The Beginner’s Guide to Instagram Hashtags

Instagram hashtags are a great way to get more traction on your Instagram posts. Hashtags are a powerful tool and a great way to connect with even more people. However, many are totally overwhelmed with where to start. Let’s break down using hashtags on Instagram, how it can help your business, and where to get started.

What is a hashtag?

A hashtag is essentially a way to collect similar content on social media; in this case, on Instagram. When you click on a hashtag, you see all of the content that has used the same hashtag (as long as the profile is public). The photos will be sorted both by Top (photos with the best engagement since they’ve been published) and Recent (most recently published photos). You’ll also be able to see how many times the hashtag has been used.

Instagram users will often use hashtags to find more content or accounts that they may be interested in. For example, someone reading Rachel Hollis’ new book may use the hashtag #girlstopapologizing on a photo, and then click the hashtag to find other people reading it or talking about it as well. It’s a really great and simple way to to find more things you may be interested in, and a great way to connect with people.

Is it bad to not use hashtags?

I think this is a common question because let’s face it: Instagram can be really overwhelming. Between posting often (but not too often), using Instagram stories, being authentic (but also curated), it can feel like A LOT.

In short, it’s definitely not bad to skip hashtags altogether. However, if you want to really tap into the viral nature of Instagram and get your images seen by more people (which ultimately can lead to more followers and BOOKINGS!), hashtags are a no-brainer.

If you’re new to the hashtag game, keep it simple! Use local hashtags (for me, these are hashtags like #siouxfallsphotographers, #siouxfallsweddings, etc.) to appear in front of people who may be your dream clients. I’ve booked multiple clients–including wedding clients–from hashtags like this.

If you’re ready to take your hashtag prowess to the next level, you can start using hashtags to appeal to people beyond just those in your geographical area. Even just a quick Google search (“hashtags for florists”) can help you start to collect a list of hashtags you can use when you post.

What types of hashtags should I use?

It can be really overwhelming to start pulling together a list of hashtags. My best advice is to seek out other people in your industry who tend to get a lot of engagement and see what types of hashtags they are using. You can also use apps to help generate hashtag ideas. I love the app Tagomatic, because you can use it to store lists of hashtags as well.

When you start to collect your list, try to stick to hashtags that have 500,000 posts or less. These are the hashtags that likely still have a good community around them, but you still have a shot at ranking on. The goal is typically to appear in the Top or Recent section of a hashtag, and that’s hard to do if it’s getting thousands of posts every hour (like #blessed for example).

Should I always use the same hashtags?

Instead of using the same hashtags for every post whether it pertains to the type of photo or not, I recommend having a few lists of hashtags that you can rotate through based on the type of photo you are posting. For example, a newborn photographer could have one list for mommy and me photos, one list for studio newborn photography, one list for lifestyle newborn photography, and one list for personal/mom life photos.

You can use the Tagomatic app to store these lists (and generate new ideas), or you can even just use the notes app on your phone. Just make sure you’re keeping them somewhere, though, so you don’t have to type them out every time you post.

How do I know if hashtags are working?

This is where Instagram Analytics will become your best friend. There is a ton of data that you can tap into! First, start by simply paying attention to what types of photos, and therefore which hashtags, perform better.

You can take it to the next level by looking at individual images on your feed and diving into those specific analytics. Instagram will tell you how many people saw that photo in their home feed, on your profile, or through a hashtag. Pay attention to that!

If you have a photo that suddenly gets seen by hundreds of people through a hashtag, take note of the hashtags you were using and the content you posted and try to replicate it.


This can feel like a lot, but keep in mind: this is all one big test! Don’t feel bad if you have some posts do well and some totally flop. Figure out what works and what doesn’t and take it one day (and one post!) at a time.


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