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Instagram Hashtags: The Complete Guide (2019)
Sam King
Sam King
Posted Mon Aug 05 2019
In Guides, Instagram Hashtags, Instagram Marketing

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. 

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, we will 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!

Content Menu:

  1. How do hashtags work, and why do you need them?
  2. What different types of hashtags can you use?
  3. Answering your burning hashtag questions.
  4. What we’ve learned from analyzing over 500,000 hashtags.
  5. Let’s talk hashtag strategy.
  6. How does Flick make it easier?
  7. Key takeaways

How do Instagram hashtags work, and why do you need them?🤔

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. 

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?

Categorization:

Because of this, hashtags are like categories for your content, that signals to Instagram which audiences to show posts to. 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.

Where might you be going wrong when it comes to Instagram hashtags?

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.

instagram hashtag mistakes

#1 Using hashtags that are too competitive

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.

#2 Picking irrelevant hashtags

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.

#3 Using repetitive hashtags

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.

Understanding Instagram hashtag ranking, and why you should care about it:

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.

What different types of Instagram hashtags can you use?🤷‍♀️

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.

Banned hashtags:

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).banned instagram hashtag

Flagged 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.

flagged instagram hashtagCommunity hashtags:

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.community instagram hashtag

Topic/Niche-specific hashtags:

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.

topic instagram hashtagAudience specific hashtags:

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.

audience instagram hashtagLocation hashtags:

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.

location instagram hashtagProduct-specific hashtags:

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 reachproduct instagram hashtag

Answering your burning Instagram hashtag questions.🔥

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.

What are the best Instagram hashtags?

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 hashtags are trending?

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.

Why am I not getting results from hashtags?

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.

How do I know which Instagram hashtags are right for me?

You should try and use Instagram hashtags that are relevant to:

  • Your account’s niche
  • The category of the content you are posting (e.g. fashion or food)
  • Your account size and engagement rate (hashtags that contain posts with a similar average like count to you)

How frequently should I update the hashtags I use?

Try to avoid using the same hashtags over and over again. You should aim to rotate your hashtags as often as possible!

What we’ve learned from analyzing over 500,000 Instagram hashtags.📈

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’.

Topical Authorities:

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.

Let’s talk strategy.🤓

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.

The holy trinity of hashtag analytics

instagram metric hashtag guide

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.

  • Average likes. This is the average amount of likes that posts in a specific hashtag group receives. Why is it important? Because it tells us, based on your account whether or not your posts would be compatible with or perform well within a hashtag group.
  • Competition score. Just like it says on the tin, this shows how competitive a certain hashtag group is, giving an indication of how difficult or easy it is for your posts to rank well. Why is it important? It helps us tell you whether or not your post in this specific group is likely to rank.
  • Opportunity score. Much like your competition score, this shows you the potential opportunity or return you might get, if you use this hashtag on your post. Why is it important? It gives you an indication of which hashtags to pick, based on the most opportunity they provide for your account.

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.

Here’s a quick review of our Instagram hashtags guide and the things you should remember:

 

🥇 Your aim with hashtags is to rank highly.

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.

 

📊 You can see what’s working.

By looking at your hashtag analytics, you can see which groups of hashtags worked the best for your posts, and use this going forward.

 

🎯 Post in groups that make the most sense with the content you produce.

Don’t just pick random hashtags you think might be popular, but may not help propel your account.

 

♻️ Don’t use the same hashtags over and over again.

You might get penalized!

 

🧠 Leverage the different types of hashtag to your advantage.

And remember to avoid posting in banned hashtag groups.

 

🕵️‍♀️ The best hashtags for you, are not the best hashtags for everyone else.

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.

 

📈 Look at the analytics of hashtag groups before you select them.

Make sure you’re posting in groups with similar average likes to your own, a low competition score, and a high opportunity score.

 

📸 Marry your hashtag strategy with a killer content strategy and you’re good to go.

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.

 

How does Flick make all of this a lot easier?✅

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:

#1 We help you search for hashtags.

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.

#2 We give you suggested filters based on your account.

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.

#3 We provide you with the analytics you need, in order to select the best hashtags.

From the potential reach score to average likes, to competition score, we make the narrowing down process a lot easier. 

How to use Flick’s Instagram Hashtag Metrics

#4 We’re releasing a new feature in the coming weeks that will allow you to store and manage different groups of hashtags.

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 about improving your hashtag strategy check out our hashtag strategy guide.