Everything you need to know about Instagram hashtags in 2019

February 22, 2019 0 By Phil Gee

People can follow hashtags now

That means your content can end up in a users’ feed even if they don’t follow you. And if you’re sharing great content and tagging it with relevant hashtags, many of them will start following you.

Instagram page to follow hashtags

Using irrelevant hashtags (or the same ones over and over) is a bad idea

When a user follows a hashtag and sees something they don’t like they can select the “Don’t Show for This Hashtag” option.


The feature is designed to teach the Instagram algorithm what content a particular user likes. No, there’s no such thing as the Instagram “shadowban.” But if too many of your posts are flagged, it’s reasonable to assume your content will be shown less often (or not at all).

As for the practice of using the same long list of hashtags on every post… Don’t do it. Instagram’s community guidelines clearly state that “posting repetitive comments or content” is not okay.

When you create a post, only use hashtags that make sense. If you tag a post with #wanderlust, for example, your content must be something globetrotters will want to comment on, like, and share.

It’s not about getting seen by a lot of people, it’s about getting seen by the right people. That’s how hashtags lead to higher engagement and more followers.

Business profiles can measure how effective their hashtags are

If you’ve made the switch to an Instagram business profile, you have access to post insights which tell you how many impressions you received from hashtags.

How to access the data:

  1. Select the post you want data on and tap View Insights below the post on the left.
  2. Swipe up to see all the insights for that post, including the number of impressions from hashtags.

Instagram analytics showing number of post impressions from hashtags used

By tracking this data you can begin to figure out which hashtags are most effective for improving reach.

You can use hashtags on Instagram Stories

Hashtag pages have an Instagram Story icon in the top left corner. Click on it and you’ll see a collection of Stories posts tagged with the hashtag from people with public profiles.

If you’re lucky enough to get your post in a hashtag Story, you can expose your brand to a large audience.

There are two ways to add hashtags to your Stories. The first method is by using the hashtag sticker and changing the text. Or you can simply use the text tool and the # symbol to type out the hashtag the same way you would on a photo or video post.

You can add up to 10 hashtags on a Story, but take care not to clutter your content. You can shrink your hashtags or even hide them behind an emoji, sticker, or GIF.

You can add hashtag links in your bio

And when a user taps it they will be taken to that hashtag’s page to follow it. For businesses with popular branded hashtags (more on that later), it’s a great way to foster engagement or collect user-generated content.

You can include up to 30 hashtags on a regular post, and up to 10 hashtags on a Story

If you try and use more, your comment or caption won’t post.

You can only tag your own posts

If you leave a hashtag below someone else’s post will your brilliant comment be more discoverable? No.

How to find the best Instagram hashtags for your brand

The hashtags you want to use will depend on what space your business operates in.

Let’s say you’re a social media manager for a travel agency. There are a ton of hashtags that are popular with jet-setters: #welltravelled, #justbackfrom, #whatsinmybag, and #passportexpress—to name a few. Tag your posts with any number of these and you will likely get a few extra likes.

But if you really want to increase engagement and gain quality followers, include more specific hashtags. If you post a photo of a travel destination, tag it with relevant location hashtags and the resort’s branded hashtag (if there is one).

How do you find out which hashtags your audience is already following? Here are a few tips to help you answer that question.

Check out what hashtags your competitors are using

Maybe you’ll discover new hashtags to add to your repertoire. Or you could decide you don’t want to compete for the same eyeballs, in which case you can search for alternative hashtags to use.

Use hashtags that influential people in your industry are using

These people are already well-established with your audience, so why not learn from the best?

Use Instagram’s search function

Type a keyword that’s relevant to your brand into Instagram’s search bar (a.k.a the Explore feature) then select the Tags tab. Instagram will give you a list of all the hashtags with that keyword, as well as a number of posts that are tagged with it.

A large number may mean lots of people following that hashtag, but it also means there’s a ton of content on it and your posts might get lost. Experiment with a combination of popular and niche hashtags to find your brand’s sweet spot.

Consider related hashtags

On any hashtag page, right above the “Top” and “Recent” tabs, you’ll find a list of related hashtags that you can scroll through by swiping left. This is a great way to find relevant hashtags that might be a bit more niche. And that means an even more targeted audience with less content to compete with.

#Travel Instagram hashtag page showing related hashtags include #travelphoto and #tourism

Look to your most successful posts for trends

Browse through posts containing a hashtag you’re already having success with. Do you see a trend of other common hashtags that could be included in future posts?

When it comes to choosing Instagram hashtags, the golden rule is: use only hashtags that are relevant to your brand, industry, and audience.

#Love is one of the most popular hashtags on Instagram, tagged in over 1.3 billion posts. But your company is not going to attract those hashtag followers if you attach it to a photo of your boring boardroom.

Again, if you tag your photos with popular, but unrelated hashtags, you might be flagged as a spammer.

11 Instagram hashtag tips and tricks

Let’s review what we’ve learned so far, plus a few more strategies to help you achieve your Instagram goals.

1. Don’t use irrelevant hashtags

Stuffing irrelevant hashtags onto posts is spammy behavior. It will annoy people who follow those hashtags and they will likely tell Instagram to “Don’t Show for this Hashtag.”

Hashtags must be used strategically. You will only increase engagement if you give the audience what they’re looking for, i.e., quality content that speaks to their interests.

2. Use the right amount of hashtags

According to an analysis by TrackMaven, posts with nine hashtags receive the most engagement.

Graph and data comparing number of hashtag used and the average engagement per post.

But that doesn’t mean you should tag every post with a lot of hashtags. Again, they must be relevant to the content. Using a popular hashtag like #followmeback might get you a few new followers, but they’ll likely be the wrong kind—spammers or people looking to inflate their own follower count. These people will not engage with your brand.

The content of your posts must inform what and how many hashtags you use.

3. Use specific or niche hashtags

The more specific the hashtag, the more targeted your audience will be. And a targeted audience means a higher chance of quality engagement.

If you’re after Volkswagen lovers, for example, the hashtag #vwvan will get you in front of a higher converting audience than something more broad like #van. (But make sure your picture is actually of a Volkswagen van.)

4. Don’t swear off popular hashtags entirely

As long as they’re relevant to the post and used sparingly, popular hashtags can help expand your reach without making you seem desperate or spammy.

We list some of the most popular hashtags at the end of this article with tips on how to use them responsibly.

5. Make sure that hashtag means what you think it means

You don’t want to inadvertently attach your brand to a raunchy or nefarious campaign. When you combine two or three words together, does it spell out something else?

There’s a pretty famous example of this from 2012. Susan Boyle had a new album out, and the hashtag to promote it used the phrase “Susan album party.” And without spaces some people thought “Su’s” party was of a very different sort.

Before using any hashtag, be sure to browse through the hashtag page to ensure the associated content is appropriate.

6. Save hashtags for future use

If you often use the same hashtags for every post, you can save them in a note to save time. (Note: use this trick sparingly. Remember, every hashtag you put on a post must fit with the content and should not be too repetitive.)

How to do it:

  1. Create a new note in your notes app
  2. Add all of your most-used captions to a running list
  3. Whenever you’re uploading a post, navigate from Instagram to the notes app, copy your text, and then paste it in the caption

7. Hide hashtags

Don’t clutter your content. Keep the reader focused on what’s important: your compelling caption.

How to do it in a comment:

  1. Upload your content as usual but leave out the hashtags in the caption box
  2. Once your post is published, simply click the speech bubble icon under your post to leave a comment
  3. Now write out or paste the hashtags you want to include in the “Add a comment…” box and tap Post
  4. Once your photo or video gets more comments, your hashtags won’t be visible unless a users taps the “View all comments” button

How to do it in the caption:

You can also bury your hashtags within the caption itself.

  1. Tap the 123 key when composing a caption
  2. Then tap Return
  3. Enter a piece of punctuation (whether a period, bullet, or dash), then hit Returnagain
  4. Repeat steps 2 to 4 at least five times
  5. Instagram hides captions after three lines, so your hashtags won’t be viewable unless your followers tap the “more” option on your post

Flight Centre.ca hides their Instagram hashtags under line breaks and within the comment section.

8. Add a hashtag to a post you’ve already published

If you want to add hashtags to a post you’ve already uploaded, tap the three dots in the top right corner of your screen and select Edit to add to the caption.

Again, you can also add hashtags post-publishing by tapping the speech bubble under the photo and typing the hashtags in as a comment.

9. Consider using brand hashtags

A brand (or branded, if you prefer) hashtag is one that’s unique to your company or campaign. It could be as simple as your business name, tagline, or name of one of your products.

Herschel Supply Co. uses a few branded hashtags, including #herschelsupply and #welltravelled. The latter was created for a campaign to encourage customers to share travel photos featuring Herschel products. Now tagged in millions of posts, it is often cited as one of the most popular travel hashtags on Instagram.

Like Herschel, you can create a brand hashtag for a specific campaign or to simply showcase your company culture, products, or services.

If you’re running an Instagram campaign, having a brand hashtag will help drive participation and engagement. It will also organize all the posts that are tagged with it on a hashtag page. This is helpful if you’re using the hashtag to collect entries for a promotion or contest submissions.

Or you can use branded hashtags to simply promote your company—the people, wins, and culture. At Hootsuite, we use #HootsuiteLife for that purpose.

10. Keep your brand hashtags short and easy to remember

That way your fans and customers can easily remember it. You want to be specific, but something like #SanFranciscoLuxuryCarEnthusiasts for a high-end auto show won’t catch on because it has too many characters. “#SFCarLovers” makes more sense in this case.

11. Experiment with emoji hashtags

In addition to numbers and letters, emoji can be include in hashtags (spaces and special characters, such as % or $, don’t work). These animated icons are eye-catching and, because they can stand in for entire words, will keep your hashtags short.