This guide covers everything that you need to know about how to use Hashtags on Instagram in 2021, even if you’re just getting started.
Instagram is constantly evolving with new features and regular updates. The social network is the most popular image-based content platform out there with over a billion active users every month. With so many users and so much content being spread around it’s no surprise that they have to make regular updates to the Instagram algorithm so that users see the content that is most relevant to them, but what about creators?
Let’s get started.
Why are Hashtags important on Instagram?
With over a billion active users every month, Instagram has to deal with over 100 million new images & videos every day. In order to actually get through all these images efficiently and to provide a great user experience, the only solution is an intelligent algorithm that can match the right content to the right people. Now the algorithm is in no way perfect, but it is constantly improving and provides a pretty reliable way of reaching the right people based on a number of factors.
One of the biggest of these factors is the inclusion of Hashtags.
These days, hashtags have become a fairly universal way of grouping similar content together and “tagging” what the image, video, story, reel, tweet, Facebook post, Pinterest pin, YouTube video, etc. represent. You’ll find hashtags on just about every social platform and for many, these are fundamental (Twitter and Instagram), others are slowly trying to make them more important (Facebook) and others have them as an added bonus.
For Instagram, hashtags are a fundamental way of reaching the right people as it’s YOUR chance of providing the algorithm with the information about what this video is about and who should be seeing it. Hashtags are one of the few places that you are able to provide information and context, and the more context you can provide algorithms with, the better your chances are that your content will be promoted appropriately.
If used correctly, hashtags can be the most effective way of reaching the right audience and growing your Instagram profile.
So, let’s take a little deeper look at some things that you need to know about Instagram Hashtags.
Things to know about Instagram Hashtags in 2021
Your privacy settings need to be set to “public” in order to appear on hashtag feeds and on the discovery/explorer page.
You can (and should) use up to 30 hashtags in your Instagram posts and Instagram reels.
You can include up to 10 hashtags in your Instagram Stories.
Whilst hashtags do not help with IGTV video reach if you share the IGTV to your feed, then including up to 30 hashtags will increase the reach like a regular post.
Only hashtags that you have added to the post are enabled, meaning you cannot tag other people’s posts and hashtags people leave in your comments have no effect.
Don’t use spaces and other special characters like “$/%” in your hashtags as these don’t register. For example: “#In$tagram” will not work.
You can include numbers and even flags to your hashtags.
Avoid banned/broken hashtags. If you search for a hashtag and it doesn’t appear, then it’s currently banned/broken. Sometimes this is temporary and the hashtag will work in a few days again, but many are permanently blocked.
The number of times a hashtag has been used is shown next to the hashtag when searching.
How to optimize your Hashtags in 2021
Use niche relevant hashtags.
Avoid ambiguous terms like “water”, “trees”, “fashion”, etc. unless the hero of your post is about that. Ambiguous terms also tend to be more popular and difficult to rank for as there are so many different sub-niches that contribute to it.
Find your niche relevant hashtags and stick to those as they are what your ideal audience would be using to find/stumble upon your content. An example of a niche-specific hashtag for my dog would be #australianshepherd instead of #instagramdog
Use all 30 hashtags on Instagram posts and Instagram reels.
Instagram provides you with 30 opportunities to elaborate and provide context as to what your post is and for you to reach your target audience, why waste those chances? 😉
The majority of your hashtags should be medium popularity depending on the size of your account. As a baseline, consider hashtags with between 50k and 500k posts medium popularity tags. As your account and reach grow, you can slowly increase this bracket.
Avoid mega-popular hashtags (most of the time).
Hashtags that have 5-10mil+ posts will be extremely competitive and will be difficult to rank for. Later on, in the “how to use hashtags on Instagram for best results” section, I’ll show you how to include popular hashtags in your posts and Instagram reels.
Be specific with your hashtag selection.
This helps you find specific people who are looking for your content and posts. These users will be more likely to engage with your posts as they’re actively looking for it. For example, if you have a beautiful image of a day out at Lake Constance in the middle of Europe, it will be far more likely that someone will comment on your post if they see it under #lakeconstance instead of #germany or #switzerland. Be specific with your hashtags in order to join the conversation.
How to find the best Hashtags on Instagram in 2021
Use the search field and search results.
One of the easiest ways to find hashtags is to start typing your hashtag into the search bar and seeing what automatically populates in the search bar. You can then see how popular the hashtag is and when you select a hashtag you can then see if the posts are the right content to match what you post.
Look at popular niche posts.
When you look at a relevant hashtag for your account, go through the top posts and look at what hashtags they’re using. This can often be an easy way to find niche relevant hashtags that you wouldn’t have been able to come up with yourself. Clicking on them will take you to the hashtag feed where you can then see how popular they are and if they’re truly relevant to your profile.
Examine what your competitors are using.
Similarly, to checking top posts within your niche, by looking into what your competitors and similar accounts are using for hashtags, you can get a better idea of what people are engaging with and whatnot. An important thing to note here is that you want to look at successful competitors on Instagram, accounts with good engagement. There’s no point in drawing the wrong inspiration. 😉
Use a tool like Tailwind’s hashtag finder.
Having tested many of the leading schedulers and Hashtag tools, I find Tailwind to be the best overall Instagram tool. One of the biggest reasons for this is the hashtag finder tool that allows you to easily find similar, relevant hashtags that are not overly popular and it doesn’t show any banned/broken/blocked hashtags.
Find out more about Tailwind’s Instagram scheduling features and the hashtag finder here.
Start a free trial of Tailwind for Instagram here.
How to use Hashtags to get the best results
Now that we’ve gone through everything you need to know, look out for, examine, optimize, etc. Let’s put it all together and show you how to use hashtags on Instagram to get the best reach and account growth.
Add your hashtags immediately to your caption, post, story, or Instagram reels.
Should you put your Hashtags in the caption or the comments?
That’s completely up to you, as this is purely an aesthetic feature and it doesn’t affect the reach of a post. What is important is that the hashtags are shared immediately with the post, so only include the hashtags in the comment area if you’re using a tool like Tailwind that has the feature to schedule the first comment immediately with the post as well.
Rotate your groups of hashtags.
Keep things fresh by using different groups of hashtags, if you’re using a scheduling tool, the majority have the ability to save captions so that you can easily copy in your hashtags, but even if you’re not using a scheduling tool (or don’t have access as it’s a paid feature) then you can save lists of hashtags to your phone and then just copy them in when you’re writing your captions. Make sure you do not use the same group of hashtags within a 24-hour window.
Avoid banned/blocked/broken hashtags.
This can cause your account to be shadow banned (temporarily removed from hashtag feeds & the explorer page). If you type in a hashtag in the search bar and it doesn’t appear, then this hashtag has been banned/blocked/broken. If the term doesn’t seem to go against any Instagram guidelines, it may be unbanned in a few days and was only blocked due to excessive spamming/reporting/etc.
Follow the 20-5-5 rule.
This means that the 30 hashtag posts included should be broken down into 3 groups (20+5+5).
20 Medium-sized hashtags (50k-500k), 5 ultra-niche hashtags (10k-50k) & 5 popular hashtags (500k+).
This rule maximizes the reach you can organically get by using ultra-niche hashtags you have a good chance of ranking for, medium-sized hashtags that should let you rank for a few, whilst still allowing for the chance that Instagram pushes your post in one of the popular hashtags.
Final Thoughts on Instagram Hashtags
Hashtags can be a great way to supplement a quality profile to grow on Instagram. If you follow these best practices and tips, you’ll stay in the good graces of the algorithm, whilst having your content be found by the right people who are looking for your content.
Hashtags are not the only aspect of growth on Instagram, there are many more factors, like engagement, content, understanding your audience, and more. All of these factors I cover in my free 7-day Instagram course, which you can find out more about and join here.
- Some more useful free Instagram tools can be found here.
- Start a free trial of Tailwind for Instagram here.
- Create engaging posts, videos, stories, etc. with Canva.
If you want to read this later, please save it to Pinterest.
Now you know how to use Hashtags for Instagram and can start conquering and working with the Instagram algorithm to grow your own personal brand, maybe launch a business, or even take the social presence of your business to the next level.
If you have any Instagram-related questions, please leave a comment below, I appreciate and try to answer every comment. 🙂