The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Hashtags

Hashtags can be a brilliant way to find new followers but if used incorrectly, it can also be a red flag to Instagram or put people off.

First things first, what is a hashtag or #? A hashtag is used to categorize content. So if I use the hashtag #personaltrainer then my content will be filled under that hashtag. People can search by hashtags or even follow hashtags to find content they are interested in. Some hashtags are larger which means more people are also using them to tag their content and therefore it is easier to get lost in the feed of these hashtags. For instance, #personaltrainer will be used more than #personaltrainerclapham where I am making it location specific.

Before you go on a hashtagging spree, start by doing your research on which hashtags to use. I’d suggest coming up with a list of 60 hashtags you are likely to use regularly and to mix up which ones you use each day so you don’t look spammy to Instagram.

Choose relevant hashtags

Your hashtag needs to fit with the content you are promoting otherwise people won’t engage with your content. If you regularly post on the same topics, research and save a group of hashtags that you can use on rotation and just change a few in the group to fit your content.

Think about your ideal customer

I can’t stress enough the importance of this step. Remember who you are trying to reach with your hashtags and be careful to use hashtags that will attract this audience, not more people like yourself or the competition. Are you trying to reach busy mums? Newley engaged people? If for instance, I was a personal trainer, if I was targeting brides who want to tone up for their big day, I might include hashtags such as #weddingweightloss or #weddingworkouts as well as broader hashtags.

Use trending hashtags

Trending hashtags is a great way to be relevant and to gain more followers, however your content needs to be relevant to the trend to work. You can prepare for trends by having content around key days of the year or key holidays prepared and ready to go.

Look at competitors and key influences

Take a sneaky peak at what hashtags your competitors and key influencers are using and consider stealing some of them. To do this, look at their Instagram profile and click on a few images to see what hashtag they are using. If there are no hashtags to be seen, try looking at their comments as they might have hidden them there.

Look at Instagram recommended similar hashtags

When you type a hashtag into Instagram, it will show you suggested similar hashtags and the number of posts with those.

Know your limits

You can only include 30 hashtags per post so don’t try to sneak more in. However, whilst you want to use a good number of hashtags, there is no point including irrelevant ones to get up to 30 as it has been shown to decrease interactions. If you are caught abusing hashtags you can get banned from Instagram so stick to the limits.

The numbers matter

Pick too frequently used hashtag and you’ll never appear in the top posts, pick too smaller hashtag and you won’t reach enough people. I’d suggest choosing a range of hashtags between 1,000,000 posts on them down to 50,000 posts of them. If you have a large Instagram following you can definitely try some hashtags in the million plus posts around them or if you are very new to Instagram you might want to choose some around 20,000.

Ideally, you want to appear in the top posts for some of the hashtags that you are using so that every time someone looks at the hashtag they see your content. Keep an eye on hashtags you are using regularly and see if you are appearing there, if not, consider a less used hashtag.

Avoid spammy hashtags

Avoid hashtags such as #followme which are likely to attract spammy posts which you probably don’t want to be associated with. Very generic ones like #love can be the same so be careful. As a rule of thumb, you want to avoid hashtags with over 100million posts attached to them.

Consider branded hashtags

If you’ve featured a brand heavily in your post, consider using them as a hashtag. Best case scenario, the brand might notice you and share your content as user generated content which can lead to many more followers.

Use hashtags for curated accounts

Some hashtags are associated with accounts that curate content from other Instagram users and using these hashtags can mean that you get featured on their page, which can increase your followers. For instance, #catsofinstagram or #ipreview if you use their app.

It is worth noting, that using hashtags as a side effect is likely to mean you have people follow/unfollow you as people use hashtags to find what they believe are relevant accounts to target. See my post here on the truth behind follow/unfollow and reasons not to do it.

Remember all the hashtags in the world won’t gain you followers if you are not producing content that they actually want!

Now you’ve got your hashtags sorted, check out when to post and how often.


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