All About Instagram Hashtags

Hashtags are getting trickier and there are lots of rumors and questions surrounding them: Do they even work? Should I use all 30? Can I put them in the comments? Why haven’t I seen at least an increase in impressions?

We’re here to address these questions and more!

Right off the bat, we’re letting you know that YES hashtags do work! You just need to use the right ones.

Hashtag Basics

What Are Hashtags?

Simply put, hashtags are a way for Instagram to organize related content. If you add “#NewSneakers” to your post, it will be included among other photos that people posted of new shoes (at least that’s how Instagram wants it to work - of course, some people add hashtags that don’t relate back to their photo...we’ll get into this). Instagram will now show your photo to people who search the hashtag, #NewShoes.

Niche Hashtags

As with most elements of Instagram using hashtags is a science, but a simple science! Applying the “correct” hashtags can help attract your desired, niche audience. For example, if you are an Instagram book club blogger, you don’t want to use “#happy” because, while your book of the month may have been a happy read, that really won’t have anything to do with your post or your overall Instagram brand. However, you could use the hashtag “#happyreading.”

Hashtag Visibility

You don’t want to use hashtags that have too little results or too many results. Find your sweet spot! What we mean is, if you search “#love” on Instagram, you’ll notice 1,875,332,459 results. WOW. That means 1,875,332,459 posts on Instagram contain “#love.”

What are the odds of your post being seen among those 1.8 billion+ photos with the same hashtag? Probably zero.

On the other side of that, if you search “#lunchbreakbookclub,” you’ll notice there are only 10 results that come up.

The Suspected Shadowban: Don’t Use Broken Hashtags

Instagrams shadowban is an attempt to restore order and allow the platform to be effective for those who are not disobeying community terms & guidelines. Some accounts would spam their photos with non-relevant hashtags which would clog up peoples searches and feeds with content they weren’t asking for (including inappropriate content). When this is suspected among a certain hashtag, Instagram “breaks” the hashtag to be unusable.

Instagram began shadowbanning in 2019 but, of course, has never admitted to it. However, an obscene amount of users noticed their engagement declining even though they were compliant towards Instagrams guidelines. Instagram released an announcement after this:

If you are shadowbanned, it may not be due to your hashtag use but let’s stay focused on that for now.

Here’s how to find which hashtags are broken and therefore unusable:

  • Go to the Search section on Instagram

  • Type in a desired hashtag

  • If the hashtag doesn’t appear in the results, that means it’s been banned (if it shows up, tap on it to confirm it is not banned). This doesn’t mean that the hashtag will be banned forever so keep checking back.

Example: #beautyblogger may look like it’s producing results, but tap on it and you’ll find a different message:

Using a broken hashtag could result in your remaining hashtags being rendered ineffective and possibly being blocked.

Hashtags 101

Here is some other basic hashtag knowledge before we dive in deeper:

  • You can use up to 30 hashtags in a post (however, no more than 30 - Instagram simply won’t post it if you try to use more)

  • Some people prefer to put their hashtags in the comments section. This does NOT affect your visibility! Just be sure to post them immediately in the comments otherwise they won’t be as effective

  • Avoid generic hashtags such as “#smile,” “#love,” #happy,” etc

Finding Your Hashtags

TBH, it’s a little bit of trial and error. Keep a list of which hashtags are working for you and eliminate those that aren’t. By taking a look at your Instagram Insights you’ll be able to see which posts are receiving more engagement and from there you can have an idea which ones might be best for you.

To begin your search for your hashtags, just begin typing in relevant words or phrases that fit with your brand and options will begin to pop up for you. With everything we’ve discussed here, you should be off to a great start!

Keep in mind there are tons of hashtag-discovery apps that claim to help find the best hashtags for you and your brand, but really the best way to find them is by doing it manually.


When in doubt, send us an email! We understand that you might not be ready for a full team. Social Light is available for Project Consulting. With Covid-19 still affecting our work life and bank accounts, we’re open to working with most budgets to help get you off the ground!

We’re happy to set up a call to discuss your ideas, goals and learn how we could be of service.