June 5, 2020

Hashtags are one the top ways to grow awareness of your Instagram account and rapidly grow your followers, but most people are using them all wrong! In this article, we’re going to teach you how to find and use the most popular Instagram hashtags to generate huge awareness and rapidly grow your followers.

High engagement delivers you more reach and more followers

Engagement on Instagram can be anything from likes, comments, post shares, post saves, direct messages, even profile visits – basically any interaction that someone take after seeing your post.

Initially, only 6 to 7 percent of your followers are shown your post. So if you have 1000 followers only 60 to 70 will be shown your post.

That’s right, your organic reach, or free reach, is down to 6 to 7%, and falling. Facebook, who own Insta, is purposely lowering the organic reach to push brands to using paid ad formats.



Now immediately after you’ve posted, the Instagram algorithm assesses how much engagement your post generates. If the engagement is high, particularly in the first hour, you’re rewarded with more reach, meaning your post will be shown to a greater proportion of your followers.

That’s why your friend’s announcement about their engagement is always at the very top of your newsfeed – because so many people engage with the post by liking it and saying congratulations in the comments.

High engagement will also get you onto the top posts for the hashtags that you use, and potentially onto the explore page. In turn, this leads to even more engagement, more profile visits and more followers

This means that every post you make should aim to generate as much engagement as possible. But how do you get that elusive, but all-important engagement on Instagram?

One of the best tactics you can use are hashtags! 

Use hashtags that get you onto the ‘Top’ posts

A hashtag is a topic of conversation, such as a location (for example, #Hawaii), an event (such as #newyearseve), an activity (for example #tennis) and so forth.

Hashtags are searchable and clickable, and users can even follow hashtags to have posts appears in their feed.


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Therefore they’re one of the single best way to grow awareness of your account and rapidly grow followers. However, most people are using hashtags all wrong!

You see, each hashtag has top posts and recent posts.


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The top posts are decided by the algorithm based on, you guessed it, the amount of engagement the post receives.

The recent hashtags are displayed in reverse-chronological order, meaning that the more recent post are shown at the top. For the most popular instagram hashtags that are used frequently, like say #socialmedia which has been used about 18 million times, you may only appear on the recent posts for a couple of seconds before getting pushed down by more recent posts.

Top posts, however, can remain there for hours, sometimes days. It’s also the post users see when they first visit a hashtag.

Conduct hashtag research to strategically select your hashtags

So how do you get onto the all-elusive top posts? Firstly, it’s important that you use all 30 hashtags that Instagram permits on every single post.

Of the 30 total hashtags that you use, 20 should be hashtags where you have a chance of getting onto the top posts.

To work this out, first look at the average number of likes you’ve received for your last 15 or so posts. Next, go to Instagram on your desktop – because they still show the number of likes a post receives – and search for a hashtag you’re considering using, then calculate the average number of likes for the TOP posts of that tag.

Wait, what?



Ok ok, let me give you an example. Let’s say the average likes on your most recent 15 posts is 200. Some get 50 likes, some get 500, but on average, you get about 200 likes per post.

You go to the hashtag #socialmediatips and calculate the average likes on the top posts is 500. This means you should NOT use this hashtag, because it’s unlikely you’ll get onto the top posts.

Instead, you go to #socialmediamarketingtips and find that average engagement on the top posts is 100. Bingo! Use this hashtag and there’s a good chance you’ll get onto the top posts too.

Doing hashtag research like this is time consuming, so we recommend you do it once a month. If you’re using hashtags properly, you’ll find that your average likes have gone up, and you’ll be able to ‘trade up’ to bigger and bigger hashtags.

Use 10 of the most popular Instagram hashtags (super-relevant to your post)

Now remember I said that 20 of the 30 hashtags should be tags where you’ve got a chance to get onto the top posts. What about the other 10 hashtags?

For these, use whatever you like, regardless of the average likes or how popular this tag is. Just make sure they’re super relevant to that specific post. The reason we do this is because Instagram doesn’t like you using the exact same 30 hashtags on every single post. Using 10 different hashtags for each posts will make sure your post isn’t penalised by the algorithm.

When using your hashtags, just make sure to put them in the caption of your post, not the comment section. Instagram is known for changing the way its algorithm works, and this has been one of the most recent changes. 

And voila! you’re done

So that’s it! Use the most popular Instagram hashtags correctly and your engagement will skyrocket, your post reach will increase and loads more people will visit your profile and follow your account!

What hashtag strategy is working for you? Please share your own tips and tricks in the comments below.

About the author 

Jonathon Tanner

Jonathon Tanner is the Co-CEO of Social Media College, Australia's leading educator and trainer for social media.

He co-authored the Diploma of Social Media Marketing, the world's first and only Australian Government recognised course in social media marketing, delivered by 25 leading colleges and TAFEs across Australia, and articulating into several Bachelor programs at Australian Universities.

His deep expertise in social media spans content marketing, social media strategy, 15 different social media networks, paid social advertising, personal branding, email marketing, and social media conversion.

Jonathon has also co-founded several other businesses, as well as spending 12 years as a management consultant specialising in mergers & acquisitions for private equity firms, growth strategy, and operational improvement.

Jonathon holds a combined Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Sydney.

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