Instagram Hashtags Guide: What, when, and how to use hashtags?

Instagram hashtags guide for beginners

In this series, I will go over the basics of Instagram. Starting out with Instagram hashtags. I have always used them and I can’t remember not knowing what they are for. But I had a request from a reader to go over the basics so they can follow along with the more complex guides that I create.

So here we are. This is the ultimate guide on Instagram hashtags. Let’s dive in!

What are Instagram hashtags?

Example from my elephants theme page @stand4elephants

Everyone has seen them on the social media platform. But what are they?

Let’s start with the definition. It goes something like this:

“The hashtag (on Instagram or any other platform that uses them) is a combination of words or just letters, numbers, and sometimes emojis. For example #cutecats2021😺. They are used as a system for categorizing content on Social media.”

I think this is the best I can do for defining what hashtags are.

In our case, looking at Instagram hashtags, they have some specifications. You can click on them, you can use them in your post or you can use them in your Instagram story. (More on stories later).

Hashtags have their own feeds where posts appear when profiles on the platform post something with the specific hashtag. There are 2 feeds for each hashtag – “most recent” and “top posts”.

An example for most recent pots on a hashtag.

Your goal is to end up on “top posts” for the hashtag because you stay there until something more relevant and engaging comes up.

An example for top posts on a hashtag

In addition, hashtags have their own stories that you can appear in. Just add a hashtag to your story and you will appear on the “hashtag profile page”.

I think you got the idea of what is #hashtag. Now let’s cover how to use them.

How to use Instagram hashtags?

This is probably the topic that I have spent the most time researching for me and for this blog post as well. And let me tell you… there are a lot of suggestions on how to use Instagram hashtags.

Let me share my experience and what I have found to be working as 3 February 2021.

There is no one size fits all.

Get that idea out of your head. It won’t work. You can’t find the right hashtags that work for all niches, all profiles and to blow up your profile. It is not possible.

The way to go is to test untill you find what works best for you.

But before you go and start posting like crazy until something blows I have a specific strategy that I want to share with you on how to pick your hashtags for your posts. Let me answer one important question first and we dive right in! I promise!

How many hashtags can you use on Instagram?

You can use up to 30 hashtags and 30 mentions in a single Instagram post. For story format, you can use a maximum of 10 hashtags. That doesn’t mean that you should use both all the time! That’s the limit and you should be aware of it.

An example of how many characters, mentions, and hashtags you can use in a single Instagram post. Data from Creator Studio

I always use 30 hashtags in my posts because I have found the working combination for my elephant theme page. But I rarely tag more than 1 or 2 people. The person who made the photo and the place that they made the photo (usually a sanctuary for elephants).

Anyways let’s go back to the strategy.

How to pick the best hashtags for your posts?

The strategy that I use for my theme page is the following:

  • 5 hashtags with posts between 10k-50k
  • 5 hashtags with posts between 50k-100k
  • 5 hashtags with posts between 100k-150k
  • 5 hashtags with posts between 150k-300k
  • 5 hashtags with posts between 300k-500k
  • 5 hashtags with posts more than 500k

The reason that I strive for this diversity is that whenever a post gets on “top posts” section on smaller hashtags then I get a boost and those additional likes make the post go on “top posts” on medium hashtags and yeah… you get the point. It’s like climbing a ladder.

You need to have diversity but it should be based on the niche you are in. You can see that I don’t aim at hashtags with milions. The reason is that the more targeted hashtags I get on “top posts” the more engaged audience I grather as followers! Engagement is a huge part of your Instagram page growth. You want to have active followers that help you reach “top posts” section as often as possible.

How to add hashtags on Instagram?

There are two main ways you can add Instagram hashtags. In this section we are going to cover the first method.

Note: We are talking about posts only in this article. We will cover the stories in a different one.

The classic way of adding your hashtags is by adding them in the text that you are writing.

For example: If this text was to be on #instagram, this is probably the way the #hashtags would be added to a simple #instagrampost.

It’s cool idea and really makes the hashtags more pleasent for the user when they see them. But you do understand that this is really hard to do every single time. You will need quite a lot fo text and hashtag opportunities to add 30 hashtags in your post’s copy.

That’s why the most up to date method is to add you copy and after the copy you can add all 30 hashtags so they end the post and don’t bother the reader.

An example of adding hashtags at the end of a Instagram post.

But that’s not so aesthetic if your posts require them to be as clean and as beautiful as possible. Is there any way that these hashtags can be hidden?

We’ll going to talk about the second way of adding hashtags to your post in the next section. Let’s hop in!

How to hide Instagram hashtags?

There is one kind of not known method of adding hashtags. It’s been around for ages but only experienced Instagram users know about it and use it to maximize their follower’s user experience on the page.

You can add your hashtags as a comment to your post and still have them work. There is a trick tho.

  • It has to be within 1 minute of posting (sometimes even 30 seconds);
  • It has to be the first comment on your post.
Credit for the image: @thepreviewapp

Yes, this works and it really cool.

Big pages can’t do this because most of the time they have followers that are really active and it is hard to be the first comment under your own post. That’s why I recommend that you use this strategy only if you have a low follower count and you can be fast enough to add them.

Now you know how to pick and add hashtags to your post.

There is one more thing that I would like to add about hashtags.

How to follow hashtags on Instagram?

If you are a page owner, you often wonder, why do you need to follow hashtags?

I have asked myself this question quite a lot. And the answer is simple!

You can get new and fresh content ideas and you can “spy” on your competitors if you follow their hashtags.

Okay but how do you follow a hashtag?

It’s quite simple.

You go to the hashtag and you click “follow”. After that, the hashtag’s content will appear on your feed. It’s like following a person but with auto-generated content.

An example of how to follow a hashtag.


Did you like this article about Instagram hashtags? Are you interested in hearing more about Instagram? Make sure to stay tuned and follow the blog!

There is much more content coming about Instagram – Tips and ticks, more basic guides like this one, and more in-depth guides with advanced techniques for experienced users.

I hope that this article did bring you value and I hope that the next one does bring you value as well!

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