How To Find The Best Instagram Hashtags
And how to use them to grow your audience…
If you’re using Instagram as a platform to grow your business you should be using hashtags in every single one of your posts, always.
Why? When you spend valuable time and energy creating content, you want to make sure that it’s discoverable to as many of the right people as possible. Although Instagram has greatly decreased their reach, using hashtags is still the most effective way to make your content discoverable to an audience that wouldn’t have otherwise seen your content and reliably speed up your Instagram growth.
Problem is, it’s not always easy to understand how to best use hashtags. How many should you use? Which ones should you use? Where should you place them? What should you not do with hashtags? These are all questions I also had when I first started my Instagram repost account, @pinlord. Now, three years down the line, I make a living from my Instagram and I have learned quite a bit about their strengths, best practices, as well as their limitations.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
How many hashtags should you use?
What the “right” number of hashtags to use is continually changing as the Instagram algorithm evolves, but for now, the ideal number of hashtags to use is anywhere from 1 to 5. Why? Instagram is making an effort to cut down on “hashtag” spamming. This means that they now evaluate whether or not your posts will be surfaced on a hashtag feed based on how accurately the hashtags you use represent the content you’re posting about. The less relevant any of the hashtags you use are to your content, the less likely your post is to show up on any of the other hashtags feeds you tagged, regardless if those are relevant or not.
For example, if in my account that showcases the best independent pottery on Instagram, @potteryforall, I tag #independentpottery #potteryforall #independentceramics #modernceramics #contemporaryceramics on a post, that post is much more likely to show up on all of those tag feeds because all of those tags are exactly relevant to the content I post. If I were to tag 30 (that used to be a popular amount of hashtags to use in the past) semi-related hashtags like #instaceramics, #smallbusiness, #ceramicvideo, etc, my post is less likely to show up on any of the tags because Instagram can recognize that there are several hashtags used that aren’t exactly relevant to the content.
What’s important here is the relevance of the hashtags you use to your content, not the total number used.
If you can find 7–9 or more hashtags that are exactly relevant to your post, go ahead and use them.
The reason why 1–5 is generally recommended is that you are much more likely to find 1–5 hashtags that are exactly relevant to one of your post vs 10, 20, or 30 hashtags that are exactly relevant to one of your post.
Which hashtags should you use?
Now that you know that relevance is the most important element that will dictate the number of hashtags you use, you should determine which to use by finding the 1–5 (or whatever number you find most relevant) that are the most relevant to your content and have the largest reach.
In this case, reach means the number of posts that are tagged with a particular hashtag.
The larger the reach, the larger the number of people that are looking at that tag and can potentially discover your content through it.
Let’s break-down the process through an example…I have an Instagram account that features the top macrame artists (and their pieces) on Instagram, @macramemakers, and I’m evaluating which hashtags to use. I do some quick research and I find two tags that might work — #handmade (because macrame is handmade) with around 5 million posts & #macrameartist (because that is exactly what my content is about) with around 10 thousand posts. Which one should I use?
The right answer here would be #macrameartist. Although it has a much smaller reach in comparison to the 5 million posts on #handmade, it is much more accurate to my content so Instagram is much more likely to surface my post on the #macrameartist tag. I should find the 4 or more hashtags that are equally as or more relevant to my content and then prioritize their use based on which one has the largest reach. There’s no point in using a hashtag that has a very large reach (like 5 million posts) if it isn’t relevant. In reality, using that hashtag will reach 0 people because Instagram won’t consider it very relevant to my post and won’t surface it on that hashtag feed. It’ll also not surface my posts on other, possibly exactly relevant tags, because one of the tags I use isn’t relevant.
How do you find the best hashtags for your account?
If you’re new to Instagram or using hashtags, finding the most relevant tags isn’t always easy, but don’t worry, there’s a fast and simple way to discover the best hashtags for your audience. How?
Use the hashtags the influential accounts within your exact niche are already using! Although not perfect, it’s the most simple way to quickly identify the most relevant and largest reaching tags for your particular audience.
How to do it: I’ll continue with the Macrame example for this…let’s say I’m starting the Instagram from scratch and I have no clue which hashtags to use. Here’s how I’d find them:
1.Search for the most obvious hashtag within your topic: In this case, I’ll start with the word “#macrame”.
2. Identify the hashtags that the accounts in the TOP POSTS are using: I’ll look through the top posts and select the one with a grouping of hashtags that appears to have the highest density of relevant tags for my topic.
3. Keep the hashtags that are most relevant to you and discard the rest: Out of the 30 hashtags that this posts used, I’ll discard the following because they aren’t relevant to my content:
#createaholic #cottonrope #fiberart #diy #pyssel #pyssla #makersgonnamake #makersmovement #wearethemakers #crafting #handmade #fiberlove #wallar t #wallhanging #decor #boho #weaverfever #dreamersanddoers
And I’ll keep:
4. Within the grouping that you kept, tap through the hashtags that seem the most relevant to your topic: In my case, I’ll look through #macrameartist next.
5. Again, identify the hashtags that the accounts in the TOP POSTS are using: Out of all of the TOP POSTS here, the one from @macramemovement would likely be relevant.
Keep the hashtags that are most relevant to you, add them to your original grouping and discard the rest.
Out of the hashtags they used, I’ll keep:
Now my main grouping of hashtags looks like this:
#macrame #macramemovement #macramemaker #macrameartist #macramerope #macramesupplies #macramesupply #bohemiandecor #macrameworkshop #macramelove #macramewallhanging #macramewedding #macramebackdrop #modernmacrame #macrameart #fiberart #fibreart #makrame #macramé #makersgonnamake #makersmovement #fiberartist #fibreartist #makrame
6. Repeat the process: You’ll continue this process until you find around 10–25 relevant hashtags. From that grouping, select the handful (1–5) that are the most relevant to your content and begin using those in your posts.
If you see an increase in engagement and followers by using those hashtags, you’re on the right path. If you don’t, then try another handful of the most relevant hashtags to each post and measure if you see an increase in engagement and followers from those.
Ultimately, the most effective hashtags for you are the hashtags that maximize the Instagram engagement and follower growth for your account.
Where should you place your hashtags?
Okay, now that you know how many hashtags to use and how to find them, where do you place them? In my opinion, hashtags are the most effective when placed in the first comment of every post.
Why? They still have the same surfacing effect when placed in your comments and they are less visible here because Instagram now only shows a “View all X comments” text instead of showing you all the comments. By placing the hashtags here, people won’t know that you are using them unless they make the effort to click on that text but, most importantly, you’ll avoid turning off your potential-followers that are less likely to follow an account if they notice that they use a bunch of hashtags in their captions (yes, there’s a lot of us out there that think about this).
To execute this and save myself as much time as possible by automating my posts, I use Onlypult. They are the only post scheduling service that allows you to place your hashtags in the first comment of your posts. If you’re wondering, here’s a guide on how to schedule your Instagram posts that will help you.
How NOT to use hashtags…
The one thing you should avoid when using hashtags is using any of Instagram’s banned hashtags. Not only will they not help you reach more people, but you’ll also run the risk of getting shadowbanned. Here’s an article that claims to have a list of all of the banned hashtags, but just using your common sense will do.
And that’s it! That’s how you use hashtags :)
If you end up trying out this method on your Instagram, please let me know how it works for you in the comments. If you have a more effective method, please share in the comments as well.
How to keep growing.
Btw, If you’re interested in learning other strategies other than hashtagging to grow your account, check out these articles on the best time to post on Instagram, how to use Instagram story highlights, how to automate Instagram interactions, the safest Instagram bots, how to do Instagram ads, how to do Instagram story ads, how to find influencers on Instagram, how to measure what an influencer is worth, how to reach out to influencers, how to measure influencer marketing ROI, as well as an in-depth article on why your Instagram isn’t growing if you’re already doing everything “the experts” are telling you.
Extra tip: Instead of typing out your 5 hashtags every single time, try using text replacement. Your thumbs will thank you :)
Hope it helps :)