How to Use Hashtags Effectively on Instagram to Increase Engagement

Hashtags can be incredibly effective tools on social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter, but many users are not leveraging them to their full potential.

Instead of just throwing every hashtag you can think of onto a post, there's a strategic approach you should take to choosing hashtags that will actually increase engagement.

In this guide, we'll cover common hashtag mistakes, how to research and analyze hashtags, and strategies for using hashtags effectively.

Follow these best practices, and you'll see your social media engagement and reach improve dramatically.


The Common Hashtag Mistake

The most common mistake is using only generic, one-word hashtags like #food, #travel, or #shoes. The problem is that these hashtags are extremely broad and competitive.

Think of it like SEO keywords - a generic term like "software" will be almost impossible to rank for, while long-tail keywords around specifics are much easier to target.

Hashtags work the same way. The more broad and generic the hashtag, the more difficult it will be to get any visibility from the algorithm.

You might as well set your post adrift into the social media ether, never to be seen again.

So why do so many users treat hashtags differently than keywords? You shouldn't.

Hashtags are essentially keywords for social media, so you need to match the difficulty level of hashtags to your level of influence and engagement.

Avoid super competitive tags unless you have a massive engaged following.


Step 1: Finding Relevant Long-Tail Hashtags

Rather than using only one-word hashtags, you'll have much better results targeting longer, more specific hashtags focused on details.

This discovery process is easy when you know where to look:

  • Go to DisplayPurposes and type in a broad keyword related to your niche
  • Click "copy mode" to show hundreds of related long-tail hashtags
  • Remove any hashtags not niche-specific enough (sometimes hashtags take on different meanings across niches)
  • Paste hashtags into a spreadsheet for further analysis

Repeat this process with different broad keywords, continuing to build your spreadsheet full of relevant hashtag options.

The site makes it simple to exponentially grow your list faster than trying to brainstorm ideas on your own.


Step 2: Analyze the Potential of Each Hashtag

Now comes the analysis to determine the engagement level and competitiveness of each hashtag, identifying ones well-matched to your capabilities.

Label Engagement Tiers by adding columns in your spreadsheet for:

  • "Post count"
  • "Tier/likes" for each hashtag

Search recent top posts for each hashtag on Instagram:

  • Note the number of likes/engagements on top posts
  • Label hashtag tiers based on typical engagement
  • For example:
    •  High Tier = 10k+ likes 
    •  Mid Tier = 1k-10k likes
    •  Low Tier = 0-1k likes

The goal here is to find hashtags where reaching the top posts/first page is achievable for your level of engagement and following.

If you only have a few hundred engaged followers, don't waste your time battling for top spots in hashtags with millions of posts.


Step 3: Strategically Use Relevant Tiered Hashtags

Armed with your spreadsheet full of analyzed hashtags at different tiers, you can now easily find relevant options tailored to each specific post.

Mix and Match for Each Post

  • Include a mix of reach, mid, and niche hashtags 
  • Higher tier hashtags first to try for visibility
  • Follow with mid and low tiers hashtags where you can realistically place 
  • Add hashtags to Instagram posts accordingly

Following this targeted, tiered process provides significantly more reach compared to general one-word hashtags that get easily buried.

Give it a try for each post and watch your social media engagement level up.


Take Your Hashtag Strategy to the Next Level

Once you have a solid process and spreadsheet built out, take it to the next level by creating reusable hashtag packs around topics and themes.

1. Create Hashtag Packs for Efficiency

For example, group together all your best food-related hashtags, fitness-related hashtags, etc. Then it's as simple as selecting the appropriate hashtag pack for each post rather than rebuilding your tags each time.

2. Automate Your Efforts

This makes it fast and efficient to leverage your hashtags while keeping posts targeted and strategic. The sky is the limit when you use hashtags the right way!



By avoiding common hashtag mistakes, researching long-tail options, analyzing engagement tiers, and strategically mixing hashtags, you can significantly increase the reach and engagement of your social media posts. 

Establish an effective hashtag process tailored to your niche, and you'll be well on your way to social media success.


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