Hashtags can be a confusing aspect of social media that many bloggers struggle with. But, effectively using hashtags for Instagram can have incredible results for your reach, engagement, and follower count!
Over the years, we’ve tried out a number of different strategies. Granted, with Instagram constantly changing their algorithm (or so it feels at times), it can be tricky to feel like you’ve nailed the best way to use hashtags on Instagram.
So we have pulled together this comprehensive guide to help you out! In it, we will cover what hashtags are, why you need to use hashtags, the exact hashtag strategy we use, AND we even throw in a freebie.
So, let’s crack on and learn how to use hashtags to grow your Instagram!
Psst! Make sure you save this post for later!
Our Guide to Effectively Using Hashtags for Instagram
What Are Hashtags?
Let’s take it back to basics for a second. This hashtag strategy guide can be used for all levels of bloggers, so if you want to skip this part, then scroll on down to ‘How To Find The Best Hashtags’.
If you’re sticking around (good for you!) then allow us to explore more about what hashtags are.
Essentially, a hashtag acts as a category for your post on Instagram. It will show your post alongside similar images. Hashtags also help Instagram to learn more about the type of content you produce, and the type of content you’d be interested in seeing yourself.
On Instagram, you can search directly for hashtags. You will be shown the most recent posts that have been tagged in that category, as well as top posts. These top posts are where you want your Instagram content to go! High performing, highly engaging content will sit on this page and generate lots of interaction and followers for you.
Taking this search function into account, you should treat hashtags as a way to drive traffic (views and followers) to your post and profile. It’s similar to the way you use keywords in your blog posts – hashtags will help people to find your content.
If you’re looking for a back-to-basics guide to setting up your own travel blog, take a look at our blog post about this here!
How Do Hashtags Benefit You
As we discussed above, using hashtags well and strategically will help you to be found by an engaged, interested audience within your niche.
It will also help brands find you too. In fact, we recently included the hashtags ‘#pregnancy’ and ‘#ParentsToBe’ in our Stories. Within seconds, we had a DM from a big brand looking to collaborate!
If you’re serious about using blogging and social media as a way to make money, make sure you take a look at the exact equipment we use to run our own blog and accounts here.
On the flip side, you can use hashtags yourself to find other bloggers and content that is of interest to you. Simply search the hashtag in Instagram directly and browse to your heart’s content! We do this often to find other similar niche accounts to follow and engage with, and also to get some great inspiration.
How To Find The Best Hashtags
A word of warning: the best hashtags to use on Instagram aren’t always the ones that are easily found. By all means, use the search function as we’ve already discussed. But there are a number of other ways to find great hashtags that will get you the results you’re after.
For a start, take a look at what others use! Hashtags aren’t exclusive, so feel free to take a look at posts of accounts you love to see what sort of hashtags they use. If their content is similar to yours, you may just find 30 brand new hashtags to use for your next post.
You can also invest in paid software, like Later. Later analyses hashtags on Instagram and suggests others for you to use too. This way, you avoid wasting your 30 on highly competitive hashtags – more about this later. However, it’s not a cheap way of finding the best Instagram hashtags.
Like we said earlier, we’ve tried a lot of hashtags and hashtag strategies to grow our Instagram and reach more people. You could do what we did, and just do some trial and error until you find what works for you. Granted, it’s not a quick fix, but it’s free.
There is an alternative way of finding the best hashtags to use! We have been storing up travel and blogging related hashtags for over two years in a spreadsheet. And it’s now available in a digital download for you!
This would save you not only two years of grafting but it clearly identifies the hashtags in terms of competitiveness. It also allows you to pick and choose depending on your strategy and own account size.
If you’d like to try before you buy, grab a FREE downloadable PDF of over 100 travel-related hashtags here! This is just a little taster of the database (which has over 700 hashtags in it).
How to Use Hashtags
There are LOADS of Instagram hashtag strategies out there. They include posting the hashtags in the first comment or posting the hashtags in the caption of the post.
Different people will tell you a range of ways to use hashtags on Instagram. We have experimented with both and didn’t notice much of a difference between the two methods. We post in the first comment and prep beforehand by writing our chosen hashtags into a note on our phones.
But hashtags aren’t just reserved for your feed posts! Using hashtags in stories and in your bio (like we do) also increases your chances of being found via that hashtag by awesome new followers or exciting brands looking to work with you! Use this to your advantage and make sure you optimise your bio fully.
The jury is also out on how many hashtags to use on Instagram. The way we see it, we are given 30 chances to reach new people. So we are taking all 30 thank you very much! However, some accounts use only a handful, some use anything between 15-20. Test it out to see what works for you.
Our EXACT Hashtag Strategy
We’ve touched upon this in places already throughout this post. But we want to clearly break down how we effectively use hashtags on Instagram to grow our audience and increase our reach.
- Be specific, but not too specific
Firstly, we take a look at our photo. What does it show? Where are we? Is it both of us in the shot, or just one? Is it taken at an identifiable location?
Break your image down into generic and specific categories. For example, #vietnam is an obvious one and one we have used. But it also has 22.2m posts! You risk losing your post in the sea of other posts under this hashtag.
Instead, try niching down. For example, are you in a cafe? Try #VietnameseCoffee (200k). Are you exploring the local shops? Try #VietnamShop (68.5k). If you find Vietnam’s tourism board profile, it gives you two additional hashtags to use. Plus, it increases your chances of being featured!
But be careful – don’t go TOO specific. #VietnameseChocolate has 1.3k posts. But in this case, you need to consider if it’s worth using one of your 30 Golden Chances (read: Instagram Hashtags) to reach a very small audience. On the plus side, it’s not very competitive, but how many people do you think are searching for that hashtag?
As a rule of thumb, we use the 10/10/10 method when selecting our Instagram hashtags. This means we use 10 large tags, 10 medium tags, and 10 smaller tags. We review our travel hashtags database, assess them for size and competitiveness, and build up our block of 30 from there.
- Mix it up
If you use the same old hashtags over and over again, you risk being penalised by Instagram. From reducing your reach to full-on bans for a few days or weeks, if Instagram thinks you’re behaving like a bot, you will suffer.
When we use Notes to prep our hashtags, we save location-specific ‘chunks’. This allows us to easily see what we used previously, and tweak accordingly. If it worked well, and we posted that image a few days ago, we will use them again. If the hashtags didn’t have the desired effect, we will change it up.
This is a big part of how we use hashtags to grow our Instagram account. Don’t be afraid to try something new, and experiment. If it doesn’t work, take note of what you did and try something different next time.
Now we’ll let you in on a little secret exercise we do every time we post.
Once we have prepared the post and the hashtags and sent everything out onto the world wide web, we engage with the hashtags we have just used.
Put simply, it helps people who have posted similar content find us.
After our post is live, we spend at least an hour liking and commenting on the top 9 photos in each hashtag we have used. We also then go onto the profile of the poster, and like their top 9 too.
Think about it like this: would you go and check out the profile of someone who has liked just one of your photos? Or are you far more likely to go and check them out, engage, and possibly follow them, if they have left meaningful, genuine comments and liked a bunch of your most recent photos?
Plus, Instagram rewards you for spending active time on their app, so it’s a win-win.
Remember though: don’t be spammy, and don’t be disingenuous. People hate that, and it won’t do you any favours.
Proof Of Our Instagram Hashtag Strategy Working
Below, you will see some screengrabs of our own account insights.
They show photos from all points of our own Instagram growth journey. This is to demonstrate that you don’t need tens of thousands of followers to benefit from implementing a strong Instagram hashtag strategy.
They also show what we gain when we take time and care over choosing the best hashtags to use for our Instagram posts. In fact, we started getting paid brand work when we had only a few thousand followers. We put a lot of those down to being searchable and findable through hashtags.
Hopefully, these images will help you to see why it’s so important to learn how to effectively use hashtags.
How To Use Hashtags To Grow On Instagram
We hope that sharing our knowledge and experience of testing the best way to use hashtags will save you some time on your own posts!
Be persistent, and keep trying out new types and sizes of hashtags until you find what works for you. What works for a profile with 1 million followers may not be the best approach if you have 250 followers.
And, as always, if you have any questions or even hashtag knowledge of your own you’d like to share, feel free to leave us a comment!