Know what’s common among the top Instagram influencers?
Creative content and captivating copywriting. The two help them tell compelling stories that hook audiences, which makes these two the essential components for influencer success on Instagram.
But there’s also a third pillar that helps with discoverability and visibility – something you can’t afford to overlook: Instagram hashtags.
Where high-quality content and caption writing tell memorable stories on the platform, hashtags offer a stage for those stories – ensuring more and more eyeballs see that story.
In fact, you’re going to have a hard time growing as an influencer if you don’t use the top hashtags on Instagram.
So in this guide, we’re going to walk you through finding the right Instagram hashtags and how to use them. We’ve also got never-do-this tips for using hashtags correctly to save you from harm’s way on the social channel.
Let’s dive in already:
What are Instagram Hashtags?
Hashtags are either one-word or multiple word tags with a hash symbol in front of them that categorize content, therefore, making it more discoverable.
#NoFilter and #NoMakeup
See that there’s no space between the hash and the word or phrase that follows. If you add a space, you’ll render the hashtag useless since it’s not searchable that way.
But wait, how can you tell the hashtag’s working? When you put together a word or phrase with a hash symbol on Instagram, it appears blue instead of the standard text colour. This shows it’s clickable and all posts using the hashtag are arranged under it.
A few ground rules to bear in mind:
- It doesn’t matter if you capitalize each word in the hashtag. Example: #Holidaysarecoming or #HolidaysAreComing . It’s searchable either way.
- It’s best not to create a hashtag longer than 3-4 words because it can become difficult to read if it’s longer.
- You can always create hashtags. But if you’re starting out, it’s best to stick with using hashtags that people are already searching for to make your content discoverable.
Now, another important question:
How do Instagram hashtags work?
Generally speaking, hashtags are responsible for organizing posts on social media.
This means all posts using the #MondayVibes, for instance, is categorized under it. When a user clicks the hashtag, they can easily discover all the content – new or old – posted under it.
In a way, you can think of hashtags are storage organizers that categorize things for easy finding.
This is exactly what Instagram hashtags do. When a user clicks them, they can find relevant content using the specific hashtag. In fact, they can also follow the hashtag to keep seeing the content using the particular hashtag in their Instagram feed.
With that let’s look at reasons why you should take adding hashtags to your Instagram posts seriously.
Benefits of using Instagram hashtags for influencers
Here are four compelling reasons for influencers to utilize hashtags:
High discoverability and social visibility
Not only can the right hashtags help new followers find you but regularly posting content using those hashtags is a great way to stay on their radar too.
Equally important is the fact that the right hashtags can help your target brands find you. So if you’re a mom blogger, a company looking to collaborate with influencers in that particular area will use relevant hashtags to find you.
Lastly, hashtags can also help you find other influencers to collaborate with.
Help with content research and ideation
Knowing widely used and trending Instagram hashtags in your industry can help research new content ideas and trends to jump on.
You can also unearth more niche hashtags simply by studying the hashtags your target audience and fellow influencers are using.
In fact, by searching for hashtags that aren’t directly related to your space, you can source content ideas and inspiration from other industries.
Not to mention, you can analyze how other influencers are writing their captions, marketing their ideas, and so on.
Improve competitor analysis
Want to learn who other influencers in your niche are partnering with? Use hashtags to find and study them.
Most of all, when you search a hashtag, you can determine how well you are doing against your competitor in terms of who’s getting ranked. This is technically known as a share of social voice. It tells you how well you’re showing up for a hashtag when users search for specific hashtags.
Encourage audience engagement
And finally, Instagram hashtags are a way to get your followers to interact with you.
Established influencers, for example, use custom hashtags for the campaigns and giveaways they plan. In doing so, they encourage their followers to use the same hashtag and engage.
Where to add hashtags in your Instagram posts?
You have two options: hashtags in the caption or in the first comment.
The million-dollar question, however, is: Is it better to put hashtags in comments or captions?
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So should you add Instagram hashtags in the caption or the first comment? We recommend you test performance before reaching any conclusion.
There are, however, a few reasons why hashtags in the first comment are generally preferred:
- Comment-based hashtags help you maintain clean captions
Hashtags can repel some followers. At the same time, it might impact your caption’s visual appearance. So adding them in the comment helps you create a clean caption.
- Hashtags in comments are easy to edit
You can simply edit the comment and replace, remove, or add another hashtag without letting it impact your post’s performance.
- Comment hashtags disappear over time
This is because Instagram tends to rank comments based on fresh ones. So the comment bearing hashtags disappears in a sea of comments as your post comments grow.
Related Read: How to Create the Perfect Instagram Grid
Types of top Instagram hashtags
As for the types of hashtags that are popular on the visual-first platform, here’s a list:
- Location hashtags. Example: #LasVegas
- Daily hashtags. Example: #SundayFunday
- Holiday hashtags. Example: #WomensDay
- Community hashtags. Example: #BookLovers
- Product or service hashtag. Example #Writer
- Niche hashtag. Example: #Mediterraneanlife
- Branded hashtags. Example: #BoseHeadphones
- Campaign hashtags. Example: #InMyOwnSkin by Dove
- Acronym hashtag. Example: #OOTD for Outfit of the Day
You’ll find influencers (and brands) using these hashtags in their Stories, posts, and bio.
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How to find Instagram hashtags to use?
Now for the meaty bit. Follow these four easy steps:
Step 1: Look at what other influencers are using
Chances are you already have an idea of who your peers are. If you don’t, take to Google and search for [your niche] + influencers.
A quick search for “hair care influencers,” for example, gives me a handy list of influencers I should be looking at.
With a list of influencers to study, go ahead and start studying their Instagram posts and Stories.
You’ll find hashtags in the caption:
Mainly, however, the gold is in their posts’ first comment – the ideal place to add Instagram hashtags.
This research will easily give you a wide pool of 30-50 hashtags that you can use. Create a spreadsheet of the list.
Related Read: How To Use Instagram DM To Improve Conversion Rates
Step 2: Look at what hashtags your target audience is using
Now, look at the hashtags that the brands in your space that you want to collaborate with are using.
But before you can partner with them, you’ll need an engaged audience. So start looking at the hashtags your target audience (followers) uses.
All this will help you add more hashtags to your list.
Step 3: Look at IG’s hashtag suggestions
Finally, in step three, do some general research to get niche hashtags.
For example, search for a common hashtag such as #Writer. This will give you a list of related, niche hashtags – scroll down to find more of these.
Note that as the hashtag gets niche, the number of posts under it reduce. You need to find those hashtags and pair them with the general ones (hashtags with very high post volume) for visibility.
Essentially, using only niche hashtags when you’re starting can slow your growth. Using only high volume hashtags, on the other hand, means that the posts published under the Instagram hashtag will crush your post – giving you no visibility. So balance is crucial here.
With your list of Instagram hashtags ready, start adding them to your content.
Step 4: Optimize your Instagram hashtags based on performance
If you are an Instagram business profile user, you can see how the hashtags you’re adding are doing in terms of delivering results.
To this end, when you select a post and view its insights, study its Impressions. On the third spot here, you’ll see impressions from hashtags. If a hashtag set consistently delivers good impressions, you can tell it’s a keeper.
On a side note: Use this tactic to mix different hashtags together to create and identify your top hashtags on Instagram.
And, one last question that you may have:
How to find trending Instagram hashtags?
You can only spot trending Instagram hashtags when you are down in the trenches.
Translation: It’s going to get really challenging to spot trending hashtags on Instagram if you don’t use the network consistently. By regularly using Instagram and keeping an eye on your feed, you can quickly spot trending hashtags.
But here’s the thing: don’t be too quick to jump on trends. First, ask yourself: is the trending hashtag relevant to me and my personal brand? Is the hashtag relevant to my target audience?
Only use trending Instagram hashtags when your answer to both of these questions is a yes and you have a winning idea for a post/Story to go with the trending hashtag.
Analyze, Understand, and Improve Your Social Strategy
Stack your key social metrics against those of your competitors and make targeted steps towards social media success.
Best practices for using Instagram hashtags
Now that you know what Instagram hashtags are, why you should add them, and how to find them, learn how to use them strategically.
1. Decide the number of hashtags to use
The competitor research you have done to hunt down hashtags to use should give you a fair idea of the number of hashtags other influencers are using.
To give you a general idea though: you can add up to 30 Instagram hashtags. However, remember that Instagram is a visual-first platform so putting all 30 hashtags in your post would never do you good. In fact, it might annoy and repel some of your followers
The strategic way to go about using Instagram hashtags, therefore, is:
- Add 1-3 hashtags to your caption (or in the post)
- Add the bulk of the hashtags in the first comment
And, remember, just because you can use 30 hashtags, doesn’t mean you should. Mix things up instead. Add 25 hashtags in one post. Include 15 hashtags in another, for instance.
2. Never repeat your Instagram hashtags in a row
That’s a surefire way for getting shadowbanned on the platform.
The thing is: you might think that copy pasting hashtags from one post to another is a great way to save time. But that never pays off because it goes against Instagram’s community guidelines that says you shouldn’t be publishing repetitive content or comments.
Hence, if you paste and publish the same list of hashtags, you’ll get penalized by the Instagram algorithm in no time.
Want to save time with hashtags? The next tip is for you.
3. Improve your productivity by saving Instagram hashtags in sets
Create different sets of Instagram hashtags in one sitting. Then save them in ContentStudio that not only helps you schedule Instagram posts but also schedule first comments.
To save your hashtags, go to Settings in your ContentStudio dashboard and select Miscellaneous.
Here you’ll see Saved Hashtags. At this point hit Add New.
Now label your hashtag set and start adding hashtags to it. Once done, tap Save.
This should give you ready sets of hashtags to use all your Instagram posts that you create from the ContentStudio composer – for scheduling or on-the-spot posting.
Remember: you can save more of your time by batch creating and scheduling Instagram posts using ContentStudio.
The best part? You aren’t limited to adding hashtags to posts that you schedule. Instead, you can add the relevant (saved hashtag set) in the first comment of the post and schedule it to go live with the post. Bingo!
4. Follow hashtags to keep tabs on your community
While using the right hashtags is important, it’s also essential the content you share is fresh. It’s why it is important to follow hashtags in your industry.
This way, you can track what’s happening both in your community and industry. This, in turn, helps you stay up to date with what followers are talking about and identify emerging trends too.
Following relevant Instagram hashtags is also an effective way to keep your creative ideas bank full.
5. Add hashtags to your Stories too
Leverage the discoverability potential of hashtags for your Instagram Stories as well – even if they disappear after a day.
The reason? Stories containing hashtags show up in search results, which is a great way to attract more followers.
Don’t like to add hashtags to your Stories? Hide them by adding a sticker or GIF over the hashtag.
Related Read: How To Ace Instagram Aesthetics For Businesses
6. Try not to use banned Instagram hashtags
Instagram often bans hashtags that spammers start using for sharing inappropriate content on the platform. In that case, it’s best to not include those hashtags in your posts.
But, wait, how can you identify a banned Instagram hashtag?
Search or click on the hashtag and you’ll see there are posts under it. However, there will be no recent posts or Stories under it. This is a sign a hashtag has been banned.
With that said, it’s also important to refrain from using hashtags that solicit likes and followers. For example #Like4Like and #FollowMe.
The reason? The platform encourages engagement and that’s what your aim should also be when building your following.
So instead of using such hashtags, use niche and trending hashtags, collaborate with others, and genuinely engage with your audience to grow an engaged following organically. (Also have a look at the most useful Twitter engagement tactic: Humour)
7. Use branded, campaign, and product hashtags when needed
When collaborating with partners or planning giveaways, it’s essential you review which hashtags to use.
Often partnering with brands requires you to use their campaign or brand hashtags. As you pair with businesses, it’s essential you ask them for any hashtags they expect you to use.
For example, Merrick White used Allswell’s #BanTheBrunch hashtags when she worked with them for Mother’s Day.
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8. Follow a social media calendar to plan posts around themed holiday hashtags
And, finally, it’s important you keep your hashtag pool fresh so you don’t miss holiday hashtags relevant to your brand and audience.
A good way to do so is to keep an eye on your social media calendar that shows you important holiday dates. This way, you can plan collaborations, campaigns, and content well in advance.
Start using Instagram hashtags strategically today
Using the correct Instagram hashtags is easy once you get a grip on which ones to use.
With the 4-step action plan to find hashtags that we’ve laid out though, creating hashtag sets to use shouldn’t be hard too.
Don’t forget to add different hashtag sets to different posts, settle on where to add them, and then study post-performance.
Here’s to your success. 🎉
Masooma Memon is a pizza-loving freelance writer by day and a novel nerd by night. She crafts research-backed blog posts and articles for small businesses and app companies who aim to employ quality content to educate and engage with their audience.