How to Win Friends and Use Hashtags Effectively

Hashtags. Formally known as the pound sign to those in the pre-social media era. Ever since their invention, people have been wondering:

How many am I supposed to use?


What am I supposed to actually hashtag?

That seems funny, should I use that?

So I thought I would let you in on my process of finding the best hashtags to use. But first, you need to understand the purpose of a hashtag. On Instagram, hashtags are basically your SEO keywords. They’re used to target your audience and help future friends find you. That’s why it’s so important to: 1. Use them and 2. Use the right ones. Back in the day when people would overload their tweets with tags that made zero sense, hashtags were more decoration than anything else. But on Instagram, hashtags can be used to grow your audience in a targeted way. With the recent update that allows people to follow hashtags, it’s more important than ever to be using the best hashtags for your brand.

How many Hashtags should I use?

Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags per post. But no one wants to see them all up in their face. Our suggestion is to use as many *relevant* hashtags as possible. If you don’t think you have 30 hashtags that make sense for your brand/post, then stop writing them. Just because you’re allowed to use them all doesn’t mean you always should. But you should aim for close to 30 with each post. To make it less in your followers’ faces, use your first comment solely for hashtags. This effectively “hides” your hashtags from your reader, but it also allows them to still work for your post. Yasss.


What am I supposed to actually hashtag?

The best way to find hashtags for your brand is to do your research. Look at what types of hashtags you competitors are using. Write down 30 words that you think describe your feed. Then, go to Instagram and start searching those tags. When you click on a hashtag, you’ll be able to see how many posts on Instagram are using that same hashtag.


For example, #dogs currently has 60,407,112 posts as I’m writing this. So if you use that hashtag, your post is immediately going to be buried into that number. But the hashtag #dogstagram only has 101,345.


Sure, that’s still a big number. But that’s a much smarter hashtag to use than #dogs with 60 million images under it. My general rule of thumb is to use some large hashtags (1-2 million posts), mainly medium hashtags (100k-500k), and some small hashtags. It’s also always smart to create your own hashtag that you use with every post. So if someone wants to view only your posts (or tag you in their posts) they can do so with your personal hashtag.




Before you use any hashtag on your post, you need to make sure it’s not being banned by Instagram at the moment. Sometimes when a hashtag gains too much (not-so-good) popularity, Instagram will stop allowing posts to use it. The problem is, if you still use that hashtag in your post unknowingly, your post could show up less in other people’s feeds because you’re using that “banned” hashtag. You might think, “Oh, but I would never use any bad hashtags,” but you’d be surprised at which ones Instagram bans. For example, #desk is currently banned. It seems innocent, but if you sell desks then right now you do NOT want to use #desk to promote your photo on Instagram. It gets real weird, ya’ll, so do your due diligence and just double check that all of your ideal tags are usable.


I just thought of this funny AF hashtag? Should I use it?

Yes. The answer is always yes to this. Don’t overload your post with weird hashtags, but throwing a funny one or two hashtags in there is always a good idea. Just be sure you aren’t getting too crazy because they are taking valuable marketing space for your post. But if they’re really funny or applicable, do it. Content is key.


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Matchstick Social is a social marketing + advertising firm headquartered in Charleston, SC with a satellite office in Oklahoma City, OK. Matchstick specializes in social media marketing, optimized social advertising, effective measurement of social initiatives and helping start-ups gain social currency by establishing their digital brands.