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The ultimate Instagram hashtag guide for 2019

Hashtags have always been a guarantee of reach on Instagram. The more you put in, the further your contribution made it. Since the introduction of the algorithm, however, many more factors that affect the range have been added. From now on, the posts are no longer displayed in chronological order, but are sorted according to relevance. In this context, hashtags have lost their importance.

Whereas in the past users could always fall back on their tried and tested set of tags, the hashtag game is currently much more difficult to master. You can find out why this is and what solutions are available here.

Why hashtags at all?

Hashtags are no longer largely responsible for the success of your posts, but they still play a major role on Instagram. If you use them correctly, you can generate new followers with the reach you have gained. Today, hashtags are primarily suitable for audience building. That means: If you still have a very small or medium-sized account, it is worth using. The more followers you have, however, the fewer hashtags you usually have to use. However, a study by Simply Measured has shown that just using a single hashtag increases interactions by 12.6 percent. But whether this is generally transferable remains doubtful.

Hashtags increase your visibility on the platform. With them you give other users who have not yet followed you the opportunity to find your content. Basically, the more (relevant!) Hashtags you set, the more potential reach you generate with them. With the right hashtags you can reach your target group, win customers, generate engagement and expand your network. For all this and the branding, of course, Instagram is currently the place to be with no alternative.

Nevertheless, many users ask themselves the question:

What's the matter with you lately, Instagram?

Unfortunately, many users have struggled with their hashtags for some time. Previous strategies seem to have no effect today - or worse, they are now having a negative impact on performance. Almost every day the algorithm seems to turn against users with new developments and reduce their reach. Many are on the verge of throwing in the towel because they can no longer see through, perfect breeding ground for rumors. A short summary.

Current Myths About Methods That Limit Reach:

  • Use the full number, i.e. 30 tags
    -> A statement from an Instagram employee is that it is completely sufficient to use a few, but highly relevant tags.
  • Hide hashtags in the comments
    -> This is a previously unconfirmed rumor that has no basis whatsoever.
  • Always use the same set of hashtags
    -> Allegedly has a limitation of the range, as the behavior appears to be automated.
  • Use of irrelevant tags that have nothing to do with the content, but have generated high reach (remember that relevance is crucial for your position in the news feed!)
    -> This practice may quickly get a lot of likes, but sustainability is something else.

Current recommendations:

  • Only use a few, extremely relevant, hashtags. Here you can find instructions and the latest top hashtags.
  • Put hashtags directly in the caption and not in the comments for the sake of aesthetics
  • Work continuously with stories and use hashtags there to be displayed in the hashtag stories

In general, the following currently applies to a stable reach (regardless of hashtag):

  • Use stories (!)
  • Interact with your own community (!)
  • Analytics monitor business profiles
    There are incredibly good insights into your audience here.
  • See individually what works best for you
  • The faster a post generates engagement after it has been published, the greater the reach
  • Questioning the meaning of pods
    Many influencers are currently involved in messenger groups in order to quickly generate a lot of engagement for their content. Everyone has to decide for themselves how useful this is. The article "After the bots come the pods: How Instagram influencers hack the algorithm" gives you some food for thought.
  • In any case, do not use third-party apps that access the account
    Instagram notices this very quickly and limits your reach.
  • The top 9 in the hashtag search are individualized and based on your interests and your history

As you can see, in the end it doesn't really depend on the amount of hashtags or their accuracy. In the meantime, it seems to have been a combination of many different factors on Instagram that affect your reach. Nevertheless, hashtags are still not unimportant - especially for small, growing accounts.

The currently most important information about your hashtags

General hashtags - why you should refrain from using them

In principle, you should refrain from choosing generic hashtags, because their effect dissipates much too quickly due to the high usage rates. With your tags you end up in the hashtag search, among other things. If the day in question is too general and has a very high volume, your content will only be flushed through and, if in doubt, will not be seen by anyone. The aim, however, is to land your contribution in the “Most Popular Posts” area, because that is what users will see first in the hashtag search. If you make it there, you usually linger a little - until a new post with more commitment replaces it. But remember that the top 9 are presented individually for each user. So what you see there corresponds to your own interests. Your counterpart in the office will see different pictures and videos. Just give it a try.

In practice it looks like this: The following example #fashion has a volume of more than 448 million articles. The competition on this day is therefore very high.

Every new post with this hashtag is followed by the next one. It is difficult to secure a place in the most popular posts here, unless the post generates an above-average number of interactions within a very short period of time. So you can use them if your images or videos generate high engagement rates shortly after they have been published. If this is not the case, it may not even appear in the hashtag search. There is hardly any visibility.

Although the disadvantages of general hashtags are well known, some still recommend them. Because they are so popular, they are also observed by numerous users and thus promote interactions and reach. Often, accounts also see an increase in followers. That sounds positive at first, but these tags are often used and monitored by bots and spammers. If the number of likes under your post is more important than reaching your own target group, you should be happy to use it. However, different rules apply to hashtags in stories (see below).

Niche hashtags

With niche hashtags, you appeal to a more specific target group that is already interested in similar things. In addition, they usually have a much lower volume, which you can use as an advantage. Instead of the fashion hashtag, you should ideally choose one with a volume between a high five-digit to a medium six-digit number. Not dozens of posts come in here every second, so you have a higher chance of being seen.

The niche hashtags also include special ones Community hashtags (#igershamburg, #italianfashionblogger, etc.) or Location tags (#praguetower, #hamburgerecken, #selphie, etc.).

Blocked hashtags

Although it is rumored that the use of banned hashtags would reduce the reach, Instagram was unable to confirm this when asked - they are simply not displayed in the search. Nevertheless, in our article "From Hardcore to Elevator: The whimsical hashtag censorship on Instagram" you will find a list of blocked tags that you can safely do without in the future.

Stories hashtags

Apart from the fact that Instagram pushes the stories and does a lot to ensure that users use them, you should choose the hashtags in your story wisely, because with a little luck you will end up in the hashtag stories and make your content accessible to a much larger audience . General hashtags can be worthwhile here - especially since the probability of making it into the hashtag story is currently still relatively high. In the hashtag search you can find stories that contain the respective day by clicking on the circular avatar at the top of the page. However, the hashtag stories do not exist for every hashtag and they are independent of the hashtag volume.

Pro tip:Most users believe that only one hashtag can be used in the story. If you tap the hashtag selection again, the existing one opens. But it also works to set hashtags as text. In this way, you can integrate up to ten tags in a story and even hide them behind an emoji. With this trick you increase your chances of getting into the hashtag stories with your story immensely.

Branded hashtags

It definitely makes sense to get a branded hashtag. They do not increase your reach or naturally attract more followers. But they still have some advantages:

  • You can better analyze your campaigns
  • You can interact with your followers during live events
  • You can hold contests or raffles based on the hashtag
  • You can find user generated content
  • You can increase brand awareness

What else you can do in your post for your reach

When designing your posts, in addition to your small selection of hashtags, you should make sure that you

  1. post high quality content
    A shaky cellphone picture won't do the trick.
  2. write long captions
    The study by Jung von Matt / Sports and Brandnew IO suggests that 35 words are the optimum.
  3. ending your captions with a question from time to time
    In this way you increase the interaction rate, which in turn has a positive effect on the range. The first 45 minutes are crucial for the performance. The more interactions you generate during this time, the more relevant Instagram rates your post.
  4. post at the right time
    You can find out when your target audience is online in the Instagram Analytics of your business account.

Win on Instagram

As you can see, hashtags are now secondary. In order to generate reach on Instagram today, it takes a little more than a tried and tested hashtag strategy. The right mix of tactics is what makes your optimal Instagram strategy successful. At best, you don't let that put you off if your contributions don't generate the usual level of commitment. After all, the decisive factor is not how many hearts you can collect with your contribution, but rather how to reach your target group sensibly. It should be clear to everyone by now that this won't be a walk in the park and that it means continuous work.

Studied social science with a penchant for online and marketing. Was editor and content manager at from 2014 to 2019.