Twitter may have invented social media hashtags, but Instagram put them on the map. Instagram hashtags are vital, especially if you want to increase your reach to connect with more members of your target audience.
These days, Instagram hashtags not only categorize your content and makes it discoverable by users, but they are an effective way to get more followers, increase engagement and expand reach and brand awareness.
If you’d like to tap into the platform’s potential to reach a huge audience, upping your hashtag game is the way to go, especially now that users can follow entire hashtags just like they can follow specific users. It’s essential to be strategic, creative, and intentional about your hashtag research and usage.
As organic reach declines and paid impressions rise with the algorithm changes put in place to push brands to pay for exposure, hashtags still represent the single best way to organically drive your social marketing campaigns, by leveraging your Instagram posts to boost reach on the platform.
In this post, we’re going to go over everything you need to know about getting more reach with the right Instagram hashtags in 2021.
This video by our pals at Hootsuite also gives a good introductory explainer to Instagram hashtags:
Everything You Need to Know About Instagram Hashtags
Instagram hashtags are essentially clickable and searchable topics created by adding unbroken text to the # sign. You can add them to posts, Stories, and IGTV videos.
When Instagram users click on a hashtag, they’re taken to a feed of popular posts and a feed of recent posts using that hashtag. As of a few years ago, users can also now follow hashtags like they’d follow an account, giving brands an in to show up in users’ feeds even if they aren’t following said brand.
Hashtags are one of the easiest ways to expand your reach quickly on Instagram. The Instagram algorithm takes hashtags into account when determining which users would want to see what content in their “suggested” content in-feed or in their Explore section, and users will sometimes browse relevant hashtags to find content that’s relevant to them.
The Top 50 Instagram Hashtags in 2021
According to Hootsuite, these are the top Instagram hashtags in 2021 based on the number of posts in which they’re used:
- #love (1.835B posts)
- #instagood (1.150B posts)
- #fashion (812.7M posts)
- #photooftheday (797.3M posts)
- #beautiful (661.0M posts)
- #art (649.9M posts)
- #photography (583.1M posts)
- #happy (578.8M posts)
- #picoftheday (570.8M posts)
- #cute (569.1M posts)
- #follow (560.9M posts)
- #tbt (536.4M posts)
- #followme (528.5M posts)
- #nature (525.7M posts)
- #like4like (515.6M posts)
- #travel (497.3M posts)
- #instagram (482.6M posts)
- #style (472.3M posts)
- #repost (471.4M posts)
- #summer (454.2M posts)
- #instadaily (444.0M posts)
- #selfie (422.6M posts)
- #me (420.3M posts)
- #friends (396.7M posts)
- #fitness (395.8M posts)
- #girl (393.8M posts)
- #food (391.9M posts)
- #fun (385.6M posts)
- #beauty (382.8M posts)
- #instalike (374.6M posts)
- #smile (364.5M posts)
- #family (357.7M posts)
- #photo (334.6M posts)
- #life (334.5M posts)
- #likeforlike (328.2M posts)
- #music (316.1M posts)
- #ootd (308.2M posts)
- #follow4follow (290.6M posts)
- #makeup (285.3M posts)
- #amazing (277.5M posts)
- #igers (276.5M posts)
- #nofilter (268.9M posts)
- #dog (264.0M posts)
- #model (254.7M posts)
- #sunset (249.8M posts)
- #beach (246.8M posts)
- #instamood (238.1M posts)
- #foodporn (229.4M posts)
- #motivation (229.1M posts)
- #followforfollow (227.9M posts)
It’s so important to note, though, that while these posts are used the most frequently in 2021, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to be the most effective at driving engagement, reach, or followers for your content.
The “likeforlike” hashtags, for example, often won’t get you a ton of engagement, just followers who only want followers back in most cases. They aren’t necessarily the kind of followers you want, because they likely won’t belong to your target audience. Similarly, plenty of users love to add an #instamood to their post but don’t actually go check out the topic too frequently.
Instagram Hashtags Search: How to Find the Best Hashtags for YOUR Brand
Now it’s time for the content everyone wants to know most: How to find the best hashtags for your specific brand. This needs to be strategic, carefully researched, and then tested over time.
Let’s take a look at how to do that.
Know the Different Types of Hashtags
First, it’s important to understand that there are different types of hashtags, which can be used for different purposes and to help you connect to your audience in different ways.
These are the core types of hashtags:
- Branded hashtags. These typically include your brand name, a brand tagline, or a branded slogan. They’ll typically be included in most brand posts, and you can encourage followers to use it on posts for contests or other content they create related to your brand (a.k.a. user-generated content).
- Location hashtags. These might include the city, state, region, or even shopping mall where your business is located. Local businesses can take advantage of these hashtags so they can connect with local users who might become customers. Think #LoveOrlando or #DallasNights.
- Niche interest hashtags. Hashtags can be used to find users interested in your content, and appealing to niche interests like technology, vegan food, or Australian shepherds through relevant hashtags can help you do exactly that. Examples might include #bigtechnews or #tofulife
- Broad appeal hashtags. These are the “live laugh love” signs of the hashtag world, and many of them appear in 2021’s popular hashtags list. These are often used and well recognized, like #instagood or #TGIF and can help you appeal to a larger audience base.
- Time-sensitive or seasonal hashtags. Right now, I can guarantee that Instagram’s feeds are flooded with posts with hashtags like #itsfallyall or #sweaterweather. Seasonal hashtags are great, especially for shopping-focussed posts. Timely posts and trending topics can also have hashtags, like #2020election or #tokyoolympics.
- Entertainment hashtags. These hashtags are meant purely to entertain or appeal to your target audience, which is why they may show up within the post text instead of in the hashtag section that’s often separated from the main caption. Ending a post with #toldyouso could be an example, but this could be anything creative and doesn’t need to have a strong potential reach because it’s meant to appeal to the audience already seeing your content.
It’s often best to include multiple types of hashtags for each individual post to best connect with your target audience and to frequently switch up the hashtags you use (except for the branded hashtags).
With that being said, let’s take a closer look at how to actually find the right hashtags to use.
Step 1: Think About Audience Segments
Who are your customers, and what do they have in common? This is where buyer personas can come in handy so you can have a good idea of different segments of your target audience.
A local upscale Greek restaurant, for example, might want to reach local users within a certain city or county, customers who love trying new food, and customers who are foodies who want high-cost experiences. They might use hashtags like #DenverDines, #bestofGreekfood, #DenverDateNights, #authenticGreekfood , and #mediteranneandiet.
A nutritionist would also be a food-centered business, but maybe they offer services online and don’t need to worry about location hashtags to reach their audience. They’re focused more on a healthy-eating audience, so while they might still use #mediteranneandiet like the Greek restaurant, they’d likely use different hashtags like #healtheats, #licensednutritionist, and #chickendinnerrecipes.
Understanding who your audience is, what they want to find, and how they might be looking for it is essential. Take a close look at your buyer personas and write down a list of different topics that people might be searching for or interested in. This can be a good place to start your hashtag research.
Step 2. Research Relevant Topics
A good place to start is by researching trends that are related to your line of business (keywords that you currently use are a great place to kick off your hashtag research).
Inside the Instagram app, just tap the magnifying glass icon, then select “tags” from the dropdown menu and enter your hashtags into Instagram’s search bar one at a time.
The results of each search will reveal all the top hashtags that are closely related to the hashtag you searched, which will give you ideas for even more hashtags you can use to reach and engage with your audience.
Pro tip: Regularly scan search results, then browse posts that contain your target Instagram hashtags to keep an eye out for and make note of hashtag trends that could be used in future posts.
Step 3. Research Leaders in Your Industry
One of the most effective ways to find the hashtags you should be using is to follow Instagram influencers and businesses that share your target audience to see which hashtags they use. You will likely discover a few new hashtags to add to your arsenal.
Let’s go back to the nutritionist example from earlier. You can research the top-followed accounts from nutritionists on Instagram (there are often lists for different industries that you can find with a quick search on Google) and then see which hashtags they use and how. This top-performing nutritionist has a branded hashtag (#thefoodmedicrecipes), specific food item hashtags (#quesadilla, #vegetarianquesadillas) and topic hashtags (#packed lunch, #lunchideas)
Pro tip: Find the top brands in your space, and piggyback on their success by directly competing with them by using the same industry-specific Instagram hashtags they use.
Step 4. Use a Hashtag Research Tool
There are so many hashtag research tools available, some of which generate hashtag ideas and others that can give you data on performance.
We already mentioned Hashtagify.me above, and that’s my go-to tool for hashtag research. You can search for a single hashtag, and get a goldmine of information.
As we already discussed above, you can see the total number of posts using the hashtag and the number of recent interactions that they’ve received. This can help you assess the popularity and potential engagement rates that may be tied to different hashtags. The more popular the hashtag it is, the better the reach.
In addition to assessing potential reach and popularity, the tool will show you other related hashtags and their popularity, and recent posts that used the hashtag in question. This can be a great place to discover additional hashtags that you might want to add to your list and to see how others are using them and the engagement they’re getting. If you’re wondering how to search multiple hashtags on Instagram at once during research, this is the way to do it.
Treat this as a brainstorming session, and compile an extensive list of all the hashtags that you think would be relevant to your audience. Once you have this list, start including them on your posts and keep an eye on their reach to see what happens!
Another way to search multiple hashtags on Instagram is to set up search streams in a social listening tool like Hootsuite. You can track the hashtags you’re interested in so you can see all the relevant content on one screen. No more individual Instagram hashtag searches.
Instagram business profiles can do up to 30 unique hashtag searches within 7 days.
How to Use Hashtags on Instagram: 6 Tips & Tricks
Want to get the most out of hashtags on Instagram to expand your reach? These 6 tips and tricks will help.
Use Multiple Hashtags in Every Post
Never use just a single hashtag; it’s a waste of potential reach.
There’s plenty of data out there about which hashtags you should use. You can use up to 30, but the current consensus is that having an average of 11 is the best way to boost reach and engagement.
Make sure that, aside from your branded hashtag, you’re switching up the hashtags you use with every post. This diversifies the feeds you might appear in, which can increase your reach significantly over time.
“Hide” Some of Those Hashtags
To keep readers focused on your well-written caption, it’s a good idea to downplay the appearance of your Instagram hashtags, since tags that stand out in posts often look cluttered, spammy or out of place.
You can hide hashtags using one of two methods:
- After ending your caption with a period, hit Return (be sure not to include a space after the last period).
- Enter one piece of punctuation (a period, dash or bullet), then hit Return again and repeat four times.
- Enter your hashtags after the last line.
This works because Instagram hides captions after three lines, so your hashtags won’t be visible unless your followers tap the “more” option or read comments on your post.
You might have noticed that lots of creators and brands include hashtags as the first comment on their post instead of in the caption itself (in order to hide them). This was a good way to keep the captions clean and seem less desperate for reach. But unfortunately, Instagram recently announced that putting hashtags in the comments is no longer a good idea and that it won’t help with your Instagram SEO—a.k.a. how people find you when searching for certain topics on the platform.
Use Hashtags to Build Communities
Find ways to use ultra-niche hashtags to target and interact with a focused, active community or micro-community to boost your brand’s visibility and engagement while keeping a conversation going around your business.
Outdoor clothing seller REI built a community and started a movement with #optoutside, which encouraged people to reconnect by exploring the great outdoors.
More than 11 million Instagram users have shared their adventures using the hashtag.
Pro tip: To find community-oriented hashtags, do your research and see which Instagram hashtags your target audience uses when they talk about things related to your brand, then adopt them. To build community, give users and consumers a reason to use your hashtag. (Whether it’s a prize or sharing user-generated content, audiences respond better when they get something out of the relationship.)
Place Hashtags in Instagram Stories to Direct Traffic to Your Branded Hashtag
Adding hashtags to Instagram Stories – in the text, a sticker or a location tag – provides your content with another way to be found by a new audience. It also directs traffic because users are likely to click on a hashtag here. An excellent use of this, therefore, is to send users to your branded hashtag so they can hopefully see an entire feed of UGC created by your customers.
Add Hashtags to Your Instagram Profile Bio
Since Instagram bios only allow one standard hyperlink, adding hashtags to yours will encourage people to start conversations and share experiences around your brand.
Instagram hashtags can be placed in profiles, a feature that gives bios a much-needed additional punch by providing links to hashtag feeds.
Just don’t expect that to make your bio discoverable in hashtag search results (it won’t).
Pro tip: Just place “#” before any word in your profile, and it will automatically become a clickable link that can be used for everything from shining a spotlight on your branded content to promoting the Instagram community you’re building.
Avoid Banned Hashtags
While there is no comprehensive list of banned Instagram hashtags, Instagram bans violent, offensive, pornographic, illicit drug-related, firearms transaction-focused, and hate group, organized crime, and terrorism-related hashtags.
Here’s how you can find out if you’re accidentally using a banned hashtag:
- Click on the magnifying glass icon to be taken to the Explore page.
- Type the target hashtag in the search bar.
- If the hashtag doesn’t appear in search results, it is banned (either temporarily or permanently).
Note: Banned hashtags may still appear in search results.
To confirm a ban, tap the hashtag (if banned, it will link to a broken page).
Instagram hashtags are powerful tools for growing an audience, boosting engagement and reaching potential customers on the platform.
Whether you plan to capitalize on the effectiveness of Instagram video content or use the visual platform as part of your social media selling strategy, hashtags are the ultimate way for you to give your brand a boost and increase your chances for success on the social network.
Successful Instagram hashtags have the ability to pique users’ curiosity and draw them in, spurring them to join the conversation. Start by doing research specific to your brand and your audience, and you’ll be headed in the right direction.
With some solid research, a well-thought-out plan and good execution, you’ll be well on your way to making the most of Instagram hashtags for your brand.
Which Instagram hashtags strategies do you use to boost your social media marketing campaigns? How do you research high-performing hashtags for your business? Have any thoughts, questions or a story to share on using hashtags? Please let us know in the comments below!