The Ultimate Guide to Finding the Best Hashtags for Instagram

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Alexz Miller

Last Updated: May 13, 2022

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Responsible for improving engagement by an average of 12.6%, the best hashtags for Instagram are the driving force behind many influencers’ and brands’ popularity on Instagram. The most iconic hashtags can make a campaign go viral or turn a startup into a household name. These powerful keywords are a brand’s superpower– when used correctly.

Understanding How Hashtags Work

Simply defined, hashtags are labels for content on social media. On Instagram, hashtags categorize video and photo content, allowing other users to “discover” new posts and accounts by searching for or following specific hashtags. Strategic hashtag use is essential for any Instagrammer hoping to grow their audience and improve their content discovery.

While any word or set of words can essentially be used as a hashtag, there are certain hashtags that work better than others.

“Hashtags can be classified by location, niche, and popularity”

  • Location hashtags feature a city, state, or the name of a store or brand in a specific location, like “#humansofnewyork” or “#californiagirls
  • Niche hashtags speak to the specific audience or industry that you are hoping to reach, like “#fitinspiration” or #blackgirlblogger
  • Popular hashtags are any hashtags that are trending or have gone viral, like “tbt” on Thursdays or #mondaymotivation at the start of each week.

Other Instagrammers will be able to discover new content through these hashtags by searching for them or following that hashtag.

“The biggest growth method I’ve had on Instagram came from reposting top content found online. I’d look for content that had the highest level of engagement, share it with my audience, include about 15-25 hashtags which would often result in my content surfacing higher. By doing this I was able to get over 10,000 followers in only a few months.” – Nicole Martins Ferreira,

Brands can use hashtags by posting them alongside a video or photo that they’ve shared, including a few hashtags inside their Instagram story, or sharing one or two as part of their Instagram bio.

How To Find Hashtags

There is no one size fits all formula for finding the best hashtags for Instagram. Each brand has to find a set of hashtags that works for them. The hashtags you should use are the ones that attract other like-minded individuals, influencers, and brands.

Many brands start their hashtag search by using certain hashtag analysis tools, by searching Instagram or by looking at the hashtags of competitors.

“I recommend researching the hashtags of IG accounts that attract the types of followers you’re looking for. The hashtags are usually included in the caption or in the first comment. Use them as much as possible–appropriately, of course–on your posts to help build your following.”-Elisabeth Daniels, @elisabethwriter

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Methods for Finding the Top Instagram Hashtags:

Using Tools to Find Hashtags

Certain apps and software find and analyze the best hashtags for Instagram for specific niches. A hashtag generator tool will update users with the most popular hashtags and an analysis of their effectiveness.

“Using 30 hashtags is the key if you want to grow on Instagram especially if you have a small audience. You can use tools like Displaypurposes, Tag Blender or Instagram search to find relevant hashtags for your business. A cool hack is to save all 30 hashtags as a keyboard shortcut on your phone. Now you don’t have type or even copy paste. #WorkSmartNotHard” -Ali Mirza, @alimirza2k

Searching Instagram for Hashtags

Using Instagram for hashtag research is one the most effective ways to find new hashtags. As you search a word or niche, Instagram will display related hashtags. For example, When searching for “food”, Instagram will display “#foodporn”, “#food”, #foodphotography”, etc.

example of looking up hashtags for Instagram

As you search these hashtags, Instagram displays the number of posts that have been tagged with that hashtag. To see other popular hashtags within the same niche, select a popular hashtag and swipe through the related hashtags displayed under the search bar. Tip: look through the “top posts” section to find what other related tags people are using!

“So here’s the deal. Everyone knows that part of any powerful Instagram strategy is researching and using relevant hashtags. But to leverage those hashtags even more by clicking on them and starting to leave original and meaningful comments with other users. I try and be among the first 5-10 commenters to stand out. I also try and show that I’m not a bot by mentioning a specific detail in the image. Lastly, I try and ramp up some of my relationships by making sure I like and comment on a user’s feed frequently. Then I DM them and ask about a piece of content or I ask if I can share something, and I let an authentic relationship bloom naturally from there.” -Christie Osborne

Use Competitor’s Hashtags

Hashtags begin trending as more Instagrammers start using them. If you see another brand or influencer using a trending hashtag that is perfect for your audience, add it to your list. To illustrate, a home and lifestyle blogger looking to attract like-minded Instagrammer’s may want to start using the hashtag “#HearthAndHand” after seeing Target use it.

Create Brand-Specific Hashtags

Brand specific hashtags will allow other users to easily search through posts by the brand, as well as user-generated content that other users have tagged with that brand-specific hashtag. A search for the hashtag “#nikewomen” shows users showing off their fitness routines, workout gear, and similar “fitspo” content.  

branded hashtag on instagram

Be sure to make saving and storing your hashtags part of your hashtag research process. Save your hashtags in a note on your phone to make it readily accessible whenever you make your next Instagram post. When actually posting the hashtags, add it in the first comment instead of the caption, as this looks cleaner.

Choosing the Best Hashtags for Instagram

To find the right hashtag, you kneed to know what works and what doesn’t. While a popular hashtag may seem like the right choice, if it is used too frequently by other users, it will likely be far too populated for you to gain any new followers from it. The perfect hashtag choice is something specific that can be used strategically.

The following examples show how brands and influencers can pick the best hashtags for Instagram:

Example 1. The Instagram Hair and Beauty Micro-influencer

Kaya is a micro-influencer on Instagram that promotes beauty and hair brands on her Youtube account. She hopes to grow her following of 2500 and boost her engagement. Kaya’s followers are mostly friends and family that that know her in real life, as well as new followers that she’s gained through Youtube and Instagram. Most of her posts feature hashtags like “#happy” and “#love”.

While Kaya shares strong content, she can significantly step up her use of hashtags. Instead of using those overpopulated hashtags, Kaya should start using a mix of brand-specific, long-tail, and popular hashtags.

For the audience she has, Kaya’s best hashtags for Instagram would be the following:

  • Brand-specific and longtail hashtags: #HairCarewithKaya, #makeuplovershoutouts
  • Trending hair and beauty hashtags: #coloredhairgoals, #makeuptransformation #makeupideas
  • Beauty product hashtags: #Maccosmetics, #NYXprofessionalmakeup,  #Smashbox

While these are just a few of the most popular Instagram hashtags Kaya might use to attract new followers, it’s a good idea for her to keep looking for new hashtags. Different hashtags start trending every day, so it’s important to never get too comfortable with the hashtags that you use.

Example 2: The Small Business

Bark It Up, a Brooklyn-based dog salon and daycare has a loyal and supportive clientele within their community. With a following on Instagram of 800 users, Bark It Up should tap into the incredibly popular Instagram dog niche to attract new followers. The following hashtags would best reach out to dog lovers and dog owners within their community:

  • Brand-specific and long-tail hashtags: #Letsbarkitup, #doggosdoingthings  
  • Trending and local hashtags: #dogspa, #brooklyndogs, #newyorkdogs
  • Industry hashtags: #rescuesaveslives #adoptnotshop

As a small business, Bark It Up needs to make reaching out to their local audience a priority. With the local hashtags, they will be able to catch the attention of dog lovers living in New York, as well as other Instagrammers that just love dogs.

The Takeaway

Using hashtags on Instagram is one of the most effective ways for brands and influencers to grow their audience and monetize their Instagram campaigns, both online and in person. Brands that take full advantage of using hashtags will see their engagement improve almost immediately. While Instagrammers must make a constant effort when searching for and strategically using hashtags, this is the key difference between a mediocre account and a powerhouse influencer.

Here’s a bonus material you can use as your Instagram hashtag guide in 2020. Share this infographic material with friends and colleagues too!

infographic on the ultimate guide to hashtags for Instagram

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