Hashtag Strategy 2018 – Complete Guide

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Hashtags became widely popular on Twitter and are a key component on Instagram as well (and also sparingly on other social media platforms like Facebook). Hashtags are made up of a pound key (#) and a (key)word (e.g., #viral) and are great to get your content organically found by others on the platform. Instagram has limited the use of hashtags to maximum 30 hashtags per post. That includes all hashtags posted by you, regardless of their location (caption, first comment or 50 comments down).

How many should you use?

Think about it in the following way: Each hashtag used on your content is an opportunity to be found on Instagram. For every hashtag you utilize, you heighten your chances of an increase in engagement, potentially making it to the explore page and getting your content exposed to a massive audience. So, you see: when you use those 30 hashtags correctly, it is a smart thing to do.

Hashtag Categorisation:

1) Viral hashtags. These are very popular hashtags, ranging between 100 million and 1 billion posts. Usually only large accounts will benefit from these hashtags. Some examples: #love #instagood #cute #follow #followme #happy #tagsforlikes

2) Trending hashtags. Trending hashtags will be live when certain events happen. Like a major sports event (e.g., the Super Bowl), a world event, a disaster, etc. They will be extremely popular, but only temporarily. Examples are: #worldcup, #prayforparis #olympics #neverforget

3) Niche and sub-niche hashtags. These are the hashtags that target your general (and sub) niche to reach a wider audience. These hashtags will help Instagram classify your account and will get your posts promoted to the proper audience. Examples of niche hashtags are: #luxury, #travel, #food, #fitness, #motivation, #photography, #art. You can drill down to sub-niche hashtags to define your target audience: #luxuryhomes, #motivationalquotes, #painting, #weightlossjourney

4) Location hashtags. Location hashtags can be used to tag your posts with a certain location. This can be a country (#Spain), a city (#LosAngeles) or even more specific (#Broadway). They are very useful, especially if you want to find people to connect with your country or region.

5) Branded hashtags. You can also use branded hashtags (like #nike, #canon, #apple) to describe a brand you are featuring in your posts. Keep in mind, that sometimes brands will feature people on their page if you use their hashtag!

6) Emotion hashtags. Emotion hashtags describe an emotion that the user experiences. Humans are visual creatures, and every image will invoke emotions (good or bad). We can use hashtags to describe these emotions. Examples are: #lovefood, #sad, #amazed, #shocked

General Hashtag Strategy:

You should always focus on these tags first (in order of importance):

1) Niche related hashtags (e.g., #travel)

2) Sub-niche hashtags (e.g., #backpacker)

3) Emotion hashtags (e.g., #enthusiast)

If you still don’t feel like you have used enough hashtags by applying the above three categories, you can fill up your posts with viral hashtags.

Situation Dependent Hashtag Strategy (Niche, Goal, Size, Content)

If you are looking to accomplish certain goals with your account, you can adapt the general hashtag strategy to be more specific. For instance, for a local business, it would be advisable to focus on using these hashtags first (in order of importance)

1.) Subniche hashtags (e.g., #audidealer)

2.) Specific location hashtags (e.g., #Berlin)

If you are looking to get sponsorship deals on your account you will want to select more of these:

1.) Use Branded hashtags (e.g., #Nike)

2.) Use brand owned hashtags (e.g., #Justdoit)

IMPORTANT: Be sure to adapt your strategy based on the size of your account. If you have a small account, focus on using smaller hashtags. If you have a large account, focus on hashtags that are used more. A good rule of thumb is to use hashtags where your account size reflects 10-20% of the hashtags usage. So practically, if your account has 10k followers, you will want to focus on hashtags with 100k-200k posts (10-20%). You can verify that on Instagram.

Where can I easily find hashtags?


This is one of the most famous hashtag generation resources. Tags4likes build lists of hashtags selected on popularity and broad niche.
You can visit them at www.tagsforlikes.com for more information.


Focalmark is also a great way to find relevant hashtags more easily. You can select which category interests you and will generate a list of 24 hashtags. You can find this app on the Google Play store here and also in the Apple App store.

Hashtagify Me

Hashtagify Me is by far the most done-for-you analytical hashtag research website you can come by. This site will allow you to enter a keyword hashtag, (for instance #travel) and it will generate related tags. Under each tag, you can then see its popularity, correlation to the tag you entered and their trends. Although they classify themselves as a Twitter tool, it also works for Instagram. www.hashtagify.me

Search Page

With all the external tools available (the above is just a small selection) we would tend to forget that Instagram itself helps you to find related hashtags for your picture. Although it’s not the easiest and efficient way, it still provides a ton of value. If you search for a specific hashtag on the search page, you will see a list of suggested hashtags and their popularity. Here’s an example of the #fashion hashtag.

Hashtag Selection

Now that we have cultivated a list of hashtags, we need to select them. It’s time to throw out the trash and select the ones that will make our posts appear before user’s eyes! Let’s focus on throwing out the trash first. Let’s ignore (or delete) the following hashtags:

1) Inconsistent/nonmatching hashtags with your account. If you are running a sports boutique, you will want to remove hashtags like #follow4follow, #firstpost, #like, #nice. They provide little to no value to your account and don’t reflect the purpose of it.

2) Explicit hashtags. Using explicit hashtags (no example needed) will put your account in danger of being limited, banned or closed down. So just stay away from them.

3) Overrated/viral hashtags. These are hashtags that have an incredible amount of posts (for example #amazing) and will generate hundreds of new posts per minute. Unless you have an account that can push through it and reach the Top Posts section, I would advise against using them.

Now that we have cleaned out or list, focus on selecting the hashtags that are relevant to:

1.) Your (sub)niche (e.g., #weightloss, #bracelets, etc).

2.) The time and location you are posting (e.g., #breakfast, #nightlife, #sunrise, #london, #brooklyn, etc.).

3.) The hashtag popularity and your account size (as mentioned above) should be considered. Compare your account size to the number of posts under that hashtag. Your account size (in followers) should be 10-20% of the total number of posts.

Hashtag Selection

Now that we have done all this research (which can be very time consuming) we will want to use them in posts in an efficient way. If you post regularly and are manually entering the hashtags, you will become bored pretty quickly. Therefore, we advise you to organize your researched and selected hashtags into sets. This will help you streamline the process, and it will help you to save time when posting! Since we can only use 30 hashtags per post, our suggestion is to build sets of 20-25 hashtags. In doing this, we can include hashtags that fit in the general theme of our account and save room to use specific hashtags.

For instance, if we have a travel account we will want to use 20-25 (sub)niche hashtags that define our niche (#travel, #backpacker, #roundtheworld, #solotravel). By only using 20-25 hashtags in a set, we still have the option to add location-specific hashtags, and we can tag the city (#london) or country (#mexico) we are visiting.

Here are a few best practices when creating hashtag sets:

1) Choose hashtags according to your page size
2) Use those hashtags that reflect your goals and niche
3) Use hashtags to invoke emotion, inspire or motivate people
4) Stay away from very large hashtags if you have a small page (like #love)
5) Ignore irrelevant hashtags
6) Avoid explicit, limited or banned hashtags at all cost!

Once you have created your set, (or multiple sets) be sure to organize them in excel or copy each set into the notes application on your phone. This will allow you to just copy-paste the set and use them in your post. You will thank us later!

If you want to create multiple sets, here are a few suggestions on how to organize them:

1) Break them down into different sizes (for example a set of hashtags from 100-200k, 200-500k,500k-1M, etc.).
2) Use (sub) niche sets (backpacking, luxury travel, solo travel, Europe, American, Asia, etc.).
3) When applicable you can organize them in calendar themed sets (a set of Mondays posts, Throwback Thursdays, Happy hour Fridays, etc.).
4) By identifying the content (video, photo, drawing, art, etc.).

And there you have it! 🙂 Now you should know the importance of using hashtags. Let us know down in the comments if you found this guide helpful and feel free to share it with your community!

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