Article

How to Kill it at Hashtags

by Thibault

As simple as it may seem to just throw some hashtags at the end of your captions, it pays to be strategic. The first step is identifying the right hashtags to use and what makes the most sense for your social media goals.

To get better insights into what makes hashtags work best for you, we’ve compiled a few tips and pointers toward making the best hashtags possible on Instagram. Check this list to ensure you’re creating the best content:

Use the Right Type of Hashtag

There are two major types of hashtags on Instagram:

Branded hashtags:

Branded hashtags are specific to your company. They might contain your brand name, your products or a specific campaign. It’s also worth noting that 70% of hashtags on Instagram are branded.

One benefit of branded hashtags, like Urban Outfitter’s #UOonYou, is they can be tied back directly to your company. So when you want to measure the success of a campaign, or see if your brand is becoming more popular on Instagram, you can analyze your branded hashtags with social media monitoring tools.

Community hashtags:

Community hashtags are more general and don’t necessarily have anything to do with your company. Some examples are hashtags like #instafood or #picoftheday. They’re widely used and aren’t specific to any one person or company.

The benefit of community hashtags is they can make your content more discoverable and build your audience. Air Canada uses #thesix to locate its brand with Toronto. People actively search for community hashtags, so if your brand’s photos and videos show up in the search results, you get instant exposure to a new audience.

Match Hashtags With the Right Photo

When you’re targeting frequently-used hashtags, you need the photo that goes with your Instagram caption to stand out. As we mentioned earlier, the hashtags you use should be relevant to the photo you’re posting. Remember, even though adding hashtags in your captions can make your posts easier to discover, the image is what will pull in users. Do a search for your hashtag and pay attention to the photos that show up.

Specifically, you want to look for similarities between the images. If you find a lot of the same, this could be an opportunity to branch out. This is why you have to invest in high-quality photos or videos for your page.

Don’t just rely on someone who thinks they take good grams–instead, find a photographer that not only knows how to work a camera, but specializes in Instagram shoots too.

Jump on Trending Topics

Using hashtags that are already trending is a popular way to grow your audience. There are two approaches with this tactic:

  1. Wait until a hashtag related to your industry is trending.
  2. Use trending hashtags that aren’t directly related to your industry.

The first approach will give you more targeted results. However, depending on your industry, it might be rare that a topic related to it becomes trending.

With the second approach, you’re jumping on topics that are already trending but may not have a direct connection with your brand. If you go this route, you’ll want to stick with current events like holidays or special events because they’re easier to tie back to your company.

Take a look at our hashtag holidays calendar to get an idea of upcoming national holidays that you can create content around.

Hashtags Vary Across Your Content

Once you find popular hashtags that people engage with, it might be tempting to continue using those same hashtags in every post. However, eventually you’ll need to add some more variation.

That’s why it’s so important to analyze and evaluate what hashtags work the best. With the power of Sprout and Simply Measured combined, we offer truly some of the most powerful Instagram performance tools on the market.

Easily identify the reach of your Instagram hashtags and different campaigns. These tools make it simple to monitor the growth of your brand with new and total followers. Using a variety of hashtags allows you to reach more people.

If you’ve been using the same hashtags for months, there’s a chance people already saw your content and ignored it. By adding in a little variation, you increase the chances to reach new people.

Learn the Competition of Your Hashtag

You might be tempted to just use the hashtags with the most posts. However, another tactic is to focus on hashtags that aren’t used quite as frequently. The benefit of this approach is hashtags that are used less frequently are less competitive.

When you target hashtags that have been used millions of times, you’re competing against millions of other photos and videos to get your content seen. On the flip side, when you use hashtags that have been used in 20K posts or so, you’re competing with a smaller group of people.

That’s why we recommend measuring the performance of your competitors campaigns or brand hashtags to stay in the know. When you learn how to analyze competitor data, you improve your strategy by identifying the content and campaigns that work best for them.


Knowing which hashtags to use and how to implement them is nice. But unless you’re tracking your efforts, you’ll have no idea what’s working and what’s not.

You need to know which hashtags are your top performers so you can build around them. It takes time to pull everything together. So let’s go ahead and refresh.

Here’s what we’ve learned:

  • Using Hashtags for Instagram makes your content more discoverable.
  • You don’t need to use 30 hashtags in every post.
  • Study your competitors and top influencers to find the best hashtags.
  • Make sure your hashtags are relevant.
  • Use trending hashtags and tie them back to your company.
  • Get familiar with Instagram lingo and evergreen hashtags. Make adding them a habit.
  • Measure the performance of your posts and most engaged hashtags.
  • Using the tips and strategies you’ve learned here, you’ll be well on your way to growing your audience on Instagram. With Sprout Social, you can simplify your engagement efforts with our Instagram management tools to monitor hashtags, manage comments and see your efforts through social reporting features.

Do you have any tips on using hashtags for Instagram that we missed? Leave a comment and let us know!

Written by Thibault

Thibault is a cofounder of Capssion