This Is Why Your Instagram Hashtags Aren’t Working

Knowing how to use Instagram hashtags to increase your post reach, likes and followers is a cornerstone of using social media successfully.

There are millions (if not billions) of hashtags out there. How do you know which ones you should be using to reach your target audience?

It can be extremely overwhelming, especially when you’ve heard conflicting hashtag strategies (or are even just getting started with them.)

Once you’re done reading this blog post, you’ll have a much better idea for the science behind using hashtags – specifically how the algorithms use them.

The best hashtags for Instagram depend on your account size, popularity and post relevancy.

First, let’s understand how the algorithms work:

Instagram uses image recognition software, which means that the algorithms scan the image inside your post – in addition to the text inside your caption – to know if your hashtags are considered relevant.

❌ If it decides they’re not relevant, your reach is restricted.


✅ If it IS relevant, you’ll have a chance to show up on the explore page (which is dedicated to helping people discover popular content based on niche topics they may be interested in) and in top-ranking posts for the hashtags that you decide to use.

You can rank in the top hashtags for your niche.

If you hit the top 9 posts within a hashtag, you’re most likely to have your post suggested to new people who are following and engaging on that hashtag. That means you’re reaching a highly engaged, interested and targeted audience who wants to see your content.

So, how do we know if the hashtags we’re using are relevant? I’m so glad you asked!

🔑 The keywords from your hashtags are inside your caption text. It doesn’t have to match every single hashtag, but if you are able to slip at least 3-4 in, you’re helping boost your relevancy.


📸 Using images similar to the pics that are already ranking in the top posts for that hashtag (i.e. photos of people, quote graphics, etc.) This is where doing hashtag research beforehand comes into play.


📍 The location tag matches your location-based hashtags. If you’re a local business, I always recommend using a handful of hashtags that are specific to your local community.

Having trouble finding hashtags that use your keywords?

Let me introduce you to hashtag generators.

These handy (and sometimes free) tools are perfect for finding hashtags that specifically use the keywords you’re hoping to use.

For example, let’s say you’re looking for photography hashtags because you’re a photographer. Just type in ‘photography’ into the hashtag generator, and you’ll see a list populate.

🚨 A word to the wise: do not just copy/paste the entire set of hashtags the generator spits out. Each hashtag should be properly researched and within the appropriate size for your account.

You can learn more about how to discover, select and implement hashtags successfully inside my free Hashtag Masterclass.

P.S. Want to learn more from me? I post regular tips and trainings over on Instagram.

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