Instagram Hashtags and how to use them

Remember my last post, where I told you about the book I’m writing and how I was behaving like my main character who is an influencer and it was getting me all kinds of amazing results on Instagram?

Well since I wrote that, I kind of stopped behaving like my main character.

The day job got busy and I’m trying to get a first draft done. On top of that, my five-year-old daughter has taken to sitting on my lap when I’m on my phone, pulling it out of my hands and saying ‘that’s not important,’ which, quite frankly, kills me.

So I stopped behaving like an ‘influencer’ and went back to behaving like a normal person.

The upshot is, that my reach and likes fell down as a result.

But surprisingly, my follower count and engagement have increased.

instagram hashtags


Quick low down if you aren’t quite sure what Instagram hashtags are: they’re a way to categorise your posts into topics and content.
They’re one of the best ways to gain exposure and maximise your reach. You can target your audience, find new followers and grow your account if you use Instagram hashtags correctly. However, used in the wrong way can result in being ‘shadowbanned’ (where your post doesn’t show up under hashtags at all) and put your stuff in front of the wrong people, resulting in them doing nada.

Instagram is slowly rolling out a feature that lets you know how well each hashtag has performed, I haven’t got that yet, so until I do, here’s how I pick ’em


You can use up to 30 Instagram hashtags on any one post and if you do a search, take note of two things:

  1. how popular it is
  2. what the ‘top’ feed is like compared to the ‘recent.’

Checking the popularity of a hashtag is a must to see if it’s worth using.

The more a hashtag is used, the less likely your post is to be seen. So any hashtags that has over 1 million posts is a bit of a waste of time, in fact, any hashtag that has over 500,000 posts associated with it is a bit of a waste of time. Those hashtags are getting a post every few seconds, so your post will quickly move down the grid and is unlikely to be seen.

The ‘top’ feed shown under the Instagram hashtag are the most popular ones.

The ones that are getting a lot of attention and that’s where you want to be. Those posts are shown to people who follow the hashtag, which means your post will be seen in the feed of those following and will increase your reach.

Comparing the ‘top’ to the ‘recent’ is a good way to see the highlights of a particular hashtag, to see what works and what people like. It’s also a good way to check if a hashtag has been banned because of people posting inappropriate content to it, DO NOT USE if this is the case. Do not use at all, Instagram does not like banned hashtags.

instagram hashtags


The general rule in all the advice I’ve read is to pick hashtags from three different bands.

Those with the smaller reach, 3-50k, those in the middle ground 100k- 200k, and some with huge popularity, 200k-500k.

This way you have a scattergun approach. Your post will stay around for longer in the not so popular hashtags, but might be seen by more in the bigger volume, even though it will disappear down the feed quicker.



All of the above, however, takes TIME.

My goodness, does it take time. Stacks of it, because hashtags are constantly changing in popularity. New ones are popping up all the time, other ones are getting more and more volume and becoming too popular to use.

So basically, in order to do this, you have to be on the ball and researching constantly. But there are places to make it easier.

I have heard that the Tailwind App is a great resource for doing all of the above, however, it costs. I use it for Pinterest at the moment and can’t yet justify using it for Instagram as well, so I have no experience of it.

I use Make Light instead. Free and lovely to use.

It has lots of great things once you create an account, you can get reports on your Instagram insights, your brand personality, but there’s also a hashtag tool which gives you recommendations and also a volume guide of each hashtag. So you put a hashtag in the search box and it will come up with a load of associated ones and their volume that you can make a list from.



So, as I said in the beginning of this post, I stopped behaving like my main character.

I stopped researching the hashtags this past week and just used the ones I had done previously and I think it had a massive effect on my reach.

You see, the lovely algorithm knows if you’re throwing up the same tried and tested hashtags. I have a list of them on my phone and because of time restraints and (because I couldn’t be bothered) I just used the same ones – in a different order, but basically the same.

Here’s my insights from one of those posts:

instagram hashtags

Just 10% reach compared to the 95% reach earlier in the week!

See the hashtag result? Just 118.

So you can see from this that putting the effort in is worth it. Consistency is also a massive factor, posting at the same time every day has an impact. As does skipping a day or two if you post everyday.

But my followers have increased as has my engagement.

I can only put this down to the focused theme on my grid and….I’m not sure! I’m being more vocal about my Instagram stats in my stories and with these blog posts, so perhaps that has something to do with it.


Since my last post, I’ve gotten a load of messages about people being frustrated with the app, irritated by the lack of growth and engagement and I think everyone seems to be in a similar position.

I put a question out of my stories last week, asking the overall experience of Instagram hashtags and if I was alone in my findings.

The answers were varied. Some had copied what I’d done and had a peak in their reach, yay! Some had not, boo.

Some thought it was totally random. Some used apps and other things to generate hashtags and went off that. But no one said they had it sorted.

No one came back with the absolute answer, no one was totally confident in what they were doing and if it was working. So if you’re reading this, wanting to grow and currently not, I can only offer comfort that you are certainly not alone.

Have an experiment with hashtags and see what happens. I always post mine in the first comment, so if you’re a bookstagrammer or author, feel free to copy and paste. My instagram is here.



I’ve kind of set myself a goal to get to 10,000 followers by the end of the year. (I can hear you laughing, but I’m giving it a go.) I’m also going to try and do it without getting obsessed, without it taking over my free time and totally organically.

My plan is to spend around thirty minutes each day on Instagram and I have list of things I’m going to do to reach my target. You up for following along?

Next up is how I make videos, those little animations that aren’t so good on reach, but good for engagement and follows. So if you want to be kept posted, follow me on Instagram or Facebook where I share all my blog posts. And as always, if you have anything to add, or things you’ve found that works then please let us know!






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