Since their release in 2007, Instagram hashtags have been the pillar of the platform’s powerful algorithm. In fact, they can propel your social media effectiveness by up to 40%. Therefore, understanding how to use them is a must for any business or individual trying to grow, engage or monetize their Instagram account. Enter our Instagram hashtag guide.
We know there’s not a lot out there that clearly explains how you can really use hashtags to their full potential, and as the #1 Instagram hashtag tool, we’ve come to learn a lot about how they work, and how to best utilize them. So, we decided to take matters into our own hands, and create this Complete Instagram Hashtag Guide.
Here, we will help you fully understand how hashtags work, allowing you to increase your reach, engagement and follower count. You will learn how to use hashtags effectively, we might teach you a few things you didn’t already know, and finally, help you lock in the right steps in order to put together the ultimate hashtag strategy. So strap in, and get ready to make hashtags your new best friend!
Before we get stuck into the Instagram hashtag guide, it’s important that you know exactly how the Instagram algorithm utilizes hashtags for its data collection.
Think of an Instagram hashtag as a folder on your computer. Whether it’s your holiday pictures or your work files, each folder contains a type of content or group of information related to the same topic. Folders allow you to find exactly what you need, quickly and efficiently. At their most basic level, hashtags are simply Instagram’s version of folders.
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Using a hashtag will store your post on a specific hashtag feed along with all the other pictures or videos that use that hashtag. This was initially designed so that people could easily find specific types of content – think ‘holiday destinations’, or ‘places to eat in Barcelona’. However, now, Instagram hashtags play a much more important role than just sorting content – and to understand this, you need to know a little more about Instagram’s algorithm.
Firstly, Instagram’s number one goal is to keep its users on the platform for as long as possible. How do they do this? It’s simple. They try their best to exclusively show you content that you like. You might be thinking: “erm, but how do they even know what I like?” Again, the answer is simple. They track everything you do on the platform, from who you follow or unfollow, to how long you look at certain images. Once they know all this, they can decide what content to show you, but also, more importantly, who they should show your content to.
So, which hashtags you search, follow, or engage with can have an impact on who sees your content. Valuable information, right?
Although you might understand that hashtags are useful, there’s no real Instagram hashtag guide on how to use them in the right way (well, until now). Let’s take a quick look at some common hashtag mistakes you might be making.
The number one hashtag on Instagram is #love, with over 1.6 billion posts. Now, imagine you’re in a group of 1.6 billion people, and you have to find one specific person. It’s impossible, right? So, when you publish a post in a hashtag group, with over 1.6 billion other posts, it’s highly likely that your target audience won’t be able to find that post, making the use of that hashtag pretty much redundant. Unless you have upwards of 1 million followers it’s unlikely that your content will be seen in this group. You need to pay attention to the level of competition you have, within the hashtag groups you’re going for.
As we’ve said, the type of hashtags you use, tells Instagram about the type of content you are posting. So, if you create a video lookbook, but put it in the hashtag group for #beauty, the likelihood is that you won’t get a lot of hits. And, even if you do rank, you might reach the wrong people – just because someone follows the #beauty, they may not engage with your lookbook as much as someone who follows #vintagefashioninspo for example. By using specific hashtags that really describe the content you’re posting, you can reach the audience you want to, in groups that aren’t too competitive for your page.
A little known fact that might be useful for your future posts, is that Instagram can penalize you for using the same hashtags over and over again (as well as if you use ‘banned hashtags’ that are deemed inappropriate by Instagram). Try to create variation in the hashtags you use, not only because of the fact you might be penalized if you don’t, but also so that you get a more varied audience viewing your content and therefore, more followers.
Ranking is pretty imperative when it comes to understanding how hashtags can help you grow your Instagram account. Let’s revisit our #love analogy for a second.
Imagine your account has roughly 4k followers, and you post a piece of top quality content. You add the hashtag #love, because it’s popular, right? And then you call it a day. Let’s say that the exact same hour, Kim Kardashian, who currently has around 143m followers, posts a selfie – and adds the hashtag #love. And then she calls it a day. Kim’s post is much more likely to appear in the #love hashtag group because she has a huge follower-base and therefore her engagement will inevitably be a lot higher. This means her post will ‘rank’ in that group. So, whilst adding a hashtag like #love to a post might be useful for Kim when it comes to getting people to view content, it may not be useful for you, as its less likely you’ll rank.
Think of it like SEO – just like you’d optimize your blog post by featuring the top-performing keywords that match your content so that it appears on a recommended search on google, you need to optimize your Instagram posts, so that they appear in the right hashtag searches.
If you really want hashtags to help you grow your account, you need to focus on the hashtags that your account is likely to rank on. This is based on the number of posts in that hashtag group, the average likes of those posts, the average engagement of those posts, and the average follower count of the people posting in these groups. This is essential when it comes to understanding hashtag strategy and how to reach your target audience – it’s the holy grail of hashtag knowledge.
The answer is, a lot! Here at Flick, we like to categorize ‘hashtag types’ so that you can better understand which ones are right for you, or your strategy. And, we’ve included them all in our Instagram hashtag guide. Let’s meet them.
These are hashtags considered inappropriate by Instagram, and therefore posts featuring them are penalized. Using them might get your account shadow-banned, so steer clear (Flick never suggests banned hashtags).
Hashtags that have been reported by users as inappropriate and that are currently under review by Instagram. Instagram will not show you recommendations for hashtags that are flagged.
Community hashtags (otherwise known as branded hashtags) are hashtags that are specific to your account. A great example can be seen by the beauty brand, Frank Body. In their bio, they encourage their followers to tag them in their community hashtag ‘#thefrankeffect’. This way, they can not only get customers talking about their product, but they can also access all content related to their channel, just by clicking on that hashtag group. This is great, especially for brands that want to spotlight their customers by using repurposed content. It’s like your own little Instagram folder.
These are hashtags that consider specific topics, usually related to your account niche. Let’s say you’re a beauty Instagrammer – some examples of topical hashtags you might use could be #redeyeshadow, #wingedlinerlook or #beautyjunkie.
These are hashtags used to describe or target a specific audience. Much like topical hashtags, they are descriptive and niche. If you wanted to target people interested in beauty; you might use the hashtag #beautylover or #makeupartist for example.
Location hashtags can be really useful when you want to reach people in – you guessed it! – a specific location or area. They are really great when you want to get to a very specific audience, as the only people likely to be viewing these hashtags either live in the specific location or are planning on going there to visit. Some might include: #londoneats, #londononabudget or #vintagelondon.
Just like it says on the tin, these are product-specific hashtags. You might use these if you’re a food blogger for example, and want to use hashtags that describe the specific branded ingredients you use. These can also include using specific companies branded hashtags that are already established, in your own posts.
For the perfect hashtag formula, try to use a mix of the above hashtags in your posts. Make sure they are all related to what you are posting about, but have a variety of different types of hashtags, to really expand your reach
At Flick, we get a lot (and we mean a lot) of hashtag-specific questions – most of which, are pretty helpful when it comes to understanding how to up your hashtag strategy. So, we’ve decided to share the answers here in our Instagram hashtag guide. Feel free to contact us if you have more specific questions that we haven’t listed, we’re all ears.
The truth is, there isn’t a definitive list of the ‘best Instagram hashtags’. Ok, you might not like the answer to this, but hear us out. The best Instagram hashtags are completely dependant on you. It’s really based on your account size, niche, and engagement rate. With Flick, if your Instagram profile is linked, we can examine and pick out the best hashtags for you, based on your specific account and topic search, within a couple of seconds.
What’s trending always changes, so the best way to answer this question is by keeping an eye out for which ones receive the highest DAPC. DAPC stands for the daily average post count, which shows basically how many posts are published into a specific hashtag within a given day. When you search for a hashtag on Flick, we will show you this metric, and you can compare the DAPC across a range of hashtags.
Again, no specific set of hashtags will get you the most likes, but using the right hashtags that match your account, will give you the highest chance of upping your engagement.
Although there could be more than one answer to this, the number one reason is usually that you are not ranking on the hashtags you are using, or because the hashtags you are using, are reaching the wrong people.
It doesn’t actually matter! Just make sure you pick one or the other – whichever suits your account and preferences the best.
You should try and use Instagram hashtags that are relevant to:
Try to avoid using the same hashtags over and over again. You should aim to rotate your hashtags as often as possible!
Due to the answer’s depth of this question, we’re writing up a full blogpost on it – check back soon!
We’ve noticed that a lot of people wonder whether changing hashtags on an existing post, will help them appear to more audiences. The answer is – probably not. The best time to add hashtags to a post is right after it goes live, as hashtag feeds are not only based on popularity but also when you post.
We eat, live and breathe hashtags, so at Flick, we like to think we know a thing or two about the ins and outs of hashtag strategy. There are a few things that we thought were worth including in this Instagram hashtag guide, that you might not know.
In brief, Instagram’s algorithm bases a lot of what it shows you, on what it thinks you might like. This is based on who you follow, what you like, what hashtags you use and more. If you follow a bunch of beauty Instagrammers, Instagram can then assume that you might be interested in topics like ‘makeup’ or ‘skincare’.
We’ve touched on this, but here’s what you might not know: put simply, Instagram looks at the hashtags you post to determine whether or not they should recommend your post to people interested in certain topics. So, if you posted something and included 30 hashtags all related to beauty, you’re more likely to get suggested to people that are interested in this topic. This would make you, what would be referred to as a “topical authority” (essentially an expert in Instagram’s eyes on the field of beauty).
Now, in this guide, we put it really simply, but we go more in-depth on this blog post, which explains how Instagram’s topical authorities work, and how we can help you become one. However, essentially, if your posts are seen by the right audiences, as a result of the right hashtags, your account will grow.
You also might wonder how we calculate whether a hashtag should or shouldn’t be suggested to you. When we look at the stats of a hashtag, we usually consider averages – for instance, average likes, or daily average post count (dapc). However, we don’t just look at this, because it can be misleading.
For example, say you are trying to decide whether to use the hashtag #smallbusinessmarketing (407 ave likes) or #smtips (633 ave likes). On face value, you might like the look of #smtips, because it has a higher average like count – but, the top posts in that hashtag group might be a little variable, making the hashtag less stable. So, #smtips might have one post in their top 9 posts with 100 likes, and one with 1000, making the average higher, but not representative of the content in that group.
Well, our algorithms take all of this into account in our competition and potential reach metrics to ensure that you are able to draw consistent conclusions on the hashtags you use. In addition to this, we also look at the trending hashtags. By taking an average like count of a hashtag group every day, and then computing an overall average of those numbers, you can miss out on hashtag trends. These are really important to consider when calculating your competition or potential reach so that we can suggest hashtags that are the most relevant or getting more likes at the time of your search.
This theory works the same when it comes to dapc. You might be tempted to pick a hashtag that has a lower daily average post count over another, but this only represents an average of 7 values. Instead, you should be looking at how many posts have been made recently in that hashtag group, to determine its current competition level and the stability of that hashtag.
So, now that you are armed and ready with all the hashtag info you need to know, you’re ready to talk strategy. You can opt for whichever strategy works best for your brand or account, but we’d suggest going for the staircase strategy.
Another integral part of your strategy, once you have it on lock, is understanding hashtag analytics. Just like you’d look at your analytics on Instagram to check the updates on your post-performance, it’s important to understand the data behind hashtag strategy too. Don’t worry if you’re not too keen on data or stats, we make it pretty easy to understand.
There’s three different metrics you should be paying attention to – all of which we also display for you on Flick when you’re completing a hashtag search.
If you pay attention to these three elements and pick hashtag groups with posts that have a similar average like count to yours, a relatively low competition score, and a relatively high opportunity score – you’re 10 times more likely to get the results you want from the hashtags you use.
This is based on a number of factors that you can analyze, from how competitive a hashtag is, to how related a hashtag is to your content or account niche.
By looking at your hashtag analytics, you can see which groups of hashtags worked the best for your posts, and use this going forward.
Don’t just pick random hashtags you think might be popular, but may not help propel your account.
You might get penalized!
And remember to avoid posting in banned hashtag groups.
As we’ve said before, there isn’t a set group of hashtags that help people perform well – it’s completely dependant on your account.
Make sure you’re posting in groups with similar average likes to your own, a low competition score, and a high opportunity score.
Our blog has a lot of tips on how to up your Instagram game, not just when it comes to hashtags. Develop a rounded strategy and see your account grow in an organic way.
We’re here for you, and our primary goal is to condense all of the above into one platform that helps you achieve the most efficient hashtag strategy to grow your Instagram account. We essentially eliminate the manual side of hashtag research, so you don’t have to try and calculate average likes of a hashtag group, or what topics might work the best for your account – because that would take a long time. In a hashtag sized nutshell, here’s what we do:
If you don’t really know where to start, our hashtag tool allows you to type in your account’s niche, and we’ll immediately give you a list of suggested hashtags, based on both your account and the search term you’ve put in. So, if you have a fashion account, you might use our tool to find fashion-related hashtags, that your account is likely to rank on. You’d type in #fashion to our search tool, and we’ll give you a list of suggested hashtags, that you can pin, save and copy for your next post. You can also expand the hashtags we suggest that you like the sound of, and get even more related options.
If you connect your Instagram account with Flick, you can toggle suggested filters, which allows our algorithm to analyze your engagement rate and account size. This helps us set filters for the types of hashtags we will suggest so that you will only be suggested hashtags that you are likely to get results from.
From the potential reach score to average likes, to competition score, we make the narrowing down process a lot easier.
That means, you can separate your beauty hashtags from your fashion hashtags, and access your favourites easily, when you need them. The collections sync up with a dedicated mobile app for easy access to copy and paste into your posts! You can join the waiting list for this here.
You’ve made it! Thanks for joining us for the ride and reading our Instagram hashtag guide. We hope we have given you a little more insight on how hashtags can really help boost your Instagram account.
If want to learn more, or still need more convincing on how hashtag strategy check out our other blog posts!