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Beginner's handbook Marketing tips

The Ultimate Guide to Using Instagram Hashtags 2019

By Reading Time: 8 minutes

Instagram is still one of the top social media sites for businesses trying to target their online audience. Knowing that Instagram’s monthly active user base is well over one billion, this fact doesn’t come as much of a surprise.  

However, with so many accounts and followers fighting for the spotlight, as far as your posting strategy goes, little can be left to chance—it’s becoming increasingly more challenging to get organic reach. But hey, don’t we all love a good challenge? 

Luckily, there are plenty of methods on how to drive sales with Instagram and boost your Instagram presence. Hashtags are one of them—they’re one of the most effective ways to get more likes, attention, and engagement on your posts. 

This ultimate guide to hashtags will help you promote your online store on social media, boost engagement, and grow your following. At the end of the article, I’ve included a ready-to-use list of 500+ popular Instagram hashtags. Add them in your posts and reach the people you’re looking for!  

1. What is Instagram Business?

First off, a quick reminder about the types of accounts on Instagram. In 2016, Instagram introduced Business Accounts that come with extra features to help brands optimize their content.

Business Account features:

  • Learn about your audience and posts with Instagram Insights, their free analytics tool
  • Promote posts as ads
  • Get a “Contact” button
  • Add an address and location
  • Add links to Instagram Stories (Business Accounts with more than 10k followers)

Setting up an Instagram Business Account will give you access to view and analyze your results on Instagram Insights, and more. You can learn more about your followers and other users are interacting with your account. 

The Insights section of your Business Account lets you track results of your Activity (weekly interactions, reach, and impressions), Content (performance of your posts, stories, and promotions), and your Audience (age, gender, places they’re from, and times they’re online). 

instagram-insights-example

If you’re an online store owner, here’s one more reason why switching to a Business Account isn’t something you should think twice about—Instagram enables brands to sell products to followers without them having to leave the app. Connect your account to a Facebook catalog, and start tagging products in your photos and stories. If a user clicks on the product on the picture, they’re automatically directed to your shop for more details. 

instagram-shoppable-post-example-printful

2. Why use Instagram hashtags

Hashtags help organize the photos and videos on Instagram. They’re used to identify and filter content on a specific topic, so your fans, community, and Instagram wanderers have a better shot at finding you. 

follow-hashtag-on-instagram-example

You can add up to 30 hashtags in posts, but there’s no benefit in using irrelevant hashtags just to make up the quota. 

Doing research is the first step to a successful Instagram hashtag strategy. Browse similar Instagram accounts, find out what industry-specific hashtags they use, and look for hashtags that are more likely to be searched by Instagram communities of your niche. 

If you follow a strategy and include the right hashtags, your posts will be discovered by more people. It’ll help increase your reach and engagement, and gain new followers, but on one condition—these new audiences must be interested in your content! At the end of the day, content quality is the most important factor that drives traffic on Instagram. 

Using hashtags on Instagram is easier than you might think and we gathered up some tips and tools to help you level-up your Instagram strategy. 

3. How to use hashtags and get higher engagement on Instagram

There are three main ways you can use hashtags on Instagram—in Instagram posts, Instagram Stories, and on IGTV. Let’s take a closer look at each. 

3.1. Instagram posts

  • Add up to 30 hashtags
  • Tag up to 20 accounts to increase your chances of being featured on other pages
  • Add ALT texts to your posts to rank on Google
  • Mark up to 5 products per image (for Instagram Business Account owners with Shopping enabled)

There’s one more way how to increase your Instagram engagement.

To beat Instagram’s algorithm and get a better reach, try to get as many likes and comments as you can within the first hour of posting. There are plenty of Instagram engagement pods created just for this purpose where users help each other grow their following. Group members like and comment posts on Instagram right after they’re published, which helps boost engagement, increase visibility, and attract new followers. 

There’s no single formula for maximizing the reach of your Instagram posts, so it’s up to you to create one! It’s all about experiments and analyzing your account performance. Be active, interact with other Instagram accounts, drive as much action as you can with Instagram pods or DM groups, and monitor overall account performance.

3.2 Instagram Stories

  • Add up to 10 hashtags
  • Mention up to 10 accounts
  • Include a location, poll, question, countdown, quiz, donation stickers, or GIFs
  • Tag 1 product (Business Accounts with Shopping enabled)

Instagram Stories is a feature used by 500 million+ Instagram users daily. Not only are they fun and creative, but they’re also organized by hashtags that you can follow. Whatever tags you decide to use, Instagram will add your stories to the hashtag search for 24 hours. 

online-business-hashtag-instagram-stories

If we look at the current trend for Instagram Stories, people educate, inspire, share behind-the -scenes of a business or event, demonstrate their product or services, organize Q&A sessions, share feedback reviews, and so much more. Introduce yourself or your business and show what’s behind it —you’ll see, the more stories you add, the more engagement you receive.

3.3 IGTV

  • Add up to 30 hashtags
  • Add clickable links in a caption
  • Add a cover photo and share IGTV videos to the Instagram feed

Most accounts can upload IGTV videos up to 10 minutes long, but for larger and verified accounts videos uploaded from a computer can be up to 60 minutes. 

IGTV-example

4. How to find the right hashtags for your brand

So hashtags help Instagram recognize what your post is about—the system then picks the most relevant content to go on the Explore page for audiences following accounts that post content similar to yours.

Thousands of hashtags are used every day, and using the most popular tags won’t make your posts any more discoverable—your content will disappear among the other posts.

Focus on trending hashtags connected with your account, business, and target audience. However, be careful using pop culture references. It will help you reach like-minded Instagrammers, but you don’t want to risk losing your brand name and identity among hashtags that overshadow your presence.

Now for an example on how to go about creating hashtags for your account.

Let’s say your name is John, you run a barbershop in Toronto, and you’ve started creating a community around your brand which is all about embracing natural beauty and being proud of having grey hair. But how to reflect that in your Instagram account? 

The good news is, you don’t have to start from scratch to figure out the best hashtags for your business. Here are the five basic types of hashtags and templates on how to build them. 

4.1 Branded hashtags

Examples:

  • #[your brand name]
  • #greyisgold

 
Branded hashtags must be unique to your account or business. Come up with a hashtag that’s simple enough for your followers to recognize and use—it can be your name, brand or company name, your slogan, or a focal concept of your Instagram account.

4.2 Industry hashtags

Examples:

  • #barbers
  • #barbershop
  • #haircut

Out of all the hashtags used on Instagram, industry hashtags have the highest competition.  There are millions of people who use them daily, so include just a few industry hashtags to your posts that are the most relevant to your brand.

4.3 Community hashtags

Examples:

  • #barberfan
  • #torontobarbers
  • #hairaddict

Community hashtags connect smaller groups of like-minded users. The use of these hashtags make you discoverable by topic, niche, location, etc. and there’s a higher possibility to gain followers organically and grow your own community.

4.4 Content hashtags

Examples:

  • #beardcare
  • #howtofadehair
  • #trendinghaircut

Try to think like your customer and find out what they would search for. Content hashtags help you engage with your target audience that’s out there looking for inspiration, new ideas, or instructions. For example, #howto hashtags are highly used on Instagram and can be a good start for building up your hashtag strategy.

4.5 Campaign hashtags

Examples:

  • #hairmarathon
  • #silvertoronto
  • #whatbarbersdo 

Planning your next marketing campaign, event, or special offer? Create a campaign hashtag and ask people to engage with it! Or be a part of a larger movement and add event hashtags that are happening now. This is a great way to connect with others and improve your chances to be discovered by local and global audiences. 

5. Instagram hashtag tips and tricks

There are many tools out there that make social media posting easy. Here are some things you can try out: 

5.1 Use Instagram hashtag generator apps

You can search, find, and copy your hashtag combination for each of your posts based on any topic. Here are some of the most popular hashtag generator apps: 

These tools will help you create hashtag lists easily, but don’t rely on generator app results alone. Use generated hashtags as an inspiration and combine them with your own strategy!

5.2 Automate your posts and hashtags

There are apps like Planoly and Later that help you visually plan and schedule the posts and stories. With Later, you can use tools to categorize Instagram hashtags and analyze the performance of each post. 

It’s a good idea to repurpose content, but avoid using the same hashtags for all your posts. Not only does it make your account look spammy, but it also increases your chances of getting your account or content shadowbanned—blocked. To avoid Instagram shadowban, ditch any hashtags that increase fake activity, like #likeforlike #followforfollow #follow4followback, etc. It might drop your engagement and your photos won’t show up for users who don’t follow you. 

5.3 Try my hashtag formula to get to Top Posts

One of the milestones for any determined Instagram user is to get your post on that coveted Top Posts spot. Top Posts are the first nine posts you see when you tap Explore and type in the hashtag you’re researching. Getting there is challenging, but doable—I want to share with you one of the ways of doing it.

For a little backstory, Instagram has been my passion for a while now. I created my own personal brand and Instagram travel account @justanotherOKday in 2017, started to look for ways to grow my engagement and following. 

I discovered there’s a whole world of Instagram support groups on Facebook. I joined all the groups that caught my eye—that way I found out what tools others were using, and it gave me an opportunity to test different strategies. 

The hashtag formula below proved to be the most effective for my Instagram Business Account. If you’re looking for a strategy to try out, why not give this one a go?

Over the course of a year, this strategic use of hashtags significantly increased my chances to be featured among Top Posts, and impressions from hashtags alone increased by 200 times. 

comparing-instagram-post-performance

Here’s the formula I used for my social media strategy:

  1. Branded hashtag (1)
  2. Industry (1) + content hashtag (1)
  3. Location hashtag (1)
  4. 26 carefully picked hashtags
    • higher density hashtags (6)
    smaller density hashtags (20)

To gain better results, it’s important to mix high and low-density hashtags. High-density hashtags are the most popular, most used tags that help the Instagram algorithm understand what type of post you’ve posted. It’s much harder to rank for these tags though—they’re added to new posts all the time, and tagging your content only with high-density hashtags will make your posts harder to find.

high-density-instagram-hashtag

Low-density hashtags, on the other hand, are community-based hashtags. They have lower competition, and it’ll be easier to rank for them in Top Posts. 

lower-density-instagram-hashtag

6. 500+ Instagram hashtag cheat sheet

If you just launched an online store or have decided to focus on your target audience’s interests and needs, here are  20 popular high-density tags for ecommerce businesses you can start using straight away:

#onlinebusiness

#onlinemarketing

#businessowner

#makemoneyonline

#entrepreneurlife

#personaldevelopment

#financialfreedom

#solopreneur

#gogetit

#entrepreneurlifestyle

#startups

#makemoney

#youngentrepreneur

#entrepreneurship

#hustlehard

#selfgrowth

#networker

#hardworker 

#ecommerce

#mindsetiseverything

Don’t forget to download our free Instagram hashtag list for photography, fashion, travel, and many other tags organized in 20 sub-categories.

Download from the form below!

Find out what hashtag techniques work best for you

Being where your target audience and customers are is vital for any brand. If you’re serious about getting more organic followers and likes on Instagram, getting that exposure will require some work, but the reward will be worth it. You’ll have a loyal user base and you’ll be on your way to finding out what works best for your audience. 

Keeping up with the ever-changing social media trends is a challenge, but the results are worth the effort. Here’s my final tip—to stay ahead of the game, make sure to follow Instagram updates, tools and trends. Instagram is quick to inform about any algorithm changes, new features and pro tips on their blog!

I hope you enjoyed this post, have fun creating your custom Instagram strategy! And feel free to share your experience with Instagram in the comments below. 

Download 500+ Instagram hashtags

Subscribe to our blog and get ready-to-use Instagram hashtags

Arta constantly throws herself into new projects and challenges - from observing today's fast-paced marketing world to jam-packing her camera bag for the next adventure travel.
  1. Marco

    There are AT LEAST 3 things that the author suggest that will actually harm your account.
    Best thing you can do is to test yourself on a dummy account 👍

    1. Arta Balode Post author

      Thanks for jumping in, Marco! It’s so important to always check if your strategy brings any value – follow the performance of hashtags, see if posts get ranked in the TOP9 pictures, and double check if hashtags you use are featured in the “recent” hashtag search. The formula I suggested in this post isn’t against Instagram’s Terms of Service, so there shouldn’t be any reason for getting shadowbanned. However, if the post reach is extremely low and posts cannot be found on hashtag search, it’s time to find another approach. You can play safe, or you can try different ways to increase engagement, but always keep an eye on results to stick with the best performing strategy.

  2. Helena

    Great article, but I’m little confused about the number of hashtags to use. Most of the article I have seen says not to use too many hashtags and to keep them to 11.But you have suggested to mention 30 hashtags. Then what is the optimal number of hashtags we should use in a single post?

    1. Arta Balode Post author

      One thing is for sure, there is no single formula that will work for all Instagram accounts. You’ll find what works the best for your account only by trying out different strategies.

      Instagram is all about interaction. Ideally, check and compare your results while you post regularly and be active on the platform by engaging with other accounts (follow, like, comment, save, watch and respond to stories, etc.). If your goal is to reach as wide an audience as possible, you can try to use more hashtags than 11, so you can be found by more people that are interested in your niche and are searching or following hashtags related to your content. If results show bigger engagement and you reached more visibility through tags, 30 is a number that might work for your account the best.

  3. Ruti Alon

    Let’s assume I use 30 Hashtags. I mic High and low density as suggested. How can I find which hashtag gave brought the highest number of likes to my post, second highest, third highest and so on for all the 30 hashtags I used. Is there an App I can use for helping me with this task of identifying best and worst hashtags.
    I will appreciate your help very much.
    Finally, I am a serious amateur photographer.

    1. Arta Balode Post author

      It’s important to find your top performing hashtags, Ruti! That way you’ll figure out which hashtags should be added to your posts more often. At first, I’d go for Later’s Hashtag Analytics to see which hashtags are driving the most engagement for your posts. But there are other tools that help you track your hashtag performance—Brand24.com and Keyhole to name a few. Check out their free trial versions to understand which one of these you find the most helpful.

  4. Jasmine Martin

    Hashtags are great for increasing your reach. I need to start using Stories more. I didn’t realize I could mention up to 10 accounts. I’ll have to create an Instagram calendar and work on setting up Story ideas. Thanks!

    1. Madara Zute

      Hi there Maya,

      This guide applies to organic posts. There’s no need to add hashtags to the boosted posts because the ads won’t show up in search results anyway.
      Hope this helps!

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