The easiest and most effective beginner’s guide to Instagram hashtags.
Plus you get a bonus.
The Instagram Hashtag Cheat Sheet section gives you 18 tips for dominating the Instagram hashtag feed.
Not only will you learn how to use hashtags – from scratch – but you’ll also get insider tips that can rapidly increase your success.
If you want to grow your audience on Instagram with the use of one simple symbol, #YouWillLoveThisGuide!
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
Instagram Hashtags 101 – An Introduction for Beginners
How to Choose Hashtags
How to Find the Best Hashtags for Your Brand
How to Use Hashtags on Instagram
Instagram Hashtag Cheat Sheet
Instagram Hashtags 101 – An Introduction for Beginners
This section is for people who’ve never used hashtags before, or who aren’t sure how they should be used.
If you’re experienced with hashtags, you can skip this section and go directly to Section 2.
Instagram allows users to include up to 30 hashtags per post.
When brands include a lot of hashtags in a post, they usually find a way to separate them from the post message so the visuals don’t get overwhelming.
To do this, users often put hashtags in the 1st comment of a post instead of in the caption. Or, they find a way to separate the hashtags from the message by typing a period following by “enter” a number of times. For example, the Hubspot post below shows the “period-enter” method.
On Instagram, users can follow hashtag feeds so they see all the new content that matches their favorite hashtags in their newsfeed each day.
Who Invented the Hashtag?
In 2007, product designer Chris Messina was working with a small group of designers and using a “small social network called Twitter” to communicate.
He liked the way the pound symbol was used in chatrooms to display categories, and thought it would be a good idea to use them to organize discussions on Twitter.
When Messina brought the idea to Twitter, the administration replied with a “no,” explaining they thought it was “nerdy” and that it would never catch on.
Chris convinced his friends to use the symbol anyway. It eventually caught on and became adopted by Twitter users. Two years later, Twitter added a “search hashtag” option to its growing platform.
Interestingly, Messina did not file for a patent on the hashtag because A.) he felt it would hinder the adoption of hashtag usage, and B.) he felt hashtags “belong to the internet” and should be owned by no one.
“The value and satisfaction I derive from seeing my funny little hack used as widely as it is today is valuable enough for me to be relieved that I had the foresight not to try to lock down this stupidly simple but effective idea.” – Chris Messina, Inventor of the hashtag
Why are Hashtags Such a Big Deal on Instagram?
Hashtags help you grow and engage your audience.
Instagram’s 1 billion + users love to interact with brands. More than 200 million of them visit at least one business profile daily, and 60% say they’ve discovered new products on Instagram.
Hashtags can be a massively successful way for you to reach target customers and grow your following on Instagram.
According to research by Agora Pulse, Instagram posts with at least 1 hashtag resulted in a 70% increase in likes, and posts with hashtags had a 392% increase in comments over those without hashtags!
There is a catch to all this good news, though. You’re competing with 25 million business profiles and 2 million paid advertisers.
And, as with any social media platform, competition reduces reach.
We can help you with this!
Below, you’ll discover step-by-step instructions for choosing and using the right hashtags. We’ll walk you through all of the hashtag “lingo” and show you what types of hashtags work best.
You’ll learn how to research, choose, and publish hashtags that help your brand get noticed.
How to Choose Hashtags
When you include a hashtag in your post or story, it allows people to discover you when they’re searching for that topic.
The more relevant and targeted your hashtags are, the better chance you’ve got at reaching an audience that will engage with your content.
In this section, we’ll explain how to choose hashtags that attract the “right” type of followers.
How Many Hashtags Should You Choose for Each Instagram Post?
Instagram allows you to include up to 30 hashtags per post.
Before you go hashtag-crazy, it’s important to understand that more hashtags don’t always mean more traffic.Spamming your readers with 30 different versions of a keyword can be annoying and probably won’t help improve your visibility, anyway.
The key to success with hashtags is to use them strategically. One well-researched hashtag is more valuable than 30 carelessly-chosen phrases.
For example, if you specialize in winter coats, choosing a general term such as #WinterCoats will do nothing but put you in a hashtag results feed with nearly 38,000 other posts about winter coats.
However, if you get specific with your hashtag, for example #WarmWinterCoats, this puts you in a feed with less competition, raising the chances that your content gets discovered. It also narrows the target persona, improving your chances of building an audience that’s highly engaged with your brand.
By narrowing your hashtag description, not only do you better target a specific type of consumer, but you also cut down on the competition.
While there is data available on how many hashtags get the most engagement, one study after another offers conflicting results. One report says 5, another 10, another insists you must post all 30.
The reason for all of the conflicting data? Instagram added so many new features and updates in 2018 that it’s like publishing to a brand-new platform. We’re all still learning what works in the “new” Instagram.
The biggest change took place about a year ago, when Instagram expanded its features to let users follow hashtags (or unfollow brands) within feeds.
This was a game-changing update and one that made all prior hashtag statistics unreliable.
When Instagram changed the way we find and view hashtags, it affected how people respond to and interact with them.
So, reports stemming from Instagram hashtag research in 2014 – 2017 can be misleading because they’re outdated.
From there, test and analyze the results to discover what works best for your audience.
How to Find the Best Hashtags for Your Brand
It takes a bit of research to find hashtags that will expand your reach and help you build an engaged target audience.
Hashtag research is important for 2 reasons:
- Market research helps you make profitable choices.
- Usage research helps you to avoid going viral for all the wrong reasons.
Before we dive into market research, we’ll walk you through the most crucial step: usage research.
Conduct Hashtag Usage Research to Avoid #HashtagFails
Hashtags can backfire.
One minute you’re publishing a post that you’re proud of, and the next thing you know your message box is lighting up with thousands of angry users while your follower count takes a giant nosedive.
All because someone else used the same hashtag or acronym to promote hatred, porn, politics, or rumors you want no part of.
Hashtag usage research can help ensure that your brand doesn’t end up going viral for the wrong reasons. It’s a step you should never skip when using hashtags in your posts and stories.
Usage research helps you discover:
- How has your hashtag term been used in the past?
- Might it be misinterpreted?
- Are you using an acronym that has a second meaning?
These are things you need to know before you publish hashtags with your posts and Stories.
Here’s how to research potential hashtags:
- Run a Google search on your hashtag phrase.
Try running the phrase through Google without the hashtag sign. Try it with spaces between the words, and also without spaces.
Do everything you can to find out if your hashtag phrase might have potential 2nd meaning.
Example – #nowthatcherisdead
When former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher passed away, critics posted the news with the hashtag #nowthatcherisdead – intended to mean “Now Thatcher is Dead.”This led to a viral rumor about American singer Cher because fans mistook the phrase to mean “Now that Cher is dead.”
- Triple-check your acronyms and spelling.
Check with Google, social media platforms, and your team members to learn whether any of the acronyms in your hashtags have double-meanings.Also, be sure to have at least one other person proofread your posts prior to publishing to check for spelling mistakes.
Example – #WTFF
To promote its new low-fat french fries, Burger King created a #WTFF hashtag. Not only did the mishap make them look foolish, but it also put the restaurant among less-than-appealing company in the hashtag search results.
- Run a hashtag search across multiple social media platforms.
Check your hashtag on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Google to find out if and how the phrase has been used in the past, or if it already has a meaning attached.
- Put a team in place to help vet and edit hashtags.A strong team made up of diverse personalities can be a great help when it comes to spotting potential hashtag problems.Also, it’s important to have a team plan to remove or change hashtags immediately if things go wrong.
Example – #RoadkillNights
In August 2017, Dodge cars sponsored a “Roadkill Nights” racing event and promoted with the hashtag #RoadkillNights.
Unfortunately, it took place on the same weekend that an anti-racism protester was run down and killed by a white supremacist driving a Dodge Challenger.
In this case, vetting the hashtag wouldn’t have changed anything, but having a team in place to report issues and make changes quickly could have made a difference.
Dodge’s delay in removing the tweets caused neo-nazis to promote and revel in the mistake.
Conduct Hashtag Market Research
By researching your competitors, audience, and other hashtag feeds, you’re able to choose more successful hashtag phrases.
Effective market research includes investigating:
- Hashtags that are working well for your competitors
- Relevant industry hashtags
- Trending hashtags
Begin your research by taking a look at the hashtags that your competitors are using. They often have done the hard work of researching and testing hashtags to come up with the most effective for your industry.
For example, if you own a fitness studio you can save a lot of time by learning what hashtags are working for your local and big-name competitors.
By visiting Planet Fitness’s profile and viewing a few of its posts, we discovered that #MondayMotivation is a popular hashtag in the fitness industry.
From there, we head over to Gold’s Gym’s profile to peruse a handful of their posts. We discover that they’re also using #MondayMotivation, plus another — #WorkoutMotivation.
While #MondayMotivation and #WorkoutMotivation are an excellent matches for our small fitness center,they’re also very common hashtags. This means our chances of being seen in a hashtag search are pretty slim.
So, to find hashtags with less competition, we added a location to the search.
By typing “BostonFitness” into the Instagram search bar, we’re able to view a list of autocomplete suggestions that have the number of posts listed next to each title.
We noticed that “Fitness Instructor” is a less-competitive search term, and selected that hashtag to view more.
The search for Boston fitness instructors turned up some great results. Here, we see phrases such as “pilates fusion” and “boston barre” being used as hashtags.
View this post on Instagram
BOSTON FRIENDS!!!!!!! So proud to let y’all know the beautiful and talented @stephanieclearypt will be teaching her first class @northendyoga this Friday @ 6:00pm! Y’all this is a must try Barre Fusion class that will kick any 🍑 I firmly believe that the instructor makes a class what it is, and I know she will be a new favorite among the #NEY crew (my favorite studio of all time btw). Sign up NOW @northendyoga #bostonbarre #bostonfitnessinstructor #pilatesfusion #barrefusion #proudfriend #killingthegame photocred:@luciephoto
Now that have we more hashtag ideas, we run a hashtag search and learn that #BostonBarre has a low amount of competition (only 2600 posts), and it’s a great fit for our buyer persona.
#BostonBarre goes on the list of hashtags to be vetted!
We also found more fantastic hashtag ideas by browsing through posts in the #BostonBarre feed. These posts are using hashtags like #BackToBarre and #ReturnToWellness to promote their posts.
This type of manual research works for discovering effective hashtags for any type of product, service, or brand.
Remember to keep searching and narrowing the competition in order to position your brand into hashtag searches that are high volume and low competition.
Besides searching for effective industry hashtags, also research the other types of hashtags such as:
- Local hashtags
- Competitor hashtags
- Event hashtags
- Holiday hashtags
With all the work that goes into hashtag types, styles, and research, it can be tricky to know where to begin.
Begin With These Hashtags Types
If you’re new to using hashtags on Instagram, keep it simple.
- Include 1 branded hashtag in all your Instagram posts.
- Use 1 campaign hashtag when you’re running a marketing campaign or contest.
- Use relevant hashtags when you need to target a niche to expand your audience.
- Choose holiday, event, and local hashtags to boost your visibility in-store and in-season.
You can use just 1 hashtag when you’re getting started. Add the others in along the way and test the results to discover what works best for your audience.
Tools to Help With Hashtag Research
There are some tools that can help you find the best hashtags for your brand or product. One of the most popular hashtag tools is Hashtagify, which can help you find, track, analyze, and improve the results of your hashtags.
However, remember to conduct usage research and properly vet all hashtags with your team, even when using a hashtag tool.
10 Hashtags to Get You Started
According to a recent report by Oberlo, the following 10 hashtags are excellent for getting “likes.” You might consider using them if they’re relevant to your business.
How to Use Hashtags on Instagram
Before you hit “publish,” be sure you’re following these hashtag best practices.
The 3 Golden Rules of Hashtags
Whether you’re on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or anywhere else – the 3 golden rules of hashtags apply:
- Don’t use spaces, symbols, or punctuation.
Using any type of space, symbol, or punctuation within the hashtag phrase will prevent it from working properly.
- Do be sure your post is public.
In order for your hashtag to show up on the platform’s search engine, it must be a public post.
- Always cap the first letter of every word. #AlwaysCapTheFirstLetter
Caps make your phrases easier to read and help to clarify their meaning.
Normally if you add 5 extra lines beneath your comment, the rest of the comment will collapse so that your hashtags are hidden from view when readers are browsing.
Separating a block of hashtags from your message or hiding them helps you avoid appearing “spammy” and annoying your readers.
2. Use hashtags in Instagram Stories.
Hashtags in Stories can be placed as text, a sticker, or within a location tag. Try adding one per story to begin with, then track your results along the way.
3. Use hashtags in your Instagram business bio.
Placing a hashtag in your Instagram business bio automatically creates a link to that hashtag feed. However, it doesn’t place your bio in the search results. Because of that, a branded or campaign hashtag might work well, but an industry or general hashtag in your bio will only drive people away from your content.
Instagram Hashtag Cheat Sheet
18 Tips for Instagram Hashtag Dominance
Now that you have the hashtag basics down, let’s take a look at some of the most helpful hashtag tips to get you off to a strong start.
- Make sure all your hashtags are well-researched and relevant.
- Avoid generic hashtags that put you in a generalized feed – they won’t help you.
- Count your hashtags carefully! If you accidentally post more than 30, your content won’t show up at all.
- Keep an eye on your competition for new and trending industry hashtags.
- Avoid #HashtagsThatAreTooLong because it’s unlikely people will search for or remember them.
- Don’t let your hashtag become a bashtag! Run the phrases by your team and conduct user research before publishing.
- Follow your branded hashtag. This will help you discover what other people are saying about you. It’s also a good idea to follow your other main hashtags to keep an eye on what’s trending in your industry.
- Have a team plan for removing or editing hashtags quickly if something goes wrong.
- Be sure your post is public and contains no spaces, symbols or punctuation.
- Capitalize the first letter of every word #ToMakeReadingEasy
- Keep your hashtags organized! Use a spreadsheet to store and track hashtag results.
- Use your keywords. Hashtags are a great way to take advantage of your best keywords.
- Track, test, analyze – rinse and repeat! Take advantage of Instagram Insights to learn which hashtags are driving new followers in increasing engagement. Continually test, experiment, and improve on your hashtag usage.
- Always add hashtags at the time of publication. If you add a hashtag after your content has posted, it doesn’t update in the hashtag feed.
- Create a hashtag strategy. Document a plan to incorporate the different types of hashtags across different content such as images, videos, and stories. Include special events and holiday promotions in your hashtag strategy.
- Market your hashtags. Post hashtags at events, in-store, and in emails to encourage participation – especially for contests and special events.
- Go niche-crazy on your hashtags. You don’t have to skip listing a couple popular ones, but be sure to take advantage of niche areas where people are searching but competition is low.
- Always engage! Responding to comments is important, otherwise all your hashtag work is lost!
Instagram hashtags hold limitless possibilities for businesses wanting to grow an audience and boost engagement on the rapidly-growing social platform.
Unlike other platforms such as Facebook and LInkedIn, Instagram users embrace the use of hashtags and frequently use them to discover new brands.
Remember to bring your team in on the process of creating and publishing hashtags, to help spark new ideas that can reach more people.