The Ultimate Guide to Using Instagram Hashtags to Grow Your Followers

14 April 2023
Reading: 5 min

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, a hashtag is the combination of a hash symbol (#) and a word or phrase that is used to categorize a post. People and brands use hashtags on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to improve the ranking of their posts. This article focuses on Instagram to finesse your hashtagging there.

Instagram hashtags

People and Instagram have a love-hate relationship: the posts are either filled to the brim with hashtags or retain their number as low as possible. The Instagram hashtags serve as the keywords, which are used for browsing the posts. Hashtags are arguably the main method of filtering the content on Instagram, which is why people actively use them. Plus, a post with at least a single hashtag provides 12.6% more engagement than the posts without one.

Unlike other social networks, Instagram generously allows up to 30 hashtags to be included per post. The number itself makes little difference, because at the end of the day the relevancy of a hashtag prevails. Trying to fit in every mainstream hashtag just because of its popularity can bring a shadowban to your post or account, when people cease to see your content in a search query: #summer, a trendy hashtag, accompanied by a post with a snowman and winter holidays can draw the unwanted attention of moderation.

Recommended hashtags

Instagram does have a list of banned hashtags, and plenty of them are counter-intuitive. But blacklisted hashtags are not the only problem, because some hashtags enjoy exceptionally high popularity among people and brands. Including a hashtag like that into your post will most likely get it lost in the crowd. Which hashtags to use in this case?

Mainstream hashtags

General hashtags are important for getting acquainted with the prospects. People will search for hashtags you use. For example, if you are into sweepstakes, consider the following hashtags:

  • #sweepstakes
  • #win
  • #contest
  • #giveaway

Often, people follow a certain hashtag. If your post makes it to their feed, they might start following your Instagram for more content like that. Remember, there is no use in utilizing hashtags that are popular but irrelevant to your posts.

Specific hashtags

Complementing your posts with some niche-like hashtags is important for reaching out the ideal audience. While the number of people following such hashtags might be small, they make up for the target audience. Ideally, your hashtag list should look like a funnel that becomes more specific to the bottom. Try a hashtag generator if you are not sure which keywords would attract the most like-minded people and brands.

Stage Characteristics Hashtag example
Industry General: highest competition (1-2 hashtags) #affiliatemarketing
Niche Not-so-general: high competition (2 hashtags) #sweepstakes, #cricket
Network (brand) Either feature it yourself (2 hashtags) or check out branded hashtags for new people #ZorbasMedia, #ZM
Community (audience) Relatively specific: mild competition (5 hashtags) #cricketlovers, #teamindia
Location Can be general and specific simultaneously #tier-3, #India, #NewDelhi
Event Competition depends on the scale #IPL, #cricketcup, #giveaway, #promo


Hashtags can also be different in terms of density, i.e., how frequently people use them. Do your best to strike a balance between high and low density hashtags for your posts to have the greatest impact.

Also, the Instagram hashtags can be very complex, made of a couple of words. Big hashtags are made of small keywords that people can enter in the search bar. Which is why, your post will not be lost among the peers. Thus, do not discard complex hashtag constructions.

Rules of the game: right hashtags

Finding a highly appealing Instagram hashtag is a tedious task, but there are a couple of routes you can take to help your posts out at improving your brand awareness among the people.

Search right Instagram hashtags manually

Ideally, your Instagram account should include a vast library of hashtags that you can use at will. If you are unfortunate enough not to have one, worry not, for there are 4 ways on how to make your own library of hashtags from scratch.

  1. Instagram search function. Using a cell phone, type in a hashtag that is potentially applicable to your posts and click on the tags tab below. Instagram will range then all the hashtags there, based on their popularity. Look for some mildly competitive hashtags. Otherwise, your posts may get lost in the vast fields of Instagram.
  2. Opinion of opinion leaders. Look for the hashtags the influencers use and apply the “fake it till you make it” principle in your posts.
  3. Monitoring of competitors. Check out for non-branded hashtags your competitors use and think over applying them in your posts. Make sure the hashtag is not an exclusive part of a campaign.
  4. Posts with successful hashtags. Browse for some trendy posts and pay close attention to the hashtags they use. Think about implementing some in your own posts.

Use social media tools for sniping out the best Instagram hashtags

The days of manual labor are long gone, and you can always rely on a piece of software. Before your personal Instagram hashtag library is complete, it remains your main way of increasing your brand, campaign, or offer awareness.

Online Instagram hashtag generators are very common nowadays. Some of them require you to enter a keyword and the result will show the most popular hashtags out there. Other generators can be used to generate the most suitable hashtags out of a photo or URL. Among some of the best hashtag generators are Instagram Hashtag Generator, Iconsquare, Hashtagify, Ritetag. These tools either specialize on Instagram hashtag generation or provide a wide range of tools that goes beyond simple generation, e.g., influencers monitoring.

Where to use hashtags (and how many)

Instagram’s hashtags are better off reserved for captions and not comments. It’s official, and the reason is simple, search indexing ignores the comments section. This might look a bit messy, but you can always leave ample spacing between the hashtags and the text for people’s liking and better user experience.

Hashtags can complement your bio, allowing for highly personalized hashtags that can highlight your brand strengths. This way, your bio can lead to all the relevant posts of yours. Don’t forget about the Instagram stories — another valuable channel for bringing in more people. More hashtags there — more people know about your product, better brand awareness, simpler lead generation!

Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags to be included per post. In this case, the more is not always the better. If you are unsure how many hashtags you need in your posts, try running A/B testing by creating some groups with different number of hashtags allowed per post, for example up to 4. Post each group during a specific day, for instance:

  • Monday = 1st group, with up to 5 hashtags
  • Tuesday = 2nd group, with up to 10 hashtags
  • Wednesday = 3rd group, with up to 20 hashtags
  • Thursday = 4th group, with up to 30 hashtags

After a month of such testing, people will vote themselves which format suits them best. True, the conditions are imperfect, because depending on the audience type, people may be more busy during specific days. But you can always try out changing the schedule to match your hunch and verify your guess — make it explicit for better decision-making.

Remember also, that hashtags can be added to a post after the upload. Though, keep in mind that hashtags are time-sensitive. So go for hashtag updates in the following cases:

  • The hashtag does not enjoy great popularity (<5,000 posts)
  • The hashtag is tied to a brand, and you strive for more reposts
  • The hashtag is a keyword directly related to your line of work

And of course, never forget to track your progress, using the Insights tool, provided by Instagram. This way, you can monitor the effectiveness of the hashtags you have used. While you can’t determine the performance of an exact hashtag, you can still get the insights on a certain group of hashtags.


While Instagram enables up to whooping 30 hashtags to be included per post, it does not mean you should. First, irrelevant hashtags can cause shadowbans, lowering the posts from your account in search queries. Second, the user experience may drop and people may rightfully feel deceived. Finally, the number of hashtags does not necessarily make your post more reachable and interesting. Unlike A/B testing, which answers precisely what works for you and what does not. Keep your posts and hashtag amount succinct — only the stuff that is needed must remain. This is the only way to assure quality.

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