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How to Effectively Use Hashtags on Instagram

by Corey C. Walker

Hashtags…these have been a topic of discussion over the past few months ever since Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, mentioned they aren't that valuable. However, most social media professionals beg to differ. If you are using hashtags that are super relevant to your audience, it can help you get found!

Why Should I Use Hashtags?

Hashtags start with the # sign, and are followed by a word, phrase, number, or emoji. Once that hashtag is added to your post, it becomes a searchable link that takes you to a page of all the posts using that hashtag. Instagram users will often use hashtags to search for information. For instance, if I am visiting Austin, Texas, and want to know about restaurants there, I might search #austinrestaurant, or #austintxrestaurant. If you are a restaurant in Austin,

you want your post to come up in that search!

Where Should I Put Hashtags?

Should they go in the caption, or the comments? The truth is, it’s a matter of preference. There is no functional difference regarding where you place them. Since I use a scheduler to post my posts ahead of time, I usually find it easier to place them directly in the caption. I use periods and returns to bump them down and away from the main text.

How Many Hashtags Should I Use?

Instagram officially allows you to have 30 hashtags per post. If the hashtags you are using are thoroughly researched, and effective for you, go for the 30. It gives you more opportunity to be seen in different searches. I typically don’t use quite that many as I haven’t found 30 that are that relevant to my audience.

Which Hashtags Should I Use?

Do your research. Which hashtags are most relevant to your industry? Look at your competitors’ accounts (especially the successful ones!). Which hashtags do they use? Put yourself in the mind of your customer. If you were looking for your product or service, what would you likely search for? Use that as your hashtag! Also, if you are a local business, like a brick and mortar boutique, make sure to add your location in your posts as well. You can use some hashtags that are just location-based, like #sacramento or #sacramentoca, and then some that combine your business with the location such as #sacramentoboutique or #sacramentostyle.

I also recommend using a combination of “big”, “medium”, and “little” hashtags. Big hashtags are much more broad, and might have a million + people using them. (When you start typing in a hashtag, you can see how many people are using that hashtag.) Use these sparingly (no more than 5), as they will get replaced by new posts very quickly. Medium hashtags have 15,000 – 100,000 people using them. These can be used more often as they offer a good mix of being seen by many people, but also not getting replaced by other posts using that hashtag within a second. Finally, little hashtags are used by under 15,000 people. They are much more specific, and will often mix your location and your service or product to make them more niche. Use as many of these as you’d like, but be wary of the ones that have less than 100 posts using them. Those tiny ones are probably not searched very often, so your post won’t get seen much (or at all) using that hashtag.

Here is an example of a mix of hashtags:

Big: 7.8 million posts are using #sacramento

Medium: 17,300 posts are using #sacramentoboutique

Little: 5,000 posts are using #sacramentostyle

Create a Branded Hashtag

A fun way to get your brand out on Instagram further is by creating a branded hashtag. For a realtor, it may be something like #LilysLuxuryHomes. Use that hashtag on all of your posts, and encourage others to use the hashtag if they are referring to you in their post. It also works for contest entries. Create a branded hashtag and require everyone to use that hashtag to submit their entry. That way, you can click on the hashtag, and see all the entries in one place. Just be sure to check that no one else is already using that hashtag, or it will get mixed in with other posts.

How to Save Your Hashtags

Once you find your perfect mix of hashtags, you’ll likely want to use them more than once. I recommend switching them up a bit to reflect what is in your post, but if you have a core say 10-15 that you use repeatedly, save them! Depending on which way you normally post to Instagram will determine how you save them. If you typically post directly from your phone, without any scheduler app, save your hashtags in your Notes app on your phone. Type them all in exactly how you want them to appear on your post, then simply copy and paste! It’s so much easier than typing them out every time. If you use a scheduler, many of them have now gotten savvier and will have a place to store hashtags in the app for later use. With a tap of a button, you can easily add them to your post.

I hope that helps you better understand hashtags. Put them to work for you! I received three requests for business based on a #sacramentomarketing hashtag. They are still effective if you use them correctly.


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