Using Instagram Tags to Increase Reach and Gain New Followers

Ultimate guide to Instagram hashtags

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes.

Instagram hashtag research can be a daunting, overwhelming task that often lacks structure. How can you be sure which hashtags are best for your specific brand? Which ones will help you grow faster? Which will get the most engagement?

The biggest mistake people make when selecting hashtags is making engagement and total likes a priority over account growth. Try to think about the long game. Is gaining new followers (and potential customers) more important than getting likes on a single post? Absolutely. Before starting to build lists of hashtags to use for your content, there are a few facets of how Instagram operates that you should consider.

First, keep in mind that you can use a total of 30 hashtags per Instagram post. That’s per post — not per caption, or per comment. 30 total hashtags, on your post, across your comments and caption.

Our advice? Use 30 hashtags every time. Every. Single. Time. If you use anything less than 30 hashtags, you're actively hurting the amount of eyes on your content. 29 hashtags won't have as much reach as 30 hashtags.

You have to be careful with how you use those 30, though. Have you ever seen someone with a long list of hashtags in their caption? It looks like spam, alienates followers and damages brand image in the process. Fortunately, there's an easy way to get around this.

The typical caption on Instagram contains 2-4 hashtags. Our goal here is to make your posts seem as natural as possible. Let’s blend in with the crowd, rather than reinventing the wheel. Write your usual caption and include 2-4 of your hashtags. Post the image, then drop the rest of your hashtags in a comment after posting.

Our suggestion is to make a list of 26-28 hashtags, leaving room for 2-4 hashtags in the caption. The important thing here is to have a total of 30, no matter what. Here’s what that looks like in action:

Your main goal in doing Instagram hashtag research should be to come up with 30 tags you can use for each post to improve views on each post.

Your main goal in doing Instagram hashtag research should be to come up with 30 tags you can use for each post to improve views on each post.

How to Choose the Right Instagram Hashtags for Brand Growth

To further protect your brand image, there's a simple way to "hide" your hashtag list at the time of posting. Long comments are automatically hidden and shortened so that the newsfeed doesn't look cluttered when scrolling. You can take advantage of this by adding several lines of filler text as shown in the screenshot above and your hashtag list will be hidden from view. Once a few people leave comments on your post, that shortened comment becomes invisible unless someone clicks the See More Comments button.

With these considerations in mind, let's begin our Instagram hashtag research!

Three Things to Determine When Thinking About Using a Hashtag on Instagram Content:

  1. Frequency: How popular is a hashtag?

  2. Relevancy: Does your content fit in with others using it?

  3. Spam: Have (shitty) marketers ruined it for everyone yet?

1. Hashtag Frequency
The most popular hashtags are almost impossible for small to medium sized businesses and brands to use effectively. Since they are used so frequently, your content is drowned out by the masses. Then it's almost impossible to get your content into the Top Posts section. On top of this, bots and fake accounts will end up leaving spam comments on your posts. That is not exactly the type of engagement you want. Since we are prioritizing account growth over engagement, this means we target less frequently used hashtags. For an account to grow rapidly and at a consistent rate, it's recommended to use hashtags used between 30,000 and 300,000 times. This range is where even a new account can be discovered and enter the Top Posts - sometimes for up to a week at a time.

2. Hashtag Relevancy
Instagram hashtag research is simple, though it can be time consuming at this stage. Search for a hashtag and scroll through the feed of photos. Ask yourself this one question: would your content fit in with the feed of recent photos? If not, then your content will stick out too much and you won't get the engagement (and potential followers) you want.

3. Instagram Spammers
Marketers ruin everything. If there's a way to make money off a platform, marketers will abuse every tactic possible. That’s why we’re all about Stopping the Bullshit. In the current state of Instagram, there are marketers who create networks of fake accounts that spam comments and post identical photos with discount codes for products. Those photos will often use the most popular hashtags for an industry, making the feed cluttered and unprofessional. When one of these hashtags is compromised that means it's time to abandon ship. You don’t want to associate your brand with these spam accounts. If you use one, you'll appear next to their content. This will damage to your brand in the eyes of your target audience.

Using Hashtag Lists to Promote Your Instagram Content

Here's an example of what that good hashtag research looks like. Below is a screenshot of a search we did for #backpackers. It didn't take much time to find spammers who use the hashtag to try to sell clothes, backpacks, and purses. If you're in the travel industry and use this hashtag, there's a good chance you're going to attract spam account followers and comments. They're usually way above the optimal frequency for use anyway, so avoid them altogether.

An important part in selecting effective Instagram hashtags is making sure everyone who uses them is on the same page.

An important part in selecting effective Instagram hashtags is making sure everyone who uses them is on the same page.

How many lists of Instagram tags should you build?

Searching for hashtags to use on your Instagram posts come down to a few factors:

  1. Divide your content into categories. Build hashtag lists for each type of content you post.

  2. How often are you able to make Instagram posts? It's recommended to post once a day, at least, to maintain follower growth. You're going to want more lists to cycle through as you're posting more frequently.

  3. The longer you use a hashtag list, the less effective it becomes. Over time, it will grow in popularity, making the field of competition more fierce. Instagram hashtag research never ends. Check back on them every now and then to be sure they're still within the 30k to 300k range.

The Takeaway: Use 30 hashtags per post. Make sure the hashtags are not so popular that you’ll attract spam and not stand out to your target audience. Hide your hashtags in the comments. Create groups of hashtags that you can add to posts so you’re not spending obscene amounts of time adding them manually. Gain followers. Stop the bullshit. Grow.

Chris Tweten