The social media marketer’s guide to Instagram hashtags

If hashtags are an important part of your Instagram strategy, you need to make sure you're doing it right. Here's how...

instagram hashtags

If you’ve been on Instagram even just once, you’ll already know that hashtags are prevalent on the platform.

In just about every post, there are a series of hashtags put into place to drive traffic, get likes, and gain followers.

For some, hashtags generate some additional interest in great content. For others, they’re completely useless.

But what if hashtags were your #1 source of relevant traffic on Instagram?

What if people randomly stumbled upon your profile via hashtag feeds and ended up caught in your sales funnel?

It’s more than possible. In fact, it’s happening. Constantly.

Here’s how.

Invented hashtags vs existing hashtags

Most great hashtags aren’t invented – they’re utilised. However, to determine what a great hashtag is for you, it’s important to first understand your goals.

Are you:

⦁ Looking to get post likes?
⦁ Trying to organise your photos?
⦁ Seeking new customers?
⦁ Attempting to facilitate a community?

Each of these goals requires a vastly different hashtag strategy. However, keep in mind that invented hashtags are for organising photos and communities; utilised hashtags are for jumping in on a conversation that’s already taking place.

However, keep in mind that created hashtags don’t drive traffic. Great hashtags that people already use every day do.

How to pick great hashtags

What’s in a great hashtag? More than you might think. In fact, there’s a lot that goes into determining whether utilising certain hashtags is worthwhile. Over time, as Instagram changes and matures, some of these elements will change too.

There are three, however, that are likely to remain important to any hashtag strategy.

Niche focuses

There’s an old marketing cliché that picking a niche provides you with the greatest chance of success. The line might be a bit tired, but that doesn’t make it any less relevant.

Great hashtags are narrowly focused. You should ensure that most of the hashtags you use are extremely dialled in – so much so that you know anyone browsing through a feed is a potential lead. Why? Well, because they wouldn’t have been looking through that feed if they weren’t.

READ MORE: 9 case studies where clever Instagram marketing got huge results

Hashtags like #food aren’t effective. Just about anyone who’s ever eaten anything might choose to make use of this hashtag, meaning that the potential audience here is just about everyone on Instagram.

Hashtags like #eeeeeats, on the other hand, are another story (and yes, that’s eeeeeats with 5 e’s – no more, no less). Only the most dedicated foodies use it this hashtag.

If you’re selling cookbooks, you’re not trying to reach everyone who eats food. That’s not an audience. Your audience is the select group that exists within that broader audience – those who are deep within the culture that exists for foodies – chefs and the like. These people are more likely to be your customer.

Consistent usage

Another important thing to remember about hashtags is this – there is such a thing as being too niche.

If you search for a hashtag and end up on the feed page, you’ll immediately see the total amount of times that hashtag has been used on Instagram.

This is important because many marketers and business owners have the tendency to choose hashtags that are niche-focused but entirely irrelevant due to the lack of attention they get.

At the lower end of the spectrum, look for hashtags that have been used at least 2,000 times or even as many as 100,000 times. These are your tightly focused hashtags. They’re the most likely to send new leads your way, but they’ll do so slowly because of the lower volume that they handle.

On the flip side, try finding more widely used hashtags that are still focused in on whatever it is you do. They don’t have to be as niched, but they should still be relevant.

Typically, hashtags like these have been used between 100,000–2,000,000 times. Anything more than that, and you’re probably dealing with something that’s just too broadly focused.

A combination of hashtags that are widely used and tightly focused will often lead to the best results.

Community orientation

If you’ve been making use of a hashtag for a while and have started to notice that you often see the same names, the same influencers and the same brands, then you’ve found a best-case scenario. Niche hashtags like this are so tightly focused that they actually have the capability of building tight-knit communities.

On Instagram, digital networking should be a key part of your strategy. Audiences are much more receptive to brands that are known quantities, and jumping in on the conversation in this way can produce results that few other Instagram marketing strategies could.

READ MORE: 8 ways to use Instagram Stories to promote your business

Finding the best hashtags

In theory, this all sounds great. But where can the best hashtags even be found? Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t take a lot of research to go a long way.

To get started, you just need to find one hashtag that’s relevant to what you do. It’s okay if it’s a bit broad at first.

For instance, if we go back to the food example I mentioned earlier, I might start with #foodstyle, since it’s one of the suggestions Instagram has for me when I type in #food.

From there, it only gets easier.

Simply click on a ‘Top Post’ that looks like it’s relevant to you. Odds are that the poster of that image didn’t just use #foodstyle. In fact, they probably used all 30 of the hashtags that Instagram allows in a single post.

Once you find these 30 hashtags, look through the feeds of those that sound relevant to your brand. Save the ones that seem usable, and then repeat this process until you’ve found 30 of your own relevant, niched and community-oriented hashtags.

It won’t take as long as you think, and the results will be well worth the effort it took to curate.

Essentially, you’re letting others do the research for you and are simply reaping the benefits.

Do note that you’ll want to switch up hashtags every now and then to ensure that they’re actually relevant to what you’re posting. It’s not considered a best practice to use the same 30 every time, but once you’ve found great hashtags, don’t be afraid to save them and use them again when its appropriate.


Finding and utilising great hashtags doesn’t have to be complicated or frustrating. In fact, it can actually be very simple.

That being said, keep in mind that great content and hyper-relevancy are the real routes to success on Instagram. Hashtags don’t matter unless they’re paired with these two elements.

However, there’s nothing quite like hashtags when it comes to spreading great content that’s relevant to a user base.

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