In social media land, Instagram hashtags are powerful. They help you reach people interested in the topics you post about, they increase engagement with your posts, and they can even help you find content other people are posting about your brand.

But, there is an issue with hashtags: most people are using Instagram hashtags incorrectly.

They use the wrong hashtags, they use too many hashtags, or they think throwing a pound sign in front of a #longphraseisaneffectivehashtag.

(Spoiler alert, long rambling hashtags don’t work. Why? Because no one else is using them!)

But the right Instagram hashtags? They can be powerful.

Why Instagram hashtags are important

Are you wondering how to get more likes on your posts and Stories on Instagram? Are you looking to drive more engagement? Or do you want to simply promote your online store? Hashtags can do all that and more if you use them correctly.

Instagram hashtags are used to group content about related topics. Instagram users can search for phrases to find content about topics they care about.

For example, if you search #eco on Instagram, you will find a ton of related hashtags to explore.

Instagram hashtags – searching for #eco

Users can also follow Instagram hashtags to see more content on topics they care about.

But are hashtags still relevant in 2020?

Absolutely. For all the changes on Instagram, posts with 9 to 12 hashtags still enjoy a higher engagement rate than posts with no hashtags.

In addition to improving engagement, hashtags can also help you get more likes and increase brand awareness.

Now that we’ve established the importance of hashtags, how do you know which ones to use?

The answer is complex.

Best Instagram hashtags overall

The most effective hashtags for your brand will depend on your goals and your industry. There really is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to hashtags.

However, several types of hashtags perform well across all industries. According to Oberlo, the top 20 hashtags to get likes on Instagram are:

  • #love
  • #instagood
  • #photooftheday
  • #fashion
  • #beautiful
  • #happy
  • #cute
  • #tbt
  • #like4like
  • #followme
  • #picoftheday
  • #follow
  • #me
  • #selfie
  • #summer
  • #art
  • #instadaily
  • #friends
  • #repost
  • #nature

You can also get an idea of what the most popular hashtags are at any given time from Webstagram, an online image and video downloader that tracks hashtag usage.

Now, do not just throw every hashtag on this list into your next Instagram post. You need to be strategic about your hashtag usage. Instead, choose a few hashtags that apply to your industry and the content you are posting.

You can use up to 30 hashtags on Instagram, but for most brands, the sweet spot seems to be around 9 hashtags, according to a report by Trackmaven. This is where engagement is typically the highest.

You can use a hashtag tool to find relevant hashtags for your industry, which we’ll explore later in this post.

How to find trending hashtags for Instagram

Trending hashtags are Instagram hashtags that are popular at a particular time. Some hashtags do well no matter when you use them, but others, such as #stateoftheunion or #turkeyday, only trend at certain times of the year.

Most trending hashtags are based on current events, holidays, or pop culture. They remain popular for a few days or weeks before their popularity fades.

So, how do you find the top trending hashtags? You will need to do a little bit of detective work.

1. Use Instagram Explore

Start by checking out the Explore page on Instagram.

It will show you a recommended list of trending content based on the content you like and the accounts you follow.

This will give you insight into the type of content your audience is interested in.

Instagram hashtags – Instagram Explore

Look at a few of the top suggestions and see what hashtags they are using. If any make sense for your brand, look to see how many posts use it. If a few thousand posts are using it, then it might be a good tag to test out.

2. Hit up Twitter (yes, really)

Check out what is trending on Twitter. Yes, it is a totally different platform with an entirely different audience. Keep in mind this is for research purposes only!

In the left sidebar, you will see trending topics based on current events.

Instagram hashtags – Twitter trending hashtags

If any of these trending hashtags are related to your brand, pop them into Instagram and hit “search.” You will quickly be able to tell if they are trending on Instagram, too.

You don’t want to newsjack and just use a hashtag because it is popular. Make sure it applies to your brand or your content.

3. Brand24

Created by Buffer, this is a free hashtag tool that shows you the popularity of hashtags over time (as well as lots of other cool data, if you want to play around with it!). Here is what a search for the word “hamburger” turned up:

Instagram hashtags – Brand24

You can see mentions of “hamburger” have increased in the last few days. But, if you look closely, you can view mentions by platform — and Instagram has none!

This is a great way to see if topics you think are trending really are.

Instagram hashtags to avoid

Just like there are more effective hashtags, there are also hashtags you need to avoid. These include any spammy tags or hashtags containing explicit words.

In fact, Instagram has banned specific hashtags; they won’t even show up if you try to use them.

A few of the top banned hashtags to avoid are:

  • Assday
  • Beautyblogger
  • Desk
  • Humpday
  • Saltwater
  • Teens
  • Thought
  • Valentinesday
  • workflow

Here is a full list of all the banned hashtags on Instagram if you want to make sure you aren’t using any of them.

In addition to the banned hashtags, there are a few other types of Instagram hashtags to avoid:

  • Hashtags that are too broad, such as #books or #makeup. Instead, look for more specific hashtags, like #bookworm or #makeuponfleek💄 (Yes, you can include emoticons!)
  • Hashtags that are so long you can’t read them #pleasedont #makemereadthislonghashtag
  • Hashtags with punctuation (it breaks up the hashtag)
  • Your competitor’s branded hashtag. This is tacky, so don’t do this.

Tools for finding relevant Instagram hashtags

The entire point of hashtags is to categorize content, so it makes sense that there is no one-size fits all answer to the right hashtags. In addition, choosing the right hashtag depends upon what your goal is.

For example, if you are wondering how to get more followers on Instagram, then you might want a broader Instagram hashtag than if your goal is to increase conversions. On the other hand, if you are hoping to get more engagement, you might choose more popular hashtags that will get you a wider reach.

Here are a few tools you can use to search for the most effective hashtags for your goals and industry.

1. Display Purposes

Display Purposes is a simple tool for finding relevant hashtags. It also filters out banned or spammy hashtags. For the example below, I searched for #read. Here is the list of related hashtags:

Instagram hashtags – Display Purposes

#Books is quite broad, but the tool suggests more specific hashtags, such as #readinglist and #literature.

2. Hashtagify

Hashtagify is a more complex tool that helps brands find and analyze the best hashtags based on real-time trends and popularity. It is a paid platform, but they offer a free seven-day trial so you can see if it is a good fit before you sign up.

Instagram hashtags – Hashtagify

3. AllHashTag

AllHashTag is a free tool that generates a list of 30 random Instagram hashtags based on any topic you input. For this search, I searched for #book again. Here is the list it generated:

Instagram hashtags – AllHashTag

The list is pretty random, so some of the hashtags might not fit your industry, such as #booktheparty or #bookyourappointment. But there are also a few good ones you might not have thought of, such as #bookrecommendations.

AllHashtag also generates five additional lists of random hashtags, so you can search through all of them to find the best ones for your content.

Just keep in mind, studies show around nine is the most effective number of hashtags per post, so I don’t recommend copy and pasting these lists, just use them for inspiration.

4. Seek Metrics

Another great free tool is Seek Metrics, which generates a list of the top 30 Instagram hashtags related to your search term. Once again, I used #books for this search.

Instagram hashtags – Seek Metrics

This dashboard is straightforward — no need to sign up for anything. Just type in your term and hit enter. The Instagram hashtags are all pretty relevant, such as #booksaremylife and #bookstagram.

Best practices for Instagram hashtags in 2020

Ready to up your hashtags game? Here are the best practices you need to be following to get the most out of hashtags on Instagram.

1. Start with research

Use the tools above to find Instagram hashtags that are popular, but not too popular. Really popular hashtags will be flooded with posts and your content could get lost.

2. Create a branded hashtag

Did you know that seven out of 10 hashtags on Instagram are branded? Branded Instagram hashtags let users find and share content directly related to your brand. For example, look at #rothys, created after shoe company Rothys.

Instagram hashtags – branded hashtag for Rothys

This hashtag is filled with posts of Instagram users showing off their new shoes. Creating a branded hashtag makes it easier for you to find content users post about your brand as well.

3. Aim for 5-9 hashtags

Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags. But that is a maximum, not the number to aim for! Too many hashtags look spammy and too few might not give you the reach you want.

BUT: Don’t forget to test what works for your brand, because every business is different.

4. Use Instagram hashtags that address intent

Some broad hashtags are fine but also aim to include tags that show more intention, such as #buyallthebooks or #buybooks. These show more of an intent to purchase than just #books.

5. Don’t use the same hashtags for every post

Mix up the Instagram hashtags you use for each post. Hashtags categorize content; it’s unlikely that every post you publish is about exactly the same topic. Using different hashtags also helps increase your reach by giving you the best chance of reaching a diverse audience.

Remember: Best practices are what works well for most brands on Instagram. Don’t be afraid to test and see what works for your brand. Test different hashtags, vary the number of hashtags and track your results.

Update your Instagram hashtags for 2020

Hashtags are a powerful way to get more likes and engagement on Instagram as part of your marketing strategy. So you need to make sure you are using them correctly, updating how you use them over time, and checking your analytics.

Whether you are trying to figure out how to get followers on Instagram or if you want to get more engagements on your posts, Instagram hashtags are your secret weapon. Start by researching hashtags your competitors are using, then use the tools above to find new hashtags to experiment with and test.

And remember: best practices are guides, not laws. Test, test, test!

What hashtag surprised you most on the best Instagram hashtag list? Or, what hashtags are not on the list that work well for you? Let us know in the comments below!

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By Raelene Morey

Raelene Morey is the founder of Words By Birds, a digital writing agency that works with startups, SaaS, B2B, and WordPress businesses, turning your tech speak into words that convert. Formerly managing editor at WPMU DEV. Computer science grad turned newspaper journalist. When she's not taming browser tabs she likes brunching and bushwalking.

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