I’ll be the first to admit it: Instagram and I have a complicated love-hate relationship. But if there’s one thing that I can always count on being there for me and helping me grow my account is the magical number of 30 hashtags that I’m allowed to use.
So, if you’re struggling to grow your account, I’m going to show you exactly how to find and choose the best Instagram hashtags that will impact your reach like crazy.
But first, a little backstory. In early 2017 I wrote a post about How To Get 30 Real Instagram Followers Daily that got a lot of attention, especially over the past few months as it got picked up on Pinterest.
The post explains in detail one of my experiments/attempts to grow my account and the very real results of that experiment. But it doesn’t take a genius to do the math and figure out that if I would have continued to get 30 followers a day since then, I would be sitting pretty with over 10k followers and a swipe up feature.
But in reality, I’m stuck at somewhere at 4.7k followers. You can check out my account here in case you want to connect and take the place of one of the unfollowers that will inevitably happen by the time I finished posting this.
So what happened?
While I would love to blame it all on the Instagram algorithm, the only thing that changed since I last wrote about this subject is my consistency to follow up with the well-planned out strategy that I explained in this post.
As my blog started taking off, and life got busier, Instagram stopped being a priority. And because my content isn’t very visual to begin with, I began focusing on other social media platforms instead.
Honestly, if I posted more than once a week anytime in the past 6 months, I would be surprised.
But this post isn’t about my inconsistency, my lack of inspiration to create new content or the fact that I’ve used Instagram more as a consumer than a user. (Basically, I’ve used it sporadically to see what other have posted, share stories of my dog, news about my blog & pictures of me that were taken ages ago, because I couldn’t even make the time to take new photos.)
This post is about an approach that I’ve mentioned in my Instagram experiment that continues to work and grow my account even now (at least when I post). And that is the proper use of the hashtags.
While I would be lucky to get 30 followers a week nowadays, whenever I do find the time to create new content and post it with the proper hashtags, something magical happens: I get found by high-quality account in my niche (aka real people who are either like-minded entrepreneurs or bloggers that fit my target audience perfectly).
Amazing content, a flawless feed, engaging captions, captivating stories and an intentional strategy play a big part of growing your Instagram account, but I believe that hashtags are highly overlooked and they might be the reason why you’re stagnating, even if you’re doing everything else right.
In other words – do everything right, but fail to use the proper hashtags and you might not see the results you’re hoping for. Or like me, do everything wrong, but pay attention to the hashtags you’re using and you might see some surprising growth (even if you don’t deserve it). Do both right, and you’ll hit the jackpot!
HOW TO FIND & CHOOSE THE BEST INSTAGRAM HASHTAGS
But that’s easy to say isn’t it? Find the right hashtags, choose them wisely & use them properly! But what do I really mean by that? Well, allow me to explain, little grasshopper.
HOW TO FIND THE BEST HASHTAGS
Before you choose them and use them, you actually have to find the best hashtags out there that are relevant to your account, your content and your audience. What works for me might not work for you, and what works for a beauty blogger, will not work for a dog trainer. (Unless you have a dog beauty salon, in which case, some things may overlap.)
But you get the point. Each type of account is bound to have unique content, and because hashtags are more about using the language that your audience is using to find you then about what words describe your picture the best, there are a lot of variables to consider.
And one word, lazy hashtags (such as #cool #pretty #beauty #food etc) just won’t cut it. Why? Because they are overused, potentially spammy and the competition is crazy. That means that your pictures are going to get lost in a sea of other pictures and even if they do get seen, they will not be seen by who you’re trying to reach (aka the kind of people who will hit follow once they see your account).
Using the right hashtags means getting found by the right kind of people, so you need to put some effort into creating a list for yourself that covers all the types of content you usually post and talks to your ideal followers.
Here are a few ways to hunt down and find the best hashtags to use for your Instagram account:
- Look at the type of pictures you’ve posted in the last 2 weeks. Are they selfies, food shots, inspirational quotes, fashion posts? Make a list of the main categories you usually post in and brainstorm hashtags ideas that would go for each category.
- Think about what you would like to be found for on Instagram for. Is it fashion inspiration, business advice, makeup tutorials, travel lust? Come up with another list of hashtags that you think people would actually search to find you and your content.
- Do your research! Look it up online or use the predictive text on Instagram to find out what are the recommended hashtags. (For example, if you start typing “blog”, the options “blogging”, “blogginglife”, “bloggingproblems” and so on will appear, along with the number of times those hashtags have been used.) Make a note of all the relevant hashtags that come up.
- Spend some time looking at similar accounts and the hashtags they use. (Be sure to look at their first comment, as most people add their hashtags in the comment sections instead of in the caption.)
- Skip this step and swipe a copy of someone else’s Hashtag Database to save yourself tons of time. I bought this for myself last year, and I’m still using it now.
This step (finding the best potential hashtags for your account) is crucial and it will save you so much time in the future because you won’t have to brainstorm 30 new hashtags every time you post.
What you want to do after each of the suggested research methods above, is to add all the hashtags you find to a spreadsheet. You can add sheets for each main category or type of post that you usually have (to make it even easier for later) and split your hashtags that way.
Aim to have at least 50-60 hashtags for each category and make sure to write down each idea you come up with, no matter how silly.
📌 PIN ME FOR LATER
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST HASHTAGS
Ideally, the research phase is more like a brain-dump of potential hashtags that you come up with or come across as you were looking at other accounts. Picking the best hashtags and narrowing down your options to make sure you’re using the 30 spots you have for each photo in the best way possible is the next step.
Only now you get to worry about the quality of the hashtags you’ve added to your list and about scanning your spreadsheet for potential “duds”.
To make sure you’re picking only the best quality hashtags to use on your Instagram account, you will want to take your list and follow the next steps:
- Cross out any hashtags that have less than 20-30k uses and more than 300k. They are either not very popular, or so often used that your picture is going to get lost at sea very quickly.
- Cross out any one-word hashtags.
- Make sure each hashtag is relevant to the type of content you post. (Sometimes, hashtags can have different meanings. Avoid confusion.)
- Look at the hashtags that are left on the list, and go to each one on Instagram to make sure they are not spammed by irrelevant accounts or unavailable. If a hashtag is often used in spammy/inappropriate ways by other users, it might be blacklisted by Instagram.
- Do some research on what are the banned Instagram hashtags and make sure you don’t use those. A short list of restricted hashtags would be: #americangirl, #attractive, #cheeky, #girlsonly, #instagirl, #mirrorphoto, #singlelife and so on. (To check if a hashtag is banned, simply search it on Instagram. If it says it’s been used x times but no pictures show up, Instagram has blacklisted that hashtag.)
I know that seems like a lot of work, but once you get this done, you have a selection of high-quality hashtags to use for whatever you post, and you’ll save yourself loads of time in the long run.
If you simply don’t have enough time to do all this research and find the best hashtags in your niche + actually scan them all to find out what the best ones are, there is a solution! When I decided to get serious about Instagram last year, I knew that I needed to find relevant hashtags to use, but I didn’t even know where to start!
So, I decided to invest in Zoe’s Instagram Hashtag Database and I haven’t regretted it ever since. The database has over 3,000 hashtags in 35 different categories and even covers some secret Instagram communities (for bloggers, crafters, entrepreneurs and so on) that are highly active and that I would have never found on my own.
The hashtag can save you these 2 first major steps that I’ve just mentioned, because every hashtag in there is manually picked (so they are high-quality) and you get to see exactly how many times they have been used, which means you can easily determine if it’s a good fit for you or not.
I truly recommend checking it out if you have no idea where to start looking for hashtags and if you want to tap into some awesome Instagram communities that lead to amazing engagement for your photos.
HOW TO PROPERLY USE INSTAGRAM HASHTAGS
And now comes to the fun part! After all that work, you actually get to use the amazing hashtags you found and picked, and you can reap the results!
There are a few tricks and tips that you should keep in mind as you’re starting to use hashtags on Instagram, to make sure that you’re using them right and not diminishing your reach for one reason or another + that you are efficient in adding them.
Here’s what you should keep in mind as you’re starting to use these hashtags:
- You are only allowed 30 hashtags per picture. Do not try to use more! (Sometimes, just to be on the safe side, I like to use only 28-29.)
- Pair up your final hashtags in groups of 30 (ideally per category) and have them somewhere where you can easily copy-paste them off your phone and into the Instagram app. (I like to use the Evernote app.)
- Switch it up! Never use the same exact group of 30 hashtags for 2 pictures in a row. When you group them up, create 2-3 different groups for each category, with new hashtags in each.
- Post your hashtags at the end of your caption or in the first comment, right after you hit publish. (There is no point in adding hashtags to older photos, as post appears in chronological order when they are grouped by hashtags.)
- Stay clear of banned hashtags. I mentioned this before, but I feel like it’s an important reminder.
So there you have it: my three-step plan to finding and choosing the best Instagram hashtags for your account! If you want to make sure that you’re following through with each step, download my free checklist below:
Have you been struggling with growing your Instagram account lately as well? Have you tried switching up your hashtags? Continue the conversation in the comment section below and feel free to drop a link to your Instagram account.