• Josh Carter

3 Best Practices to Promote Engagement With Hashtags on Instagram


Instagram is an interesting platform for businesses to explore. There’s a lot of nuance in the way brands present themselves and market to users and one of the things that sets apart amatuer marketers and engagement experts is hashtag usage. A hashtag is very similar to a keyword in that it helps your posts reach more people. The practice was introduced on Twitter, but quickly spread to most of the popular social media platforms. Instagram in particular has introduced a number of features that expand the usefulness of hashtags and has seen rapid growth in their usage as a result. While hashtags are widely used, they’re rarely used to maximum effect. Learning how to excel at using hashtags can take time, but these 3 practices will help you advance your skills and effectively use hashtags to promote engagement with your business.


1. Do Your Homework

The first step to nailing the art of hashtag usage is to do some research. It’s not the most exciting prospect, but will drastically impact how well you understand Instagram’s unique hashtag culture. There are three main areas you’ll need to consider before making your own post: Keywords, Audience, and Influencers.


  • Keywords

Marketers with experience in the online sphere should know the importance of keywords, and Instagram hashtags are no different. You should determine which words drive the most traffic for posts in your industry and consider adding them to your post in hashtag form.


  • Audience

Curating a community using hashtags engages your target audience in a unique way that encourages future engagement and brand loyalty. The best way to take advantage of this practice is to find specific, niche tags that will attract more dedicated users to your profile. A generic “#food” tag will appear on more search results but will easily get lost in the shuffle. Meanwhile, a specific “#nonGMOOrganicFood” tag will draw food enthusiasts in your target audience who are more likely to relate to your particular post.


  • Influencers

While you may follow CEOs or high-level management personnel on LinkedIn, influencers are often considered industry leaders on Instagram. Profiles with high follow counts and high engagement are good places to look for hashtags that work well. Obviously you can’t take branded hashtags, but generic tags are fair game. This is an especially helpful practice if you’re trying to ascertain what’s different for your industry in the world of hashtags. Foodies and fashion experts may have vastly different approaches to posting, and doing your research in this area is key to long-term success in the field.


Once you’ve thoroughly studied those three areas and gathered a pool of potential hashtags, it’s time to check the trending page. We’ll get into crafting your own creative and unique hashtags in a moment, but first you need to see if there are any relevant trends that you can take advantage of. It’s important to show restraint in this area because brands that jump onto every trend can come off as pandering or ingenuine. Only participate in trends that are relevant to your content.


Another important form of generic hashtag is a topic channel tag. Topic channels, broad categories such as Decor or Food, are fairly new to Instagram and can extend your reach significantly. Users’ activity dictates what channels are recommended to them, so using these categories as hashtags can help you reach users who are looking for content in your industry. Just like with trending tags, you shouldn’t go overboard here and list every channel tag that’s even remotely related to your post. Stuffing your post with generic tags wastes space you should use for more specific and engaging hashtags.


One final bit of research you should conduct is screening for banned tags. Instagram regularly bans certain hashtags for inappropriate content, overuse, or rampant misuse. Some bans only last temporarily while others are permanent. The easiest way to check whether a hashtag is banned is to attempt to search it. If there are no results at all, that hashtag is either incredibly unique or it’s banned. Using these tags won’t prevent your post from appearing in search results, so don’t worry too much if you discover that you’ve used a banned tag by accident. Make sure not to use banned tags often, however, or Instagram may prevent all of your posts from all users who don’t already follow you. This is referred to as a shadowban and significantly impacts your reach and growth.




2. Craft Clever and Creative Hashtags

Using trendy tags and strong keywords will boost your visibility and extend your reach, but promoting engagement really depends on your less generic hashtags. Users’ feeds are flooded with forgettable, run-of-the-mill tags, so you need to set yourself apart.


The best hashtags stick in a user’s mind after they scroll past the post. If they can’t remember your tag, they won’t be able to look it up later or use it themselves. Think of how infectious jingles are in TV ads. People remember slogans and catchphrases they hear in commercials for weeks when they’re written and delivered well. This should be your goal in crafting your brand-specific hashtags. If your business has had success with a particular phrase on other platforms, see if it can be converted to a snappy hashtag.


Unfortunately, there are no hard-and-fast rules you can follow to create successful hashtags. Trial and error can be time consuming and frustrating, but you can streamline the process if you have an Instagram Business profile. With this profile, every post has a “view insights” option that breaks down your hashtags’ performance. With this tool you can easily identify groups of tags that work well together and drive engagement, helping fine tune your strategy for future posts.


3. Place Hashtags Strategically

You’ve carefully studied trends, brainstormed brand-specific phrases, and curated a pool of relevant, memorable, unique hashtags, so now it’s time to add them to your post. You’re likely inclined to just tack them on to the end of your caption and call it a day, but that’s far from optimal. Slapping your carefully selected tags haphazardly onto your post will make it look cluttered, disorganized, and sloppy. That’ll hinder the engagement that you’ve been working so hard to promote, so let’s avoid it. There are four common places that you can strategically place your hashtags both to encourage engagement and maintain a clean, professional aesthetic.


  • In Captions

This is the most common place you’ll find hashtags on Instagram, but they can easily detract from the message of the caption if they’re just tacked onto the end. Instead, create three to four lines of white space between the written caption and the group of hashtags, placing a dash or period on each blank line. This will hide the hashtags unless the user clicks the “read more” option on your post.


  • In Comments

If you don’t want hashtags in your captions at all, you can instead post your content then immediately add the hashtags you’ve selected in a comment. As more users comment on your post, your initial comment will be pushed further and further down on the page, making it less likely to be found. This is a good option if you’re using hashtags purely to increase the searchability of your post, but not a great choice if you intend for readers to use your hashtag in their own posts.


  • In Stories

Your stories appear at the top of the app on Instagram, so their reach is more universal than an individual post. Rich content, such as videos, has been shown to encourage engagement more effectively than plain text. These two facts together make stories a