Back to blog

Hashtag 101: How to use them on Instagram in 2018

From day one, hashtags have been an important part of the Instagram set up. But, with every new year comes a new algorithm and the way we use hashtags changes along with it. Last year, there was a lot of paranoia around the possible “shadowban” feature on the platform, which put a lot of people off using hashtags as much as they had in the past. But, now that that’s all behind us, it’s time to jump back on the bandwagon and to get to grips with how hashtags work in 2018.

Keep things relevant

One of the biggest changes to the hashtag world is the new ability to follow specific hashtags in the same way you follow individual accounts. With this new feature, users can see the kind of content they really want to see by following their favorite hashtags. And, it means that accounts need to tailor their captions to this too.

The more relevant your hashtags, the more effective they will be. If you’re using the #foodie hashtag and your content isn’t focused on awesome food - people are going to be pretty confused. And more than that - they’re going to stop seeing your content altogether. Because, along with the ability to follow hashtags, users can also mark content as unwanted by using the “Don’t Show for This Hashtag” option. 

The follow hashtag feature means that using the correct hashtags for your post and brand can result in a significant leap in both engagement and followers. While the platform has always favored specific hashtags over general ones, with this new feature, it’s more important than ever.

Keep things different

One positive thing that came out the whole “shadowban” situation was that we learned the dangers of constantly using the same hashtags time and time again. Long gone are the days when you could simply copy and paste your trusted list of hashtags into every caption. Now, you need to keep mixing things up.

The recent algorithm change has all been focused on cracking down on spam and bot activity. Constantly posting the same selection of hashtags can possibly raise some red flags to the algorithm about your account. 

It’s essential now to switch up your hashtags on every post, so you’re going to need to up your game a little. Create a few combinations of your best hashtags and save them into the notes section of your phone - that way they’re easily available to pop them into your captions.

Keep researching

Finding the best hashtags for your brand is never easy. But the more research you do, the better the results will be for your account. Here are some easy to follow tips to make the whole process a little smoother for you.

  • Avoid spammy hashtags - it may be tempting to include #likeforlife or #followme in your captions in the hopes of getting a few extra double-clicks or follows, but it’s just not worth it. You won’t be attracting targeted followers that will help your brand to grow; they will purely be vanity followers. Also, if you’re hoping to partner with brands as an influencer, they will be put off if they see that you’ve used these kinds of tactics in the past.
  • Descriptive hashtags - the hashtags you choose don’t just have to describe what your image is about; they should also be describing your target audience. Using audience specific hashtags is a great way to draw in new followers. 
  • Community hashtags - these are hashtags that work to connect a group of like-minded people on Instagram. These can be useful for fostering a real community feel among your followers, as well as attracting more people to your feed. 
  • Follow your own hashtags - The ability to follow hashtags isn’t just for your followers, it can be super useful for growing your own account as well! If you follow the hashtags that you use on a regular basis, you can see what other hashtags similar accounts are using in their posts too. This really helps to keep your hashtag list fresh, while still staying relevant to your content and your audience. 


Keep analysing

If you’re serious about growing your brand on Instagram, then you should have already made the switch to a business account long ago. In doing so, you’ll be gaining access to a great suite of analytics tools that can help you to understand how best to optimise your content.

You can inspect how each individual image is performing too, which is perfect for streamlining your hashtags. You’ll be able to see which posts have attracted the highest number of likes and comments, as well as which have gained the most reach across the platform. 

Using this information, you can determine which posts have performed the best, and then pull your hashtags from those captions for future posts. You also get to see how many of the people who saw your post weren’t already following you. If this number is high, then chances are your content might even have been featured on the explore page. If this is the case, then you definitely want to replicate your hashtag selection in the future!

Keep Storytelling

So many people focus too much on their feed and neglect one of Instagram’s most popular features - Stories. And, since you can include hashtags in your Stories as well - they can be a great way to bring in new followers.

In fact, when you search for a hashtag on Instagram, right at the top, you’ll see that specific hashtag’s Story. The top Story posts for each hashtag will be featured here, in a similar way to the explore page. 

If you include hashtags in your Story, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to reach even more people than usual. All the same, rules apply here though - keep them specific, stay away from spam, and don’t always use the same ones. 

Using hashtags strategically is a proven strategy for growing your account on Instagram. Whether you’re looking for more followers, a boost in engagement, or to attract the attention of brands - hashtags can help get you there.