How to Find the Best Hashtags to Use on Instagram & Get More Followers

Instagram = hashtag overdose.

If you use Instagram a lot, you know this very well. Since Instagram lets people add up to 30 hashtags in the caption, hashtags are the most-abused feature here.

But it’s not without reason.

Here’s a simple truth that data proves:

Hashtags = More engagement + more followers

Be it Twitter or Instagram, hashtags help you find more new followers easily. Source:

Be it Twitter or Instagram, hashtags help you find more new followers easily. Source: Razor Social

Businesses use hashtags very consciously. It’s because they get more followers and they get more engagement on each of their Instagram posts with relevant hashtags.

And in fact, without hashtags, your Instagram posts are most likely going to end up in oblivion. WIthout hashtags, you’ll most likely get no new followers and no engagement (both of which are crucial to your business).

You can get a taste of this right away.

Instead of using just a couple of hashtags, try to post something right now. Add about 20-25 relevant hashtags to your post. In a few hours, you’ll see that the post typically has more likes or comments.

So this is why almost every seller trying to get more followers, engagement and traffic from Instagram looks for the best hashtags to use on Instagram.

Your IG posts get more engagement when you use more than 11 hashtags. Source:

Your IG posts get more engagement when you use more than 11 hashtags. Source: Buffer

In this short guide, we’re going to look at 4 ways you can use to find the best hashtags to use on Instagram so that you:

  • get more new followers every single day
  • increase engagement on each of your photos
  • get more traffic to your shop eventually
  • become an Instagram superstar with your meticulous use of hashtags


  1. Invoke Your Inner Spy: How to spy on the competition to uncover thousands of hashtags
    1. Finding your competitors using simple search
    2. Doing the grunt work: hashtag analysis
    3. Sort, filter and cherry-pick
  2. Instagram Suggests: Using Instagram’s own data to cherry-pick the best hashtags to use
    1. The basic #hashtag search
    2. Finding out how competitive a hashtag is
    3. Picking the best ones
  3. Did Someone Say “Trends”? Finding what’s trending and using that to reach new audience
    1. Why “trends” work
    2. Finding trends that are relevant to you
    3. “Trending” hashtags that will always work
  4. Being a Generalist: Daily hashtags, popular hashtags by industry, Top 100 hashtags etc.
  5. Tools of the Trade: Using Hashtag Analytics with Websta, Keyhole etc.
  6. Closing Thoughts


#1. Invoke your Inner Spy

How to Spy on the Competition to Uncover Thousands of Hashtags

If there’s one totally-easy way to uncover hundreds of best hashtags to use in your Instagram posts, it’s by snooping around your competitors’ Instagram posts.

And it’s as easy as it gets.

a. Find your competitors using the simple search

Let’s assume you sell ceramic craftwork.

What you’d do is open Instagram and search for “ceramics”. This will lead to a lot of profiles that you can individually open and check.

IG search

Pick those profiles that sound like they’re of sellers or their businesses.

Make a list of 10-20 of these.

b. Analyze the hashtags (a.k.a, the grunt work)

Once you’ve made a list of all the profiles you’re going to spy on, it’s time to do the grunt work.

Open each profile and then start looking through their Instagram photos / posts.

IG analyze your competitors

Note down the hashtags they use. You should find patterns (like common hashtags that they use often, hashtags that are related to the industry – ceramics, handmade, artistry etc.)

You should be able to make a list of dozens of hashtags from this exercise.

c. Sort, filter and cherry-pick

Now, you have a list of several hashtags. But not all of them are created equal. Some of them are too competitive, some are golden opportunities. Time to filter them out.

From your list of hashtags, type in each of them in Instagram search. (Prefix the ‘#’ symbol before each hashtag word).

Instagram will tell you how many posts each hashtag has. Note this number against each hashtag.

ig hashtag numbers

After doing this for all hashtags, you’ll have a good idea about which hashtags you should go after. You should pick only those hashtags that are neither too competitive, nor too niche.

#2. Instagram Suggests

Using Instagram’s own data to cherry-pick the best hashtags to use

ig search mini

When you typed in a #hashtag in Instagram Search, you might have noticed that Instagram suggests a lot of associated hashtags.

These are helpful pointers that you can use to build your list of super-powerful hashtags. Here’s how:

a. The basic #hashtag search

Open Instagram, go to the search tab and key in some keyword with a hashtag prefix.

Like this: #ceramics.

Next, tap on “Tags”.

ig search hashtags

You’ll notice that Instagram suggests a bunch of related hashtags along with some numbers (the number of posts tagged with that hashtag). These are suggestions that Instagram has picked up from hundreds of thousands of users using those hashtags. Instagram knows which ones are popular (or most-used) etc.

For #ceramics, you can note down a bunch of other hashtag suggestions.

But you don’t stop there. You can then type in another hashtag (like #ceramicartist) and that will lead to more new suggestions.

This way, you can pick out a lot of hashtags. Make sure you’re noting down the numbers shown for each hashtag. They are important.

b. Finding out how competitive a hashtag is

Once you have a list of all hashtags and their numbers, you should sort them in descending order. This helps you figure out – somewhat easily – which hashtags to go after.

Typically, the ones with millions of posts (or even more than a few 100,000s) are very competitive. It means that many people have used the hashtag in their posts (and is likely to be overused).

c. Picking the best ones

The best hashtags to use (and avoid getting “lost in the crowd”) are the ones with relatively less number of posts. For instance, #ceramicartist has 21,000+ posts but it’s a good hashtag to use. It’s not very competitive.

Pick those hashtags that are:

  • Relevant to your market
  • Not very competitive (in the range of tens of thousands of posts)

You can create a list of 30-50 hashtags using just this method.

#3. Did Someone Say “Trends”?

Finding what’s trending and using that to reach new audience

If you’ve ever used Twitter, you’ve heard of “trending hashtags”.

For a short time (sometimes, short extends to be “long enough”), trends stay up on our attention radar. It could be something like the U.S presidential race (#election2016) or a new music video from Coldplay.

With the right trending hashtags, you can tap a large market of new potential customers.

a. Why “trends” work

Trends work because we are driven by curiosity. Anything that’s new and that other people seem to be talking about, we are hooked to it (even if for a small time).

Trends can be set in motion by anything – an event, a music video, a breaking news, a seasonal event, and so on. And with the proliferation of social media into everyone’s lives, millions of people use hashtags when they post about the trend.

And that’s where you can tap in.

b. Finding trends that are relevant to you

One magic link:

google trends

Google knows what’s trending in your part of the world (and the world over) based on so many factors. It tells you what’s trending so you can go ahead and find relevant hashtags.

That’s your job. You can’t start using every hashtag related to every trending thing. You’ll need to filter out only those trends that you can connect to your business/market.

For instance, someone selling presidential candidate action figures can easily use trending hashtags like #election2016 or #hillary. But it would be odd (and out of place) if the same person uses hashtags related to a local county craft fair happening in Scotland.

Find trends that can be connected to your market.

The next step is to find out hashtags that are being used in this particular “trending” topic.

For this, you can use a variety of ways.

  1. You can just go to Twitter, put the keyword in the search and look for hashtags being used in the Top tweets.
  2. Or you can simply go to Instagram, search for the keyword related to the trending topic and make a list of hashtags being used.
  3. Even better, you can go to RiteTag, key in the search term and look for hashtag suggestions that you can start using. You can also start with their Trending Hashtag.


c. “Trending” hashtags that will always work

Some hashtags always work because they’re seasonal / around events that happen regularly. Like:

  • Seasonal (holidays, black friday, back-to-school)
  • Special days (Mother’s Day, Valentine’s, New Year, Christmas)
  • Market-specific days (like Day of Clay, some Craft Fair-related days)

Also check out: 7 ways to sell more on special days.

#4. Being a Generalist

Daily hashtags, popular hashtags by industry, Top 100 hashtags etc.

Besides the specific hashtags that you’ll be using, there are some more general-purpose hashtags that seem to get more new followers, engagement and “Insta”-popularity.

I’ve linked some of these:

  1. Daily hashtags like #ThrowbackThursday, #FollowFriday. A huge list of these daily hashtags here.
  2. Websta’s list of Top 100 Hashtags (with the number of posts)
  3. PostPlanner has a great list of hashtags sorted by industry
  4. Later’s list of top hashtags that you can use for any industry

#5. Tools of the Trade

Some tools to help with Hashtags

  1. – Twitter-specific but you can get a lot of ideas that are applicable to Instagram.
  2. Websta
  3. RiteTag

Closing Thoughts

using hashtags on instagram

There is a very specific advantage for the brands that use hashtags smartly on Instagram. If you want to grow your online shop, get more sales and create your brand all using Instagram, you need to start using hashtags.

Go out there, find the best hashtags and start getting more new followers and business.

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