Instagram:
how to hashtag and get more likes, followers and engagement

Julia Moore
Useful IG features quickly become a tool for an account promotion. Hashtags are not an exception. Everybody who wants to get more likes and subscribers, use Instagram hashtags. And there are a lot of those. The content one promotes gets lost easily among thousands of publications and doesn't get expected reach. At the same time, not everybody understands how to hashtag on Instagram. Irrelevant to the content words are added following the principle "the more, the better", it does harm to everyone. Users are disappointed, as they don’t find what they expect. Authors are disappointed, as they can’t promote their accounts. We will tell you how to find the right hashtags, and when you should make your own. And also about how to use tags.
Reading time — 18 minutes

What hashtags look like

A distinction of hashtags is the symbol "#" at the beginning. It is followed by one or several words. You don't need to put space and special characters between them. Instagrammers often add underscore to separate words, though. 

Emoji and numbers are also included in IG tags. Some tags consist only of them.

How hashtags work on Instagram

Each Instagram hashtag is an active link. It leads to a page with the content marked with this tag.

Authors can increase the reach if they get on these pages. Not only their subscribers view photos and videos there, but everybody who is interested in the content.

Users can find content of a certain topic using a hashtag. It may be a place, an event, people or animals, anything. Whatever you are interested in, a hashtag is already there.

Tag page

Tap on a tag to go to its page. You can also get to the page through the search. Write a word and tap a tag. 

On a tag page, you will see posts, Stories, Reels and IGTV, which authors marked with the tag. You also can mark your content to make it appear on the page and more people see it. 

Users won’t see content of a private profile, if they haven't subscribed to it. If Stories are restricted, they will be shown only for people who can view it from the profile page. So, you better not use the close friends list if you want to get more reach and engagement.

Follow a hashtag

You can follow a hashtag. Then, Instagram posts marked with it will be shown in your feed. So you will be aware of what's going on with your competitors, won’t miss trends, and will receive inspirational ideas regularly. 

Your subscribers see hashtags you follow. The tags can be found on the following list near users. And subscribers see the sign Followed by your_username on a hashtag page. 

Official Instagram information on the feed formation after you subscribed to a tag is out of date. And we can tell you only about our own scrutiny results.

  • Users see different posts with a tag in their feeds.
  • The more posts with a tag you like, the more of them appear in your feed. 
  • Posts in your feed are added regardless of what you see in the Top and Recent tabs. 

Top and Recent tabs

There are two tabs on a tag search result page, which are Top and Recent. 

On the first one you see the best content according to Instagram. Its algorithms estimate posts' reach, engagement, and the number of followers in the profiles. Add to that, the algorithms consider what content is the interest of a particular user. They analyze what posts an instagrammer likes and comments most often. That’s why users see different photos and videos in their Top tabs. 

In the Recent tab, the latest content is shown. Photos and videos from new profiles are also shown there.

Go to a tag page before posting photos and videos. Make sure the tag means the same to you and users. For example, #pigeionpose has nothing to do with the birds, it’s about yoga.

How and where to hashtag

Tags in Instagram bio and Stories are a rarity. Users hashtag on Instagram under posts, in Reels and IGTV more often. Let’s look closer at each case. 

Bio

In bio, people add their own tags. It may be the name of your brand, current contest or marathon. More detailed information about tags in Instagram bio you can find in the article about how to create a business bio.

Posts

You can add hashtags in the caption or first comment. The place affects a profile’s development. The number of tags is also an influence on reach and engagement. You can add up to 30 tags. But don’t try to add "as many as you can".

The best number of tags and their place depend on an account size. Both parameters we examined in the article where to add tags. The study was based on Socialinsider and Quuu research.

Here we leave a short table.

Find the number of your followers in the first column. From columns on the right you can know where it's better to put tags, whether you should hide them and how many to add.

Number of followers (thousands)PlaceShownTags number
under 5caption-6
5-10caption+13
10-50caption-2
50-100caption-7
100 and morecomment+6

Examples of hidden with emoji tags: 

In caption

Upload content. Type "#" and start writing a word. Choose from the list of hashtags Instagram suggests. 

In comments

Go to the comments section. Type "#" and the beginning of a word. Choose from the suggested list of hashtags.

Stories

Not a Story turned up on a tag page when we were writing the article. At the same time, there is no official information that the content won’t be shown on the pages anymore. So let’s look at how to hashtag on Instagram Stories. 

You can add up to 30 hashtags as text and one hashtag sticker. Unlike posts, we haven't got any reliable information about the tag’s influence on a profile development. So experiment and monitor your rivals. 

Tag as text:

  1. Choose adding text.
  2. Type "#" and start writing a word. 
  3. Swipe to the right to choose the option you need. 

Repeat steps 1-3 to add one more tags. Unfortunately, you can add only one hashtag on Instagram Story in one go. Otherwise, you will have only the last tag as an active link. 

Hashtag sticker: 

  1. Tap the stickers icon.
  2. Choose a hashtag sticker.
  3. Type a word or choose from the suggested list of hashtags. 

Hide tags in Stories

You can hide hashtags in Stories. No one knows for sure how it affects the promotion yet. All we can do is to experiment. 

If you think a tag is hard on the eye or make a secret of promoting your account with tags, put a sticker over:

OR

Make the text or sticker as small as possible. To do this, tap it with two fingers and move them towards each other. Then, drag the sticker or text to where they will blend with the background. 

Look at the examples below. Can you see hashtags in the second screenshot? We can’t. But they are there.?

Reels and IGTV

You can add no more than 30 hashtags in Reels and IGTV captions when posting them. No information has yet been provided about the optimal number.

Write "#" and a word in the caption after uploading a video. 

If you turn on Also share to feed, the tags are copied to the preview description.

Hashtagging time

Add tags when your audience is the most active. This time the users scroll their feed and visit a Recent tab more often. 

If your content is at the top of the tab at that time, it gets more reach and engagement. And if your photo and video are good, you get more likes and subscribers.

You can know where the target audience is most active in Insights.

Repeated hashtagging

You can hashtag not only when posting. Tags may be changed in captions and comments under posts and IGTV. In Reels you can add and delete tags only in comments. Instagram Stories are not to be edited, you have to reupload them if you want new tags.

We noticed that posts get to the Recent tab no matter how much time passes from posting to hashtagging. You can change tags gradually, not all in one day. Then, your post will always be at the Recent top of the tags written under it not long ago. But remember about the limits — there can be no more than 30 tags under a post.

Not only new tags you can add. Delete a tag from the caption, save the publication. Open the editing menu again and write the same tag. It works alike with comments. Delete and add again a comment with tags. The post will be at the top of the tag’s Recent tab. 

Don’t use repeated hashtagging as a base of promotion. You can’t foresee whether it’ll cause Instagram to ban you. 

Tags language

You can write tags in any language. You can even write them in several languages at once. For example, in English and the native language of your target audience. 

English as an additional language for tags increases reach best of all. According to the Internet World Stats, 26% of users use it. Besides, the language is recognized as an International language. Even people with minimal English skills use it for hashtag search. 

English is the most popular language on the Internet. To make a comparison, the second most popular one, Chinese, is used by 19% of people on the Internet. At the same time, the popularity of Chinese is mostly due to the large country's population. 

It is worth recalling, tags should also be written in a local language. Then, any user from your target audience can find you. 

Popular hashtags

On Instagram, you can check how popular a tag is among authors. To do it, type a tag in the search and you’ll see the number of posts with it. 

The tags are roughly divided by the number of posts with them.

  • Low-frequency — up to 50 K.
  • Mid-frequency — 50-100 K.
  • High-frequency — more than 100 K.

What tags to choose

Do not strive to post only with high-frequency tags. Popular among authors tags are not the same as popular among target audience tags. A big number of photos and videos on a tag page doesn’t mean the content is in demand. 

For example, authors have posted 67 M posts tagged #garden, and 52.2 K #gardendesignideas posts. It doesn’t mean users search #garden more often. Design ideas for their own gardens particularly may interest them even more. Unfortunately, you can’t know for sure if it’s true in every single case. 

On a popular tag page, a post is lost quickly. It will be replaced by new content, and you won’t get expected reach and engagement. 

So what are the tags to use? You better use tags with different frequencies. Less popular Instagram hashtags help to get bigger reach and engagement. If users like the posted content, you get more likes and new followers. High-frequency hashtags give results right after publishing, while the post is still at the top of the Recent. 

Find right hashtags

Collecting the right hashtags takes time. But as a result you get more likes and subscribers.

Competitors

Look what tags your competitors use. There might be hashtags you’d never come up with. 

Audience

Consider the general portrait of your audience to find the right hashtags. There is no sense in using modern slang if you promote wrinkle cream or camel’s hair belt. On the other hand, a young audience won’t understand boomers’ phrases.

Age, gender and location of the followers you can see in the Insights. 

Locations 

Add places to the word combinations. They can turn any high-frequency tag into a low-frequency one. 

Such tags are even more useful to local business. Thus you’ll attract the audience which is more likely to buy your product. The users will be more active in your profile, which is a good sign to Instagram algorithms. 

Look at the examples. A popular hashtag #coffee becomes a low-frequency tag after fleshing it out with New York City location.

Banned hashtags 

You can’t add hashtags encouraging people to harmful behavior and violating the Community Guidelines. You just won’t see banned hashtags in the search. 

There are also ambiguous tags. Not all content with them violates social media rules. So there are pages of these tags in the search results, but there is no separation into Top and Recent. Getting on such tag pages is difficult, but we do not recommend it either way. The social media restricts showing posts with such tags.

We do not recommend using tags like #mutuallikes or #mutualsubscription. To Instagram, it equals cheating. These are not banned hashtags, but your account still may be banned. 

Create your own tags

Unique tags are used for making contests and marathons, generating users' content. Just add a tag in bio or when posting like you usually do. The tag page will be made automatically. Other users also will be able to add your tag to their content.

You need to think up a really unique word or word combination. The one that other users will not add when posting their completely other sort of content. 

Follow your branded hashtags. Then you can monitor your reputation, what other users post using it, and how your marathon’s going.

For example, Popsugarbeauty uses its name to create their own branded hashtag. 

How to use hashtags

Now you know how to find the right hashtags. Make a list and order the tags in a table. Then, you will quickly find tags for publications. You can also track repeating tags. One and the same hashtags under several Instagram posts in a row is a bad signal for the algorithms.

Separate tags you’ve collected by the type and popularity. For each topic there should be several tags with different frequencies. 

Post typeLow-frequencyMid-frequencyHigh-frequency
Coffee beans#colombianarino, #brasilsantos, #brazilminas#roastedbeans#arabica, #robusta, #cofeebeans
Inspiration#morningcoffeepainting, #morningcoffeethought#coffeebreaks, #coffeereview#coffeeart, #coffeelife, #coffevibes
Address#8thstreetcoffee, #coffeenyc#nyccoffee #coffeeshop
Contests#wincoffeeforaweek, #coffeeforfree, #nameofthecontesttag#coffeeforfree, #wincoffee#coffeeforyou, #needcoffee
Recipes#cinnamonlatterecipe, #summerlatte, #latterecipe#latteheart, #lattelover#cappuccino, #latte, #americano, #v60coffee

Choose a post topic. Choose a tag from each column of frequency. 

Tags analytics

Insights help to estimate how effectively you use hashtags on Instagram. Analyze the metrics of approximately the same content with different hashtags. You can figure out a pattern of what tags lead to the biggest number of likes and comments. 

Posts statistics also show how many people viewed your photo and video from a tag page.

The bottom line 

Using hashtags on Instagram right you can increase reach and engagement, gain more likes and followers. 

Find hashtags for your profile and arrange them in a table. Add tags of different frequency in posts, Reels, IGTV. Hashtags in Instagram Stories won’t be much help in an account promotion. 

Study Insights, metrics changes when use different tags. Use those that work best for you. 

Tell in the comments where you usually hashtag on Instagram?