InstagramInstagram is one of the most used social media platforms in the world. The platform turned 10 years old in 2020, and in it’s decade of existence it has grown from a photo-posting app to a source of income for creators and a sales channel for businesses around the world. Needless to say, Instagram can be a massive tool for your business if used correctly.

So, you’re on Instagram, you’ve set up your page, but growing your following is proving to be tricky. We get it, and we’ve all been there! Growing an organic following on Instagram is getting harder and harder, but hope is not all lost! There are many things you can do to optimise your Instagram account and increase reach and engagement, but in this article we are going to focus on 5 Ways to Grow your Instagram using Hashtags.

You might be thinking, hashtags are dead, aren’t they? WRONG. Hashtags, although they have been around since the dawn of social media time, are still a great tool for increasing reach, as well as promoting engagement and growth on your Instagram page. However, the key to using hashtags is knowing how to use them effectively.

In this article we will cover 5 Ways you can use hashtags to grow your Instagram:


  1. Make a plan
  2. Be more intentional
  3. Use predictive search to your advantage
  4. Use the Explore Page
  5. Get to know your audience

Let’s start with the basics: what is a hashtag? Hashtags are simply keyword phrases that are written with a hash (#) in front of them. On Instagram, you can add up to 30 hashtags on a post, and these hashtags help other users find your post. Here’s some basic rules if you’re new to hashtags:

  • They always start with a # but make sure you don’t use any spaces, punctuations or symbols or it won’t work correctly
  • Make sure your accounts are public, otherwise only your followers will be able to see your content, even if you hashtag
  • Use relevant and specific hashtags to your posts
  • Do not be a hashtag spammer
Make a plan or strategy for your hashtags.

It might seem like overkill to make a strategy around hashtags, but even a basic plan is going to help you, trust us. The first part of this plan needs to be getting a clear vision of your target audience, figuring out what type of content they interact most with on Instagram, and using that information to narrow down the best hashtags for your content.For example, you might think that using the most popular hashtags on Instagram is going to get you more visibility, but this isn’t necessarily the case. The most popular Instagram hashtags (ie – #love, #happy, #dog) actually have the highest competition, so it is incredibly hard to get your post trending for these competitive hashtags. Even if a popular hashtag does increase reach or engagement on your post, has that engagement come from your target audience? Can you convert a sale from that engagement? Most likely, the answer will be No. We recommend that while you are still building your following on Instagram, it is better to focus on more niche hashtags. As a general rule, focus on hashtags with less than 1 million uses. We will dive into how to find these hashtags later in this article.

Be more intentional with the hashtags you use.

If nothing else, be intentional with your hashtags – as in, use hashtags your target audience actually engages with! You don’t want to be that guy with 30 irrelevant hashtags on every post. Just don’t do it. To give you an example: there is no point in having a post about beauty products and then using #dog on that post, right? Firstly, you are targeting the wrong audience. Secondly, your post now looks quite spammy. It is important to make sure your hashtags are relevant to the particular content you are posting, your brand, and your audience. If the hashtag doesn’t fit at least one of those parameters, you probably don’t need to use it. As we mentioned earlier, Instagram allows you to use a maximum of 30 hashtags in the post, whether in the caption or the comments. Now, there is a lot of debate in the social community about exactly how many hashtags you should use in a post. Some say 11 is the magic number, others say use all 30. We say, do some testing and see what works for your brand. If you have 30 super-relevant hashtags for that particular post – use all 30. If you have 5 relevant hashtags, then it’s okay to only use 5. Just make sure you aren’t copy and pasting the same hashtags on every post, and make sure that you aren’t padding your 30 hashtag allowance with irrelevant keywords.

Predictive searches are your friend.

Have you ever noticed that when you go to search for something on Instagram, it tries to predict or auto-fill the results? This is a great feature which you can use to your advantage. That predictive search is going to give you tons of great hashtag ideas – see the example below. Let’s say you run a small beauty business – so you start with the hashtag #beauty. Now, that hashtag is obviously right on target, however as you can see, #beauty has been used in 422,377,403 posts. So the competition for that hashtag is massive. Although it’s great to use and might get you a few extra likes, it’s important to also scroll down that list and find a few more related hashtags with less than 1 million posts. You can’t see it in the image, but as you scroll down you will see the first hashtag that pops up with less than 1 million uses is #beautyobsessed with 755,561 posts. This is a great one to add to your beauty post as it’s relevant, will be less competitive, but is still right on target with your audience.


Use the Explore Page to your advantage.

The Explore Page on Instagram is the search page – it’s filled with trending content based on your previous actions and interactions on Instagram. If you are following and interacting with other pages in your industry or other accounts with similar interests to your own, this page should be filled with relevant content, probably from some of the industry leaders in your field. The Explore Page is a great place to do some market research – which posts grab your attention on that page, and why do they grab your attention? Which hashtags are the posts on the Explore Page using that are also relevant to your content? Researching what some of the bigger accounts in your industry are doing is a great way to get ideas for your own account. Make sure you aren’t stealing anything from these pages – just getting inspiration and ideas from what is clearly working for them.

Get to know your audience.

If you take nothing else from this blog post – take this piece of advice – get to know your audience. If you don’t have a crystal clear idea of who your target audience is, how do you plan on posting content they will enjoy? So make sure you start with this – who are they? What age/gender? Is there a problem you are able to solve for them with your product/service?

Once you have a good idea of who your target audience is, you need to figure out what type of content they are consuming on social media. Explore some hashtags with predictive search, use the Explore Page to figure out what’s trending. The more research you can do about your target audience, the easier it will be to create relevant, engaging content for them.

Remember, growing a following on Instagram takes some time. Try not to get discouraged if you don’t have thousands of followers straight away. In the world of influencers, it’s easy to think the most important thing for your business is having a huge following. But you know what? Having a smaller, but incredibly engaged following is always going to be better for your business than a huge following of people who don’t interact with your posts. The goal here is engagement and ultimately conversions – not being Insta-famous.

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About the Author: Miriah Sullivan

processedMiriah is the Head of Social Media at Straight Up Digital and has a wealth of experience working with small businesses on their branding, sales, and marketing strategy. When she’s not helping small businesses grow, she is raising her 2 children and getting in as much time at the beach as possible!

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About Straight Up Digital

Straight Up Digital is a full service digital marketing agency based in Burleigh Heads, Gold Coast, Australia. We specialise in Web Design, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), Social Media, Paid Ads (AdWords & Facebook Ads), Email Campaigns and Video Marketing.