Which top Instagram hashtags should you use for your brand?

Finding the right top Instagram hashtags can sound like a real struggle. But it isn’t that difficult once you understand how hashtags work on Instagram. In this guide, I will explain what you should do to find your top Instagram hashtags. I will also tell you how you can improve your Insta game straightaway by:

  • explaining what hashtags are
  • what you can achieve with hashtags
  • where you can use hashtags
  • how I set up my hashtag sets for my own accounts and those of my clients

Are you ready? Let us dive in!

What’s the definition of Instagram hashtags?

Hashtags are words or multiword phrases preceded by the # symbol. For example #picoftheday or #sweepstakes. People can search for posts with a particular hashtag, so they’re used to categorize content and track topics on Twitter and different social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Using hashtags helps people find posts and tweets that interest them.

Put simply, hashtags are a way to categorize and group alike content together.

Should I use top Instagram hashtags, and why?

Short answer: YES! You should always use hashtags with your Instagram content:

  1. Using relevant top Instagram hashtags will make it easier for Instagrammers to stumble upon your content. They might come across your content when using different hashtags. It’s a simple way to gain organic followers.
  2. Great impact small investment. Top Instagram hashtags are straightforward to implement. Sure, you will need to spend some time researching the right hashtags. But beyond that, they’re simple to expand your following and give your content a boost.
  3. Posts which have used top Instagram hashtags get more engagement. Hashtags make your content discoverable and put you in front of users you may have never satisfactorily targeted.

How do top Instagram hashtags work?

Like on Twitter and different social media platforms, Instagram hashtags work by organizing and categorizing photo and video content. Every post you share can contain 3 parts:

  1. the photo(s) or video(s)
  2. the caption
  3. up to 30 hashtags (Instagram hack: you can put the hashtags in your comment to make the caption as clean as practicable).

For example, a dog enthusiast can use #dogs #dogsofinstagram or #lifewithdogs.

The hashtag “#dogsofinstagram” that appears in an Instagram post will take you to a page that looks like this:

Your goal with top Instagram hashtags is to enter the “popular posts”. This is a showcase compiled by Instagram of photos (and videos) they think are the most exciting pieces of content within the top Instagram hashtags.

Another reason is you can help Instagram categories your account. The explore page (the place where all the magic happens for organic growth)  is also split up by niche related categories (see image below):

Whenever you use hashtags, relevant words in your caption and Facebook’s FAIR‘s software analyzing your photo. The content also gets a rank classification for the explore page in order that audiences see the right content per category.

Does this mean I can get free followers and engagement with hashtags?

YES and YES! By using 5 to 15 top Instagram hashtags you can get followers, likes and comments. This free audience can convert to clients! Using hashtags is the fastest way for audiences to find you. Hashtags can really get your posts off the ground and into the hands of the right audience. And the good news is that Instagram is always making improvements on how and where we can use hashtags in our posts and stories.

Using relevant, targeted top Instagram hashtags on your posts and stories is still one of the best ways to get your content discovered by audiences on Instagram. And this can translate into more engagement, more followers, and more customers for your business.

So I should spend hours of research on top Instagram hashtags, is it worth it?

YES. Would you say no to almost 110,000 free views via hashtags? If you would like to get the same results using Facebook Ads you should spend around $200-$550 USD to hit the 100K impressions mark. That’s an immense saving per upload. If you got the time, I would suggest spending it on researching the right hashtags for your account.

Pay special attention to the “From Hashtags” metric under impressions. This number tells you if people discovered your post through the hashtags you used.

Instagrammers can now follow top Instagram hashtags

In a big update from 2018, Instagram added the ability to “follow” hashtags (see the photo on #dogsofinstagram). This means you can now stay up-to-date on different topics (or communities) by following a hashtag related to your interests.

Following a hashtag works just like following a user’s profile. When you find a hashtag you’d like to follow you simply open the hashtag page and tap on the follow button.

For brands and businesses, this opens up an opportunity to regularly appear in a follower feed. For example, if you have a branded hashtag for your business, you can invite your followers to also follow your one of a kind hashtag.

This means that your content could appear double in a follower feed — once as they follow your profile, and once again as they follow the hashtag. It doubles your chances of engagement

Add Clickable Hashtags to Your Instagram Bio

In 2018 Instagram released an update. You can now add clickable hashtags (but also Instagram usernames) to your Instagram bio. This makes it easier to build a bio that converts to website clicks, but it also helps the algorithm to categorize your account. You can promote campaigns which use a branded hashtag or stimulate your audience to use the hashtag so you can use User Generated Content on your account.

Use Top Instagram Hashtags in Stories

Before we jump over how to select and bundle your top hashtags I want to highlight one last thing. Did you know you can use hashtags in Instagram Stories? I’ve test running it for months and I see the best results when I use a maximum of 2 hashtags (although you can add up to 10 hashtags) per stories slide. This is giving users yet another way to get their content discovered.

Which hashtags should use you use for your top Instagram hashtags set?

1. branded hashtags

A hashtag I always use in my posts is a branded hashtag. For example, #justdoit or #nike are examples of branded hashtags for Nike’s account. Whenever you have a brand you should consider having a branded hashtag on all your posts, and in your profile.

2. Relevant hashtags to the photo or video

Instagram’s algorithm is smart enough to cross-check the photo and caption. Just because #cats might go viral easier (wild example, never tested it) it doesn’t mean you can use it for your dog account. Facebook’s FAIR software scans photos and will check if there is a cat on it. If that’s not the case, and you’ve used #cat in the caption it will not rank the photo in that particular hashtag.

leadership bram

In this particular image, I’ve used hashtags based on leadership, and quotes. I also added #wolfpack to highlight the wolves in the photo.

3. When using hashtags, don’t go for the biggest hashtag available

You should keep in mind you’re not the only one who wants as much exposure as possible. But long term strategies always work best, also for hashtags. Instead of aiming for the moon, I always like to use smaller hashtags which are niched top Instagram hashtags. Although #wolfpack has over 1,9M photos (and I know I will never rank in the popular posts) it’s been added as a purpose to rank the photo also for wolves. #bossquotes gives me far better possibilities to rank in the popular hashtags as it only has 75,000 photos.

when selecting hashtag sets make sure you don’t aim for only hashtags which have over 1 million photos. Find targeted (but smaller) top instagram hashtags which fit the photo or video you share. I always like to make a set of: 2x 1M or larger hashtags, 7x 100K-250K large hashtags and 2x branded hashtags (maximum of 10 hashtags). Although Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags I’ve experienced better results when I keep the number of photo related hashtags below 15.

4. Community hashtags

Community hashtags are more general and don’t necessarily have anything to do with your company. The benefit of community hashtags is they can make your content more discoverable and build your audience. Air Canada uses #thesix to locate its brand with Toronto. People actively search for community hashtags, so if your brand’s photos and videos show up in the search results, you get instant exposure to an audience.

5. If you use content pillars you can make hashtag sets specified for your pillar

If you (like me) have content pillars for your strategy you can use a hashtag set per content pillar. This saves you a lot of time, as you will always try and upload the same kind of content. I always suggest using 2-3 different hashtags so you can test results how well they perform so you can use it for future shares.


You need to know which hashtags are your top performers so you can build around them. It takes time to pull everything together. So let’s go ahead and refresh.

Here’s what we’ve learned:

  • Using Hashtags for Instagram makes your content more discoverable.
  • You don’t need to use 30 hashtags in every post.
  • Study your competitors and top influencers to find the best hashtags.
  • Make sure your hashtags are relevant.
  • Always use Instagram insights to measure the performance of the hashtags you’ve used.

Using the tips and strategies you’ve learned here, you’ll be well on your way to grow your audience on Instagram.

Do you have any tips on using hashtags for Instagram that I’ve missed? Leave a comment and let me know!

Published by bram

My name is Bram van Houtum, founder of Instagram Nanny. ?? ???????? Make you a HERO on social media and give you a podium to share your unique story to inspire the masses ❤️

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