If you are wanting to grow your following on Instagram, this is a great place to start! Let me quickly warn you though, I am a novice when it comes to using hashtags, but I have acquired a lot of knowledge about hashtags in the past months that you may still find very valuable.

First of all, what are hashtags and how do they work?


According to google “A Hashtag (in the context of social media sites such as Twitter) is a word or phrase preceded by a pound sign (#) and is used to identify messages or specific content of a certain topic. In other words, when you use a hashtag in a post (for example: #foodie), now whenever someone searches for posts using that hashtag, your post will come up. So if you want people interested in the content you are posting, using hashtags is a great tool to put you on their radar.

For Instagram specifically, hashtags generally take place at the bottom of a photo description. I suggest you use between 10-30 hashtags per post. You can do more, but it does kind of scream “I’M DOING EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO GET MORE ENGAGEMENT ON MY ACCOUNT!” and that can be a turnoff for some people. Also, keep in mind that Instagram limits feeds to 2200 characters, or approximately 440 words from the English language.

What kind of hashtags should I use?

A picture is worth a thousand hashtags (lol), so trying to chose hashtags for a post can be overwhelming. I took the liberty of breaking down different types of hashtags based on their function.

  • The “Always Trending” Hashtags - Hashtags like #love, #cute, #photography and #follow will always be some of the top trending hashtags. These hashtags are searched the most and used the most. Because a lot of people have caught onto their trendiness, everyone uses them for everything, regardless of their relevancy to a post. I suggest, if one of these trending hashtags is relevant to a post, use it.

  • The “Post Relevant” Hashtags - What is the photo of? What program did you use to edit this picture? Where was this photo taken? What genre of photography does this image fall into? What kind of camera or lens did you use? What is the most prominent colour in this photo? What brands are in this photo? What verbs or adjectives describe this image? Answer these questions with hashtagged words or phrases.

  • The “Account Relevant” Hashtags - Use hashtags that are relevant to your overall account theme even if these hashtags aren’t always relevant to each individual photo on your feed. I use #vegangirl on all of my photos for this very reason. Even if a specific post has nothing to do with veganism or girls, my account as a whole is about me, and I identify as female and vegan. So using #vegangirl will attract people with similar interests to my account.

  • The “Niche” Hashtags - Understand what about your account gives an edge or makes you unique. Then see how many other people are using hashtags related to this unique thing. Find niche groups that have medium to small sized communities with similar interests that will help grow your following. Your posts will likely be lost amongst the thousands of posts in large communities (#food) and no one will see your photos in extremely small and vague niche communities either (#foodmadebyjosh).

  • The “Personal” Hashtags - Create your own unique hashtags! While traveling to a city called San Miguel de Allende, I noticed that there were no hashtags related to veganism and San Miguel. The probability of #sanmiguelvegans getting searched, is relatively high considering how quickly the city is growing. So, I created and used the hashtag knowing that eventually it will attract like minded people to my account.

  • The “Connect with Me” Hashtag - “Thanks for tuning into today’s episode of ‘Millennial Existentialism’. If you have anything to say about the topics we covered, use the hashtag #milenialextentionalism on any social media platform to start a conversation with us!” If you want to connect with your followers or see what they are posting about you, create a unique hashtag and tell your following!  

Tools for making hashtagging easier:

  • Hashtagify - This is an awesome website that lists the top ten hashtags that are relevant to another hashtag. So for example, if I post a picture of my breakfast, I’ll use the hashtag #breakfast and then use Hachtagify to find other related hashtags such as: #coffee #healhty #lunch #foodporn #morning #goodmorning #yummy. Now my post is still targeting the same audience, only now with a larger net.

Use a Word Doc - Just keep a list of all of the hashtags that you use often. Google docs, Microsoft Word, and Notes on your phone - all of these options will work great! I like to organise mine by the above categories and also by photo type. If I post a food related photo once a week, then having all of my food related hashtags in one place makes writing my descriptions go by a lot faster.

Real life example of how to use hashtags:

Description: 🌞🌵🌞Day’s like these remind me why I love San Miguel so much! The sky is blue, the sun is shining and a cool breeze play with my silky shirt. And though the people here may grow older, the city hasn’t changed. There will always be an abundance of yellow houses here, with cacti peaking their heads over the roof top terraces. Listening to the rumble of Volkswagen Beetles teetering down the cobblestone hills.🌞🌵🌞 #love #instagood #photooftheday #beautiful #tbt #happy #cute #picoftheday #girl #art #smile #instalike #vacation #nature #adventure #photo #cityscape #photography #digitalnomad #entrepreneur #remotework #travel #digital #buisness #money #Mexico #tourist #guanajuato #SMA #architecture #city #vegan #vegangirl #vegantravel

The Don’ts of Instagram Hashtags:

  • Don’t use hashtags that are totally irrelevant to your post. This will not likely attract long-lasting or positive engagement. Have clear motives. How will doing this have a positive impact on your life and the lives of others?

  • Don’t use hashtags like #followback, #likeforlike or #follow4follow if you aren’t willing to take the time to follow back all of your follows and like all of their posts. If you are willing to do this, go for it, because this is a great way to increase your numbers. Just know that it is a large time commitment and that if you ever unfollow people or stop liking their posts, you will loose those numbers just a quickly as you got them. This strategy involves lots of up keep. 

  • Don’t use just any hashtag app. I have tried several hashtag apps and several times this has led to a glitch on my Instagram account that makes my description for a photo not appear. For some reason, Instagram doesn’t like when you connect an app to your account for hashtag purposes.

Want to know even more? I suggest you study SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Studying SEO helped me understand hashtags and online writing on a whole new level. I am currently in the process of learning SEO on a class call “SEO: Keyword Strategy” and I highly recommend it.

And that about sums it up friends! As I learn more I will continue to edit this article. Use the hashtag #hashtagswithria so that I know you’re applying what you learned in this article to your social media accounts!

Much Love,

La Ria Hardcastle

Ria Hardcastle