Instagram Hashtags Guide: How & What to Expect

This is from my photographer’s guide to Social Media & Marketing. Get the guide for free.

Hashtags on Instagram is often being sold as the holy grail of how to grow your account – which is bullshit.

If you are just here to understand which hashtags you should use and how to use them, it goes like this:

Finding the right hashtags for your account

You can use a tool like this to find hashtags within your niche.

But as important as using the relevant hashtags, is using hashtags you can actually dominate.

The purpose of using hashtags is to be featured in the “top posts”. Also, it’s important to note, that the “top posts” of a hashtag, is personalized, which means the top posts you see for a certain hashtag won’t be the same I’m seeing. It’s heavily based on who you follow.

Target hashtags within your reach:

This screenshot shows the hashtags “streetphotographyinternational”. As you see, this hashtags has 480.000 posts. And this number is important because it shows you the competition of people who also try to make in the top 9.

The more entries a hashtag has, the harder it will be for you to get in the top. Below the screenshot, I’ll give you a good rule of thumb when you select the size of the hashtags you should use.

hashtag guide

Target hashtags within your reach

This is a good rule of thumb is to target hashtag that has a reach of x1000 of the average like you get.

  • If you usually get 50 likes per post, target hashtags with 50.000 entries
  • If you usually get 100 likes per post, target hashtags with 100.000 entries.
  • If you usually get 1000 likes per post, target hashtags with 1.000.000 entries.

I usually get between 500 to 1200 likes per photos, so I’ll target hashtags that have around 400.000 to 1.200.000 entries. This is why I don’t use “#photography” – it has 259.000.000 entries, which makes it impossible for me to end up in Top Posts.

What are the maximum hashtags per post?

It’s 30 hashtags per post and I wouldn’t use more than that – even though it’s possible to do in the comment section.

Analyzing the impact of Instagram Hashtags for posts & stories

Hashtags on Instagram: The ultimate tactic to increase your reach and followings?

Not really…

Let me give you some examples from my Instagram account @trovatten. I’ll show you the impact hashtags can have on Instagram posts and Instagram stories.

The impact of using hashtags on Instagram Posts

I’m sharing with you, Instagram Reach & Impression Statistics from five different posts. Some old, some popular, some new posts. Then we will look at how much reach each post got and how much of that reach can be attributed to the hashtags.

If you look at the first screenshot, you can see this post received 9698 impressions, whereas 376 of them were attributed to hashtags:

Does instagram hashtags work?

I received 3.8% more impressions from hashtags


376 extra impressions is cool and all, but of the total impressions of 9698, it’s only an increase of 3.8%. And this is one of my more successful posts.


Instagram hashtags

I received 3% more impressions from hashtags


Instagram hashtags

I received 1.7% more impressions from hashtags


Does instagram hashtags work?

I received 2.6% more impressions from hashtags


Does instagram hashtags work?

I received 3.8% more impressions from hashtags


Are hashtags for Instagram stories as bad?


They are actually A LOT better.


I write “sometimes” because it’s only sometimes the actual hashtag I use, will work. I’m not sure why it differs.

But if you take a look at this Instagram Story I did yesterday:

Instagram hashtags on Instagram story.

The hashtag on my story increased my reach by 26%

You can see my total reach is around 1135 and 298 of these viewers (not impressions, but viewers aka. people) can be attributed to the hashtag I used – That’s a solid 26% increase on my Instagram story from a very relevant hashtag.

And I see this a lot. GEO-tag and hashtags for Instagram stories have a far bigger impact than the hashtag on Instagram posts.


Why do I still bother using hashtags on my IG posts then?

I just showed you that the impact of my hashtags usually gives me around 3-5% more impressions. Why even bother? I’ve asked myself that too and the thing is.

Today, you can subscribe to “hashtags”, which means you will see popular posts from hashtags you follow in your Instagram-feed. Like this:

Follow Instagram hashtags

And I’m worried that an impression like this, actually is attributed to “From home” instead of “From hashtags”. If I had proof that wasn’t the case, I would probably not obsess so much about using the right hashtags and so on.

So my advice to you is to keep using relevant hashtags. Instagram changes constantly, and they seem to promote hashtags more and more, so I have a feeling it will become increasingly more powerful.

I hope you learned a little bit and I hope I didn’t discourage you, by showing you how little impact hashtags on Instagram Posts actually have for me. (And I’ve checked with some friends too, who experience similar results).

But the good news it, hashtags on Instagram stories work really, really well. And I would advise you to start experimenting with it asap – and remember to use relevant tags – otherwise, it’s pointless.

This is the first newsletter of my guide to Instagram Marketing. Get on the list to receive the next chapter.

All best,
Frederik Trovatten