Brand awareness and loyalty

Hashtags for Instagram – Updated guide for 2021

  • 18 Minutes
Are you intrigued by Instagram hashtags? You should be; Instagram posts that use at least one #hashtag get 12.6% more engagement. Hashtags are an incredibly powerful tool on social media – but only if you use them strategically. If you’re wondering how to use hashtags on Instagram to boost your content, read on!

There are over 1 billion monthly active Instagram users. And over 500 million of those are daily active users. That’s a whole lot of people who could be viewing your content. But how do you actually ensure your content gets seen – and by the right target audience? 

Why, by using hashtags of course! Hashtags should be a key part of your social media marketing strategy. And if they’re not, then you’re missing out on speaking to a huge chunk of potential customers and brand advocates!

In today’s constantly connected and digital-obsessed society, our vested interest in hashtags should come as no surprise. Instagram hashtags are an incredibly powerful tool on social media. And, when it comes to effectively marketing on Instagram, the hashtag is something you can’t afford to ignore.

When used strategically, hashtags can boost your engagement rates, amplify your presence on social media, help you reach new audiences, and please the social media algorithm Gods! 

Want to discover how to use hashtags on Instagram? Let’s dive headfirst into all the juicy details and best practice advice so you can keep your #hashtag game strong!

What is an Instagram Hashtag?

When it comes to the concept of an Instagram hashtag, why are marketers so obsessed with that little symbol? Hashtags were originally invented by Chris Messina on Twitter, however, Instagram quickly adopted the hashtag due to its suitability for the platform. As a result, the Instagram community has been able to easily find and interact with lots of relevant content that would otherwise have been difficult to find!

On social media, by placing a hashtag in front of a word or phrase, you turn that term into a clickable link. When users click a hashtag on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social media platforms, they are taken to a page that collates and displays posts that utilize that hashtag.

Put simply, people use hashtags to categorize and group similar content together or to search for a certain term and connect with other users on social media. 

For example, clicking the hashtag #travelgram that appears in an Instagram post will take you to a page that looks like this, where you can see other travel-related posts:

how to use hashtags on Instagram

 

In that way, people can use social media as a search engine and find products, places, or content that they’re interested in by typing terms into the search bar on Instagram. 

Hashtags also create communities of people that are interested in specific hashtags, using an enormous range of terms like #parenting, #selfie, or #wildlifephotography. 

Should You Use Hashtags on Instagram?

Here’s the short answer: absolutely!

Hashtags should be a key part of your Instagram marketing strategy. You should use hashtags within your Instagram posts for a few key reasons:

  • Using relevant hashtags makes it easier for your specific target audience to discover your Instagramaccount. Social media users might search Instagram hashtags and discover a post of yours, and then decide you’re worth a follow. Hashtags are a great way to connect with new audiences. Plus, if your posts make it to the Explore page on Instagram, your post reach and engagement will skyrocket!
  • Posts that use hashtags get far more engagement. One study goes so far as to say that Instagram posts that use at least one hashtag get 12.6% more engagement than those that don’t use hashtags 
  • Hashtags are super easy to implement. Sure, using specific hashtags requires a little research and strategy to make sure you identify the right hashtags to use (more on that a little later!) or to add niche hashtags. But once you’ve done the initial legwork, Instagram hashtags are an incredibly simple way to expand your following and give your social media engagement a boost

When it comes to learning how to use hashtags on Instagram, it’s a no-brainer for brands and small business owners. After all, you’ve put countless hours into creating your social media content. So, why wouldn’t you want to give your Instagram posts the best possible chance of success by adding relevant hashtags? It also means you won’t have to spend as much money promoting your posts on social media.

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The Basics of Instagram Hashtags

While Instagram hashtags are an undeniable must for your brand, there are a couple of best practice rules you should know about how they’re used on Instagram.

Hashtags are clickable. That means users can click through directly from an Instagram caption of a specific post, an Instagram bio, or within an Instagram comment. This way, they can discover your Instagram posts more easily.

Keep it simple when coming up with hashtags for your Instagram posts. Numbers will work just fine within your hashtag, but spaces and special characters won’t. For instance, you could use #CyberMonday2021 but not #Cyber Monday or even #CyberMonday2021! 

Finding the Best Hashtags for Your Brand

Now that you understand the basics, what sort of Instagram hashtags should you be selecting? It’s important that you create a well-considered hashtag strategy that you can implement for each post on Instagram moving forward.

But how do you know which hashtags are best suited for your unique brand? While it doesn’t sound like rocket science, using Instagram hashtags is actually far more complicated than you might think! Finding hashtags is easy, but finding targeted hashtags that get a lot of engagement can be a challenge.

After all, the most popular Instagram hashtags can end up being flooded with spammy content from marketers or individuals trying to get noticed. So, while it’s tempting to add hashtags like #picoftheday, #instagood, #tbt, or #photooftheday, it’s pointless, and your post will just end up getting lost amongst the noise and the Instagram algorithm may even penalize your content.

On the other hand, if you use Instagram hashtags that aren’t very popular or relevant, your post won’t gain any traction at all. Ideally, you want to use a mixture of trending hashtags and niche hashtags that will appeal to a range of users within your target audience.

There are so many options out there that it’s easy to become overwhelmed with all of the top Instagram hashtags. However, it’s far more important that you focus your time and energy on researching and identifying relevant hashtags for your business. Not only is including totally unrelated hashtags pointless and misleading, but it also might make you look spammy. 

So, consider this your golden rule: relevance is key when it comes to creating your hashtag strategy. Don’t underestimate the importance of identifying relevant hashtags that match your social media content.

With that in mind, how can you find Instagram hashtags that are impactful, yet pertinent to your brand? There are a few key places to start:

  • Competitors: Peruse the Instagram accounts of competitors in your niche or industry. Are there certain hashtags that they’re using frequently within their top posts? While you’d never want to directly copy all their hashtags, there’s nothing wrong with having a snoop to get some inspiration for relevant hashtags that you could also be using
  • Influencers: Influencers within your field are another good resource to research to get an idea of which Instagram hashtags are popular. You’ll notice that bloggers and influencers use hashtags on their posts as well as their Instagram Stories to amplify their reach as much as possible
  • BuzzSumo: If you’re struggling to find relevant influencers on Instagram, you can use tools such as BuzzSumo to discover new Instagram accounts. After finding the  accounts, browse the hashtags they’re using and create your own version of a list relevant to your business
  • Sked Social: The Sked Social Hashtag Recommendation tool is a hashtag generator that allows you to input a particular hashtag. The tool will automatically generate new related hashtags for you quickly and easily

Creating Branded Hashtags

There are tons of existing hashtags that you can leverage when marketing on Instagram. However, many marketers take this one step further by creating a unique branded hashtag.

This brand hashtag is specific to a brand and is a great way to increase engagement and collate social media content from customers. When you create a brand hashtag, followers can tag their own posts with that same term, meaning that you’ll be able to track and curate user-generated content and connect with your customers more easily.

Since Instagram users can also search through and follow hashtags, this makes your branded hashtag content a source of even more exposure for your brand.

A branded hashtag should:

  • Include your name or your brand name, or an abbreviation of it. If you’re creating a name for a social movement or a cause, use the cause name or a short abbreviation. Don’t complicate things!
  • Be short and succinct. It should be intuitive so that users can find it as easily as possible
  • Be easy to remember
  • Be unique; ideally, your brand hashtag shouldn’t already be in use by another brand, cause, or social movement

Once you have decided on your brand hashtag, you need to encourage social media users and followers to actually use it! List your brand hashtag everywhere; just like L.L. Bean did with their #BeanOutsider hashtag.

LLBean - Instagram Hashtags - Sked Social

Include it within your Instagram bio, on your product packaging, in your EDMs – everywhere you can think of! Before long, your brand hashtag will start to gain traction and you’ll be able to start a conversation on social media with your customers and brand loyalists.

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Tips and Tricks for How to Use Hashtags on Instagram

So now you know why you should use hashtags on Instagram. But how do you use them effectively without looking spammy? Here are a few tips and tricks for using hashtags in your Instagram marketing strategy.

Be Conscious of The Number of Hashtags You’re Using

The number of hashtags you’re using is crucial. But just how many hashtags should you use? 

On Instagram, you can only use 30 hashtags in total, including in your caption AND in your comments section. Remember, even including just one hashtag with your posts can give your engagement a major boost.

But we recommend using 20-25 hashtags to optimize your posts and increase the reach of each post. Even Instagram posts with 11 and above hashtags see much higher engagement scores.

Instagram Hashtag Volumes - Sked Social

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11 hashtags might sound like a lot. However, with Sked Social’s Hashtag Recommendation tool, you won’t have a hard time coming up with a wide array of relevant hashtags to include! Hashtag generators like this will automatically come up with several related hashtags you can use. This saves lots of time, rather than you doing a manual hashtag search for every single one of your hashtags.

If you’re posting content on a new topic every now and then you might use your branded hashtags, generic hashtags and then add a few new hashtags to assist with discoverability. This way, you can ensure that you’re always using relevant hashtags and reaching new audiences. 

Search for Specific Hashtags Related to your Industry

Make sure you search for more specific hashtags related to your industry, keeping in mind what your customers are likely to be searching for. 

For example, let’s say you run a cafe and are looking to target people interested in coffee.

The first few hashtags that come to mind are: #cafe #coffee #coffeelover.
But the search volume of these broad hashtags is enormous.

Remember: The volume of a hashtag is how many people have used the hashtag over time. Not how many people are searching for it.

When hashtag volumes are high, your chance to be featured on the Explore page for that hashtag is very low.

Plus, with tons of people using the hashtag, you’re likely to get lost on the hashtag page altogether.

For example, within five minutes each of these posts had used the term #coffeelover in their hashtags. Then, just four minutes later, none were to be seen at the top of the screen. And each was replaced with a new influx of other posts by Instagram accounts using the same tag.

Feed results for hashtag coffee lover

Results of coffee lover hashtag 2

A good idea is to look for specific hashtags that have lower (yet still significant) volumes in the search function on Instagram. This way, you’ll have more chance of being discovered when someone searches the hashtag. Sked Social’s Hashtag Recommendation tool allows you to easily find more targeted hashtags, instead of having your posts get lost in amongst thousands of other posts.

So, how do you use hashtags on Instagram to stand out? Be specific, targeted, and choose relevant hashtags you can genuinely be discovered for.

Use Long-Tail Keywords for Hashtags

Think of long-tail keywords or other similar related keywords. This is very easy, yet not many people actually do this – instead, they use hashtags that are far too generic. 

You can narrow down your hashtags in several ways:

  • Add a location. So, instead of #travel, try #travelinaustralia
  • Add a term specific to your audience. So again, instead of #travel, try #travelforcouples or #couplestravel
  • Use Sked Social’s Hashtag Recommendation feature

When you start to type a hashtag into Instagram’s search, it will list other related hashtags that other Instagrammers tag their content with. But instead of finding what you’re after straight from Instagram and then writing them down, simply use the Sked Social Hashtag Recommendation feature and find your Instagram hashtags while you schedule your posts!

Sked Social's hashtag recommendation feature in post scheduler

Sked Social’s Hashtag Recommendation Tool will automatically generate related hashtags that users are also searching for within a particular topic group. The tool also learns about your preferences as you type more hashtags in. When you’ve added a few hashtags, more targeted recommendations will appear. So, like in this example, instead of using #travel, you could use #destination or add other new hashtags specific to an area.

Provided your content is catchy, engaging and you are using hashtags strategically on Instagram, you’ll soon notice higher reach for your posts, and potentially, increased engagement.

Consider Hiding Your Hashtags

One thing that holds many marketers back from using tons of hashtags is the fact that they don’t like that their Instagram captions can start to look cluttered and overwhelming. We get it; a huge chunk of hashtags on your Instagram posts doesn’t look the best from a brand perspective!

Fortunately, you have some options here. For example, some marketers choose to put hashtags on a different line by separating them from the rest of their caption with emojis or even a few simple dots. This means they don’t show up until users expand the caption. This keeps things looking neat and streamlined.

Others post their hashtags as a comment, rather than as part of the caption. Hashtags within a caption are still searchable. However, since Instagram’s algorithm starts working right away, you don’t want a huge delay between when your image is posted and when your Instagram hashtags are added. So, you’d want to post that comment immediately after your post goes live rather than adding hashtags to your recent posts later on. This is why Sked Social has a “first comment” function, so you can add hashtags when scheduling your posts, instead of having to remember to add them later.

Simply queue or schedule your post and the app will take care of the rest—no rushing to add your first comment before Instagram’s algorithm kicks in!

Use Hashtags on Instagram Stories

Not every marketer knows this, but hashtags aren’t just for Instagram posts. You can also use hashtags in your Instagram Stories. But how do you achieve this without your Instagram Stories looking spammy and cluttered?

Well, you can always use only a couple of hashtags and display them in small text on your Instagram Story. Or, you can hide your hashtags within your Story. Simply create your group of hashtags as text within your Story. 

Next, hide them within your Instagram Story. Pinch the group of hashtags and make them as small as you can. You can either hide them slightly off-screen, make the text the same color as the background, or hide them behind other elements on your Instagram Story, such as GIFS, stickers, location tags, or images.

That way, you’ll be able to amplify the reach of your Instagram Stories and they’ll be seen by social media users who aren’t necessarily following you, allowing you to reach new audiences!

Keep Your Hashtags Organized

So, now you understand the importance of using targeted hashtags to reach specific audiences. But, more often than not, each of your posts may have a slightly different objective. That means that it’s in your best interest to use different groups of hashtags to suit every audience type or post type. But how do you keep your hashtags organized?

Sked Social’s Template Manager can:

  • Keep all your hashtags in one place
  • Divide your hashtags into groups, like branded hashtags as well as more specific hashtags
  • Add up to 30 hashtags to a post in just a couple of clicks
  • Manage the hashtags of multiple accounts
  • Randomize ordering of hashtag lists to keep them looking fresh

How to Use Sked Social’s Template Manager

Here’s how it works.

Open your Sked Social account and click on Templates in the sidebar menu, as shown below.

Sked Social's Hashtage Template Manager

Next, select create a new template in the top right corner and add up to 30 hashtags to each group. You can group your hashtags based on your post theme, or your post objective. From then on, simply add your hashtag groups to the relevant posts in just a couple of clicks every time you schedule a post.

We recommend arranging your more specific hashtags into groups that complement your posting strategy. To create a group, type the Template name. In our case, this is ‘Instagram Tips and Tricks.’ Add your template content and click ‘save’. Then all your hashtags can be saved, stored and used with ready-to-deploy hashtag lists.

Sked Social's hashtag template editor

The Template Manager helps you to stay organized with multiple groups of hashtags to suit different post types. When it comes time to add hashtags to your posts, simply click on the hashtag icon and select the hashtag group name you want to use. Then your entire hashtag group will appear as a list that you can input straight into your post. You can add any relevant hashtags as well as any new hashtags that you don’t commonly use. This is perfect for time-poor business owners who don’t have time to painstakingly copy and paste 25 individual hashtags into each post!

Engage with Other Posts

Social media should be just that – social. Remember that the point of your Instagram account isn’t to just broadcast your message in a one-way style of communication. It’s to engage with people and foster a community around your cause, product, or brand.

For that reason, you should dedicate some time each week to looking at posts that use the same relevant hashtags you frequently use and engage with those users.

To do this, simply refer back to a list of hashtags that you’re already using or select specific locations that are relevant to your brand. Use these specific hashtags and locations to engage and interact with potential fans and followers. For instance, if you’re using hashtags like #tailor but you want to narrow down your results even further, you could use hashtags like #sydneytailor or #tailorinnyc to target customers in your specific geo-targeted area who are more likely to engage with you.

The more interactive you can be on Instagram, the easier it will be to grow your audience, make genuine connections, and make the most of your Instagram profile. It’s just like networking IRL! And, just like networking, you never know when a random contact might turn into an advocate.

Over to You

If you aren’t already using any specific hashtags on your Instagram posts or Instagram Stories, it’s time to start! Hashtags are small but mighty when it comes to reaching new audiences and solidifying your presence on social media. Your hashtagged posts will achieve higher levels of reach and, subsequently, higher levels of engagement.

Don’t believe us? Try it for yourself. Start using relevant hashtags and then use your analytics tools to measure the impact they have had on reach, page views, engagement, and your number of followers. Conduct regular reporting so you can measure the impact of your hashtag strategy on a month-to-month basis.

The best part about all this? Creating a hashtag strategy is incredibly easy to implement. Put these tips and best practices to work, and you’ll be sure to see the benefits almost immediately.

If you’re looking to carve out hours in your social media workflow, sign up for Sked’s 7-day trial. Our all-in-one Instagram scheduler allows you to automatically post images, carousels, Stories, videos, and more. Easily find top hashtag recommendations, organize hashtags into lists and schedule hashtags into your first comment. Tag locations, users, and products and manage all your hashtags in one place to save 5+ hours every week.

Photo of Meg AndrewMeg Andrew

Megan is a seasoned writer and social media nerd who loves to create content marketing magic. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her geeking out over a new book, watching terrible reality TV, or forcing her unwilling dog to participate in photoshoots. Find her on Twitter at @meganjaneandrew.

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