Hashtags in 2019 are full of power.

Instagram rolled out the ability to follow a hashtag in 2017. Not only are they something that you can follow, but it’s the platform’s way of organizing and categorizing content. The more often you use the same type of hashtags, the more that you’ll “niche” your account.

What do you mean by “niche” your account?

Instagram’s algorithm is designed to give its users content that they want. If you are constantly liking and commenting on posts that are about photography, Instagram will show you more of that type of content.

If you are posting content with hashtags #photography #photoediting #camera #lightroom, Instagram will say “This account is about photography, I am going to show this account to other accounts that are liking and commenting on photography.”

How can hashtags help me?

Hashtags can help you gain exposure and “trend” on Instagram. Trending is when your post is visible on the “explore” page. Posts with hashtags are engaged with 12.6% more than those without hashtags. They help you reach your target audience and for your audience to come to you. The users that come to you are more likely to not only engage with your post but to follow you because your post and content are exactly what they wanted. The first hour of posting is the most crucial and important. More likes and comments will tell Instagram that this is content that people want and will push your content out to more accounts (i.e. going viral). Hashtags help this process. If your post does not receive a steady flow of likes and comments within the first hour, Instagram does not show your account to more individuals and will instead let users find it on their own (typically going to be the people that already follow you instead of new users outside of your following). 

The Rules of Hashtags

First, we need to set some ground rules if you are going to build a following using hashtags:

  • Do no use the same hashtags over and over again. This is how you’ll get “shadowbanned.” It’s an elusive and convoluted term, but in short, it is repetitive behavior and considered spam behavior by Instagram. You’ll need to create 2-3 hashtag “blocks” you can rotate through. Phase some of your hashtags out and input new ones every once in a while. 

  • Speaking of “shadowbanned".” Go through each of your hashtags and search them in Instagram. Go over the the “recent” tab and if there is content available to view, then it is not a banned hashtag. If it is a banned hashtag you’ll see a message:

    • “Recent posts from #______ are currently hidden because the community has reported some content that may not meet Instagram’s community guidelines.”

  • Use 30 hashtags. If each hashtag is a way to get discovered, why would you limit yourself to a few chances of being discovered? No one is too good to not use hashtags or to not use all of them. If you’re worried about looking spammy than this guide can not help you. There are rumors to only use 9 or only use 12 hashtags. However, at the end of the day, you will need to experiment with what works best for your account. Rule of thumb: 30#.

  • Put them in the caption or put them in the comment? This is 100% dependent on your account. Some accounts perform better with them in the comments section, and others work better inside of the caption. If you are a business account, test putting them in your caption and then test putting them in your comments, then view the analytics (for business Instagram accounts). (p.s. Hashtags do not work if you post them long after you’ve already posted your picture or video. Instagram caught onto this in 2017 and it’s a great way to get your content suppressed). 

  • Use hashtags that are specific to the content that you’re posting. If you are posting a picture of your office and talking about working from home as a digital marketer, do not use hashtags like: #fitness #yoga #ocean #dog #puppy #cleanfood. Instead use hashtags like: #workfromhome #officesetup #womanentrepreneur #homeofficesetup #digitalmarketing #digitalmarketer2019

  • Your hashtag “block” should consist of niche specific hashtags and a few very popular ones as well. If a hashtag has over a million uses than the feed for that hashtag is going to be very saturated. Use a blend of hashtags like: #fitness #love #eatcleanliveclean #workinghardforhealth #healthyliving (fitness is a large hashtag and so is love. The other hashtags will not have as much competition to be seen).

  • Create your own hashtag and add it to your “block.” Not only is this a great way to tell if people are reusing your content but you can build this hashtag as a community or branded hashtag.

How to Craft Your Own Hashtag Block

In general, you want to use the 10/10/10 strategy

Your goal with hashtags is to reach the explore page. That’s how you’re going to bring in hundreds (hopefully thousands) of new likes, followers and comments.

Instagram allows you 30 hashtags so use:

  • 10 hashtags between the sizes of 10,000-50,000

  • 10 hashtags between the sizes of 50,000-200,000

  • 10 hashtags between the sizes of 200,000-2,000,000

Obviously, going viral takes more work than just using hashtags. But if you use this method, use the right content and a pinch of luck you can scale up pretty quickly. You can get some likes from being the top posts of the smaller hashtags, several handfuls from the mid-size ones and once you have enough engagement from those, the algorithm will decide to put you on the explore page.

The tools I used to create this guide:

  • Display purposes (my favorite tool because it will remove “banned hashtags”)

    • *note: Instagram doesn’t really talk about banned hashtags but the platform is always trying to fight “spam” (think things like porn, violence and...mainly porn and violence).

  • Instagram (to check hashtag use and following amount)

  • Instavast

When rotating out different hashtags, keep a careful eye on the hashtags that Instagram recommends to YOU. It’s typically a hashtag that is growing/trending and if it is being suggested to you, it is for sure being suggested to others as well

In the next assignment you'll create 3 hashtag blocks. A helpful way to figure out which hashtags to use in your blocks is to choose what 3 categories or "niches" you belong to.

For example, my personal account I would classify: Fitness and Training, Yoga and Coaching