Mar 25, 2018

Increase Reach With Instagram Hashtags

by Digital Marketing Institute

Instagram is one of today’s most popular social platforms, and it runs on hashtags. Using the right amount of hashtags, and applying them effectively, can help you achieve your marketing goals. Read on to learn some tips and best practices for getting more exposure with Instagram hashtags.

Why Do Instagram Hashtags Matter?

Hashtags are important on Instagram because they can help you connect with new customers, expand your reach, spark conversations, and even track user-generated content for your brand. Users can in fact follow particular hashtag, and any hashtag you can think of can be followed This can help tremendously with hashtag research, as it’s an instant way to figure out how your posts can fit in with existing posts and target specific audiences.

Examples of Instagram hashtags.

More generic hashtags are usually followed by a large amount of users, such as #Instagood or #newyork, but more specific hashtags such as #detroitshopping (shown above) will have fewer followers but a more targeted audience. Start with high-level hashtags in your industry/niche, then narrow down to more specific areas. Think of these hashtags in the same way you might start with SEO. You start with one or two-word keywords to do broad research, then move on to long-tail searches that perfectly fit your brand and its audience. Hashtags around established communities could also be helpful for your brand, such as Harry Potter or Game of Thrones, depending on your brand and how these popular topics tie into your posts.

Choosing the Right Hashtags

If tracking and researching hashtags manually is taking up too much of your time, it’s a good idea to invest in a few programs to help you along the way. Tools like Hashtagify come in free and paid versions (with plans starting around $29/month) and can help you determine both a tag’s popularity, see related hashtags (its most useful feature), see top influencers for those hashtags on Twitter, and find the latest trending topics. 


Fun Hashtags- Right for Your Brand?

If you use a tongue-in-cheek, trendy, or youthful brand voice, don’t be afraid to take advantage of some fun hashtags. They easily add personality and appeal to users, garnering more attention for your brand. Be sure to use them alongside more popular hashtags, as they don’t often get many searches or much exposure. See an example below from ModCloth.

Fashion posts on Instagram.

Though there are plenty of popular hashtags listed in this post (#springfashion, #60sstyle,etc.), there are also some more “fun” tags, like #flashesofdelight and #thatsdarling. Cheeky statements and puns also work well for these types of posts. For example, if you have an ice cream shop, you may want to add some tags such as #iscreamyouscream or #goshawty #itssherbetday.

Keep in mind that hashtags can also be location specific (more info below); brand specific (#Toyota, #Mac, #Evian); challenge specific (#ShareaCoke); Product specific (#iPhoneX); or campaign specific (Xbox’s #MakeItYours); feelings specific (#happy, #inlove); or event specific (#SXSW)

It’s up for discussion how many hashtags are ideal. Instagram allows up to 30, but we wouldn’t recommend ever using that many. Always use more than three for best results, but the graph below from TrackMaven (one point of view) shows you should use somewhere between four and eleven.

Track Maven.

Never use tags such as #like4likes or #follow4follow to earn followers. This will get you more followers, but they will be low quality and won’t provide much engagement with your brand.

Stalk the Competition!

Your competitors probably have the same (or similar) target audience as you do, so do some research around their followers and their posts. Follow their feeds and jot down any hashtags they’re using that seem to get a lot of engagement. Try a few out and see how your audience responds. You can also try exploring the accounts of influencers in your niche to see how they’re attracting and engaging with their audience.

Using Local Hashtags to Build Awareness

Using local hashtags is a quick way to increase your follower count. If you’re a local business (even if you do most of your sales online), using location-based hashtags is an easy way to build your audience and connect with your local community. People enjoy supporting local businesses and often browse the app to find great new places and products.

If you are a local business in Seattle, you might use hashtags like the following:

  • #iloveseattle
  • #seattle
  • #seattlelove
  • #seattleevents
  • #seattleshopping
  • #shopseattle
  • #seattlephotographer
  • #seattlelife
  • Etc.

Use a minimum of two or three location-based hashtags for each post, along with other hashtags of your choice. By choosing a variety of hashtags, you’re more likely to reach more people in your target audience.

Creating Branded Hashtags for User-Generated Content Campaigns

Creating your own hashtag(s) for your business and using those hashtags in your posts can help you generate conversations and track mentions of your brand, no matter where they happen across the app. The most successful organizations create hashtags around contests and always include their brand name, such as the popular #ShareaCoke campaign or KFC’s #NationalFriedChickenDay. A lot of brands struggle with user-generated content, but Instagram offers the opportunity to easily change this with its hashtag network. Most customers are happy to contribute (and help promote) brands they love; they’re just waiting for a simple opportunity and request to do so!

See the below example from AirBnB’s #WeAccept campaign, which highlighted the brand’s commitment to serving individuals of all backgrounds and ethnicities. The campaign started with a video, which was then followed by photos that shared different stories of acceptance.

AirBnb ad for Instagram.


Feed users examples of your hashtag being used in your posts and ask them to respond. For example, if your hashtag is for pretend clothing brand “Lemon,” you might write, “Show us how much you #LoveLemon. We’ll feature the best posts on our channel!”

Using hashtags on your Instagram account is always going to be about trial and error, but using these tips can help you get a head-start. For more information about today’s social media trends, contact us to learn about our social media courses.

Related posts:

Updated August 2021

Upgrade to Power Membership to continue your access to thousands of articles, toolkits, podcasts, lessons and much much more.
Become a Power Member

CPD points available

This content is eligible for CPD points. Please sign in if you wish to track this in your account.