The Instagram Hashtag Strategy to Skyrocket Your Growth

"Use ALL the hashtags!!!!!" you tell your social media manager. Hold on there, Jan. Your Instagram hashtag strategy requires a little more... strategy.

Hashtags are one of those things that are an incredible tool, but some brands and marketers just don't know how to leverage them. Some go after the biggest, most popular hashtags they can find. Others unknowingly use shadowbanned hashtags. And others write #social #media #captions #that #look #like #this.

'Scuse us while we go cry.

The good news is that with some simple tweaks, you can take your Instagram hashtag strategy from blah to fireworks.

First, we're going to give you a few very important rules you should always follow, and then we'll get into the specific strategy that'll take your Instagram posts to new heights.

Let's dive in.

Using Hashtags on Instagram: 4 Golden Rules

1. Go for Hashtags With Less Competition

Let's say that you have a fitness brand, and in choosing your hashtags, you decide that this one's a winner.

fitspo hashtag on instagram

If you define "winner" as a hashtag that everybody and their brother uses, then you would be correct.

But if a "winner" is a hashtag that's going to bring you more exposure and engagement, then this one's a no-go. But why?

Look at the current number of posts that have used #fitspo: nearly 73 million! That's what you're competing against. Why would you want to do that?!

We're know what you're thinking (and we totally understand): "This hashtag must be super popular. Why wouldn't I want to use it?" You already answered your own question. You don't want to use it because it's super popular.

The bigger a hashtag is, the more competitive it is, and the harder it's going to be for your post to be seen. Your content is going to get lost in the sea of posts all using #fitspo. It doesn't matter that it's really popular. No one is going to find you.

So, we want to utilize hashtags that are less popular. This means that fewer people are using them, so your visibility is going to increase. Here's one example:

fitness community hashtag on instagram

2. Check That Your Hashtags Aren't Shadowbanned

A while back, Instagram brought us the shadowban. This meant that they started suppressing pages that did things the platform didn't like: like using the follow/unfollow tactic (terrible idea, BTW), using third-party apps and black hat strategies to grow their accounts, and — *drumroll* — including hashtags they don't like.

Certain hashtags — like curse words — are more obvious. Others, not so much. You could be using a banned hashtag and not even know it. The list of banned tags is always changing, so we suggest that you simply Google something like "shadowbanned hashtags Instagram 2021" to find the latest updates. You can also search for your hashtag on Instagram and if you see the message that reads that recent posts using that tag have been hidden, you know that it is shadowbanned. Note: you have to search for this on your phone, as desktop will not reveal the same message.

3. See Who is Finding You Through Your Hashtags

Remember what we mentioned earlier: Hashtags are a tool. This means that they're not just there for show. You should be strategically utilizing them.

Did you know that Instagram will tell you how many impressions you're getting from your hashtags? Here's how to find that number. Go to any individual post on your feed and tap on "View Insights."

View Insights on Instagram post

That will bring up Post Insights. It'll look like this.

post insights on Instagram

Scroll the Post Insights up to view them in their entirety. It'll look like this.

Instagram post insights

If you scroll down a bit, you'll see a section entitled Impressions, and From Hashtags just under that.

impressions from hashtags on Instagram post

This number reflects how many impressions this post got due to the batch of hashtags you used!

We can even take this one step further. When you notice that a batch of hashtags worked particularly well, go back to that post. See who liked and commented on it. Like and and comment on one of their posts in return. Or, send them a DM. If you're interested in their content, give them a follow.

Making a habit of doing this reinforces with the Instagram algorithm what kind of page you are and who you're interested in. It also shows IG that you're being very intentional with how you use it.

The only way to know which groups of hashtags give you the most impressions is to compare different sets — which brings us to our final tip.

4. Test, Test, Test

A wise person once said...

"Those who don't test are idiots."

We just made that up, but it's true.

The only way you can know if your approach is working (or not) is if you have another approach to compare it to. Thus, you have to test.

Test individual hashtags and compare their performance. Test entire batches of hashtags (like we described above) and compare their performances. You're not going to hit a home run on your first try when it comes to most things in marketing. Hashtags are no exception. Don't expect them to work perfectly on the first attempt. That's putting so much unnecessary pressure on yourself!

Be willing to test and experiment and try and fail and try again. It's okay. Everything is okay.

The Instagram Hashtag Strategy We Swear By

Alright, let's get to the good stuff. Here's what you're going to do to find the best hashtags for your page. We picked up this strategy from on her blog post here and we can vouch for it.

1. Search the Hashtag to See its Current Number of Total Likes

Let's use #socialmediatips as an example. As of right now, this hashtag has been used approximately 2.2 million times.

#socialmediatips number of posts

2. Look at the Posts in the Top 9 and Find the One With the Fewest Likes

The post with the fewest likes out of the top nine happens to be that first one. It has 146 likes. We'll round this up to 150.

top 9 posts for #socialmediatips

3. Divide the Two

We're going to divide 2,200,000 by 150, which gives us a score of approximately 14,667.

Let's keep going.

4. Compare This to the Score for Other Hashtags

What you then want to do is follow this process for other relevant hashtags. And what you're looking for are hashtags with higher scores. This essentially means that a lot of people are using them, and those ranking in the top nine have a lower number of likes.

This, in turn, means that you stand a greater chance of ranking in the top nine for those hashtags.


Be patient with yourself when it comes to finding success with hashtags. Rome wasn't built in a day. (Apparently it was closer to six to eight years, but whatevs.) Building your organic traffic on social media takes time. It's a marathon, not a sprint.

Was all of this a major snooze-fest for you? Let us take it off your plate. Contact LSM today and let's get you scheduled for a free consultation.