How to Hashtag on Instagram by Size

Instagram hashtags for business… We love them, hate them, and love to hate them. You’ve tried them in the comments. You’ve tried them in the post. You’ve tried two. You’ve tried the most. Despite your best efforts, you’re still scratching your head wondering how to hashtag on Instagram in a way that will get your business results!

Unless you can drink from a firehose, trying to teach you everything I know about Instagram hashtag strategies in one blog post isn’t reasonable. That said, I’ll teach you one of the most effective strategies I’ve employed over the years to grow my following and more importantly, get dream clients! Grab your knowledge straw and let’s get to sipping!

Sort Hashtags by Size

First off, when I say “size,” what I’m really getting at is popularity. It’s the number of times a hashtag has been used. You can find this pretty easily by typing a hashtag in the search bar on desktop or mobile. Right under the hashtag, it’ll say “X NUMBER posts,” which gives you the size for the purposes of this strategy.

We’re going to sort each hashtag you use / want to use into three chunks as follows:

  • Niche: 100 – 40k posts.
  • Target: 40k-500k posts.
  • Traffic: 500k+ posts.

I would suggest creating a spreadsheet to keep track of your hashtags as you go. You could use the columns to track size and color code by category if you wanna get real nerdy! But for now, let’s dive into why each chunk is important.

Niche Hashtags

Niche hashtags are exactly how they sound. They’re hashtags that are really specific to what you do or who your clients are. Because they’re so specific, they are not used as often, which is good for three reasons:

  • Fewer people will see the posts through that hashtag, but the people who do see them are more likely to be your ideal clients.
  • Your post is less likely to get lost in the noise of that hashtag.
  • You’ll get high-quality engagement and have an easier time converting them into a sale.

Just be careful not to use hashtags that are too small. Hashtags under 100 posts can be a waste – unless it’s a new hashtag that’s quickly growing. I generally try to use niche hashtags over 1k posts.

Target Hashtags

These are still specific, but not as drilled down. For example, this might be #midwestweddingphotographer (target) vs #madisonwiphotographer (niche). You’re casting a wider net with these.

Target hashtags are great for getting more of the right kind of eyes on your posts, but will convert to clients a little less frequently!

Traffic Hashtags

Traffic hashtags are a lot like trying to photograph lightning with a quick shutter speed. You have to be in the right place, at the right time, with a lot of patience, but if you nail it, it’s so worth it!

Because these hashtags have so many uses, your post will get an influx of traffic quickly after posting and then disappear under others using that hashtag. While these hashtags may not gain engagement from your ideal clients, that initial influx of likes and comments is still important.

When you first publish a post on Instagram, the algorithm feeds it to only some of your followers. If it’s gaining engagement / traction, it’ll show it to more people, and more people because it recognizes it’s valuable. If it doesn’t get that quick engagement, it may consider it a dud. Since the goal of Instagram is to keep people on the app, it’s looking for the best quality content to share (measured by engagement).

In the off chance you actually trend for a traffic hashtag, you’ll see a BOOM in growth for your business account. That’s why I compared it to nailing a lightning photo… it’ll leave you dancing!

Create Your Hashtag Combinations

Using just one size of hashtags on your post may work, but just like you wouldn’t put all your hope in one memory card while shooting a wedding, we need to diversify. Each hashtag size has it’s own unique pros and cons, so the exact combination may depend on what you’re trying to achieve with a given post.

As a quick side note, I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how they’re afraid to use 30 hashtags in each post because it’ll be considered spammy by the algorithm. Instagram wouldn’t let you use 30 hashtags if they didn’t want you to, so get that out of your head. That said, using 30 hashtags that have no theme / rhyme or reason may hurt you.

Here is an example breakdown of how many hashtags I would use by size if I were using between 20-30 hashtags on a given post:

  • Niche: 10-15 hashtags
  • Target: 5-12 hashtags
  • Traffic: 5-8 hashtags

Ultimately, I always want to use the least amount of traffic hashtags and a good chunk of target / niche hashtags that relate to that post!

Find the Right Strategy for You

Now that you know all the rules, break them to see what works for you! Learning how to hashtag on Instagram for your specific business account requires a bit of trial and error.

Try mixing up the number of each type of hashtag you use, the hashtags themselves, and where you place the hashtag (post or comments). What’s best for one account may be different for another, so you have to find your sweet spot.

By using Instagram insights, you can make decisions based on data rather than your gut! Try each method for a week or two and switch. Then, track the differences. And lastly, if something is working, don’t question it… just keep doing it!

Want to go a step further with your IG strategy so you can stop posting and ghosting and start getting clients lining up in your DMs? Click here to download my IG Content Planner for free!

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