Instagram hashtags. Love them or hate them, they’re one of the best ways to grow on Instagram. They’re a powerful discoverability tool, they help you increase your reach, and, ultimately, get you those new followers. Everybody knows that. However, the trickier part is knowing how to find Instagram hashtags that are right for your business.
See, just because you’re using hashtags, doesn’t mean you’re using them correctly.
And if you’re not, it doesn’t matter if you’re using 10, 15, or the maximum 30 hashtags: you’ll see no growth, no reach, no followers. Or, if you’re using the wrong hashtags, you might be getting wrong reach from the wrong followers. If you don’t want that (I imagine we’re on the same page with this), then you have to learn how to find the right hashtags, from the right category, of the right size, targeting the right audience.
In this article, you’ll find a step-by-step tutorial on how to research the best hashtags on Instagram for YOUR account. Hashtags vary from niche to niche, from account to account, and there’s a whole strategy you can implement trying to identify them.
Ready to start? Then read on!
1. Research Instagram hashtags that describe your business
Hashtags are just like SEO. You need to think through which keywords or keyword phrases you want to be found online — and use them in your content.
Start by searching a keyword that describes your whole account, not just the image you’re currently sharing. Then, focus on tags that have a reasonable number of posts associated with them. Go inside the tag, check out the images, view related tags, etc.
Think in these terms: “What would they type into Instagram if they were looking for my product/service?”
Write all these keyword/hashtag ideas down.
Then, go to Instagram search, type the keyword in, and click “Tags”. You’ll see Instagram suggesting you a list of long-tail hashtags that are of smaller size. Note them. After, click through the most popular one and look out for the line that says “Related”. Those are hashtags that are part of your niche!
2. Identify hashtags’ volume and competitive edge
In 2017, some of the most used hashtags on Instagram were: #love, #instagood, #travel, and #photooftheday. Now, the first instinct would be to use those hashtags. After all, if they’re the most popular, using them would only gain you popularity, right?
If you take a closer look at the volume of these hashtags, i.e. the number of times they’ve been used on Instagram, you’ll see, for example, that #travel has 313 million photos tagged with it, #instagood — 828 million, and #love — 1.3 billion posts. Yes, 1.3. billion.
You’d need to have a really huge account for your posts to actually show up for those hashtags. So if you’re an average size account, this means that your post will be buried alive the very moment it’s published.
Instead, you should be looking for hashtags that are an appropriate size for you. Why? Because your ultimate goal is to end up in the Top Posts, where most of the Instagram discovery actually happens.
However, how do you determine which hashtags are an appropriate size for you?
First, determine the average number of likes that you get across your posts. You can either calculate that manually, or visit Iconosquare’s Engagement section, where you’ll see the average number of likes your post receive over a selected period of time:
Then, determine the average number of likes you need your posts to get in order to end up in the Top Posts on Instagram.
To do that, you literally just need to click into the hashtag and see how many likes the Top performing posts have collected in order to qualify. If you see that the top-performing posts had to generate 1,500 likes, whereas on average your posts only get 200-something likes, then this hashtag is simply too competitive for you. Don’t use it! Instead, research another one that more closely matches your likes.
Once you published a post with a hashtag, come back to your post a few hours later and see for which hashtags you ended up in the Top Performing Posts. Those you didn’t end up ranking for are too big for you at the moment. Those you did end up ranking for should become your best friends.
3. Take a look at your competitors
What Instagram hashtags do your competitors use? How many times are they used? Obtaining such info would make it possible for you to identify some core hashtags that your competitors are already ranking for, so that you can try to fill the gap with your own content.
If you’re monitoring your competitors with Iconosquare, you can go to Competitor → Tag usage, to see which hashtags your competitor used most, and how many times, over the last 30 days.
If you click on the element on the right, you’ll be able to see the hashtags in a table and compare them based on the engagement rate that the posts, which feature these hashtags, are getting:
4. Identify hashtags from the Top Performing Posts
Ok, so there’s this post published by your competitor (or any other user) under your target hashtag, which ended up in Top Performing Posts. How can you use this information for your own benefit?
One way to go about it is to identify other hashtags that the accounts in the Top Posts are using. Look through the top posts and select other hashtags that are relevant for your own account. Then, come back to point 2 of this article, and go on identifying the volume of that hashtag, its competitive edge, etc. If that’s something you can work with, save that hashtag in your database.
5. Your branded hashtag
If you had to pick just one hashtag to use on Instagram, it should be, without any doubt, your brand hashtag. If you’re a small account, you’d think that a brand hashtag wouldn’t give you much reach, and it’s true. It won’t. For now. It will, however, do so in the future once you grow your account. You need to start building your community from day one.
6. Build a library of your Instagram hashtags
While doing the hashtag research based on the points described above, you’ll develop a loooooooong list of hashtags that you can potentially use. They might have a different location, and a slightly different topic (depending on the sides of your business), and a slightly different volume.
To keep yourself sane, start keeping track of the researched hashtags and categorize them thematically, for easier future use.
You can build a hashtag database manually in a spreadsheet. Or, you can also save your hashtags in the Caption Library, so that you can add them directly when you schedule your future posts:
By creating a library of hashtags, which you can constantly refresh and update, you’ll be able to keep things organized, rotate hashtags and evaluate their performance over time. Which leads us to the next, final, point:
7: Test & repeat
While Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags per post, an average Instagram account uses about 7 hashtags per post only. Now, if you were given 30 lottery tickets, how many would you use? That’s right — all of them. Instagram hashtags are just like your lottery tickets. However, there’s no need to use all 30 hashtags just for the sake of it — but while you’re doing your research, it makes sense to use as many as you can (at least 15-20), so that you can test them all out, identify which hashtags work best for you, and then use them again.
Over time, you’ll develop an arsenal of hashtags that will keep bringing your followers. Just don’t forget that as you grow, your hashtag game should evolve, too! That’s why it’s important to keep your research on-going, and keep looking for new hashtags that can help your account get discovered.
Finding the right Instagram hashtags for your business might sound tricky at first, but it really requires just one thing: time.
With the right hashtag strategy, you’ll be able to grow your presence on Instagram immensely — so don’t ever underestimate the power of a tag!