Instagram hashtag research & strategy

Hashtags are the best way to get your content discovered on Instagram. It’s as simple as that.

This is chapter three of a seven-part series on how to dominate your Instagram marketing.

Want the whole blog series all in one place?

You can download the ultimate guide to Dominating your Instagram Marketing now.


Looking for more specialized help? Learn more about what we can do for your social media marketing.


Here is a little background on hashtags…

The # symbol has been around for quite a long time, but it was first used on Twitter as a way to easily search and group tweets that were around a similar topic.

Here is the Tweet that started it all:

He chose the # symbol because it was an easy keyboard character to reach on his 2007 Nokia feature phone and other techies were already using it in other internet chat systems.

It was as simple as that.

By 2009 Twitter adopted the idea and added the hyperlinks to the hashtags. That’s when its usage skyrocketed.

So here we are now, still using hashtags for grouping similar pieces of content together.

While the hashtag may have originated on Twitter, it has widespread use across most social media platforms including Instagram.

On Instagram, you are allowed to use up to 30 hashtags per post, and I would recommend you use up all 30 or at least close to it.

Since they are the primary means for discovery on Instagram by not using all of them up you are limiting your chances to get in front of the maximum amount of users.

But with 30 hashtags available you might be asking how do I decide with tags to pick?

4 Instagram Hashtag Strategies

  1. Branded hashtag strategy
  2. Local hashtag strategy
  3. Audience's search strategy
  4. Content description strategy

Branded hashtag strategy

Firstly — this might sound a little contradictory. You can’t own a hashtag, but you can brand one.

You can’t own a hashtag because hashtags are inherently public. Anyone can tag a piece of content with any hashtag that they please — there is no stopping someone from using one of your branded hashtags.

That can open up some risk with branded tags, but there are several reasons as to why you should use a branded hashtag strategy.

  • User-generated content — you can have your customers post images with a specific hashtag, and then you can pick and choose which images to repost.
  • Events — use a hashtag for an event, to create buzz around an event you are hosting, as well as allow event-goers an easy method to interact with each other.
  • Brand Collection — If you post both personal and business-specific images, tag all your business posts with a specific branded tag. For example on my photography Instagram, I post both personal work and professional work. So for all the professional work, I tag those posts with #leegphoto, thus creating one singular location for my professional images.

Local hashtag strategy

Before we talk about using local hashtags, you should make sure that for all your posts that have a specific location you should add the location to the post. The reason behind this is if someone is looking at a location and your content is tagged with that location your photo will show up. Also if you’re a local business looking to increase your walk-in traffic then adding the location is makes it easier for your audience to know specifically where you are located.

Local hashtags are important because they will be filled with people who are either in your local area, traveling there, or at the very least interested in your area.

There are a number of different tags that are for larger cities and wider locations.

For example — Boston, MA/ New England

#ignewengland #igersmass #igmassachusetts #scenesofnewengland #igersnewengland #igboston #bostondotcom #igersboston #followingboston #newengland #newenglandphotography #visitma #bostonusa #scenesofma #visitboston #iheartboston #boston #ig_newengland #upperrightusa

Smaller cities won’t have as much activity, but if you still include them in your posts you have a pretty good chance to be one of the top posts for the specific hashtags.

The best way to find local hashtags is through the app by searching your location and then clicking on the related searches. It is all about finding the balance of location hashtags that are very specific, but also have a good volume of posts. A good strategy is to mix and match a few higher volume location tags with some lower volume more specific tags.

Audience’s search strategy

This isn’t like the local tags about. This is when you have to put on your detective hat and try to find out where your customers are looking and what they are searching for on Instagram.

Tips to find what your audience is searching for:

  • Brainstorm your client’s interests
  • What needs does your business fulfill
  • Complementary products to yours
  • Research competitors’ hashtags
  • Look into what your current followers post about and like. You can see what your followers are liking by tapping on the notification menu and then selecting the following tab. There you will find a list of what your followers are liking (note: you must be following back your follower in order to see their activity). This is a little-known tip but can be a treasure trove of information.

Content description strategy

For the last couple tags to fill out your 30 you should describe the image.

Display Purposes is a free online app that you can use to find popular and relevant hashtags.

Just type in a couple of keywords to describe your image. Drag the slider to whatever number of tags you still have left of your 30 allotted tags, and the tool will spit out relevant and popular tags.

It is still just a tool, and with any tool, it should be used to help you, but not make all the decisions for you. So make sure you manually evaluate the tags and deselect any that don’t align with your content.

Get all 7 chapters to Dominating your Instagram Marketing


Need more hands-on help?

Contact Us

Comments are closed.