Are you hashtagging pictures of chips and beans with #foodgoals and STILL wondering why you’re not coming up on the Instagram explore page? Perhaps you’ve got that dark, grainy and blurred photo of those fountains in Dubai from your holiday in 2014 and you just can’t quite understand why millions of followers aren’t flocking over from #wanderlust? Or are you consistently posting banging content, with what you believe to be strategic Instagram hashtags, matched perfectly to your niche and you STILL can’t get any traction?
I’m sure we’ve all been there! From when we first logged on to the now world-famous photo sharing app and we could find pictures of our friend’s cat under #catsofinstagram to now, where it often seems like we could hashtag our own names and hip measurements and STILL not show up.
Instagram hashtags are an often mysterious skill to master. What could work one moment, absolutely won’t work the next. We’re forever fed misinformation around the Algorithm, Shadowban, how many we should use and which ones we shouldn’t, that it can become overly confusing.
Since launching the Ultimate Instagram Hashtag List, I’ve done lots of research on hashtags and their power. So I thought I’d share my findings here.
There is NO hard and fast rule with hashtags. What might work for one account or post, might not necessarily work for another. Which is INCREDIBLY frustrating. But you need to see what works for you.
Many people believe 7-11 hashtags per post is optimum, others believe it’s 20ish. Instagram have given us a limit of 30 so again, experiment with how many you use per post to see what works best.
Furthermore, don’t just use the same ones over and over again. Experiment by mixing them up!
Bear in mind that you’re not always posting the EXACT same photo. So you’ll need to experiment with different hashtags depending on what picture you’re sharing.
Unless you have a niche account where you just show your dog, plates of food or mirror selfies, you’ll have a smaller pool of hashtags to use but there are still THOUSANDS out there, so change them up constantly.
Instagram are (as of writing) trialling a feature that will show us how many impressions each hashtag gives us, as opposed to generalising ‘hashtags’ as our source. This will make it hella easy to bin off ones that aren’t working.
Hashtags can range from small (under 10k posts) to viral (in the millions) so always bear in mind that you’re much more likely to show up in smaller ones (to a smaller group of people) than the viral ones.
Just like keywords in blogging, specific hashtags are more targeted to an audience you want to attract.
For example, if you post about dating, then you’re not likely to appear in #love but you have a better chance of appearing in #datinginnorwich IYSWIM?
It might be worth making a list of all of the topics you post about regularly (fashion, beauty, travel, food etc) and curating a list of hashtags that are relevant.
Some Instagram third party apps (like Plann) let you save sets of hashtags so you can populate them at a click of a button. However, a word of warning, Instagram aren’t a fan of posting from third party apps and it might be something we see them crack down on soon.
I have a Google Sheet (which you can access by signing up, above) where I have organised small, medium, large and extra large hashtags by niche.
I then copy and paste sets of 7, 11, 20, 25 and 30 (as I’m experimenting) into my notes app. When I’m ready to post, I’ll grab a set from my notes and paste it into the first comment!
I created #reallifeandstyle to show everything that my own account is about – documenting real life with a bit of my own personal style thrown in. It now has over 46,000 posts and is a great way for me to go in and find new accounts to engage with.
Once I started the hashtag, I promoted it through stories and my newsletter, by featuring my favourite posts from it.
If nothing else, you’ll have a hashtag that you won’t feel ‘shadowbanned’ on!
Related Post: How To Be An Instagram Influencer
Certain hashtags ARE banned, and you might be discounted against in the algorithm if you’re using shady tactics/bots but as long as you’re using normal hashtags and being NORMAL with your Instagram behaviour, you haven’t been ‘shadow banned’, you might just be experiencing less engagement for a whole host of reasons.
Like with keyword research on your competitors (shall I do a post about this?) it’s a good idea to check which hashtags are being used by accounts similar to yours.
Are they growing followers? Do they have good engagement? If so, try using the hashtags they’re using in your experiments!
GRAB A FREE LIST OF 100+ HASHTAGS!
Just as your posts are discoverable, your Stories are too. You can colour them the same as your background or pinch them so they almost disappear so that they don’t clog up your photos but it’s worth popping a few in.
More and more people are following hashtags on Instagram but not that many are currently hashtagging Stories. This means you have more of a chance of appearing in hashtag Stories. I am now at the point where I’ve said the words hashtag, hashtagging and Stories waaaay too much and it might be time to wrap things up!
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Two seconds after clambering in here for a mid afternoon nap, next door started blasting some seriously bad bashment. To solve my woes I caught up on a few podcasts and drowned my sorrows in Diet Cokes. What podcasts are you listening to at the moment that will stop me from banging on next door’s window and inevitably crying because I don’t like confrontation? (Mug was gifted previously)
A post shared by Vix • Your Zero BS Blog BFF (@vixmeldrew) on
The main thing to remember is that hashtags aren’t a magic wand to wave over your Instagram profiles and perform miracles akin to Hermione Granger travelling in time.
They’re ONE of the tools you should have in your Instagram arsenal to assist you in organically growing your account.
As long as you are experimenting, reflecting and creating the best content you can, you can tag #goals to your heart’s content.
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