So, you’re posting gorgeous photos on Instagram, writing witty captions and using Plann to make sure your feed is on point. But, you still feel like your posts are attracting crickets, and that nobody is actually seeing your amazing content.
The good news is, if you’re already creating great shareable content, then congratulations — you’re already on track for success! But there’s one more piece to the Instagram puzzle: hashtags!
The power of hashtags
Hashtags are like the road signs that direct people to your Instagram profile! Think of them like your own little Google keywords for people to discover you. They boost your visibility to people who aren’t already following you and allow you to be part of wider conversations online.
That said, figuring out how to find Instagram hashtags to use is one of the biggest pain points and where many users get tripped up. How many hashtags should be using? Should you be placing them in your captions, or in your comments? And how do you know which are the right ones to use, to get you discovered by your ideal audience.
Never fear, we’re here to help you navigate the maze of hashtags so you can select just the right ones to get your content seen by just the right people.
How many hashtags should you use on Instagram?
Instagram allows for 30 hashtags to be used on each post and we highly recommend taking advantage of all 30 — as this allows you to cast a wider net. It might sound like a lot, but the more you use, the more eyeballs you get on your posts!
There’s no hard and fast rule to whether you should post these in your captions or in the first comment. It can look neater in your first comment, but is easier to schedule ahead in your caption.
Learn: The Basics of Hashtags
Change it up with hashtag collections
That said, you don’t want to use the same 30 hashtags over and over again! Not only is the Instagram algorithm said to look unfavourably upon doing so, but it also means you’re likely always attracting the same people.
It’s important to keep things fresh and regularly mix up your hashtags. The best way to do this? Hashtag sets!
In Plann, you can create smaller collections of hashtags, that you can easily pick and choose from every time you post to hit your total of 30. We recommend using around 5-10 hashtags per set, in alignment with your strategy themes (which you can set in Plann’s ‘strategy’ section.)
So, you might have a hashtag set for your thought leadership posts, another for inspiration, another for education and so forth! Or, say for example, you’re a beauty blogger and you have your own, personalized strategy prompts set up in Plann — such as beauty inspiration, natural skincare, acne positivity and so forth. You would have targeted hashtag sets saved in Plann within those categories that you easily copy and paste into your captions with the click of a button.
How to find the best Instagram hashtags to use
So, how do you go about actually finding hashtags to use in your Instagram posts? The best place to start is to actually think about what type of content your target audience is likely to be searching for.
So, say you sell products for cats, and your demographic is cat owners and cat lovers. A great place to start is the #cats — but as we’ll address in the next section, this might be a little too high-competition. So, you’d want to find related hashtags associated with that one.
The way you do this is by heading to your Instagram feed, and typing ‘cats’ into your search bar. This will bring up a dropdown menu of other similar hashtags related to that search term, as well as how many posts they’ve been used in.
You can also take that search a step further, by selecting one of the hashtags in the list. You’ll then see another set of hashtags suggested at the top of the screen, as shown in the photo below. This is a great starting point for putting your hashtag collections on Plann together!
Another hashtag research strategy is to check out the Instagram accounts of other people in your industry, to see what hashtags they’re using and repurpose some of them for your own.
Hashtags are a bit of a Goldilocks situation. You don’t want to use ones that are too big, or too small — but rather, a mix of small-to-medium competition ones that are just right. If your’re using hashtags that are too popular (think, hundreds of thousands of mentions), you risk your content being swallowed up in a sea of posts and nobody seeing it. But, if you are using hashtags that are so niche and specific that it only has a handful of mentions, it’s unlikely anyone will be searching for it.
To figure out the number of photos posted on a specific hashtag, simply type the word you’d like to use as a hashtag into the search bar on Instagram. Then check the number under the hashtag, as shown in the photo below. This number tells you how many photos using this hashtag are floating around Instagram right now.
What’s a good size hashtag density?
To attract people who are really interested in your posts, we recommend that you find Instagram hashtags that have under 500,000 posts on them (unless you have a bigger following or a REALLY engaged audience, then definitely try working with bigger hashtags). And don’t be shy of including some that are 20,000 or under — these can really be the sweet spot for super-engaged users.
Another reason to find Instagram hashtags sitting in the mid-range and smaller hashtags is visibility. When someone does a search on Instagram, the most popular photos sit in the Top Posts section. The rest of the photos reside in chronological order in Most Recent, as shown in the photo below.
“If the hashtag has millions of photos in it, such as #beach, then any photo not
making it to the top will quickly slide down the page to obscurity within seconds.”
Let’s say you took a photo of the beach in Santorini. Your photo would have so much more of a chance of making it to the prominent position of Top 9, if you use the hashtag #santorinigreece, which has under 100,000 photos in it, rather than #beach.
Now let’s get a bit more clever with those hashtags. Let’s say you’re a fashion stylist, you’d be very tempted to use the hashtag ‘fashion’. But at over 350,000,000 hits on Instagram, you now know your photo will be seen for all of a split-second on the front page for #fashion. Instead, we can get strategic and niche down a bit according to your business and the photo you are posting.
Just under #fashion, you can see #fashionstylist at just over 2 million posts. Much better. You post your photo and you’ll get lots of likes and people will know you’re a fashion stylist.
But we can still do better. Think about other keywords that you would use in your business. For example, you want to inspire your followers with some new season fashion, a good hashtag to use would be #winterstyle or #springstyle depending on where you live. At nearly 500,000 hits on Instagram for each of these hashtags, you’re much more likely to be found there than on #fashion. At the same time, you’re able to really hone in on what your customers are looking for. Hurray! Now you can build your list of hashtags, choosing ones that really describe your business and your offering.
Avoid spammy Instagram hashtags for authentic followers
To make sure you attract authentic followers and your ideal audience, you want to carefully choose your hashtags for your specific business and images. Be aware that some hashtags attract spammers and certain types of photos that you might not want to be associated with. The easiest way to avoid this is to check out every hashtag you plan on using to make sure you’re happy to be seen there.
The big culprits that attract spammers are hashtags such as #instagood, #happy, #love and #followme to name a few. These hashtags should be avoided if you don’t want to be spammed to death with a whole lot of smiley faces[a], or “follow me for free followers” comments. You can easily recognise the hashtags to avoid as they will have well over 100,000,000 posts on them. Checking how many photos have been posted on a specific hashtag not only helps you weed out the spammy ones, but also allows you to find those smaller to mid-range hashtags which will help you stand out.
Find Instagram hashtags for feature accounts
Another type of hashtag to look out for is one started by someone else who curates photos and re-posts them on their Instagram page. The way this works is that you add their specific hashtag to your photo, and if the account likes your photo, they will repost it along with a link to your Instagram page.
These sorts of Instagram accounts usually have a huge following, so getting featured by them is kind of a big deal that opens you up to a whole new audience.
Many people who are featured on a curated account find that their likes and follower count skyrockets as they’re found by a larger audience.
Here’s a list of some different types of accounts that you can try your hand at getting featured on by using their hashtag. Remember to look at the accounts first to make sure that your style of photo fits their aesthetic. This gives you a higher chance of being featured, and a higher chance of attracting others to look at what you’re all about.
Use the hashtag #zomato on any food or drink photos.
Use the hashtag #coffeeshots for photos of your coffee
Use the hashtag #travelandlife on travel photography
Use the hashtag #flashesofdelight on any pretty, pastel and feminine type photos
Use the hashtag #HuffPostIDo to wedding photos
Use the hashtag #wakeupandmakeup on photos featuring makeup
Want more hashtag inspiration?
Keen to get some more suggestions on hashtags that could work in your specific industry? Check out some of these articles below!
So there you have it. Your go-to-guide for using hashtags on Instagram, to attract authentic people who are looking for exactly what you have to offer. Use the suggestions in this blog post and you’ll be in hashtag heaven in no time, attracting more people to your Instagram account.
Did you know that you can use Plann, our visual scheduling app to store ‘sets’ of hashtags?
Easily save your Instagram hashtags under custom themes, and easily add them to your first comment!
Angela Sargeant is a social media marketing consultant who loves helping small business owners stand out from the crowd and attract their ideal customers.