How to pick Instagram hashtags – almost automatically

Estimated read time: 3 minutes


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I’ve known for a while that Instagram hashtags are necessary and useful. I see the accounts that have fewer followers than other accounts but they use hashtags much more effectively and with that get a lot more likes and engagement.

In this article, I share how you can easily add Instagram hashtags and not just any, but ones more likely to be useful. I cover:

  • How people view hashtags on Instagram
  • How to add them to your post almost automatically

How to view hashtag content on Instagram

Of course, you’ve always been able to search for hashtags on Instagram and also follow them by clicking on the magnifying glass and then searching for hashtags. Instagram even offers potentially related hashtags.

I’ve also seen Instagram make recommendations on hashtags in notifications based on what posts I’ve recently liked. “You liked 4 posts #gymlife. Follow the hashtag.”

Read next: NEW: Scheduling Instagram Posts Now Available in Facebook Pages Manager

Once you follow a hashtag posts with that hashtag show up directly in your timeline. (Check out my travel blog for travel stories.)

Of course, popular hashtags also mean there’s a lot of competition. So something to keep in mind, but hashtags are worth considering in your distribution strategy. But I’ve seen relatively small accounts (when it comes to actual followers) reach a much larger audience by using hashtags well.

Read next: How to use alt text on Instagram and in WordPress

How to pick Instagram hashtags for your posts

The easiest way is to start typing a related keyword to your post and then wait for the auto recommendations. Here’s an example. I was posting an image of my book in the Content Marketing World bookstore and started typing “#book…”

Instagram hashtags recommendations

From there you get all kinds of recommendations, including volume of number of posts shared to it. Of course, I still need to think about which ones to pick but it gives us ideas on hashtags that actually get used. Not all hashtags are in line with the brand or relevant.

In a sense, it’s no different from keyword research. Why use keywords that nobody searches for? “Hey, we are ranking No. 1 for this thing nobody searches for.” While these don’t give you numbers of how many people actually view them, it does give you an idea what’s being used.

Read next: Keyword collaboration to take your keyword research to the next level

How do you decide what Instagram hashtags to use and how many to use

It’s a bit of a judgement call, of course. And sometimes we just have to guess what hashtags might work and try them. On Twitter I wouldn’t use more than three but on Instagram I often see posts with 12 and that doesn’t seem to bother anyone – including me.

Jillian Bowen said on her podcast to use 5-6 Instagram hashtags in a post and never the full 30 that you are allowed to use.

It’s a bit like keyword research and brainstorming. What are the words people will search for or already use and which ones are relevant to your post?

Take those key concepts and then start tying and pick the recommendations that make sense. Consider giving the social team the authority to pick Instagram hashtags on the tail end of the workflow. It can cut some time if posts need to be approved off-platform.


Some content in this article was originally written in 2018 and updated in October 2020 with new and more information.