video post.
3. Avoid banned hashtags and spammy hashtags
When inappropriate content becomes associated with a hashtag, Instagram might ban that hashtag.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t use it at all. Instead, it means that if you click on the tag, you will only see top posts. You won’t see recent posts, and there won’t be any Stories associated with the hashtag.
Here’s what it looks like when you run into a banned hashtag:
The only way to know if a hashtag is banned is to check it before you use it. This is a good practice to put in place every time you add a new hashtag to your repertoire. Using banned hashtags can cause a drop in engagement, as your use of legitimate hashtags might also become less effective because you could be dropped in the algorithm.
Even if they’re not banned, you should avoid hashtags that shamelessly solicit likes and followers. Examples include #followme, #like4like, #follow4follow, #tagsforlikes, and so on.
Using these will attract bots, spammers, and other users who have no intention of engaging with you in any meaningful way. They also show your followers that your brand is okay with engaging in spammy behaviour. And that’s not a good look.
You can also view a list of banned Instagram hashtags here.
4. Understand how hashtag pages work
Hashtag pages are a great way to expose your content to a new audience, especially if you can get featured in the Top section.
Hashtag pages show off all the content associated with a specific hashtag. If someone searches for a post and yours is the most recent with that hashtag, it will be the first thing they see in the Recent section. Of course, it is much easier to stay at the top of the Recent section for a less-popular or really niche hashtag.
Keep in mind that the Recent section is sorted based on when each post was originally shared. If you add hashtags later, either through a comment or by editing the caption, this won’t bump your post up for recency.
5. Don’t use irrelevant or repetitive hashtags
It might be tempting to simply copy and paste the same long list of hashtags on every post, but don’t do it. Instagram’s community guidelines clearly state that “posting repetitive comments or content” is not okay. If you use the same hashtags for every post, your content will be penalized by the algorithm.
When you create a post, only use hashtags that make sense. If you tag a post with #wanderlust, for example, your content must be something globetrotters will want to comment on, like, and share.
It’s not about getting seen by a lot of people, it’s about getting seen by the right people. That’s how hashtags lead to higher engagement and more followers. Pick and choose the right keywords for each post individually.
6. Make sure that hashtag means what you think it means
Hashtags are often a string of words stuck together. That can create some problems when it’s not clear where one word ends and the next begins.
One of the worst examples of this was the #susanalbumparty fiasco from way back in 2012. It was a launch celebration hashtag for Susan Boyle’s new album. But read it slowly and you might pick up some words in the middle that clearly make the hashtag a bit… problematic.
Brands sometimes also are too keen to hop onto a trending hashtag without fully understanding the context. When the context is challenging, this can create a PR disaster for the brand.
And sometimes a brand just doesn’t check to see if a hashtag is already in use before creating a whole campaign. Burger King was guilty of this back in 2013 when they used the hashtag #WTFF to mean “What The French Fry.”
Since you already know what WTF stands for, you can probably guess why this was a problem.
7. Save hashtags for future use
If you often use the same hashtags, you can save them in a note to reduce time typing them in over and over.
Wait, didn’t we just tell you not to use the same hashtags on every post? It’s true—you should not overuse the same set of hashtags. That said, it is still really useful to have a list of hashtags relevant to the various kinds of content you post. You could even create separate lists of hashtags relevant to the different types of posts you create.
Just create a list of hashtags in your notes app, ready to add to your posts. You can then pick and choose a few hashtags to use each time, rather than having to remember the hashtags or search for new ones for each post. This also gives you the time to check out what kind of content is already being posted for these hashtags, so you don’t make one of the mistakes mentioned above.
Alternatively, you can use Later’s Saved Captions feature to create multiple hashtag lists based on your frequently used hashtag categories, all from your Later account.
Instead of trying to remember (or find) relevant hashtags for every post, you can use Saved Captions to keep them all organized, so you can quickly add appropriate ones to your caption when scheduling in the future.
Just remember that every one of the Instagram hashtags you use on a post must fit with the content and should not be too repetitive. Don’t copy and paste your whole saved list onto every post.