How to use Instagram Hashtags to gain maximum Exposure (+ Free Instagram Course)

Instagram Hashtags Guide

When you read this title you might have thought everyone uses hashtags, what’s new in that? Well, there is. 

There’s a perfect step-by-step hashtag strategy that you can use to grow your Instagram account as fast as you want and that is exactly what I’m gonna show you here. 

Before this, I just want to let you know that I’ve come up with a 5-step strategy that can skyrocket your income on Instagram even if you don’t have a huge following. Here it is: How to make money on Instagram even with small following

Presumptions: Before I talk about hashtags, I presume you already know that your account should follow some niche so that people know what will they find if they follow you.

I’ve added bonus strategies at the end that will work as a bonus for your account if you use them. 

Now let’s jump right in.

Save it for later!


Complete Instagram Hashtag Guide

How Hashtags Work

Each hashtag has its number of posts which tells you how popular that hashtag is.

So let’s say, the hashtag #cute has 426 million posts, as of now. And that means every day thousands of posts are being added to this hashtag. If you want to check this, just search for how many posts are there right now in the #cute. There would be a major difference between the numbers in the image shown below and at the time you are checking it right now…

#Cute Instagram hashtag

If you scroll down in the recent tab, you’ll see new posts every second you reload it. This means every second new posts are being added to this hashtag.

Recent tab of an Instagram hashtag

So can you use this hashtag?

If you use this hashtag, your post will get buried in the feed in seconds, as soon as the new posts keep taking that place, unless you have millions of followers. You might even need to scroll down to find your post that you just posted a while ago. 

Our goal is not to get buried but to be viewed in the “Top” posts of the hashtag instead of being in the “Recent” ones. 

New Instagram Feature

Instagram has recently rolled out a new feature: You can now follow a hashtag too. Which means if you follow a hashtag, your home feed will show you the top posts of that hashtag.

Now you see why you need to be placed in the top posts?

People that follow the hashtag will see your post in their home feed (without you having to do any promotion!)

My Observation on Instagram:

My study has shown that if your one post has been in the top posts of a hashtag till the time period you upload a new post with the same hashtag, then your new post will instantly be in the top posts of that hashtag.

And that is why sometimes you might see posts with just 1 or 2 likes in the top Posts. That is not partiality on behalf of the Instagram algorithm, but that is how the Instagram algorithm has been developed.

If an account’s (user’s) post has the capability to stay in the top post of a hashtag for a longer period of time, then that account is tagged as a good content producer for that particular hashtag. 

What does this mean for you?

You should consistently use some high quality hashtags in all of your posts. But how many? Coming back to that in a while…


How to Use Hashtags?

Now that you know how Instagram hashtags work, you might be curious about how to use hashtags, how many to use & how to get more visibility through these. Let’s see:

1. Be careful with your Hashtags

Instagram allows a maximum of 30 hashtags. If you are not using your hashtags wisely, you’re just wasting your chances of being visible to maximum users. 

Our goal is to get discovered by maximum users from each of our hashtags.


Keep reading…

2. How to find relevant hashtags (to be placed into the “Top” Posts)

You need to find the hashtags where you can get placed in its top posts. 

Now you might be thinking if you have like 200 followers, can you be in the top posts of a 10k post hashtags or 1k post hashtags? (For those of you who are wondering what is a 10k post hashtag: Any hashtag that has 10k posts in total)

…that’s not the way it works.

You need to do a little home work here:

  • Once you know what’s your niche of the image, write down a few relevant hashtags.

  • Visit each of these hashtags. Have a look at the top posts of these hashtags and notice how many likes each post has in a limited amount of time. Ignore the posts that have less than 10 likes (…these posts are in the top post because of the above theory I explained in “My Observations”). 

So let’s say the top posts of a hashtag has posts with 1000 likes in one hour. Do you get 1000 likes per post in one hour? If you do, go for this hashtag. If you get less than 1000 likes, find a smaller hashtag. 

And by smaller hashtag I mean, the one in which the top posts have less number of likes in one hour.

  • To find another relevant hashtag, you can see the “Related” tags. You can find these just beneath the hashtag name. 


  • If you want a smaller hashtag, you can make it more specific. So let’s say, #cute is too big for you. Then you might use #cutebaby, if it’s a baby’s photo. 

Champion Tip: Ignore one word hashtags. Most of the times such hashtags are already too popular. Instead, consider using 2 or 3 word hashtags.

Repeat the above steps for all the hashtags & make a list of such hashtags.

Important Note: Once you find a hashtag, you need to make sure that the hashtag is popular enough to be used. This happens when we are trying to find a much smaller hashtag and sometimes you start using so small hashtags which are not popular at all. So to check this, go to the recent tab and check the time of the last post posted on that hashtag. If it’s more than 6 hours, don’t use this hashtag.

I know that this is a lot to do, but it’s worth doing if you’re serious about your Instagram – especially if it’s for your business account.

But wait…

There’s a strategy you need to follow while using hashtags.

3. Hashtag Strategy

Before you jump on to finding hashtags for your posts, here’s a secret strategy you need to know in order to use the Instagram features to its full extent for your faster growth:

You need to use 30 hashtags like this – 10 Generic + 20 Specific

  • Generic Hashtags

Generic hashtags are those that are not specific to any of your posts but all of your posts are in a way related to these. That is, these hashtags describe your account’s niche & not specifically describe a single post.

Find 20 (10 + 10) general hashtags that describe your account’s niche. For example, if your account is about pets, then you might have general hashtags like #cutepets, #cutepetsclub, #cutepetsig, #cutepetspost etc.

Now, #cutedog is specific & not generic. You get the point.

Here’s what you have to do:

i) 10 of these hashtags should be relevant to your posts. That is, you should land in the top posts in these hashtags.

ii) 10 should be bigger, but very popular hashtags where you might not land into the top posts.

The reason for this is that these hashtags, being very popular, will give you instant likes as soon as you post. You might get buried in these hashtags, but that’s not our motive. You will add these hashtags to get instant likes which increases social proof for that post.

(Social proof means a proof that the post is like-able. When you see a post that is posted 30 minutes ago, but there are no likes or comments, you will more likely not like the post as compared to the one that has 100s of likes – that’s social proof).

Note: Big hashtags should at least keep you in the “recent” posts for about half an hour. If you cannot find yourself in the recent posts after a minute or so, no one else will be able to find you either.

How to use these:

Instagram has recently rolled out that copy pasting the exact same list of hashtags will mark you as spammy.

So, you need to use only 10 of these hashtags (5 relevant & 5 bigger) in a post. And then switch to another 10 (again 5 relevant & 5 bigger) hashtags in the next post.

  • Specific Hashtags

These are the hashtags that are specific to your posts. So for each post, you need to find 20 specific hashtags.

Again, find 10 bigger & 10 relevant hashtags and you’re done.

This might have gotten a bit confusing… So let’s summarize:

  • You’re gonna keep a list of 20 generic hashtags (relevant to your account’s category/theme). 

  • For each post, you’ll use 10 from above list of generic hashtags & 20 specific hashtags.

  • So for each post, you just need to find 20 hashtags & add the 10 from the Generic List.

I hope this is not confusing & has made you understand the exact strategy I use for my Instagram account to grow faster.

If you liked it, please do me a favor and spread the word by sharing it to your Twitter followers:

Thanks for sharing. Now here’re some bonus strategies for you…

Bonus Strategies for you:

1. Keep a check on your hashtags

Once you’ve made a list of hashtags does not mean that your work is done. Keep checking how effective they are. Try using other new hashtags to see if they work better & if they do, replace them in your list.

2. Keep changing your level

Once you have mastered this hashtag strategy, your number of likes per post will keep increasing. Which means now your level has heightened and you need to change your hashtags. 

So say, you were looking for hashtags that had on average 50 likes an hour on its top posts, but after some time you need to change it to 75 likes, then 100 & so on. And you also need to change your generic hashtags’ list.

3. Hashtag Ideas

If you are searching for hashtags & you cannot think of any other relevant hashtag, here are some of the ideas:

  • Add “ig” or “insta” at the beginning or end of the word. For example, #goodnightig or #instagoodnight

  • Try misspelling the word. Sometimes the misspelled hashtags are also popular. #cuye (instead of #cute) has 11k posts!

  • Try adding some smileys at the end, or just wait for the auto-search to show some. These are popular too.

  • You can also add “shotby” in the beginning or “shot” or “photography” at the end of your device’s name. For instance, #iphonexphotography has 90k posts. 

  • Try to make it specific or generic, you’ll find some more hashtags.

4. Use a Mobile App

You might find a lot of apps on android and apple store that will provide you related hashtags.

Use these hashtags to just get ideas. Because the hashtags provided by these apps are very popular & you might not get maximum visibility through these.

One of the best mobile apps for Instagram planning, scheduling & storing your hashtags isPreview App. I use this app for storing my generic hashtags & it also lets you find hashtags in the app itself.

There’s a lot about this app & I can just keep on writing, but let’s just keep it simple & straight here. Go check out Preview here.

5. If it’s your Business Account

While searching for hashtags, check if the top posts are from customers or from your peers.

For instance, if your business is about jewelry, you might use a few of the hashtags like #jewelleryshop or #jewellery but these hashtags are mostly used by other jewelry businesses. So you might end up attracting your peers instead of your customers. 

So I suggest, just use a few of such hashtags, because your customers might have followed such hashtags, but using up all 30 by such hashtags will do no good to your business. 

Some ideas for your business might be: #myjewellery or #myloveforjewellery – Such hashtags are most likely used by your customers. You got the point.

6. Do your research

Find out hashtags that describes your account’s theme or niche.

Now research the top posts of these hashtags. Notice which type of images get the most interaction. And try to model those types of posts.

I’ve been trying this a lot & hence my feed looks like I’ve changed many themes, but now I am settled on a theme and the type of posts, you can check that here.

7. Most Important Tip

Hashtags make your posts discoverable. You will get consistent likes through these strategies if you follow them religiously. But in order to get followers, your feed should have something valuable to provide. 

Your Instagram account page should be attractive enough for someone to land and instantly think I should follow this. To make this happen, you need to create a consistent and beautiful theme which will make your account visitors to instantly follow you.

Remember, followers are the ones that give you the most likes. So your short-term goal might be to get tons of likes on your posts, but your long-term goal should be to convert those likes into your followers.

Now that you will be gaining much exposure and engagement to your posts, you might be thinking of using this opportunity to market your blog/business on Instagram. I’ve compiled a step-by-step article on how a coach builds a strategy to market a business on Instagram and how you can do it yourself without ever needing a coach!

This completes my Complete Instagram Hashtag Guide. I’ve tried to add each and every detail about how I use hashtags to grow my account and I’ll keep updating this post as the algorithm changes. I hope you learned something & enjoyed reading it.


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