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How to Use Hashtags in 2021

There was a brief moment back in 2020 where we thought that hashtags might be gone for good because the Recents page was disabled due to the election. But like the phoenix rising from the ashes, hashtags are back, and it seems they’re here to stay. But should we be using hashtags the same way we did before the Recents page was disabled? Not quite. We’re breaking down what you need to know about hashtags in 2021.

How Many Hashtags Should You Use?

There is a lot of differing advice on the amount of hashtags you should use per post. One thing is for sure though, if you’re hoping to increase engagement on your account, you should absolutely be using hashtags on every post. According to Later, posts with at least one hashtag get 12.6% more engagement than posts without hashtags. But how many to use … Here’s what we think: if you can think of 30 relevant hashtags, use them. If you start running out of hashtag ideas at around 15, stop there. Do not fill out the rest of your hashtags with random hashtags that don’t relate to your post. Did you know that users can tell Instagram that a hashtag was used improperly on your post, and then Instagram will punish your content in the algorithm. Yeah … So before you spam your content with trending hashtags, think again. But 30 hashtags? How do you find 30 relevant hashtags?

Research Hashtags Used by Competitors & Your Audience

If you want to find hashtags that fit with what you’re sharing, start researching what hashtags your competitors are using and what hashtags your audience is using. You can do this by going to a major account in your niche, and looking through the hashtags they use either in their caption or in the comments. Pull the ones that best match the content you share. Then start going through the people who follow your account and people who follow accounts in your niche that you admire. What hashtags do they consistently use on their posts? If they match your content, start working them into your hashtag clouds.

Sift Through Niche Hashtags

Unfortunately, Instagram disable their Related hashtags feature in August, and it’s still not back. This was an easy way to discover smaller hashtags that related to a large umbrella hashtag, ex. #manicureinstagram under #manicure. Now we all have to do some deeper digging to find niche hashtags related to the content we’re posting about. Search for your hashtag #manicure and then start scrolling down the suggested hashtags Instagram shows that also start with the word manicure. Each hashtag will show the number of posts associated with it. If you find one under 40K, click on it, head to the Recent tab, and see how recently the hashtag was used. If it’s been used in the past few days, add it to your niche hashtags. Better yet, click on the posts under recent and see what hashtags they’re using. You can find a treasure trove of niche hashtags this way. Check out the video below where we click through this process.

Make Your Life Easier By Organizing Your Hashtags

But now that you have all these hashtags, how do you keep them all straight? One option is to simply create a Google Sheet with columns labeled by type of hashtag and # of posts the hashtag has been used on. Then simply fill out the columns with the hashtags and their stats. This is a great option if you don’t want to use an Instagram scheduler. But if you use an Instagram scheduler like Planoly or Later, you should definitely utilize the saved captions/hashtag features both platforms offer. This will save you a lot of time copying and pasting your hashtags into your Instagram captions. Later even offers an option to auto publish your first comment full of your hashtags.

Use Hashtags on Your Stories

This is a big miss for so many people who want to grow their Instagram accounts. Instagram allows 10 hashtags on every Instagram story, and you should take advantage of all 10. Don't want the hashtags to mess up your carefully curated story aesthetic? Simply hide the hashtags behind a photo or GIF, or change the font color to match the background and then pinch the hashtags until they're so small they can't be seen. Voilá!

BONUS TIP🔥: Add a location to every story you post as well!

So ... When Should You Use Hashtags?

Long story short - always. You should always be using hashtags if you're trying to grow your Instagram account. Just like you need to prep your content and captions for success on Instagram, you need to prep your hashtags the same way. If you put in the work to find your niche hashtags, and you use them on every post and story, you'll start to see your reach on Instagram soar! While you're doing your research, be sure to compare your niche hashtags to Instagram's ever changing list of banned hashtags. Instagram bans hashtags when they've been used against Instagram's Community Guidelines. Always double check your hashtags because banned hashtags aren't always what you expect. Hashtags as seemingly innocent as #elevator have been banned in the past. If you use banned hashtags, your content will be punished by the algorithm. And after all the hard work you've put in researching hashtags, you don't want to be bumped because of a random banned hashtag.

All of this work is time consuming, but to use hashtags successfully, you have to put in the work. If you need help building niche hashtag clouds or you simply don't have the time, hit us up at Media A La Carte.


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