Instagram hashtags are still one of the most effective ways to get more eyes (and engagement!) on your Instagram posts in 2021.
But how do you find the best hashtags for your account? Which hashtags are the most popular right now? And should they go in your caption or in the comments?
We’re answering these questions, and more, in our ultimate guide to Instagram hashtags.
How Do Hashtags Work on Instagram?
Instagram hashtags are fundamentally a way to label and categorize your content. They then help Instagram serve your posts to relevant users.
In their most simple function, the hashtags you use fuel the search results on the Instagram Explore page:
But it doesn’t end there. Hashtags are also used as a reference for the Instagram algorithm, so it can categorize your content and suggest it to users it thinks will have a high interest.
So… Do Hashtags Still Work on Instagram in 2022?
Hashtags have always been the heart of much debate, especially following Instagram’s recent recommendation to only use between 3-5 hashtags (more on that later).
As Instagram slowly pivots towards semantic keyword search, it opens up a new world of possibilities in content discoverability – indicating that the words in your captions or the topics in your videos will become searchable too.
However, despite these major advancements, hashtags do still work on Instagram. Paired with a strong content strategy, they can help yield impressive results.
Ready to get the full download on Instagram hashtags? Check out our YouTube video guide now:
The Top 50 Most Popular Hashtags in 2022
Using ultra-popular hashtags isn’t always the best strategy for getting more engagement on your posts and stories, as they’re less likely to be seen.
That said, it’s helpful to know what’s trending on the app, so here’s an up-to-date list of the top 50 Instagram hashtags based on usage over the last month:
*Updated November 2021. Data based on usage within the Later app.
In need of some #Inspiration? Check out Later’s Hashtag Suggestion feature. Discover the best hashtags for your account in seconds!
How Many Hashtags Should You Use on Instagram?
As we’ve mentioned, Instagram recently advised that creators should use between 3-5 hashtags on their posts, despite allowing up to 30 per post.
This goes against everything we've previously heard about how hashtags work on Instagram, but based on their new focus on keywords and SEO, it does (kind of) make sense.
Instagram is introducing more “suggested” content feeds – like the Instagram Reels tab, for example. But in order to provide suggested content that truly is a “good match,” Instagram needs to be able to accurately categorize it. The theory? Fewer hashtags = more reliable self categorization.
To test this theory, Later looked at 18M+ Instagram feed posts – comparing the number of hashtags used per post with average reach rates.
As you can see, using more hashtags = better results. Reach rate increases by 11% (from 24% to 35%) as the number of hashtags grows from one to 30.
To put that in perspective, for an account with 20K followers, that’s an additional 2.2K accounts reached per post.
We even looked at whether this trend had changed compared to 2020, but the results were fairly consistent.
The takeaway? For now, using more hashtags is still the best strategy for increasing your reach and engagement on Instagram feed posts. However, as Instagram introduces more “suggested” content feeds, focusing on fewer, hyper-relevant hashtags could be a tactic worth testing.
#TalkDataToMe: Read Later’s full data report now to discover the optimal number of hashtags for reach and engagement.
What Are the Different Types of Instagram Hashtag?
Before selecting hashtags for your posts, it’s a good idea to consider the different types of hashtags you can include.
This will help make sure you’re covering all the bases with your hashtag strategy.
There are five main types of hashtags to consider:
Location-based hashtags, like #BryantPark or #LowerEastSide
Branded hashtags for campaigns or events, like #Later or #LaterCon
Industry hashtags that describe your niche, like #SocialMediaManagers or #WeddingPlanners
Community-focused hashtags to bring your community together, like #VanLifeLiving or #IAmASweatyBetty
Descriptive hashtags which describe the content of your actual post, like #WoodwickCandles or #SheaButterProducts
There’s no secret formula for how many of each of these hashtags you should include, but keeping the different categories in mind can provide valuable inspiration and help guide your strategy.
How to Find the Best Hashtags for Your Content Strategy
Later’s data report shows that adding 20-30 hashtags to your Instagram posts is the best way to increase your reach and engagement rates.
But how do you find this many relevant hashtags for every post? Here are 3 different tactics you can use:
Tactic #1: Use a Hashtag Suggestion Tool like Later
Later’s Hashtag Suggestion tool is an easy way to find hashtags based on the content of your post and similar hashtags in your industry.
To use it, type a hashtag into the tool’s search bar, hit “Suggest,” and it’ll immediately generate new hashtags, sorted by relevance:
Sign up for a Later account to find the perfect hashtags for your Instagram strategy – in just a few seconds!
Tactic #2: Conduct Research on the Instagram Explore Page
The Instagram Explore page is a great source of inspiration for your Instagram hashtag strategy.
For the best results, search for keywords that are relevant to your brand or content and check out the “Top” results.
These posts are clearly performing well with the Instagram algorithm, so take note of the different hashtags being used and whether they could work for your content.
Tactic #3: Check Hashtag Volume Using Instagram’s Tag Search Tool
When it comes to finding the best hashtags, post volume is a really important metric.
If a hashtag has already been used on millions of posts, the chances are your post will be drowned out amongst the masses.
On the other hand, if a hashtag only has a few hundred posts, it's likely that no one is searching for it on the Instagram Explore page. For a safe middle-ground, aim for hashtags with between 10K-200K posts.
To check a hashtag's post volume, head to Instagram's tag search tool on the Explore Page.
This is a great way to vet your hashtags, and can also provide valuable inspiration. For example, you might discover a more niche hashtag that starts with the same keyword, but has a much healthier volume of posts.
Should You Use Hashtags in the Instagram Caption or Comment Section?
Instagram has confirmed that hashtags are effective in both your post caption and the comments section – so it’s totally up to you where you want to share them.
It is worth considering timeliness though. If you’re manually posting hashtags in the comments section, you’ll want to do this as soon as your post is published.
TIP: If you use Later’s Instagram scheduling tools, you can schedule a First Comment to go live at the same time as your post.
This is a great way to keep your caption aesthetic clean, while still benefiting from all the added exposure benefits of a good hashtag strategy.
How to Save Time With Your Instagram Hashtag Strategy
Finding 20-30 fresh hashtags for every post you share is extremely time-consuming – but there are ways to make the process more efficient.
One way is to curate lists of 20-30 hashtags that align with your main content themes, which you can quickly adjust and add to each post.
With Later’s free Instagram scheduling tools, you can create “Saved Captions” that contain your curated lists of hashtags.
You can quickly add them to a post caption (and edit them) in two taps!
How to Build an Effective Instagram Hashtag Strategy With Analytics
The best way to build your hashtag strategy?
Building from a solid foundation. Once you've found the hashtags you want to use, it's important to start testing them and digging into your analytics.
Analyzing the performance of your hashtags is the best way to monitor the success of your experiments, and will allow you to fine tune your strategy over time.
With Later's Hashtag Analytics tools, you can track key insights about your hashtags – including a breakdown of which are driving the most likes, comments, saves, and reach on your Instagram posts.
It automatically compares the hashtags you use with post performance over time – giving you an overview of what’s working, and what’s not, for your account.
Hashtags are a powerful way to reach new audiences and grow your account, but it takes time and effort to see big results.
Whether you use 10 or 30, a consistent hashtag strategy is still one of the most effective routes for growth on Instagram.
Ready to take your hashtag strategy to the next level? Check out Later’s Instagram Hashtag tools to help streamline your workflow now!