Getting featured in the trending Instagram hashtags is a big deal. Like getting featured on the Explore Page, it can results in a huge network effect that essentially makes your post go viral on Instagram!
But how do you actually get featured in the trending Instagram hashtags? And what factors does Instagram care about when selecting which posts to feature? Fear not, in the following guide, we explain everything you need to know about trending Instagram hashtags and how to get featured as a “top post.” Let’s go:
What are Trending Instagram Hashtags?
If you’ve ever searched for a hashtag on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed the grid of nine “top posts” that appear at the top of the results page. According to Instagram, top posts appear on trending hashtags “to show you some of the most popular posts that were tagged with that hashtag.” Underneath the top posts, posts are arranged chronologically and are constantly being updated, so getting into the top posts can mean huge exposure for your brand!
Like the Explore Page, top posts are chosen algorithmically based on several factors. While the Explore Page is essentially an aggregation of posts that Instagram thinks you’ll like based on your behavior, when you browse a hashtag on Instagram, every Instagram user sees the exact same top posts!
It doesn’t matter if you’re in Maui or Madagascar, if you get into the top posts for an Instagram hashtag, anyone who searches for that hashtag will be able to see your post. So the opportunity to go viral is pretty huge!
What Makes a “Top Post” on Instagram?
The algorithm behind Instagram’s top posts takes a few things into consideration, including: how much engagement your post receives (likes and comments), the popularity of the hashtag, and how quickly your post receives its engagement.
While no one knows exactly how the Instagram algorithm works, we do know that Instagram favors posts that get a lot of engagement, meaning that if your post receives a ton of likes and comments, it’s more likely to feature in the top posts of a trending hashtag.
Check out the search results for the hashtag #stayandwander. Most, if not all, of the top posts have over 3,000 likes and 40 comments! The same is true for #throughthepines, which is significantly less popular.
2. Hashtag Popularity
Here’s an experiment: Open Instagram on your desktop or mobile device and search for a popular hashtag (like #thehappynow). Look through the top posts until you find one that used other hashtags as well. Click on one of those hashtags and then look through the top posts on the hashtag’s page. Did the original post also make it into the top posts for that hashtag? Try again with a different hashtag. Same result?
What this shows is that if you use multiple hashtags in your posts, you can trend for some of them, all of them, or none of them—and all of this depends on how popular the hashtag is. Super-popular hashtags can be very competitive, so unless you can generate thousands of likes in just a couple of hours, your chances of getting into the top posts are pretty slim.
Also keep in mind that the larger the hashtag, the more quickly the top posts are refreshed. For a large hashtag like #finditliveit, it’s unlikely that you would stay in a trending spot for more than 24 hours. But for smaller hashtags, like #pinkobsessed, you may be able to remain trending for a day or two (or more)!
The takeaway: Use a mix of popular hashtags and less popular hashtags to increase your chances of being featured in the top posts!
3. Engagement “Growth Rate”
At the end of the day, top posts are all about what’s trending—not what’s most popular. So even though the amount of engagement you get is really important, it’s slightly less important than how quickly you get that engagement, or, in other words, the “growth rate” of your engagement.
For example, a post that gets 500 likes in 2 hours has a better chance of ranking in the top posts than a post that gets 5,000 likes over 24 hours.
This isn’t a perfect science—there are a ton of other factors to consider. But the bottom line is: If you want to get into the top posts for a hashtag, speed is of the essence. It doesn’t matter if your account has 5,000 or 50,000 followers, so long as your post’s engagement growth rate is higher than everyone else’s.
This is actually kind of a blessing in disguise. Why, you ask? Because for most accounts, it’s a lot easier to get 500 likes quickly than it is to get 5,000 slowly. If all Instagram cared about was the amount of likes a post gets, then only the biggest accounts with the most followers would have a chance of making it into the top posts for a hashtag. The growth rate component levels the playing field and gives an opportunity to smaller accounts to get featured in the top posts.
How to Get Featured in the Trending Instagram Hashtags?
1. Pick the right hashtags
The first step is picking the right hashtags to trend for. If you’re an account with 10,000 or less followers, you’re much more likely to get into the top posts for a smaller, highly-targeted hashtag like #fashiongoals than you are for a massive hashtag like #instafashion.
Remember that the relevance of your hashtag is much more important than how popular it is. Rather than just adding random hashtags (#sunset, #girl, #cali) to your photos, find what hashtags are killing it in your niche! This way, you can connect with other creatives in your industry and develop personal relationships.
2. Generate a ton of engagement
Once you’ve picked the right hashtag, you need to focus on getting as much engagement on your post as quickly as possible. And one of the best ways to do this is to schedule your Instagram posts for when your audience is most active on Instagram.
If you post when your audience is most active on Instagram, you’re more likely to drive engagement on that post. That engagement will translate into Instagram bumping your post higher up on users’ feeds, which, in turn, will result in even more engagement on your post. It’s a cyclical process: higher engagement leads to more visibility, which leads to higher engagement, which leads to more visibility… and it all starts with when you post on Instagram.
If you want to boost your chances of generating a ton of quick engagement on your posts, find out what your best times to post are, and then use a free tool like Later to schedule your Instagram posts in advance!
3. Use 3-5 “big” hashtags on your post
If you want a shot at getting into the trending Instagram hashtags, you also want to include 3-5 “big” hashtags that are less targeted but generate a lot of likes and comments. Some examples are #instagood, #photooftheday, and #vscocam. These “big” hashtags should still be relevant to you, but they should have a ton of posts and a high amount of engagement (lots of people searching for them).
4. Create a call-to-action (CTA) in your caption
It’s hard to say what the Instagram algorithm favors more: likes or comments. But in any case, generating a ton of comments on your posts is important if you want to get featured in the trending Instagram hashtags. That’s why we can’t stress enough the importance of including a call-to-action in your Instagram captions. It’s great way to inspire your followers to engage with your account in the comments section and spend more time viewing your post—which could also be a factor that Instagram takes into consideration when selecting the top posts for a hashtag!
To create a call-to-action on Instagram, you just need to ask your followers to do something after reading your caption! You can ask them a question about what they’re up to this weekend, or what they think of a new product, and tell them to leave their answer in the comments.
Getting featured in Instagram’s top posts is a great way to get your brand noticed by new viewers—and it’s a lot easier than it seems! You just need to focus on executing your Instagram hashtag strategy while boosting your engagement by posting great content when your followers are most active!
Ready to jump-start your Instagram engagement? Later makes it easy for you to plan, manage, and schedule your Instagram posts!