If you’ve had Instagram for a while, you should know by now that using hashtags is a sure way to boost engagement. To really make a difference to your engagement though, having an Instagram hashtag strategy is a must.

What do you mean by Instagram ‘hashtag strategy’?

The words ‘hashtag strategy’ may sound a little daunting… but honestly, it’s not as intense as it sounds. 

I’m not suggesting you go and create an in-depth business strategy for Instagram or anything. I’m simply saying that it’s important to know HOW to use hashtags appropriately, and hopefully this article will help with that.

instagram hashtag strategy

An Instagram Hashtag Strategy That Works

Using hashtags in general will increase the chances of you being found by other people, and in turn increase your followers. 

However, this isn’t enough. You NEED to increase the chances of you being found by the RIGHT audience. 

Here’s how to do that.

1. Use Targeted Hashtags

This may seem like a bit of an obvious one, but it’s relevant.

Perhaps the most important thing to establish within your Instagram hashtag strategy, is who you are on Instagram. 

Are you a travel blogger? Only use travel related tags. A powerlifter? Use tags related to powerlifting.

It’s really important that you don’t use general tagsthough. Using hashtags like ‘#travel’ or ‘#wanderlust’ are relevant, yes, BUT the competition is way too high. The chances of you making it onto these hashtag feeds are very slim so it’s a waste of hashtags. 

Use narrower hashtags that describe what’s in the image.

TIP-Try searching for location specific tags, like ‘#travel_india’, or hashtags that describe your photo and interests, like ‘#travelphotographyindia’ and ‘#campingout’.

2. Use Instagram’s Related Hashtag Tool

The most important feature to use for your Instagram hashtag strategy is the ‘related hashtags’ section.

Remember, you’re allowed a maximum of 30 hashtags per post. I don’t know about you but I sometimes find it hard to think of 30 targeted hashtags, so I use this for inspiration!

Type in a targeted hashtag in the search bar, then just scroll through the related hashtags that Instagram recommends. 

Related hashtag tool demonstration for Instagram hashtag strategy.

Here, I typed in #tropicalbeaches’ and below I can see all the related hashtags.

The great thing about this is I could go on forever, by selecting one of the recommended tags and then scrolling through the related hashtags again.

TIP: Start off with popular, trending hashtags, then use the related hashtag tool to find relevant, narrowed down hashtags. 

3. Don’t Over-Do the Hashtags

Just because you’re allowed 30 hashtags, don’t feel the need to be clutching at straws to hit that number. 

Less is sometimes more. It’s much better to have 15 well-targeted hashtags than 30 average hashtags that in reality, won’t bring in the follows. 

TIP: In NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you copy and paste the same hashtags in all of your photo’s. Instagram marks posts as spammy if they notice the same hashtags being used over and over again. By all means use the odd few again and again if they make your post perform well, but try to be original most of the time.

4. Check the Hashtag Popularity

Like I said before, if you use really popular hashtags, then you don’t stand a chance of making it onto the feed.

The way to find out how popular a hashtag is, is to note the number underneath each hashtag. This number shows how many times that particular hashtag has been used.

Hashtag popularity tool demonstration for Instagram hashtag strategy.

You need to find the sweet spot here. Using a hashtag that has been used millions of times before, is equally as pointless as using one that’s been used by less than 100 people.

TIP: For the best results, use hashtags that have a few hundred to a few thousand posts in them. That way you’re targeting a smaller niche of people that will be much more likely to engage and follow you. Definitely never go for hashtags with more than 500k posts on them!

5. Know Your Competition 

This is a bit of an old school research method, but still an effective Instagram hashtag strategy.

If you’re serious about growing your Instagram followers then you should know who your competitors are anyway.

Look for accounts that feature similar pictures to you, that have a similar following to you, and accounts that target the same niche as you.

Then go through their successful posts and see which hashtags they use. You might find that they use the same few hashtags every time they post. If this is clearly working for them the there’s no reason it can’t work for you too!

TIP: Try to find a few competitor accounts and keep track of their progress weekly. It’s good to have some healthy competition and keep track of other people to create targets for yourself.

6. Look for Community Hashtags

Using community hashtags is a great way to find like-minded people on Instagram. In turn, this will alert communities to your Instagram profile and provide you with a targeted audience to engage with. 

Example of a community hashtag created for an Instagram hashtag strategy, by a successful travel blogger.
Passion Passport have created a successful community hashtag which they state in their bio #passionpassport.

The more you actively engage with people using the community hashtag, the more they will engage with you. You’d be surprised how many followers you can get from doing this alone!

TIP: If you’re a travel photographer and have high-quality photo’s, look through the #earthscope and the #passionpassport hashtags on Instagram. You can find community hashtags on Twitter as well. A good one to look through on Twitter is #traveltribe.

7. Use Hashtags in your Instagram Stories

Regularly uploading to your story is a great way to boost your presence on Instagram. It’s a great Instagram hashtag strategy because it gives you the potential to reach hundreds, or even thousands of people in your area.

You can add hashtags by using stickers and location tags, or even just typing the hashtag in the text. 

Here’s 6 ways to add hashtags to your Instagram story.

TIP: One way brands target their customers is by looking at which hashtags are trending within their target audience. Try using these trending hashtags in your story. This way, you know that if your story makes it to the feed, you know you’ll have targeted the right audience to engage with your content.

Example of how to use hashtags in Instagram stories.
Location and in-text hashtags used by Nomadic Matt on his Instagram story

8. Start Your Own Hashtag

A fantastic Instagram hashtag strategy for building your own community, is to create your own hashtag.

The best way you can encourage people to use your hashtag, is to run competitions or to offer your audience something they can’t refuse. 

If you have a small budget, you could offer out a prize for your competition winner. If not, then a shout-out is good alternative.

Don’t just expect people to notice your hashtag though, because they won’t. You need to encourage your followers to use it, and even pass it on to their own followers. 

TIP: Put your hashtag in your bio and tell people to use it as a way of being featured on your profile, or given a shout-out.

9. Engage with Your Hashtags

Instagram’s new algorithm has made it so the first hour after you publish your content is crucial. 

If you don’t receive that many likes or comments within the first hour, then it’s likely your post will be swallowed by all the other well-performing posts. 

One way to make sure this doesn’t happen, is to engage with the most recent posts within your hashtags. 

Go through a few of your well-performing hashtags, and like and comment on the other posts in the feed. If you like what you see, follow a few people within the feed. It’s a great way to start relationships with like-minded people.

TIP: If you are commenting on related content, don’t be afraid to ask people to check out your most recent post. Just try not to be too spammy. To avoid being marked as spammy by Instagram, make sure there’s more than 4 words in each comment you leave.

10. Create Good Content

Last but certainly not least, make sure your content is a good standard. 

If your content isn’t great, it doesn’t matter how good your Instagram hashtag strategy is, people won’t engage with it.

If you’re an amateur photographer, try to improve your photography. You can start with these:

Ask yourself if your photo is Instagram worthy. Will people really want to see it? Is it an eye-catching photo? Is there any way you could improve it? 

Even by changing your perspective slightly when taking the photo can massively improve the shot. Or perhaps you could consider using a prop.

One of the founders of People of the Planet. Psychology graduate, digital marketer, and lover of travel and exploring new places!

Author Samantha Walker

One of the founders of People of the Planet. Psychology graduate, digital marketer, and lover of travel and exploring new places!

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