How to Brainstorm and Pick the Most Successful Hashtags – A Complete Guide

Hashtags are like cheat-codes when it comes to social media marketing.

When was the last time you saw an Instagram post without even one hashtag?

That’s right. Probably a long time ago.

Hashtags are not a fad that die. They are here to stay and what’s most interesting is that they work. You should use the right hashtags to increase the impact of your social media shares.

Here’s why:

  • right hashtags in your tweets / Insta photos will put your tweets / photos in front of a lot more people than just your fans/followers
  • right hashtags will help you become popular quicker
  • right hashtags will get you new customers (who are nowhere on your fan / follower radar)
Hey! This is a long guide. You might want to download this as a pdf because there’s so much info about hashtags. Click here to download this guide as a 19-page pdf.

using right hashtags

You’re probably using a lot of hashtags. If you’re an user, you’ve filled-up your preset hashtags already.

But have you thought, “hey, do my hashtags get me more traffic?”

Basically, do the hashtags you use get you more views, fans, followers, clicks, traffic and sales?

If you researched well before you picked your hashtags, you most likely get a lot of traffic spikes and sales. If not, your hashtags are not doing anything to your social media shares.

hashtags are like cheatcodes

So how to make hashtags work for you?

Answer: pick the most optimal hashtags for your market.

And how to do that?

Glad you asked. That’s exactly what we’ll look at.

But before we dive into the “how”, let’s make sure we understand where hashtags work and where they don’t. This will help us be smart with hashtag usage.

how to brainstorm and pick successful hashtags

1. The Hashtag Equation:
Where they work, and where they dont.

Hashtags became popular back in the days of Twitter even before Instagram showed up.

But it was Instagram that made an elite trend a worldwide phenomena so much so that the likes of Jimmy Fallon made comedy sketches on it. Excecpt the few incessantly-irritating hashtaggers, most marketers use hashtags smartly and it has paid off – more fans, more followers, more clicks and more sales.

Hashtags on Twitter

Research shows that on Twitter, a tweet with 1-2 hashtags gets almost twice (2x) as much engagement as tweets without hashtags.

That 200% increase can vary based on the market but it’s clear that hashtags increase engagement. By engagement, we mean: favorites, retweets, replies etc.

So more hashtags = more engagement, right?

Well, it turns out that on Twitter, that’s not entirely true. Tweets with more than 2 hashtags seem to dampen the effect and reduce engagement.

Twitter = 2 hashtags = optimal.

optimal number for twitter

Hashtags on Instagram

Instagram is a hashtag beast. Most IG posts have a dozen hashtags.

I know that it’s sometimes irritating to see a photo with nothing but hashtags in it – but here’s the surprising thing about it: they work!

Again, leaning back on research: it’s been found that using 11+ hashtags on Instagram is an optimal number to reach a lot more people and get a lot more engagement for your posts.

Instagram = 11+ hashtags = optimal.

optimal number for instagram

Hashtags on Pinterest

Pinterest has hashtags but it’s not as important or useful as they are on Twitter or Instagram.

You can use hashtags in your pin descriptions but they are of no use in discovery (when people search on Pinterest) or for SEO. May be Pinterest will change it’s app to a point where hashtags begin to matter but right now, it’s just there for the aesthetics.

Hashtags on Facebook

An old research on EdgeRankchecker notes that using hashtags has almost no effect on Facebook posts.

Apparently, just like Pinterest, hashtags didn’t catch up much on Facebook (not even as much as the “+” on Google+).

So should you be using hashtags on Facebook / Pinterest?


As long as it’s proven that hashtags negatively affect your posts, you should use them. Who knows when these websites will change their algorithms to make hashtags count?! You don’t want to miss out on the juice then.

Now that you know a little bit about hashtags and numbers, let’s take a crack at how to pick the best hashtags for your shop / products.

By picking the right hashtags, you’re making sure each of your social posts gets the best engagement, fans/followers, click-throughs and eventually sales.

2. How to Pick The Right Set of Hashtags

There are many ways to pick a really good set of hashtags that will get you maximum engagement (and traffic).

What you really need is a method and the right tool.

Here’s how to pick the right set of hashtags:

i) Competitors / Other Sellers


Your first source of finding hashtags should be – yes, I said “should” – your competitors. Or, to put it in a better way, other handmade sellers who sell similar things.

You can’t just go about and pick any seller to start your research though. You need to be strategic.

How? Here’s how:

a) Make a list of all your competitors (similar sellers)
You can find these people by searching for keywords on Etsy, Twitter, and even Instagram. If you run a handmade silver earring shop, your search terms could be “earring”, “silver earring”, “handmade earring” etc.

b) Sort them based on their follower count
You’re doing this so you can pick the sellers with a lot of followers and then start your hashtag research from them.

c) Look at their tweets and IG posts & start noting down their hashtags
Go through their tweets and IG posts. Pick the tweets / IG photos that have maximum favorites / retweets / replies – these are the ones that have had a lot of engagement. And then, note down all the hashtags those tweets / photos have.

Repeat the step for all competitors / sellers you find and get at least 30 hashtags that you can tap into.

ii) Influencers

influencers are savvy about hashtags

Influencers are slightly better than competitors because of one main reason – they’re not just savvy craft makers but they’re savvy marketers too.

And being savvy marketers, they know a lot more about using the right hashtags than, say, other competitors.

(So now you’re asking, “why didn’t you put Influencers on #1?” … and the answer is: it can be hard to find influencers in your niche).

So who’s an influencer?

An influencer is someone who has a huge fan following and is a brand unto herself.

For instance, Frida of CraftCount is an influencer – and she’s the right type of influencer if you’re into fabric / craft supplies.

An important distinction between a popular competitor and an influencer is the latter teaches people to grow their shop / business because of which they have a huge community around them.

Influencers are – like I said before – savvy about marketing and therefore savvy about hashtags.

Which means you should pick your niche influencers and start researching their IG photos and tweets to pick hashtags that they use.

Here’s how to pick influencers…

Picking influencers can be hard but here’s a little trick that almost always works:

Go into the profile of your competitors and then check who they follow. Out of the many hundreds / thousands, a few would be influencers that you recognize.

Again, make a list of about 20-30 hashtags.

3. Their followers

The next best source of hashtags that people actively use is followers of your competitors and sellers. Understandably, this can be tedious.

For each of the competitor and influencer you picked above, go into their profile, pick a few of their followers and check them out. Note down the hashtags that they use (preferably frequently).

Make a separate list of as many “frequently-used” hashtags as you can pick.

4. – Twitter Hashtag research


Methods 1, 2 and 3 are like starting from scratch, a blank slate.

If you prefer to start with something, should be a good tool for you to start your hashtag research.

All you do is enter one hashtag and you will get a bunch of related hashtags that other people use along with your first hashtag.

You can click on each hashtag to check for more associated hashtags and make a list of them all.

5. – Instagram hashtag research

webstame is a very simple way to find hashtags and start using them right away.

Although not as extensive and deep as the other tools, it serves as a quick hashtag suggestion list when you’re not in the mood for some deep hashtag research.

On, you just have to enter the #hashtag (only one at a time) and will list a few related suggestions.

The hashtags also have a number on their right – this is the number of photos on Instagram using that hashtag. The higher the number, the more competitive that hashtag is.

The trick is to use the hashtags that do not have a lot of photos. A number between 10,000 and 30,000 is decently good. Anything higher is competitive. (Although this varies based on which market / hashtag group you are looking at).

For instance, here’s a list shows for #earring. I’ve marked the hashtags that I’d pick.

earring webstame example

6. RiteTag

RiteTag is very similar to with one difference: RiteTag collects Twitter data (Websta does Instagram). RiteTag shows you all related hashtags when you input one.


To get started, signup for RiteTag with your Twitter account and then head straight to “Research”. Enter one hashtag to start with.

Of course, there’s a lot many features in RiteTag that make it even more interesting.

For instance, RiteTag tells you which hashtags are trending, hot, popular and which ones are overused (so you should avoid them). The green ones are hot/trending, the blue ones are long-life (meaning they continue to be successfully used) and the red ones are overused.

RiteTag also shows you details about the tweets that have the hashtags. It shows you how many of those tweets are retweeted, favorited, exposed to how many people (per hour), etc. (all these in the 7-day free trial).

You should pick hashtags from here that have a high hashtag exposure per hour but have a lower unique tweets per hour count (because you don’t want your tweet to get lost in a flood of other tweets having the same hashtag).

6 ways to find hashtags

3. How to Use the #hashtags

Step 1: Weed out the bad apples

Once you have a giant collection of 30-50 hashtags, you can start weeding out the ones that are not useful and hone in on the ones that are optimal and good.

There’s only one reason why you would do that: you want to use hashtags that get you visibility and engagement but not the hashtags that are overused / too competitive which makes them useless (unless you already have a hundred thousand fans).

For each hashtag that you picked, use RiteTag or (for Twitter or Instagram respectively) to figure out how many posts exist with that hashtag.

Aim for a number that’s optimal.

It shouldn’t be too high (for instance, on Instagram, hashtags with more than 100,000 posts generally mean that the hashtag is competitive + overused)

And it shouldn’t be too low (for example, hashtags which have less than 5-10 tweets per hour are the ones that don’t gain much traction).

Step 2: Start using them (rotate the options)

Once you’ve picked the optimal hashtags, you should start using them in all your social media shares.

For Twitter, since you should only use 2 tags per tweet for positive engagement, you can experiment with different tags for each tweet that goes out.

For Instagram, since we’re talking about 11+ tags (12 is a safe number), you have a lot less room for experimentation (unless you have a list of 24 – 36 hashtags).

You should also use these hashtags for your Facebook and Pinterest shares. (And not to forget, if you’re posting to Tumblr, do use hashtags!) makes it super simple to use hashtags quickly.

When you have your list of hashtags, you can go to Settings -> Hashtags and add up to 10 hashtags.


Once you’ve added them, all your social posts that you schedule through the app will be populated with your hashtags (picked randomly). You can add/remove the hashtags for each share pretty easily.


So now that you’re armed with a bunch of information, here’s what you should do:

how to find hashtags

  1. Snoop around your competitors, influencers and their followers to find popular and frequently-used hashtags
  2. Get more suggestions and related hashtags from tools like, RiteTag, etc.
  3. Make a giant list of hashtags from all the above
  4. Find out hashtags that are optimal and weed out the others
  5. Narrow down the list to 20-30 hashtags that you can then use.

Roll up your sleeves and get cracking!

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