How to Use Hashtags on Instagram Effectively – Best Practices

Why You Should Use Hashtags on Instagram?

With all the information out there it can seem complicated to know how to use hashtags on Instagram effectively.

Hashtags are one of the most reliable ways to get users to view your content and increase engagement.  Posts with at least one Instagram hashtag averages 12.6% more engagement than ones who don’t. Imagine how much your engagement could explode with implementing an entire hashtag strategy? Keep reading to find out our best practices for effectively using hashtags on Instagram.  

How Many Hashtags Should I Use?

The number of hashtags does matter in terms of engagement. According to TrackMaven, the popular marketing analytics software, posts with nine hashtags receive the most engagement. Instagram does allow up to thirty hashtags a post, however, it’s not always necessary to use all thirty allowed. 

When it comes to hashtags, the relevance of the tag is more crucial than the amount, but we’ll dive deeper into this later on. For now, it’s important to test the correct amount of hashtags for your brand. Our suggestion is to implement 15-25 different hashtags per post to figure out which ones are effective for your brand. Some posts may take off using more hashtags, while others thrive with a select few. You’ll also want to switch it up and use different hashtags for different photos to avoid stagnant engagement or a spam block from the app itself. There is no concrete answer and the key to finding the best strategy for your account is trial and error.   

Where to Place Them?

Deciding where to place your hashtags is a common roadblock for social media managers, influencers and brands alike. There are two popular choices for where to place hashtags: in the caption or the first comment on the post. Does one improve your engagement or increase the chances of your posts being noticed? 

Truth be told, there is no difference in functionality between the two options. It’s a personal choice. 

Our suggestion for how to use hashtags on Instagram is to put them in the first comment. The reason behind this method is by putting them in the caption they are quickly buried by user comments. The caption route effectively categorizes your content and makes it searchable for users who do not follow you but do not take away from the content in your caption, which should be your greater focus.

If you’re writing an engaging caption with a call-to-action, including tons of hashtags will distract from the main purpose of your post. This is why we recommend placing the hashtags in the comments, out of sight out of mind. To hide the hashtags from an immediate glance in your comments, precede your hashtags with 5 periods, one period per line. Saving this period hashtag wall in your notes will save you time each time you add them to your posts comments. 

Finding the Right Hashtags

Now that you have a better understanding of how many hashtags you should use and where to put them, here comes the important part; finding the right hashtags. Throwing random generic tags in the comments of your most recent post or on stories is not going to improve engagement. 

Hashtags vary in popularity and the number of previous uses a hashtag has can be a great indicator of its usefulness for your account. The more popular a hashtag is the likelihood of your post getting lost in the sea of posts is much greater.  

Find the Right Number of Hashtags

Hashtags with over 500k uses should probably be avoided as well as ones with under 1,000 uses. These hashtags will not benefit your brand because hashtags that are oversaturated already will likely only attract bots to your page. While this may get you some quick likes, most of them will be fake accounts which are not the end goal here. On the other end of the spectrum, using hashtags with too few uses will not encourage engagement. If a hashtag only has 100 uses already, this means people are not using it regularly and therefore no one is searching for it or following the tag, and thus will not be seeing the content you posted.

The relevance of your hashtags is more important than ever with one of Instagram’s more recent features; the ability to follow hashtags. Instead of a user scrolling through an endless feed to potentially find your post, your posts could show up automatically in the feeds of potential new followers. Once a user starts following a specific hashtag, Instagram suggests posts on their feed and users can decide if it’s the type of content they want to see or not. If a post connected to a followed hashtag appears on someone’s feed and it’s not content they enjoy, the user can click “Don’t show for this Hashtag” and the algorithm will take that information and better understand the type of content you want to see. If too many of your posts are marked in this manner there is potential for Instagram to put a block on your account. 

As mentioned, finding a good mix of hashtags comes with trial and error. This can seem overwhelming if you don’t quite understand which hashtags will benefit your specific post. If you’re looking for a little help there are life and time-saving hashtag generators that will compile popular hashtags similar to a keyword you provide. 

Check Out What Hashtags Your Competitors are Using

Aside from a hashtag generator, there are other ways you can implement a hashtag strategy with minimal work on your part. Check what hashtags your competitors and target niche audience are using on their posts. For example, if you run a food account there are tons of popular hashtags for foodies: #eatpraylove, #eatsleeprepeat, #foodblogeats, and #blogfood to name a few. These are popular but do not have more than 500k uses. Adding these types of hashtags to your posts will result in a few extra likes. 

Extremely popular hashtags like #foodporn, #foodie, #foodblogger, and #foodgasm are all so overused your post would have a hard time standing a chance against competitors. Tagging these will likely result in bot likes if any, which is what we’re attempting to avoid.

Now let’s get back to the topic of keeping an eye on your competitors. If you want to emulate another account in your niche, pay close attention to the hashtags they use on their Instagram posts. If they have a well-established audience and high engagement rates, their hashtags could likely help you increase your numbers. Test hashtag walls from multiple influencers or brands in your niche to see if their hashtags increase your engagement. 

Use Instagram’s Search Function 

If you’re looking for a more hands-on approach to creating a hashtag wall, utilize Instagram’s search function. Type in a keyword-relevant to your brand, similarly to how you would while using a hashtag generator and select the tags tab. Instagram will populate a list of hashtags with that keyword as well as the posts tagged with it. Keep in mind the number of people following or already using that keyword. Experiment with a combination of popular and more niche hashtags to find a group that is right for your brand. 

Other Places to Use Hashtags Other Than Your Posts

In addition to adding hashtags in your post captions or comments, Instagram gives other opportunities for users to have their content discovered. Users can easily add hashtags to Instagram stories and include clickable hashtags in their profile bio. 

Use Hashtags in Instagram Stories

There are two methods of adding hashtags to your stories. The first way is by using the hashtag sticker and editing the text. The other method is simply using the text tool and typing the # symbol followed by the hashtag like you would on a photo or video post. Similarly to posts, you’ll want to make sure your hashtag(s) are relevant to the post, but not overused. 

Like in a photo post, there is a limit to how many hashtags you can include in your story. Instagram allows users to add up to 10 hashtags to each story. Even though you are allowed 10 hashtags, try not to clutter your content. 

Adding hashtags to your story presents an opportunity for increased engagement and exposure. Hashtag pages have an Instagram story icon in the top left corner. If you click it, you can view a collection of stories tagged with the hashtag from anyone with a public profile. If you are lucky enough to be featured on a hashtag story, you have the opportunity for brand exposure to a much larger audience than only your followers. This type of reach is the end goal and a prime example of how to use hashtags on Instagram effectively.

Use Clickable Hashtags in Your Bio

Did you know you can also include a clickable hashtag in your profile bio? If a user comes across your page and clicks the hashtag they will be redirected to the hashtag’s page to follow it. This is a great outlet for brands and businesses to display their branded hashtags and a way to stimulate engagement and collect user-generated content to repost on your channels. The user-generated content is a key point to note when learning how to use hashtags on Instagram effectively. 

A branded hashtag is one that’s unique to your business. It can be your company’s name, tagline, an inspirational message, or the name of a specific product. Whatever you choose, you want it to be easy to understand and something that will resonate with users. Branded hashtags create a sense of community and encourage people to share their photos and stories about your brand, product, or business. Businesses with branded hashtags use them to encourage fans to upload their original photos that relate to the hashtag. For example, the popular workout attire brand, Outdoor Voices, uses #DoingThings to get their followers to post photos of themselves getting outside and staying active. This not only represents their company and spreads their mantra, but also leads users to post tons of user-generated content. This is incredible for the company because the user-generated posts promote their products and provide Outdoor Voices with content to repost on their social channels.

Track How Well Your Hashtags are Performing 

By now you should have a Business Profile for Instagram. If not switching to one is a great place to start. Business profiles can track how successfully your hashtag strategy is by using post insights. To access this information click “View Insights” on the individual photo you’re looking to analyze. Swipe up to view the full page of data. Among information like reach, impressions, and profile visits, lies the section about how the people who viewed your post found your page. Within these impressions, you’ll find the “from hashtags” section. This data will allow you to determine which hashtags are driving the most engagement on your posts. Once you find the top-performing hashtags you can use them more often in future posts. As mentioned earlier, even if you find successful hashtags, it’s imperative to change up the hashtags on each post to continually drive engagement and avoid being flagged by Instagram.


Hashtags are many times an overlooked tool that can help you grow your brand. Now that you’ve learned a little more about how to use hashtags on Instagram effectively, you’re on your way to higher engagement, more likes, and the potential for attracting new followers. With these tips for strategically using hashtags, you’ll be able to meet your marketing goals in no time.

See also: Can posts be scheduled on Instagram?