How to use hashtags on Instagram: The dos and don’ts

Make your content more discoverable by following these dos and don'ts
Effective hashtag use for Instagram: The dos and don’ts

Learning how to use hashtags on Instagram can help make your content more discoverable, increase your engagement and grow your following. 


Hashtags organise your posts into a pool of other photos and videos with the same tag. For example, #fashionblogger categorises your content and allows fashion lovers searching that hashtag to see it, even if they’re not following you. This makes the the humble hashtag a powerful tool when it comes to extending your reach, improving your engagement and increasing your following. Learning to use them effectively is a skill any marketer or influencer must master, but much like the algorithm, there has been a lot of contradictory advice doing the rounds.

Enter, Vamp’s ultimate guide.


A quick note on how users discover your content

When a user taps a hashtag, it takes you to that hashtag’s individual page. The hashtag page is split into two tabs: ‘Top’ and ‘Recent’. You won’t be shocked to hear that ‘Top’ features the highest performing content with that hashtag. The posts here could be hours or days old, but have the most likes and comments, so is content the algorithm is suggesting you see first. If a user taps ‘Recent’ then they’ll see the newest posts with that hashtag. Ideally you want to be on the ‘Top’ page, since this content is more likely to be seen. As is often the case with Instagram, good engagement sparks even better engagement.


How to use hashtags on Instagram


Do take instagram’s suggestions


When you start typing, Instagram will automatically show you similar hashtags that are popular on the platform. They could be very similar, but include all-important variations that may increase your reach. Alternatively, type a keyword into the Explore page and tap the ‘tags’ tab. It’ll suggest hashtags you could use and indicate how many people have done so already.


Don’t only use popular hashtags


#Shoes has 93.2m posts attached to it. So while many people use and search that hashtag, your content will be added to a huge pool, full of stiff competition and likely to be replaced with more recent posts quickly. #ShoesOfInstagram however, has 151k posts. Considerably fewer, giving you a better chance of standing out. Including a range of popular and more niche hashtags will allow you to enter both high traffic conversations with wide exposure and more specific ones, with more staying power.


Do consider creating your own hashtags


Fashion brand Nasty Gal have created the hashtag #GetNastyGal. Not only does it tie in with the brand’s personality, but it gives them a chance to link all of their campaign content, with influencer activity and user generated content, creating a cohesive library of Nasty Gal assets on Instagram. If the hashtag becomes well known and your customer’s participate, it can become a helpful channel for incoming UGC and a great brand awareness piece.


Don’t use irrelevant hashtags


Using hashtags that do not relate to the content you are posting can hinder your engagement. Instagram knows it irritates their users so has given them a way to hide irrelevant content with their “Don’t Show for This Hashtag” option. If you get enough of these, it’s likely your content will be demoted by the algorithm. Even if this doesn’t happen, hashtags for the sake of it isn’t a good idea. The aim is to reach specialised, engaged audiences with your content, not spam people.


Do include them in stories


With the sticker function, you can add a hashtag to a Story, just like you can a post. However they differ in that Instagram will only drop your into a grouping of similarly tagged content if the algorithm deems it strong in both quality and engagement. It’s not automatic, but if you do make it, there is potential to reach thousands of Instagrammers. They can also help to add continuity to campaign content you’re running in deed and on Stories.


Don’t use symbols


% or $, don’t work. They’ll break your hashtag.


Do try emoji hashtags


They do work. Plus they are eye-catching and help keep your captions succinct.


Don’t keep repeating hashtags


Reposting the same list of hashtags means you’re probably not working hard enough to ensure they are highly relevant for that particular post. It also goes against Instagram’s community guidelines that state that “posting repetitive comments or content” is not okay.


Do use your business account data to measure success


If you have a business account, each post will offer an option to ‘View insights’. Here you can see how many people discovered your post via your hashtags. It should help you judge whether the hashtags you’re using are effective and will allow you to modify your approach as needed.


Don’t feel like you always have to play by the rules


The prime function of hashtags may be content discovery, but that’s not the only way in which they are used. Some influencers use hashtags as a humorous extension of their caption or to tell their story further. These imaginative hashtags will take the user to a blank page if tapped, or to a highly niche collection of posts at best, but when executed well they can spark great engagement and add another element to the post.


Download the free Vamp guide and learn how your brand can succeed on the original influencer marketing platform, Instagram.

Download this free Vamp guide and learn how to succeed on the world’s most viral platform.