• Bonnie Hatcher

What hashtags should I use on Instagram?

Updated: Aug 29, 2019

Hashtags can be a great way to reach potential new customers.

Hashtags are a little bit like a labelling system for instagram posts.

They help others to find your image based on how it has been ‘labelled’. 

For example, if you want to find images of a waterfall, just search under the hashtag #waterfall and you will find a plethora of waterfall images. If you have multiple words you use them together without a space, for example ‘frozen waterfall’ would be #frozenwaterfall.

You can be very broad with hashtags, or go more specific such as “#pinkelephantwithglasses (should you have been wondering, there are currently 9 images showing for this hashtag).

You can also use branded hashtags such as “#nikeairmax270” if you know exactly what you’re after. Hashtags can be used by anyone to label their picture, so this shouldn’t be confused with with @ symbol which references the account under that name. For example, @nike would take you to the Nike instagram account. 

So now you understand how people are searching with hashtags you can better understand which hashtags will be best for your own post. 

Hashtag planning process. 

You can use up to 30 hashtags on an image. Simply put # in front of the word and it becomes a ‘hashtag’. Finding 30 hashtags can be quite daunting, and there are certain methods to this so we’ll share a process we find useful. 

We will use the following image as our working example.

Firstly, create your initial list.

Step 1: List out the hashtags you can see in your image.

Consider variations of the same word, and be creative with your list of words.

(NB: the number in brackets below indicates the number of posts that have used this search. This is important. We’ll come onto why later.) 

#giraffe (3M)

#giraffes (484K)

#animal (55.9M)

#animals (60M)

#bluesky (33.3M)

#funnygiraffe (500+)

#funnygiraffes (100+)

Step 2: Add instagram suggestions

Once you start to type these hashtags into instagram it will bring up additional suggestions. Review this list to see if any other ideas work for your image. 

#giraffesofinstagram (45.6k)

#giraffelife (37.8k)

#giraffelivesmatter (500+)

#giraffelover (45.4k)

#giraffelovers (19.7k)

#giraffeface (1000+)

Step 3: Get into the mind of your audience

What else might someone be searching for to find your image and for it to be relevant to them? Be sure to think outside the box. Remember this isn’t about how you want to portray the image, but instead how you want to be found

#funnyanimals (805k)

#funnyanimal (79.8k)

#funnyanimalpics (1000+)

#animalphotography (5000+)

#thingsthatmakemelaugh (12.1k)

This initial list will begin to give you a feel for the post-volume for each hashtag.

Secondly, refine and develop this list

While you’re building this list you need to be aware of which words to use and which not to. 

If you use the hashtag ‘#animals’ you will be competing with 60 million other images of animals.

Within milliseconds your post will be succeeded by more and more posts of the same hashtag. Not only are you unlikely to reach new audiences with this hashtag, but also the intent of someone searching for ‘animals’ is so vague, they are unlikely to follow you as a result of the post. 

Conversely if you post “#giraffelivesmatter” you’ll only be competing with about 500 posts so your post will remain ‘recent’ for hours, maybe even weeks. But with such low volume it’ll take a long time for that post to gain the traction you’re after. 

So, we recommend selecting 10 hashtags from each post volume grouping. This will give you a hard-hit from the high volume terms (instagrams algorithms will see your content as engaging and relevant), with ‘slower burner’ hashtags giving your post longevity. 

Big Hashes

Hashtags with 50k - 250k posts. 

#funnyanimal (79.8k)

#giraffelove (90.7k)

#safarilife (56.7k)

#safariphotography (59.5k)

#africasafari (50.7k)

#luxurysafari (83.1k)

#photosafari (187k)

#photoofnature (81k)

#photooftheyear (185k)

#photoofinstagram (219k)

Mid Hashes

Hashtags with 10k - 50k posts

#giraffesofinstagram (45.6k)

#giraffelover (45.4k)

#giraffelovers (19.7k)

#giraffelife (37.8k)

#giraffee (21.6k)

#giraffefamily (20.6k)

#giraffecentre (16.9k)

#wildanimalsafari (19.6)

#familysafari (25.3k)

#thingsthatmakemelaugh (12.1k)

Small Hashes

Hashtags with fewer than 10k posts

#funnygiraffe (500+)

#funnygiraffes (100+)

#giraffelivesmatter (500+)

#giraffeface (1000+)

#funnyanimalpics (1000+)

#animalphotography (5000+)

#wildanimalphotography (1000+)

#giraffephotography (5000+)

#giraffephoto (1000+)

#giraffephotos (fewer than 100)


Finally, but crucially, there are some banned hashtags which, if you use, many believe can get you shadowbanned from instagram, meaning you won’t show up in any hashtag search and your account could even be closed. Find out more here. Check this list before finalising your hashtags to ensure you're not going to do more harm than good.

Consider this same process for every post. Don’t be complacent and copy and paste the same words each time as you will find you’re seeing diminishing returns. 



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