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The Ultimate Guide To Instagram Hashtags In 2021

The Ultimate Guide To Instagram Hashtags In 2021

Instagram hashtags continue to confuse a lot of people.

Do you use all 30? Caption or comment section? How relevant do they ​really​ have to be?

It comes as no surprise that content creators continue to showcase tools in their posts. Get it right and it can lead to the ultimate Instagram growth.

Get it ​wrong​ and you could find yourself with potentially annoying followers and your content falling into a bucket of spammy posts.

But despite these tools, many remain confused on some of the finer details.

The reality is, hashtags can make or break your Instagram strategy.

You needn’t fret, as we’re about to tell you everything you need to know to get more followers, build a community and improve your Instagram engagement rate.

In this guide we'll cover:

Let's get into it.

Why Do You Need a Hashtag Strategy?

Hashtags still remain an effective way to get your content seen. A post with at least one Instagram hashtag averages ​12.6%​ more engagement than those without. The aim of hashtags is to categorise content, making it more discoverable.

Think of these as the keywords for your posts.

You wouldn’t write an article without optimising it, so don’t post on Instagram without a hashtag strategy. But in order to use hashtags effectively, first, you need to understand how they work.

The Different Types of Hashtags

Although there are 30 hashtags you can use, many people forget the different types of hashtags available.

Hashtags to ​avoid.

- Banned hashtags:​ These are the ones you want to stay away from. Banned hashtags are considered ​inappropriate by Instagram​ and using them will negatively impact your content. These may include nudity, spam or simply go against the guidelines in another form. Using these will hurt your organic reach and growth efforts.

- Flagged hashtags​: Not too dissimilar to the banned ones above, these are hashtags that have been reported as inappropriate and may be under review by Instagram. Stay clear of these.

Now, onto the Instagram hashtags ​you need.

- Topic/niche specific hashtags: ​These are hashtags that are specific to your niche. Let’s say you’re a fitness guru - some examples of topical hashtags you might use could be #fitnessblogger #fitfreak #fitnessaddicts or #fitnesstrainer.

- Branded hashtags:​ Often referred to as community hashtags, branded hashtags are specific to your account. This doesn’t have to be your ​Instagram business​ name per say, but it has everything to do with your brand identity. They are perfect for specific marketing campaigns and including your audience. Think of it as a folder for your content.

- Audience specific hashtags​: Used to describe or target a specific audience, they are often descriptive and niche. Rather than simply #eyemakeup you may use #makeupartist to help target people instead.

- Location hashtags:​ These are pretty obvious! Location hashtags are great to target those - you guessed it - in a certain area or location. These work well if you’re a physical store or offer your services in a specific area, such as #londoneats.

- Product specific hashtags:​ Let’s say you’re a food blogger using the ingredients from a specific brand. Using branded hashtags from those companies can help to further your reach and put your content in front of those that are viewing that brand’s content via their branded hashtag.

Finding a Hashtag Formula

When you think of hashtags as a “bucket”, you’ll quickly change your perspective on how your content is found. With each hashtag forming a collection of posts, it makes it easier for users to find your content.

However, there’s extra steps to finding the right hashtag strategy for ultimate Instagram growth. This is where ​size matters.

Instagram hashtags can be grouped into four categories:

  • BIG hashtags:​ These have millions of posts, are quite generic (#love anyone?) and there’s far too much competition.
  • Medium hashtags:​ These can still be quite general, and tend to hit the million post mark.
  • Community hashtags:​ Less than 1 million posts. These are great for building your following and getting involved in your niche.
  • Micro-community hashtags:​ Less than 50,000 posts, but higher than 1,000. They may be especially niche, but if the content fits, who are we to argue.

If you’re unsure how to find hashtag communities to get involved with, following these steps:

  • Open Instagram.
  • Search for “leaders” in their field (whatever it may be, travel, food, yoga, illustration).
  • Check out their bio and their content to find a hashtag they have created.

To get the best results, use a mixture of hashtags. If you’re only aiming for the big hashtags, your content will quickly get lost. Instead, become a part of a community and involve your content in these hashtags. You can check your ​insights in Instagram​, but there are plenty of other tools for a closer look at your data.

To form a batch of your first hashtags, consider splitting them into three sets.

  • Set 1:​ 10 hashtags that are 30% below your average likes
  • Set 2:​ 10 hashtags that are similar to your average likes
  • Set 3​: 10 hashtags that are 30% and above your average likes

This Instagram strategy is often referred to as the ‘Staircase’ Instagram hashtag strategy.

In order to calculate your average likes, you can do this manually or use Flick. But hold fire, as we’re about to tell you everything about this hashtag tool below.

Many question where to put hashtags on Instagram - and the short answer is: it’s ​up to you. Some opt for the comment section to keep their caption clear, some don’t.

Top Tools for Instagram Hashtags

There are many tools online - both free and paid - that can help you grow your Instagram. In April 2018, ​Instagram changed its API​. This caused disruption for third party apps. But thankfully, Instagram opened their API back up once again in 2019, making hashtag analytics a lot easier.

The internet is full of Instagram tools to grow your account and make optimising easier. Some allow you to create beautiful Instagram links, while others will help you get ahead with your hashtags.

Instagram marketing can feel like a minefield when your hashtags aren’t optimised. If your hashtag strategy feels like a battle against the ​Instagram algorithm​ - keep reading.

As these tools will help your Instagram business grow.

1. Ninjalitics (Free)

This Instagram hack will save you hours of time. Plus, it’s free! By now you’ve most likely identified the accounts in your niche that are nailing their content. The chances are, they’ve already optimised their hashtags too.

Step 1: Go to ninjalitics.com.

Step 2: Simply type in the username of an account.

(Gather a few competitors via Instagram to compare in Ninjalitics. Type their username in here.)

Step 3: Discover their 30 most used hashtags.

Ninjalitics​ will show you a list of the 30 ​most used​ hashtags in their last 12 posts. It’ll also only pick up Instagram hashtags in the caption. If you follow accounts that tend to post their hashtags in the first comment, try another big account.

Step 4: Repeat these steps for several accounts.

Take a peek at around 4-5 big accounts in your niche. Don’t forget to check out Instagram accounts that are growing fast as well. You may just come across some hashtags you may not have found otherwise.

Step 5: Create groups of hashtags from your findings.

Copy the hashtags you’ve found into a spreadsheet and then sort into groups. Aim for 3 if possible. This will help you to determine which are relevant for your content.

Flick (Paid)

The most important part of any Instagram marketing strategy is understanding your audience. Who are they? How old are they? Where are they based?

One of the best ways to reach your audience is to think like them. And this is the same for your Instagram hashtag strategy. What is your ​audience searching for​?

Once you’ve got the basics in check regarding your content categories and audience, understanding how to use Flick is pretty simple. Simply type a word in the search box and you’ll be greeted with hashtags that are considered low, medium and high competition.

As you click on separate hashtags, these will start to tally up at the bottom of the screen. You can then save these to a collection (perfect your sub-categories in your topic), copy them or audit the selection.

Auditing the selection will help you to identify potential banned/flagged hashtags, tell you how many are remaining from the possible 30 and identify if they are suitable for your account.

As you build collections of hashtags, you can see their competition score, potential reach, daily average post count (DAPC) and average likes. If you have a very small account and there’s millions of posts being posted daily in your selected hashtag, it may be too large for your content - at the moment!

There are three different metrics to pay attention to when carrying out a hashtag search on Flick.

- Average likes​ - The average amount of likes that posts in a specific hashtag group received. This will help you determine whether your content is compatible within the hashtag group.

- Competition score​ - The name kinda gives this one away. This shows how competitive a certain hashtag group is. This will help you determine whether your post is likely to rank.

- Opportunity score​ - The potential opportunity or return you may receive using this hashtag on your posts.

How do you know which hashtags are right for your account? You should try and use Instagram hashtags that are relevant to:

  • Your niche
  • The category of the content you are posting (eg, make-up or food)
  • Your account size and engagement rate (hashtags that contain content with a similar average like count to you)

Once Flick is connected with your Instagram account and you start posting, you’ll start to see plenty of metrics to track. These include:

  • Gained and lost followers
  • Audience activity - helping you identify when to post
  • Reach and impressions
  • Profile activity

To get a feel for how it works, you can try their 7 day trial.

SocialInsider (Paid)

SocialInsider offers a variety of marketing and analytics insights to kickstart your Instagram growth.

It works by building on the data given in your native Instagram analytics, so you have plenty of data to back your strategy. After setting up your account, ​SocialInsider​ will provide you with a list of all your used hashtags within a certain period - ranked by ​impressions or engagement.

Their ​hashtag analytics feature​ can also help you track your branded hashtag in comparison to your frequently used hashtags. Follow these simple steps to get set up and start tracking your hashtags for the ultimate hashtag strategy:

  • Click to ‘add social profile’.
  • Enter a hashtag you’d like to analyse.
  • Add it to a project (and if you don’t have one yet, create it) then click ‘add hashtag’.
  • The searched hashtag will shop in the left sidebar of your dashboard.

How does it help your hashtag strategy?

SocialInsider offers insights for both recent and top posts on Instagram within hashtags. You can also discover crucial engagement metrics, such as: the volume of interactions around your hashtags, distribution of likes and comments of the hashtags’ postings and average engagement per post.

Much like Ninjalitics, SocialInsider is a great tool for spying on the competition. This gives you the chance to uncover their most popular hashtags and the performance of their posts.

If you’re not sure about parting with any cash just yet, give their 14 days free trial a go.

Tips to Take Away

Staying topical​ - Instagram looks at your hashtags to determine whether or not your content should be pushed further. Remember, hashtag buckets fill up with content within a specific topic. So if you’re posting about food, #dog tagged on the end isn’t going to get you anywhere. Stay on topic and Instagram will better understand what category you’re posting in.

Hashtag size​ - While everyone would love to be showing up on explore via big hashtags, when you’re just starting out it’s pretty hard to get your content seen. You may be a small fish in a big Instagram-filled pond to start with, but as your content and following grows, you can start to size up your hashtag strategy. Remember, the ​Staircase strategy.

Finding hashtags​ - Researching hashtags can take time. Why not steal them from your competitors? They’ve more than likely spent time optimising their hashtags, so why not jump in and save yourself the work? Remember, ​Ninjalitics​ is totally free and a great tool for snooping on your competitors.

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