Instagram Hashtag Do’s and Don’ts

Colleen Ordonio   •   December 15, 2017

It’s no secret that Instagram has become one of the biggest visual advertising platforms in the world. By utilizing this platform, big businesses build strong followings and are capable of reaching millions of people worldwide. However, if you’re a small business owner, a blogger, or hobbyist looking to expand your audience – how do you expect to build a following or reach anyone at all in the midst of thousands of users posting every day?

Nearly every business in existence has a target audience and Instagram has paved a way for your business to reach this audience using a very simple tool: hashtags.

Hashtags have become so pervasive in today’s society that it is a rare occurrence to come across someone who doesn’t know what a hashtag is. But why are they so necessary? Hashtags are important because they make a massive difference in the way users see your photos. Yet, while anyone can use a hashtag on their posts, knowing how to use them efficiently is crucial if you want to rise above the competition.

Here are a few of the best practices, the go-to-guide, the do’s and don’t’s:

Hashtag Do’s

Do your research — use hashtags that cater to both your photo and your audience.

Doing your research is vital. A tip we like to recommend? Check out your competition. While it can be counterproductive to use the same hashtags, it is important that you understand how other businesses in your niche are using them. See which hashtags are being used most, which you shouldn’t use, and which you may be able to gain traction from.

Do take the time to see which hashtags in your niche are over-saturated.

There are many online resources that will help you understand which hashtags are trending. However, now Instagram allows you to see the number of posts associated with any hashtag as soon as you enter it in your Instagram search bar. Here’s where you can experiment and play around. While hashtags that have a high post number (such as in the millions) may be appealing, there is a greater chance that your post will get lost amongst the millions and there is a very small chance that someone in your target audience will see your post. However, you should avoid hashtags with a very low post count (such as >300). This is a great indicator that people aren’t searching or using this hashtag to find what they need. It’s all about balance.

Do use your hashtags wisely — you can use 30 for a reason.

New hashtag users often think that the more hashtags the better, however it is more important that these hashtags are strategically chosen. Instagram only allows you to use 30 hashtags per post, and it is up to you to use them wisely. Refer to your research and experiment. Regarding actually implementing them, many users include these in the caption itself, however it is much more common and aesthetically pleasing to include the hashtags in a comment. Hashtags in comments work just the same as they would in a caption.

Do utilize your brand and location.

Coming up with a concise tagline or branded hashtag can help to establish your brand signature. When you see #JustDoIt, you automatically think of Nike. These brand associated hashtags help to establish your brand at the consumer’s “top of mind.” Your goal is to use these often – if not with every related post so that the consumer can begin to associate this hashtag with your business. The more pervasive it gets, these hashtags act as another opportunity for a consumer to find your brand and product by searching this hashtag.

You also want to keep in mind the location your business is located in. By using location in your hashtags, you can better target that demographic. For example, if you are a makeup artist in San Diego, #muasandiego, may be an option for you to attain local leads and potentially clients.

Hashtag Don’t’s

Don’t use irrelevant or unnecessary hashtags.

Oftentimes, #hashtags #look #like #this. These hashtags are irrelevant because they aren’t usually a term someone would naturally search for. They don’t offer an answer to a question, a description, or a subject. Using hashtags strategically is key.

Don’t use vague or over-saturated hashtags.

Vague and saturated hashtags also no-go. Common culprits? #love #smile #me. While yes, these hashtags may describe the subject or emotion of your photo, like saturated hashtags, millions and millions of users use these hashtags every single day. Additionally, the common user will very rarely use these words to find what they need. Put yourself in the shoes of the user – what would you search for to find a product? An example? An idea? Hashtags don’t just allow for exposure, but hashtags are a medium to increase the user experience by also making the platform a resource for others.

Avoid using lengthy or witty hashtags.

Aside from branded and location-specific hashtags, lengthy and witty hashtags may negatively impact your strategy. A hashtag like #hashtagsarethebest may be cute and quirky for your personal Instagram, but as a brand – they do little to boost your leverage. People don’t naturally search for these things which defeats the purpose. Hashtags allow others to find things they are interested in easily – so you need to make your hashtags concise and easy to find.


Now that you’ve got these tools under your belt, it is up to you to make it yours. Hashtags are an important and necessary addition to your marketing campaign, and with these fundamentals, you’ll be able to build a great foundation for your new hashtag strategy. This is your journey to #BeDiscovered, let your hashtags act as a vehicle to guide your audience – they will allow you to tell your story!

Perfect Your Hashtag Strategy with Reader Digital

If you still find the world of hashtags daunting, fear not. Reader Digital Agency can help you develop the hashtag strategy that’s right for your business. Contact us today at (619) 235-3000 to learn more about our full-service digital marketing agency.