How to Use Hashtags in Your Business’s Instagram Posts

By Jan Zimmerman, Deborah Ng

Hashtags help to make a photo searchable and can be a helpful element of your social media marketing strategy. For example, if you post a photo of shoes on Instagram and use the hashtag #shoes, #style, or #fashion (or a combination), that photo will show up in the streams of others who are looking for items by using the same hashtag. When someone clicks the hashtag, public images labeled with that hashtag will appear.

Hashtagged content has a limited shelf life, especially content with a popular hashtag. If the topic is trending or popular, your content may be visible at the top of the search for only a few minutes or hours. Play around with both popular and less trendy hashtags to see where you receive the most engagement.

Here are some hashtag best practices:

  • Use two or three hashtags at most. Using too many hashtags makes a post too busy. Sure, your post appears on many different searches now, but most people prefer to look at photos with less clutter.
  • Make up your own hashtag. Create a hashtag that suits your brand and share it with your community. Now when they use your product or take part in a related activity, they use your brand’s hashtag, giving you more visibility and prompting others to try the same.
  • Keep an eye out for trending hashtags. Hashtags don’t have to be brand related. Plenty of hashtags relate to holidays, current events, and television shows. Don’t spam a hashtag with irrelevant content, but if you have an image appropriate for trending hashtags, don’t be afraid to use it.
  • Think of popular things people like to do or buy. Some popular hashtags on Instagram are #food, #shoes, and #cats. Familiarize yourself with popular hashtags but keep in mind that content with a popular hashtag won’t stay at the top for long.
  • Take part in hashtag memes. Try having fun with your Instagram account by taking part in a meme. For example, you can use #ThrowbackThursday or #TBT to share photos of your business in its early stages or #outfitoftheday to show what your staff is wearing.
  • Hashtags work best with public accounts. Brands shouldn’t have private accounts because it limits the brand’s audience: Hashtags are seen only by people who have access to the account. If yours is a private account with 50 followers, it has the potential to be seen by only 50 people. If your account is public, your image has the potential to be seen by hundreds, if not thousands.

If you want to make your account private so only people you choose to be friends with can see your photos, follow these steps:

  1. On your profile screen, select Edit Profile.
  2. Click the gear icon at the top right and then select Private Account.
  3. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to the area where it says Posts Are Private.
  4. Flip the little toggle switch to the right.

Keep in mind that with a private account, you have to manually approve any friend request. With a public account, anyone can follow and view your photos.

People come to Instagram for the visuals. Although you should give the photo a brief caption or description, you’ll lose people if you write an essay.