You should never underestimate the importance of the simple Instagram hashtag. It plays a vital role in spreading your Instagram reach, and it helps develop your following.
When Simply Measured carried our research on Instagram usage, they found that 88% 0f brand posts include at least one hashtag and posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6% more engagement than those without. People began using hashtags online as far back as 1988 on a platform called IRC – Internet Relay Chat. Even back in that prehistoric internet age people used hashtags for the same reason they do today – to group messages and other content into categories.
The first known social media usage of hashtags was in October 2007 when Nate Ridder of San Diego, California, tagged his social messages with #sandiegoonfire – informing people about the wildfires his local area was suffering at the time.
Twitter was the first platform to officially adopt the hashtag in 2009, meaning that any tag starting with # became automatically hyperlinked.
It was not long before most of the other networks added support for hashtags on their platforms. This includes Instagram, which has probably seen the most significant uptake of hashtag usage. Unlike Twitter, where most people recommend that you should not use more than two or three hashtags in a single tweet, Instagram encourages large-scale hashtag usage. It is common for people to include up to 20 hashtags in a single post, and many use the maximum they are permitted – 30 hashtags,
Most Popular Instagram Hashtags Summary:
The Purpose of Using Instagram Hashtags
So why should you include hashtags in your Instagram posts?
You use hashtags to help you group content. These can either be general hashtags that everybody uses – in which case you are grouping your posts and images with others who upload similar content. Alternatively, many businesses create niche hashtags to develop interest, and to consolidate posts relating to a particular product or campaign together.
Most Instagram users love to boost their following. But there is little point in being followed by somebody with entirely different interests to you. By using appropriate hashtags with your content, you are making your posts available to people who have an interest in the same subjects. And if they like your posts, they are likely to follow you in the hope of seeing more content on the same topic.
Even if people don't go as far as following you, they may like the content of yours that they come across when searching for a particular hashtag.
Instagram has grown phenomenally over the last few years. This means that there is no way that you are likely to deliver the right content to the right people accidentally. When you use hashtags, you are effectively helping Instagram sort and organize your posts – helping them reach people who will value them.
The 25 Most Popular Instagram Hashtags
Currently, the 25 most popular Instagram hashtags are as follows:
Don’t Always Use the Most Popular Instagram Hashtags
By definition, the most popular hashtags are the most used hashtags. #love, for instance, has been used in 1.2 billion posts. This presents a problem if you are hoping to use hashtags that will make your posts stand out.
You need to balance your wish to use popular hashtags against the danger of being crowded out of high demand topics. In many ways, this is similar to SEO when you try to chase keyword terms in Google’s search engine. Most people will do better if they attempt to rank for long-tail terms, such as “men's fashion in New York” than they will for a broad term like “fashion.”
If you are making an Instagram post that is about love, you might include #love as one of your 30 permitted hashtags. But you should probably focus on using related hashtags with smaller, yet still sizeable followings, such as #wonderful, #adorable, #hug, #lover, or even #loveisintheair.
Some of the top hashtags do symbolize a particular type of post, and you may specifically be aiming that your snaps be considered #photooftheday, #instadaily or #picoftheday. And, of course, it makes sense to use #repost if you are indeed reposting an image.
By the way, if you are wondering what the hashtag #tbt means, it stands for Throwback Thursday. It has now become common for people to share photos of “back in the day” as #TBT posts.
You should reserve the hashtag #instagood for your very best photos. It indicates to fellow Instagrammers that you are particularly pleased with the photo to which you have attached that hashtag.
While the exact list of most popular Instagram hashtags is continually changing, there are clear popularity trends.
There are a few distinct niches which always perform well on Instagram. The above list indicates how many popular posts feature fashion, beauty, and food. Although not currently in the Top 25 at the time of writing, #travel often performs very well, too.
The success of the #nature tag suggests that people still love to see beautiful scenes of nature and the environment.
This makes sense. Instagram is highly visual. People are going to want to share eye-catching imagery – which you are far more likely to be able to do with an image of the latest fashion or a delectable dessert than you are with a picture of yet another phone or computer.
Some hashtags are seasonal by nature. #summer may be top ranking at the moment, but it will fall out of favor when it’s time to share the snowboarding and skiing pics next winter. #valentinesday jumps up the rankings each February and #christmas in December. As we approach the end of each year, #sale skyrockets in popularity.
You Can Now Follow Hashtags
Earlier in 2018 Instagram made a range of changes to their platform. This includes the ability to follow hashtags on Instagram.
This makes hashtag usage even more critical. Your posts have the chance to appear in the feeds of people who follow the hashtags you use.
This is probably another reason why you want to include some “long tail” hashtags on your posts, as it may make it easier for your posts to compete with the thousands, often millions, of others using popular hashtags.
It is vital that you only use hashtags relating to the specific images you share, however. Users can mark your content as something they don’t want to see if your images fail to deliver. Indeed, Instagram has made it very clear that it will penalize people who consistently use the same group of hashtags in every post.
I will look at hashtag usage in more detail in The Ultimate Guide to Using Hashtags to Grow your Followers on Instagram.