When it comes to using Instagram hashtags, it can be a bit of a touchy subject.
Some people hate them, and some people love them a little too much. But did you know that posts with at least one Instagram hashtag average 12.6% more engagement than posts without a hashtag?
The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Hashtags in 2018 will help you understand everything you need to know about using Instagram hashtags to gain followers and increase likes.
Learn how to use Instagram hashtags strategically, and what steps you need to take to implement an effective hashtag strategy that boosts the reach of your Instagram marketing campaigns! Ready? Let’s go:
#1: Why You Should Use Instagram Hashtags
Things on Instagram evolve pretty quickly (especially in 2018!), but one thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of hashtags.
To this day, building an effective hashtag strategy is one of the best ways to get your posts discovered by new audiences on the platform — and depending on how targeted your hashtags are, this can mean more engagement, more followers, and even more customers.
Of course, it’s not like Instagram hashtags haven’t changed as well! In the last year alone, Instagram has released a ton of new hashtag features, adding new capabilities and even better tracking. Here are some of the highlights:
1. Track Your Instagram Hashtag Success with Post Insights
Yet another reason to switch to an Instagram business profile. Just recently, Instagram added the ability to analyze how effective your hashtags are in getting more views (or impressions) on your posts!
To access this data, just open a post and tap the “View Insights” text below it.
Swipe up and you’ll find a full page of data for that post, including reach, impressions, and, now, how the people who viewed your post found you.
2. You Can Now Follow Hashtags on Instagram
Another big update, earlier this year, Instagram added the ability to follow hashtags, meaning you can now stay up-to-date on various topics (or communities) by following a hashtag related to your interests.
Following a hashtag works just like following a user’s profile. When you find a hashtag you’d like to follow you simply open the hashtag page and tap on the follow button.
3. Add Clickable Hashtags to Your Instagram Bio
Thanks to a recent update, you can now add clickable hashtags (and usernames) to your Instagram bio, meaning building an effective Instagram bio just got a lot easier in 2018.
What’s so great about this feature is that it makes your Instagram bio even more functional — you can use hashtags for everything from promoting your Instagram community to highlighting your branded content.
All you have to do is include a “#” before any word in your bio and it will automatically become a clickable link that leads visitors to that hashtag.
4. Add Instagram Hashtags to Your Instagram Stories
This one isn’t quite as new as the others, but Instagram recently added the ability to add hashtags to your Instagram Stories, giving users yet another way to get their content discovered.
What’s so great about this feature is that, like regular posts, when you add a hashtag to an Instagram story, it becomes searchable from the Search & Explore page. So if someone looks the hashtag up, they might see your story in the Stories queue at the top of the page.
How Instagram Hashtags Work
Before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s chat briefly about how Instagram hashtags work.
Like on Twitter and other social media platforms, Instagram hashtags work by organizing and categorizing photo and video content.
Every Instagram post you create can be accompanied by a caption and a few hashtags (up to 30), and these hashtags help in the process of content discovery.
By using these three hashtags, the image is cataloged so other Instagram users who enjoy healthy foods can easily find it.
#2: The Different Types of Instagram Hashtags
Instagram hashtags come in all shapes and sizes — and understanding the different types of hashtags and their corresponding audiences is key to developing an effective Instagram hashtag strategy:
1. Branded Hashtags
A branded hashtag is a hashtag that’s unique to your business. 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 has everything to do with your brand identity!
While community hashtags are meant to increase the reach of your message, branded hashtags are designed to connect themes for you and your audience.
Getting your followers to use your branded hashtag in their post and stories is key to discovery on Instagram. It means people love your product or service and want others to know about it too!
2. Community Hashtags
Community hashtags, like branded hashtags, are hashtags that connect like-minded users around a specific subject. But unlike branded hashtags, community hashtags don’t to be directly related to a business — they can be broader and much less focused.
While not directly promoting Herschel or its products, the hashtag has been used on over 3.5 million posts and has been key to growing Herschel’s community.
The best way to find these community-oriented hashtags is by looking to see which hashtags your audience, or favorite accounts, are already using. The narrower the scope of the hashtag, the more engaged the users are.
3. Campaign Hashtags
While branded and community hashtags are meant to last, campaign hashtags are usually shorter-term, last just a few days or even a season or year.
The reason campaign hashtags have a shorter longevity is because they’re tied to specific campaigns, like a new product launch or partnership. As a result, businesses will heavily promote a campaign hashtag to get as much activity as possible, and then stop promoting it once the campaign is over.
#3: How to Find the Best Instagram Hashtags for Your Account
In order to be successful with hashtags, it’s important to be strategic about the hashtags you use.
While the most “popular” Instagram hashtags have been used millions and millions of times, that doesn’t mean you’re going to get a ton of likes and comments simply by adding #love, #happy, or #dog to your post.
Instead of using the most popular Instagram hashtags, it’s better to use the top Instagram hashtags that have an engaging community behind them and are specific to your audience or industry.
For example, let’s say you’re going to post a photo of a French Bulldog. Instead of just tagging #dogstagram (over 15 million posts), you could also tag #frenchie (over 5 million posts) and #squishyfacecrew (over 1.3 million posts) to reach a more targeted audience of people who really love French Bulldogs. This is the best way to get a lot of targeted engagement on your posts!
Here’s how to find the best hashtags for your account:
1. Research Your Audience
Throwing random hashtags at the end of your Instagram posts isn’t going to grow your audience. Instead, 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 users are actually searching for.
2. Research Your Competitors
It’s always smart to find out what hashtags your competitors are using. By doing so, you can determine 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. Research Industry Leaders
One of the best ways to find hashtags you should be using is to follow Instagram influencers that have the same (or similar) target audience as you. For the uninitiated, social influencers are basically the people that tend to perform exceptionally well on social media. Every industry has its respective key influencers. Find out who these people are in your niche and piggyback off their success. These people are already well-established with your target audience, so why not learn from the best?
4. Find Related Hashtags
Surveying the landscape of trends that are relevant to your own hashtag is an easy and effective way to grow your community. 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. Do you see a trend of any other common hashtags that could be included in future posts? If yes, write them down.
#4: Best Practices for Instagram Hashtags in 2018
Instagram hashtags can be a powerful tool for discovery when used properly — but they can also look spammy and hurt your account when used incorrectly. Here are some rules to follow to get more from your Instagram hashtags in 2018:
When Should You Use Instagram Hashtags?
The short answer? As often as possible! Whenever you share content on Instagram, whether it’s a post or Instagram story, if your goal is to get it seen by as many people as possible, you need to be using Instagram hashtags.
That being said, there might be occasions where using hashtags isn’t necessary! Like if you’re sharing a personal anecdote or story.
This is more often the case with Instagram Stories than with regular posts (because they tend to be more casual in general), but it varies from case to case. At the end of the day, it’s best to weigh the tone or topic of your post, along with what you’re hoping to achieve, and then decide if it makes sense to use hashtags.
How Many Hashtags Should You Use?
Unfortunately, there’s no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to deciding how many hashtags you should use. While some experts like Alex Tooby recommend using the maximum number of hashtags allowed, because it gives you more opportunities to be discovered, others recommend using just 5-10.
We’ve seen all sorts of strategies and ideas on how many hashtags make the difference, but at the end of the day, it’s really up to you. If you can find 30 super-relevant hashtags to add to each post, then you should definitely go for it.
However, if you don’t feel comfortable using that many, feel free to opt for less. It’s always okay to experiment with the number of hashtags you use on a post in the search to finding your hashtag sweet spot.
What Hashtags Should You Use?
The most important thing to keep in mind when deciding what hashtags to use is that you’re being intentional — as in, you’re using hashtags that your target audience is actually searching for and following!
According to Tooby, It’s important to switch up your Instagram hashtags in every post to avoid being “spammy.” It’s also a good idea to avoid gimmicky hashtags such as #likeforlike, and hashtags that have been used a million-plus times. While these hashtags might get you a few extra likes, they aren’t going to help you grow a highly engaged, targeted following.
Instead, try looking for ultra-niche community hashtags that are specifically relevant to the content you post. It’s not a bad idea to use Saved Captions to build multiple hashtag lists that are organized by theme or category.
And don’t forget to use your branded hashtag whenever it makes sense! The first step to getting other users to share your branded hashtag is to use it yourself.
#5: How to “Trend” for an Instagram Hashtag
If you’ve ever searched for a hashtag on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed a grid “Top Posts” at the top of the results page.
It used to be on the mobile Instagram app that you would only see the top 9 posts for each hashtag, but thanks to a recent update, you can now toggle between “Top” and “Recent” posts when searching for a hashtag (note: it’s still just the top 9 posts on the desktop version of Instagram).
Getting in the top posts for a hashtag is a great way to get discovered by new users. Like getting featured on the Explore Page, it can results in a huge network effect that essentially makes your post go viral on Instagram.
So how do you actually get on the Top Posts for a hashtag?
Based on our experience, the two factors that play the biggest role in determining whether a post gets into the top posts for a hashtag are how much engagement the post gets, and how quickly it gets that engagement.
Top posts generally take their position within the first 24 hours of posting, so you need those likes and comments to roll in quickly after posting. If you can generate a lot of engagement on your Instagram post shortly after posting, this signals to Instagram that your post is quality, engaging content.