Hashtags. We love to love them—when we see them work. And we love to hate on them when we can’t crack their ~mysterious~ code. I’m here to break it down for you today with an ultimate guide to Instagram hashtags 2021.
Because let’s be honest… Hashtags are often an afterthought when creating Instagram content. Right?
You’ve already put allllll this thought into a great caption and editing an image to perfection (#thankyoupresets). And now you need to list 30 appropriate, strategic, and well-thought-out hashtags to further your content’s reach?
That’s, like, a full-time job in itself. Except, NOT ANYMORE.
Listen up, my friend! I want to make your hashtag strategy as easy as possible with this guide to Instagram hashtags 2021. If you use these steps below, you’ll have an effective hashtag strategy that gets your content in front of more eyeballs.
And that is #goals.
Why are Instagram hashtags important, anyway?
I’m so glad you asked.
Hashtags certainly don’t MAKE or BREAK your presence on Instagram.
But, if you want to grow your following, increase your engagement, and reach more of your target audience, you need to be using them.
And using them well.
Why? Because using hashtags well allows your content to get sorted and filed into categories, a la the most tech-y filing cabinet ever. Hashtagging your IG content is one of the best ways to get discovered by new audiences by organizing photos and videos with other similar types of content.
Those categories (the hashtags you choose), when selected strategically, are ones that your ideal audience pays attention to and hangs out in. But the equation for an effective hashtag strategy is this: GOOD content + the RIGHT hashtags = reaching the right people.
So let’s talk about how to do just that!
The most effective Instagram guide to hashtags 2021
While it’ll take some heavy-ish lifting up front (we’re talkin’ 1 to 2 hours max, don’t worry), once you’re done completing these steps to boost your hashtag strategy, you’ll reap the benefits for a long, long time.
1. Use the right hashtags.
Okay, “DUH,” you might be thinking. But as simple as this sounds, you’d be surprised how often people use the wrong hashtags that simply aren’t benefiting them in any way.
A few rules of thumb:
- Not too long: You want hashtags that people actually search for or click on. Adding “#mydogisthecutestpuppyonplanetearth” might feel like a true statement, but it’s not expanding your reach in any way. And at the end of the day, that’s the whole point of using hashtags.
- Make them niche: The biggest mistake I see people make when hashtagging is using too broad of hashtags. Avoid ones like “#influencer” or “#entrepreneur” because those aren’t specific enough. Below I’ll share two ways to uncover the right hashtags for your niche.
- Pay attention to the numbers: If you see a hashtag’s been used 2 million times, chances are your post won’t stand out in the feed.
2. Create the right content for your target audience.
Before we get into how to pick the right hashtags, let’s talk about your content.
Because the truth is, it doesn’t matter how awesome and strategized your hashtags are if your content stinks.
And how do you make content that doesn’t stink?
You need to know who your target audience is and what they want from you. What is your niche? What do people come to you looking for? What makes you stand out? What makes you, you?
Share real life. Share your expertise. Share value.
(And… always share high-quality images. The bottom line is that IG is a visual platform. Great photos go a long way as superficial as it might seem.)
Make sure your content speaks to your target audience and stands out—because it will need to stand out in the hashtag feeds you’re adding it to. (That is, if you want new people to click on and engage with it!)
You should create content with the goal to catch the attention of people in most (or ideally every) hashtag feed you show up in.
3. Make a hashtag bank.
Okay, let’s get to the good stuff. How do you actually create an effective hashtag strategy?
Step 1: Start off by creating a spreadsheet and list out 5 or so themes associated with the content you post.
(I call this the JK5. Basically, it’s the 5-ish topics you cycle through in your content to make it well-rounded and interesting yet predictable for your audience, so they know what to expect from you.)
Step 2: Underneath each theme in your spreadsheet, list as many words as you can think of that are associated with each theme.
For example, if one of my themes is family, I might write: parenthood, relationships, marriage, commitment, mama, and so on.
Step 3: Then, search each of those themes and their associated list of words in the hashtag search bar on Instagram.
Step 4: Scroll through the associated hashtags that come up, and write down the ones that have more than 5K and less than 100K to 200K uses.
(If your account is smaller, aim to use the less-used hashtags for now so you have a greater chance of showing up in those feeds and getting noticed by new people.)
Now you have a hashtag bank for each topic you post about!
4. Use all 30 hashtags.
This seems simple, too. But Instagram gives you the opportunity to use 30 hashtags. Use them and use them well. If you follow all of these tips, it’ll be easy to fill in the right ones and use strategic use of hedging your bets between being a small fish in a big pond (in the form of sharing in the large hashtags) and or a big fish in a small pond (sharing in a hashtag that doesn’t have a million posts in it!) Use a mix of the two and try to get as close to 30 quality hashtags! That’s it. That’s the whole tip.
5. Make sure your hashtags are relevant to your post.
It’s tempting to create a broad list of 30 of the same hashtags to copy and paste into your caption every time you post. But don’t do it!!! Seriously, don’t.
Instagram will actually penalize your account if you consistently use hashtags that are irrelevant to the content in the post. They also don’t like it if you use the same verbatim list of hashtags every time.
So you’re better off using different ones each time and tailoring them to the theme of each post.
(Hint hint: That lil’ hashtag bank tip above will help you to switch up your hashtags with each and every post.)
6. Look to the bigger content creators in your niche.
Finally, to really kick your hashtag strategy up a notch, look to the experts in your niche.
This is the best way to beef up your hashtag bank and make sure your hashtags are spot on in reaching your ideal audience. You want to find and pick 5 content creators to study in your niche who post similar content to yours and who have at least 100K followers.
(The reason they need to post similar content to yours is because that means their target audience likely overlaps with yours.)
Then, dissect their most recent content—let’s say their 9 most recent posts. Create a list of hashtags each of them uses, and note how many times they use them. (I.e., if one person uses “#womeninleadership” in all 9 posts, you’ll want to make note of that.)
Finally, organize the list of hashtags they use into your own hashtag bank, categorizing them based on your 5 content themes. By using the same hashtags as leaders in your niche, you’ll hopefully begin showing up alongside their content in those hashtag feeds. This helps your ideal audience find your content (and you!) more easily! Heck yes.
Are you feeling #readytotacklehashtags?! (BTW, that was a test. You passed if your first thought was, “That hashtag stinks.”) While they’re not the end all be all to great Instagram content, they are definitely a solid tool to expand your reach and engage with a larger audience. Take advantage of these guys with my simple guide to Instagram hashtags 2021.
And tell me in a comment below: What is the best hashtag tip you’ve ever heard?! I wanna know!