Hashtags on Instagram – The where, why and how

Why do we need them?
Where do we use them?
How do we know which hashtags to use – and how many?

But first of all:

What are hashtags?

Hashtags are, quite simply, a filing system; a way of categorizing content so it can be easily found. Hashtags allow social media users to search for relevant conversations.

Why should businesses use hashtags as a part of their Instagram strategy?

1) To give your brand greater visibility

For example, if I want to look for boutique hotels, I type #boutiquehotel into Instagram:

Wouldn’t it be great to appear in this feed (if you’re a boutique hotel of course!)? By using relevant hashtags, you can appear more often in people’s feeds and you can appear in feeds of people who don’t follow you.

Even using one hashtag on your Instagram posts can get you up to a whopping 12.6% more engagement. (Later.com)

2) To separate your brand from your competitors

You can even create your own hashtags and use them in a way that people begin to associate your brand with that hashtag.
Joe Wicks’ hashtag #leanin15 went from being a hashtag to a multi million pound industry!

Using hashtags in the right way on Instagram can really boost your social media presence and can help you be more targeted in your marketing strategy on social media.

If you create a branded hashtag like this and ask your followers to follow it, you have a chance of turning up twice in their feed – once for the name of your account (which they follow), and once for your hashtag (which they also follow). Doubling your chances of engagement!

3) To be more targeted in your marketing

Let’s say you’ve just rolled out a new vegan menu – if you use relevant hashtags such as:

            #vegan            #plantbaseddiet         #cleaneating               #paleo

people following or searching for those hashtags are more likely to have your post served to them in their feed, (please excuse the pun!). Therefore you know that your post is being seen by people who are interested in the things you’re talking about in the post. 

Where to use hashtags

The rules vary for each platform.

Twitter: Pretty much the rule is 3. No more and no less.  According to Hubspot, tweets with hashtags get 53% more engagement than those without – but only 3! Use more and you will look ‘spammy’.

Facebook: Phew, you can relax as you don’t use hashtags on Facebook – unless you’re using one as a joke or for emphasis.

Instagram: This is where hashtags get serious!  The use of hashtags on Instagram is big business! Here you can use up to 30 hashtags per post. There is huge controversy over whether you should use all 30 or a magic number (which usually is 9). I recommend using all 30 every time, I’ve tried using less and it didn’t work.

LinkedIn: Hashtags are fairly new on Linked In and it seems the same rule applies as for twitter: 3 seems acceptable. If you want to know more about how to use hashtags on LinkedIn, hold fire as I’m working on helping you with that one!

How to use hashtags effectively in your Instagram strategy

So you have 30 hashtags to use, where do you start?

How many followers do you have?

If you have a low number of followers and you use a really popular hashtag like #hotel, I’m afraid you won’t get much exposure. Your hashtag will, literally, be drowned out by all the other #hotel hashtags.

So if you’re starting out, you need to think smart and use some less popular hashtags. Although they’re not as popular, they will get seen. For example #hotelpool #citycentrehotel. Mix it up so you use some popular ones with some less common ones too.

Change them up regularly

If you just keep using the same hashtags you are likely to be presenting yourself to the same audience every time you post.  Also, Instagram doesn’t like that technique (it thinks you’re being lazy!),  so the infamous algorithm will punish you by not pushing your posts up people’s feeds. Not to say change every hashtag on every post but change the combination around for each post.

Keep an eye on the hashtags your competitors are using

It’s worth doing this as you may want to actively use the same as them or actively NOT – depending how well their posts are performing!

Get inspiration from influencers

That’s why they’re call ‘influencers’ right?!


What works for one may not work for another. The only way you will really know what is working for you is to measure your results. If you have a business account on Instagram you have access to your metrics or insights. Below each post you can ‘View Insights’. Click to expand the screen and you can see how many people saw your post purely because of the hashtags you used.

Use different types of hashtags

To make it easier for you, here are the main types of hashtags so you can think which ones suit each post. Use a few of each and you should start to form a good, all round hashtag strategy.

Geo hashtags

Your town, your street, the name of your business even. The more specific you can get, the better. Why? If I used #london for example, my post would get lost in the sea of all the other #london hashtags. However, if I use #highbury (my neighbourhood), then only people interested in Highbury would be looking for that hashtag so I’m more likely to appear in their feed. You can go super targeted using the name of your street and even the venue where you are. If it’s somewhere well-known, it may have it’s own hashtag you can use.

Trending hashtags

Twitter is kind and tells us which hashtags are trending that day so check your notifications. You can also type  ‘trending hashtags’ into your search engine and see if any are relevant to your business.

What is in the picture?

Take a look at the image you’re posting and see what’s there and hashtag it! 

Here I would use the following hashtag to describe what is in the picture:

#pie #steakandalepie #pieandmash #mash #mashedpotato #gravy #dinner #meal #pubgrub #supper #lunch #vegetable #cabbage #greencabbbage #pubgrub

Emotional or ‘feelgood’ hashtags 

In this picture of a pie dinner, I may use: #nomnom #yummy #heartyfood #fulltummy #mealwithfriends #heartymeal

So there you have an introduction to hashtags. There really is so much more to tell but I think this is enough to be going on with!  Be adventurous, play around to see what works for you.

Always remember though, that whatever you’re posting should be for your audience: always have them at the forefront of your mind when thinking about what, how and when to post. Think about what they would find interesting, funny, attractive.

If it all sounds a bit daunting, get in touch and I’ll see if I can help you.  If this all makes perfect sense and you want to learn more, let me know and I’ll write “Hashtags the sequel” – just fill in the contact form and I’ll be in touch!

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