Hashtags are a fundamental part of being an influencer but their value often gets overlooked. Essentially hashtags are one of the original ways to authentically grow your following and audience on Instagram. Yes, most of you know what a hashtag is, “a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic,” but we like to think of them as a special type of social search engine. Knowing how to find the best hashtags to use on Instagram is extremely important because hashtags allow other users to find your photos (and inevitably account) easily.
You can take it from us – here at Sidewalker Daily, we work with brands on all things influencer marketing (which includes press trips and partnerships) and hashtags are our “go-to” when clients ask for something or someone super specific. We also often use hashtags to find influencers to feature in our beloved Photoguides.
We get asked all the time by the influencers and bloggers we work with: “How can I get more followers?” If there was a magic formula we could bottle up for you, trust us we would, but like all businesses that are successful, they take time to build and a whole lot of strategy too. But what we can tell you is one of the core ways to grow your account organically is to go back to Instagram’s roots and use the good ol’ hashtag.
We like to think of hashtags as extra credit, they are a free way to help grow your business and brand…so why not use them? Figuring out great hashtags to use on Instagram to attract the right followers to your account is more of an art than a science. But don’t worry, we’re going to cover all the things you need to think about to make sure you’re maximizing all opportunities that using hashtags (in the right way) will give you.
Why are hashtags so important anyway?
Instagram uses hashtags to categorize content on their social platform aka hashtags are Instagram’s search engine. By incorporating hashtags into your posts you’re essentially categorizing them in a way to be discoverable by people looking for those types of photos and accounts. Hashtags are not so much for your current followers, but for other people on Instagram that may not have ever heard about you.
So that means hashtags are way to get more “eyeballs” on your page and in turn, grow your followers and fans. Let’s go over an example:
You just got back from exploring Italy and recently posted a picture of the famous Duomo in Florence and used the hashtag #italyvacation on your post.
Let’s say Jamie (a stylist in NYC) is looking to book a trip to Italy but not sure which city she wants to go to…Rome, Venice, Florence…there are so many options! So on her break from work she opens the best place to search for travel inspiration…Instagram.
So in the Instagram search bar, Jaime types in #italyvacation to scroll through pictures she knows will be related to Italy and vacationing, hoping to find something to help her make a decision.
And because you hashtagged #italyvacation on your post, Jamie was able to find your picture because it showed up in her hashtag search. She clicks on the amazing photo you took, then clicks your username, glances over your account bio, scrolls a little to check out your feed, loves all the travel photos you take and hits the famous blue “follow” button and voila, you earned yourself a new follower!
So the moral of the story is, if you hadn’t used the hashtag Jamie was searching for, she may have never found you.
Many people think that just creating an account on Instagram and posting pictures means people are going to miraculously find you…but that just isn’t the case. To grow your following in an authentic and organic way, you need to understand how people use the platform you are on – and it’s not always just to connect with friends and family.
In fact, the average person spends 1 hour and 40 minutes on social media every day and during that time they are definitely just not chatting with their mom. They are searching for information, trip planning, finding travel inspo, exploring – so you need to be where they are because if not, they won’t find you.
It’s also important to remember that not all followers are created equal. The goal of being an influencer is to actually have influence because if you don’t, really what are you selling to brand partners? So the best hashtags to use on Instagram are ones that target people who would potentially like your account or want to learn more about you. Building real relationships with your following is the key to your success as an influencer so get your hunt on for likeminded people!
And using good hashtags for Instagram can leverage into more than just followers. Let’s take the above example with Jamie planning a trip to Italy one step further.
So in addition to posting a photo of Florence on Instagram you also recently published a blog post on the best hotels to stay in while visiting. And because you know that Instagram is a way to drive traffic to your site you had the link to your blog post in your Instagram bio. Jamie most likely will click the link to get your hotel recommendations and if you had a bookable affiliate link on the post, you may have just converted a sale!
Hashtags can also be really important to helping increase your engagement (which is all the buzz with brand partners). According to study by Simply Measured, “posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6% more engagement.” So finding new followers isn’t all about vanity metrics and big numbers on Instagram, the goal is really to find quality followers that will not only engage with you but also support you and your business in the long run.
So how many hashtags can you use on Instagram?
Currently, Instagram allows you to use 30 hashtags total on your post. If you have a dedicated hashtag for your account, like we do for our Instagram travel community (#sidewalkerdaily), then you’re now down to 29. It doesn’t matter where you use them, you get 30 total and that’s it.
But what happens if you try to post more than 30 hashtags on your post? Instagram will give you an error message and block you from posting the entire set of hashtags. If you post hashtags in a comment, you’ll have to delete the comment and re-comment with the correct amount of hashtags.
There is definitely a debate in the industry on whether to use all the hashtag Instagrams allows or not. On one hand, some say the Instagram algorithm gods will punish you if you use all 30 while others will say you should use as many as possible because that is what they are there for…to be used.
And if you’re worried about what people will think if you use hashtags in your posts…don’t. Hashtags have a bad rap but people in the industry know they are not only a way to grow your account but to index your pictures to be discoverable by other people and in turn grow your business. Influencers are running a business after all!
Need some help?
We get how tough it is to navigate the industry alone and offer one-on-one coaching for bloggers and influencers to support them every step of the way.
And how do you find the best hashtags to use on Instagram?
We hate to break it to you but there is no one-size-fits-all approach to the best hashtags to use on Instagram. The best hashtags are not universal because it really depends on what type of account you are, your niche, the content you create etc.
Figuring out what hashtags to use isn’t the most fun task in the world but it’s definitely important if you want to target the right people and find quality followers. So what’s the secret? It’s finding hashtags that are relevant to your account, business and image. Here are a few places you can start to look:
Research On Instagram: Start typing a topic you want to hashtag in the Instagram search bar and other relevant hashtags will populate that you most likely wouldn’t have thought of.
Let Instagram Make Suggestions: Type in a hashtag you think is relevant to you, select the hashtag and on the top bar Instagram will populate a list of other hashtags which are related.
Snooping: Find other accounts that are similar to yours and see what hashtags they are using. Chances are they’ve already done some research on relevant hashtags to your type of account or business so see what they came up with. And it’s not technically cheating because you still need to investigate each hashtag you want to use to see if it’s a good fit for YOU.
Dedicated Hashtag Websites: Some people have made hashtags their business and have spent time researching the most popular hashtags in certain industries – i.e. what’s hot and what’s not. You can find these by doing a quick Google search.
It’s important to remember that industry specific lists you find online (for free or purchase) are created for the general public, not customized with your personal goals and brand objectives in mind.
And word to the wise, yes, all these shortcuts are great but we highly recommend doing the upfront work yourself and diving deep to make sure every hashtag you use is relevant to you. Trust us, no one will care about your business and success more than you do.
How To Figure Out What Hashtags Are Relevant To You And Your Posts.
So now that you know it’s super important to use relevant hashtags how do you figure out and identify what those relevant hashtags are?
You need to get inside your target followers head…where and what are they searching for on Instagram?
Also, every hashtag needs to be relevant to the photo you post, your business or your brand so when people stumble across your page they will hopefully become a new loyal follower. For example, if you’re a travel/style influencer and use the hashtag #basketball on your post of you in an amazing outfit in Paris, then someone searching for #basketball will stumble upon your pic and most likely not click on it because that’s not what they are looking to find in their search…ya feel us?
It’s important to get creative because you want to be able to maximize your exposure. So here are some things to think about to help you figure out the best ig hashtags that will be relevant to your posts:
What is happening in your picture.
Here are some example questions to ask yourself:
What location or city are you in?
What country are you in?
Is there a monument or iconic spot in the image?
Are you at a restaurant, eating a certain type of food like pasta or a gelato?
Are you doing something special like riding in a hot air balloon?
What is happening in your caption.
Here are some example questions to ask yourself:
Are you offering advice on travel?
Are you sharing wisdom?
Are you trying to inspire others?
Are you providing a fact about a monument or city?
What niches do your account, blog or business cover? For example:
If you focus on a specific niche then you should probably explore hashtags related to those niches as well…not just general travel.
Does Your Blog or Business Offer Special Services?
If you are a content creator, drone specialist or social strategist – consider looking into hashtags that relate to the services you provide. Being able to incorporate hashtags related to your specific niche or services offerings may not get you as many leads as general travel, but they may potentially get you new clients!
From the above exploratory exercise you now understand that finding the best hashtags to use on Instagram for your account may not even be related to general travel! A good idea is to try different combinations of hashtags and different amounts on your posts to test what works for you and your specific account.
Another important question to ask yourself is if your photo would be relevant to any reshare/feature accounts. Hashtagging a reshare account’s designated hashtag is not only a great way to get exposure but also is like entering a lottery to potentially get featured on their account. Being featured on a reshare account is a great way to get exponential exposure and a lot of new followers.
There are tons of different feature and reshare accounts that may be relevant to your post such as travel communities, city focused accounts etc. For example, our Instagram account @sidewalkerdaily is a community of travelers but is also considered a feature/reshare account. We search for travelers to feature on our account that use our designated hashtag – #sidewalkerdaily.
If you don’t use our hashtag, how are we supposed to find you? You get the drift…
Why the “size” of the hashtag matters.
So you’ve done your homework and found some good hashtags to use on Instagram but the next question to ask yourself is, what is the size of the hashtag and should I use it? The most used hashtags aren’t always the most strategic. When you search for a hashtag you can find the size by seeing how many posts are associated with that hashtag which displays towards the top of your screen.
Please don’t get fooled by the larger hashtags. As we all know in the influencer industry, bigger isn’t always better.
If there are millions of posts associated with a hashtag then that means it will be more difficult to stand out because there is tough competition. Since so many people are using that hashtag, your post will be pushed down quickly and get lost in the shuffle…unless you make it as a “top post” of course.
And let’s think about it realistically – the people searching the hashtag to discover images will most likely just see the top posts or first few scrolls and not spend too much diving deep if they don’t see anything that catches their eye immediately.
So for hashtags that are smaller, you may have a better chance of being discovered because they are less competitive. Yes, your image may be seen by less people but you may have a better chance of actually converting followers. You may want to test a few combinations to see what works best for you.
And hashtags that are relevant and a good size for you means you have a chance of being featured as a “top post.” Why is a top post so great? It means no matter how many people are using that hashtag, your post will stay at the top of the feed and have a better chance of being discovered. The top posts are selected by Instagram based on preferences the algorithm has detected but a good way to figure out if you may have a chance is by seeing what the top posts have in common for a specific hashtag.
For example, how many likes do they have – do you think you’ll be able to get that many likes (or more) on your photo pretty quickly after posting? It may be worth a shot. Basically getting featured as a “top post” is like your blog post making it on the first page of Google. Pretty exciting stuff!
How to Physically Use Hashtags In Your Post.
Now that you’ve found some amazing hashtags to use on Instagram, let’s go over how to manage them and actually use them when you’re posting.
A good idea is to spend some quality time doing intense research and create a list of core hashtags relevant to your account and business. And once you find the best hashtags to use on Instagram, make sure to save them!
It’s important to always have a variety of hashtags and switch it up on posts depending on the content. So you may want to create a few lists depending on the types of photos you post. For example, if you’re a travel influencer you may have a set of hashtags for hotels, a set for restaurants, a set for outdoors etc.
Once you compile your lists of the best hashtags to use on Instagram you can add them to your notes on your phone so you can copy and paste them easily as you post. And if you’re planning to use all 30 then you may want to leave some room for hashtags that are directly relevant to the image you post. For example if you have a core list of 20 hashtags then you can add 10 that are directly related to the post in real time.
There are a few ways you can incorporate hashtags in your post:
Front and center in your caption (although some people think this looks spammy.) The benefit of using them in your caption is that you can edit them.
In the caption but with a break so they are truncated. That way only if someone “clicked more” and scrolled would they see the hashtags in your caption.
In a comment. (You just comment on your own photo and add the hashtags there.) The drawback of using them in a comment is you can’t edit them after you post, so if you misspell something, you’ll have to start from scratch.
If you’re coming up with hashtags on the fly when posting and you find some really good ones that you want to save for future posts, make sure you copy and paste them into your notes before hitting post. If not, you may have to manually type them up again which is always a drag.
And if you try to use more than 30 hashtags, trust us, Instagram will notice. Instagram won’t cut out the extra hashtags you tried to use that went over the 30 allotment – they just won’t let you post the whole section of hashtags. So pay attention because if not, you may think you’re using hashtags but Instagram isn’t posting them on your photos.
And What’s The Deal With Follow Hashtags?
Instagram recently gave hashtags a facelift by rolling out the ability to follow hashtags. So how does that benefit you? It means people can follow a certain hashtag and images related to that hashtag will show up organically in their feed. That’s a great way for new people to stumble upon your account because they may be following the hashtag and be intrigued by the photo you posted, click on your account and want to know more about you.
So now by using the best ig tags on your posts there are multiple ways to get new eyeballs on your account!
A Few Tricks Of The Trade After You’ve Found The Best Hashtags.
Pay attention to trending topics, special events and holidays. Don’t forget that good hashtags to use on Instagram can also be related to a special event or trending topic. For example, are you posting a Mother’s Day post, Coachella Post, Memorial Day post? Find out what the designated hashtags are for that day (and year) so you can insert yourself into the relevant social conversation.
Stay focused. We don’t recommend hashtagging random things just for fun because at the end of the day you need to treat each hashtag as a search term for people you are looking to target. So let’s just say you post a cute picture of you holding a kitten in the streets of Morocco and you have one hashtag left – the obvious choice may be to choose #kitten but that means the people that would see your photo would be searching for kittens and may not be as obsessed with travel as you are. It would be a better choice to use your last hashtag for something like #moroccotravel where people who are searching for travel advice on Morocco would stumble upon your page, potentially like your content, check out your blog to see your post on Morocco and book that hotel you recommended – cha ching.
Do a regular hashtag checkup. Set aside time to review the hashtags you are using to see if it’s time to switch them up, if any are obsolete or even worse, banned or broken!
Don’t get too concerned with Instagram urban legends. There are always urban legends about Instagram floating around that ignite major paranoia in our industry. For example, the mysterious Instagram shadowban which when mentioned, puts influencers into a panic. Yes, shadowbanning exists but people don’t know the actual reasons an account can get shadowbanned because Instagram is not upfront about that type of stuff. So what happens? People start to guess and spread rumors – one of which was that shadowbanning was related to the use of hashtags in certain ways. If Instagram offers 30 hashtags per post, and you are not engaging in any shady business on the social platform, we think you’re probably going to be ok.
And it’s important to remember that not all Instagram accounts are created equally and the algorithm works in mysterious ways. We believe in never getting too comfortable, continuously testing and keeping up to date with the various changes in the industry. At the end of the day, Instagram is just like the influencer industry – it’s the wild west and we all have to be on our A game.
So are hashtags the magic potion to get you an exponential amount of followers? Maybe not, but some new followers are better than nothing, right? Basically, look at every hashtag as an opportunity, be strategic and don’t waste them.
Need some help?
We get how tough it is to navigate the industry alone and offer one-on-one coaching for bloggers and influencers to support them every step of the way.
Did you find these tips helpful? We’d love to know! Feel free to share in the comments section down below!
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Sidewalker Daily is a team of marketing and business professionals dedicated to providing resources to travel bloggers and influencers who want to turn their social influence into a profitable and legitimate business. They also manage one of the original travel/style communities on Instagram of now over 60,000 travelers from around the globe – @sidewalkerdaily.