Instagram hashtags are the best (free!) tool for businesses to find their target audience and grow their brand. With that said, most brands don’t know which hashtags to use, and that’s okay. It’s a common mistake, because there’s not a lot of information on how to utilize the right hashtags.

If you need a recap on how hashtags can be used to grow your brand on Instagram, review how the Instagram Search Algorithm works.

Hashtags come in a variety of shapes and sizes. For brands new to Instagram or with a small following, who are looking to expand their presence on Instagram, choose hashtags that have 100,000 or fewer posts. This will help your posts be seen.

So how do you choose your hashtags?

There are several different ways to start your research. One is researching your competitors or inspiration accounts. You shouldn’t use the exact hashtags as your competitors, but it can be a place to start.

From there, you can start brainstorming different keywords that apply to your brand and your target audience.

Popular and Trending

Popular and trending hashtags are a great place to start your research. At the top of the hashtag Search page, there are other suggestions for similar hashtags.

You can also look at individual posts on the Search page to discover what other hashtags those accounts are using.

Note: If you have fewer than 10k followers, you likely shouldn’t use popular hashtags. It’s a waste of a hashtag opportunity, because smaller accounts don’t make the top 9 on Search pages; your posts will just get lost in the clutter.


Using keywords within your niche are where you’re going to find most of your good-quality hashtags. Also, you’ll build credibility within the Instagram algorithm, which means that Instagram will show your account and content to your target audience within your niche.

In order to do that, you need to target your hashtags to your niche.

Take into consideration what your business or brand sells. If you own a bakery, #bakery is too broad, but it can be where you start your research. Start large and narrow down your options.

The key is to start with keywords that you can research. For a bakery, that would be desserts, ingredients, sweet tooth, different types of baked goods, or anything else that makes you special or unique.

Some suggestions:

  • #veganbakery or #glutenfreeliving
  • #cupcakesofinstagram
  • #dessertfirst

Events and Campaign Hashtags

Industry shows usually have a hashtag. Though you may not be attending, that audience is posting pictures and looking at the hashtag feed. If you’re a bakery that makes wedding cakes, you can research different bridal expos and wedding expos that have a branded hashtag you can use, like Here Comes The Guide.

The same goes for campaigns. Other accounts in your niche will be crawling the Search page, so it’s a great opportunity for your brand to be seen by other accounts like yours.


Locations have their own hashtags: states, cities, restaurants, neighborhoods, etc.. For small businesses, location hashtags can be a big help. If you’re based in Charlotte, there are many different hashtags you can use. There are a lot that are niche and location oriented, too.

For general usage, #CharlottesGotALot or #704lifestyle.

For niches, there are #CLTbeer or #CampNorthEnd.

Some businesses have their own location hashtag, like Sycamore Brewing.

Sycamore also has their own campaign hashtag #sycamorebeer, which they used to give away Yeti coolers to people who took photos with their beer cans.

Feature Accounts

Feature accounts are accounts that share other users’ content. They’ll have a hashtag you can use, and if they like your content, they’ll reshare it (hopefully with credit) to all of their followers.

This is an easy way to have your content shown to a large number of your target audience for free.

There are larger ones like #HuffPostTaste (@huffposttaste) and smaller ones like #EatDrinkCLT (@eatdrinkclt).

For Charlotte, check out @cltagenda or @weloveclt.

Hashtags are the backbone of a great Instagram strategy. If your content is great, you should be engaging with your audience. If your follower count isn’t growing and/or your engagement is poor, you probably need to look at the hashtags you’re using (or not using).

For more on Instagram strategy, learn the importance of the Search algorithm.