how to do hashtag research on Instagram

Hashtags are an important discoverability tool on Instagram. They tell Instagram what your post is about and they help people who are interested in that content find you. Think about it this way: how do people find new accounts to follow on Instagram? Unless they know you and come to you through one of your other channels (like your newsletter or Facebook, for example), they’ll use hashtags to find your content. If you’re not using hashtags for your content, you lose that chance at being discovered. 

How Many Hashtags to Use (and Where to Put Them)

Instagram allows you to use a total of 30 hashtags on a post in the feed, which includes any hashtags you put in the comments. The algorithm doesn’t seem to care how many you use, but current research suggests using at least 11 or more for optimum engagement. There’s no need to worry about hashtag fatigue; more hashtags will generally increase likes on your posts. And it doesn’t matter if you put them in the caption or in your comments, that’s purely an aesthetic decision that’s up to the user.

Instagram also encourages Business users to include hashtags in their bios to help drive discoverability. You can also use up to 10 hashtags in Stories.

Which Hashtags to Use

Deciding which hashtags to use takes some research. It’s of utmost importance that you only use hashtags that are relevant to your brand, industry, and audience. If you tag your content with unrelated hashtags you could be flagged as a spammer.

To get started, consider the following categories from which to find hashtags: 

  • Brand hashtags: Always create a hashtag for your brand. Use it in your bio and all of your brand-related posts. Encourage your customers to use it so you can discover their posts about your business.
  • Industry hashtags: Look at what your competitors and customers use when talking about your industry.
  • Product/Service hashtags: What product or service are you featuring in the post? 
  • Special events and holiday hashtags: Are your products great for weddings or Christmas gifts? Find hashtags specific to these topics to use in relevant posts. 
  • Location hashtags: Do you have a brick and mortar? Are you at a craft show? 
  • Niche hashtags: These hashtags may not have a lot of users, but the people who use them are passionate about the subject. 
  • Fun hashtags: Throw a few hashtags in for fun or to express a feeling.

Find multiple hashtags to use in each of the relevant categories above. Some hashtags will be extremely popular with millions of posts, some will be extremely small with posts in the hundreds. Use a mix of popular and niche hashtags. A good formula to try might be to use: 10 industry hashtags, 5 product/service hashtags, 10 event/holiday hashtags and 5 from the other categories (with 1 being your brand hashtag). 

How to Find Relevant Hashtags

Use these research methods to discover hashtags relevant to your posts and business:

  • What your competitors are using?
  • What your customers are using?
  • What are influencers in the space using?
  • Use Instagram’s Search (or Explore) tab. Enter your hashtag into the search bar. You’ll see the Top results for that search, which are a mix of hashtags and accounts. When you tap on a hashtag, you’ll see how many posts are using that hashtag and you’ll get a list of related hashtags under it. Keep tapping on hashtags to find related hashtags and choose a few that are less popular. You can also tap on the top accounts to see what types of hashtags they are using.

Hashtag use is an essential piece of your Instagram strategy. Using relevant, targeted hashtags can put you in front of your target audience which could turn into more engagement, followers and more customers for your business.

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Melanie O’Brien is a social media professional with 7+ years of experience driving audience growth and engagement. Her past experience includes working in the creative lifestyle space as a former sewing blogger and fabric shop owner. She currently works with small creative businesses and organizations managing social media posting and strategies to free up their time to do more creative work. Find out more on her website: https://www.melanieobrien.net/ 

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