Stunning photography and a clever caption is only half the battle when it comes to winning on Instagram. There are several growth hacks that will build your audience, reach new people, and increase your interactions through utilizing the hashtags you use. Before you start using  #followforfollow or #instagood let’s explore why having a strategy for your hashtags is important.

Earlier this year, Instagram allowed users to follow specific hashtags. When a user follows a hashtag, their feed will include posts that use that hashtag. Now it’s easier than ever to get your content in front of your desired target audience. The first step of your strategy is building your list of hashtags. 

Start With Hashtag Research

Make a list of hashtags that you believe are right for your brand. Search them individually and examine if the content is in line with your brand. Be sure to take things such as:

  • Interaction with posts using the hashtag
  • Visual and copy style
  • Who is posting the content, and is the audience posting my ideal one
  • Related hashtags that show up when you are doing your search
  • Number of posts with each associated hashtags
  • The frequency that a hashtag is used, you can easily see this by clicking on images that are beside each other and look at the gap between posting times.  

If you’re getting writer’s block and can’t come up with an adequate list, here are several tactics you can utilize to build your list of hashtags:

Creep Your Competition

Chances are they are on Instagram, and chances are they use hashtags. DO NOT just copy their tags, after all they might not be using the right ones. Instead, do your research to see if those tags are relevant to your business.

Check Out Influencers

No matter what your business is, there are influencers in your industry. If you’re not familiar with them (YOU SHOULD BE), a simple Google search will help you discover them. Just remember you are only using this as a method of idea generation. You may also find that accounts with a lot of followers do not use too many hashtags, since they already have an engaged audience.

Automated Tools

There are applications and services that you can use to build your hashtag list. If you’re stuck or don’t have the time to do it the good old manual way, these are for you. Just a heads up, most of these have limited free features, you have to pay for the good stuff. Check out KEYEHOLE, HASHTAGIFY, RITETAG

Ideally, you want to build a list of 30 hashtags that have a good representation of what your brand identity is, are followed by your audience, and any specific local tags that might suit your business. For example, If you’re in Hamilton Ontario, the best hashtag to hit local users is #hamont.


Evaluate Your Research and Pick Your Tags

Even though Instagram allows you to use 30 hashtags per post, it’s not recommended to do that, posts that over tag seem like spam. Ideally, a happy medium is between 8 to 10 hashtags. But wait, you just made a list of 30 and are probably wondering why we told you to do that. It’s simple you want to use the cream of the crop. Take into consideration the criteria we mentioned before to evaluate your tags. Unfortunately, Instagram doesn’t let you track the performance of specific hashtags you are using. However, tools like SPROUT SOCIAL allow for you to track your hashtag performance.


Go Beyond Just Posting on Instagram

Your hashtags are your best friend for reaching out to brands and people who are aligned with yours. Remember how we said you can follow hashtags, go ahead and follow the hashtags on your list. Now when users post using those tags, the most popular posts will be added to your feed. This allows for easy access to the tags you’re following by simply going to your following tab on your profile and clicking hashtags. You should reference these tags and interact with posts on a consistent basis. 

Before you start stretching your thumb and getting it ready for a spree of double tapping, let’s set some rules:


  • Spam like people’s posts (going through their feed and liking 10 posts at once)
  • Leave comments like “great post”, “awesome”, or “check out my page”
  • Follow, like, and comment on a post.
  • Do anything that seems spammy.


  • Leave relevant comments that contribute to either the existing conversation going on in the thread, the caption of the post, or the image in the post.

The Right Interaction on Social Media

Ultimately you have to decide what’s the right type of interaction, you don’t always need to comment on a post and/or like it. You might find that a user posts consistent content that’s aligned with your brand. At that point, a follow is a better course of action. If you’re commenting on every post that you come across, you’re going to find yourself at a loss of creative things to say and will start reusing comments. Reaching out using your hashtags sets you up for long-term success. You won’t see an immediate spike of likes, comments, and follows, building your audience organically takes time. Remember that being consistent with this strategy will help you build your tribe over time. The key to winning on social is relevance, consistency, and quality content.

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