Having shared my Instagram Hashtag tips with a lot of people and getting feedback that the results are incredible, I thought I’d put together all of the advice I can into one handy blog post. It will cover the absolute basics of Instagram hashtags, when you should be using them and how to strategically use them to boost the engagement on your account. Although it will take a lot of hard work, the results will definitely be worth it.
Getting engagement on your Instagram photos can seem like an absolute nightmare when they’re constantly changing their algorithms and whilst I’m a firm believer the algorithm isn’t out to get you, I do believe there are lots of things to ensure that you’re using it to your advantage. One of those things is Instagram hashtags.
Side note: I am not an Instagram expert, however a lot of people have requested this post based on my own personal results of growing from less than 100 impressions to as many as 10k per post. Having created a group of people to test my theories, I can say that most of them also experienced similar results to me.
What Are Instagram Hashtags?
I thought I’d start off with the absolute basics here and say that Instagram hashtags are basically a way of labelling your content. By including a # symbol followed by a particular word or phrase, you’re labelling your photo and telling people that it belongs under that particular category. They’re clickable, searchable and an incredible source for traffic to your posts and profile.
How Do They Work?
Once you put a hashtag (#) in front of a word they will become clickable. This means that you’ll be able to see posts from everyone who has used the hashtag you’re viewing. So, if you were to hashtag a photo of your lunch with #WhatIAteToday, everyone else who views or follows that hashtag will have a chance of seeing your post - ultimately increasing the engagement on your post.
Where Can You Use Them?
Hashtags can be used on photos, in photo comments, in your profile bio and on your Instagram Stories.
Why Should You Be Using Them?
There are lots of different reasons you should be making sure you’re using hashtags on your images, no matter what you’re posting.
These reasons include:
- Using hashtags gives you a chance to be seen by lots more people. Depending on your Instagram goals, this will probably be an incredibly important part of growing your account.
- Using certain hashtags may give you a chance to be reposted by a larger account, again helping to grow your profile.
- If people enjoy your content when they see it on a hashtag they’re browsing, they’re likely to engage.
- Often people will click through to your profile and if they like your account, they’ll follow you.
- For bloggers, it often gives PRs and Brands a chance to discover your account.
Where Should You Be Putting Them?
This is a question I often get asked but honestly, I don’t think it matters. Instagram doesn’t take notice as to whether or not your hashtags are in the comments or in your caption, so you can do whichever you prefer.
Personally, I like to do five or six of those most relevant hashtags at the end of the caption, and then put the rest in the comments.
How Do You Find New Hashtags To Use?
This is another thing I regularly get asked when talking about Instagram hashtags, as a lot of people are not sure how to find new ones to use on their posts. For me, there are several different places I look.
- On other people’s posts - If you know of other accounts that post similar images to you, looking at the hashtags they use is a great way to discover new ones to use. I tend to spend 10-15 minutes a week searching for new hashtags using this method, adding them to a master hashtag document I have created.
- By searching keywords on Instagram - When I am writing my hashtags into an Instagram comment I write a keyword based on my image, then scroll down to see which hashtags I want to use. I’ll talk more about which ones to pick later.
- By looking for accounts that repost photos - Every so often I’ll include a few repost hashtags on a photo that I think has a chance of being picked up by a repost account. This is a great way to get more views as lots of people search these hashtags for inspiration and ideas. If your photo gets reposted, even better!
- By looking at lists of hashtags - There are quite a few free resources out there for hashtags in your niche, however, I tend to use these with caution as it’s easy to get caught up in copying and pasting from a list every time you post a caption.
Side note: If you want to follow me on Instagram, you can find my very colourful account here!
The Ultimate Guide To Using Instagram Hashtags To Boost Your Engagement
Use The Full 30 Hashtags On Each Instagram Post
There’s lots of conflicting advice out there about how many hashtags to use on each post but in all honesty, I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to use ALL 30 of them. Having an allowance of 30 hashtags on each post means that it’s 30 chances for your photos be been seen by others on a hashtag, and 30 chances for you to gain more engagement and followers. Use them ALL.
Don’t Just Copy And Paste, Mix Them Up Every Time
This is a really important point, and probably something most of us have got into a habit of doing.
Before I started changing the way I used Instagram Hashtags, I was copying and pasting hashtags from a notes file on my iPhone. Whilst it was a quick and easy way add hashtags to a post, it meant I wasn’t really thinking about the content I was posting.
I have found that mixing up the hashtags you use on every photo you post is a great way to get your content to appear on relevant hashtags each and every time you post. I also think that Instagram may be starting to notice when you’re using the same hashtags on each post and prefers you to use different dedicated and targeted hashtags every time.
The best way to mix up your hashtags is to type them every single time you post. Yes, it’s time-consuming, but it’s the best way to avoid the ‘copy and paste syndrome’. I aim to have at least 10-15 hashtags I haven’t used (for at least a month) on each post, which is easy when you use your hashtags wisely.
Use Your Hashtags Wisely
Match Hashtags To Your Photo
Now that you’re using 30 hashtags per post and mixing them up every time, it’s time to start thinking about how you can use your hashtags wisely. The first thing I would recommend is to match the hashtags you’re using to the photo you’ve posted. There’s absolutely no point in posting a photo of you on a warm beach and using a hashtag that focusses on rainy weather, even if that’s something you’ve talked about in your caption.
When people scroll through hashtags they only see your photo among many others, so the likelihood is they’re only going to interact with hashtags that align with what they’re searching for.
Use 10-15 Targeted Instagram Hashtags On Each Post
Targeted hashtags are hashtags that focus on something specific in your photo, and they’re probably one of the best ways to gain engagement on a post. When thinking of targeted hashtags for each post, I try to run through the following questions:
- Where was the photo taken?
- What clothes am I wearing?
- What brands am I wearing?
- What colours feature in the photo?
- What time of year was it?
- What was the weather like?
- What can you see?
There are SO MANY questions you can ask yourself to help create some targeted hashtags and I find that the deeper I delve into a photo, the better it does.
Use AT LEAST 10 Hashtags With Under 20k Pictures On Them
When it comes to finding hashtags to use the ones that are more likely to gain you engagement and followers are the ones that have less than 20,000 photos already on them. If hashtags are too saturated it means that within seconds your photo has already been overtaken by 100 others that have also been posted to the tag. The less saturated a hashtag is, the better it is likely to do, especially if it’s a hashtag people regularly search for inspiration (think fashion, travel and creative hashtags).
If you’re unsure how to find out how many posts a hashtag has, they should show as you type them into your comments or captions (as shown in the picture above). You can also see the difference in hashtags when you search #travelblog and #travelblogging.
Remember, not every hashtag has to have under 20k photos on it, but the more the better (in my personal opinion). I know sometimes It can’t be avoided when using specific hashtags for locations - #visitlondon, #londontimeout etc - and when using repost accounts.
Research Which Hashtags You May Have A Chance At Appearing In The Top 9 For
When you click on a hashtag you’ll usually be presented with a screen that gives you two options - Top and Recent. These will show either the top performing posts or the most recent posts for that hashtag, depending on which one you’re looking at.
There is a great way to use this to your advantage when posting to hashtags with fewer photos on, as you can work out whether or not you have a chance to appear in the top 9 photos for that hashtag.
The trick is to look at the existing top 9 photos and see what numbers the likes range from. If your average likes fit within that range, you have a much higher chance of appearing in the top 9 photos. Targetting these hashtags is a great way to get your account seen, but definitely shouldn’t be your top priority when choosing which hashtags you use.
Interact With The Hashtags You Post In The First Half An Hour Of Posting
I have always found that when I interact with photos on the hashtags I’ve used in the first half an hour after posting, it’s helped to boost my engagement. I honestly don’t know why, but I did a lot of A/B testing to help prove this and it works! It’s like I always say - when it comes to Instagram you get back exactly what you give.
Track Your Hashtags On Insights
Whilst you can’t view insights for individual hashtags yet, you can find out how many of your impressions come from hashtags. Keeping an eye on this for each photo will allow you to find out what works best for you.
It has taken me a lot of time to find a hashtag strategy that works well for my account and the chances are, it won’t be exactly the same for you. Use the tips I’ve mentioned to play around and find out what suits your profile best. I can’t stress enough that it took me around 6-8 weeks to see the results I was seeing and that you need to take that into consideration when tracking your stats.
Let me know if you test out any of my Instagram hashtag advice, I’d absolutely love to hear what works for you and whether or not my tips have helped you boost your engagement.