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The Best Hashtags to Grow Your Instagram Audience

Are hashtags still an effective growth strategy? If done thoughtfully, yes. Instagram posts with hashtags generate at least 12% more engagement than posts without them. We're here to demystify how hashtags work on Instagram and share some of the most underrated hashtags in 2021 that can help grow your Instagram's following. 

For business owners and influencers, consistently growing an engaged following on Instagram can mean more clicks, sales, and partnerships. Once you've got into the rhythm of regularly posting to your feed and Stories, hashtags can do some heavy lifting to garner more views, likes, and saves from new audiences. The question is: which hashtags will actually drive growth on Instagram?

Hashtags continue to be a leading factor for new people to discover you through Instagram. There are a few challenges with developing a hashtag strategy: 

  1. Identifying the right hashtags and using them thoughtfully without them seeming spammy 
  2. Popular hashtags are oversaturated with new posts every day – making it difficult for content to stand out among the crowd or stay relevant 

We're here to address some of these challenges and set you up to use hashtags with ease and success. 

How to Identify the Best Instagram Hashtags

A best practice is to limit yourself to five hashtags per Instagram post. But, how do you know which ones will actually turn into your content landing on Instagram's coveted Explore page? 

Begin by Analyzing Your Top Competitors - What hashtags are they leaning on in their bio and posts? When you search for a common hashtag relevant to your brand or business, what type of content do you see? For example, if you own a vegan restaurant, which accounts dominate the results when you search #veganmeals? Dive into those posts and view the other hashtags they use frequently. (Related: How to Research Hashtags for Your Audience)

Develop a List of Hashtags for Your Common Types of Instagram Content – For every content bucket or theme, develop a list of 10-20 hashtags you will use for each post. For example, if you frequently post pictures of your product, create a set of hashtags for all product-related posts. For each type of core content bucket or theme, establish 4-5 hashtags for these hashtag types to ensure a balanced mix. 

  • Brand-specific (e.g. Bumble uses #makethefirstmove)
  • Niche (e.g. a plant shop uses #snakeplant)
  • Location based (e.g. Austin restaurants use #512eats)
  • Product-specific (e.g. Adidas uses #yeezy)

Repeat this process to identify a list of 10-20 hashtags for each type of content bucket or theme you frequently post in the feed. You can use PLANOLY's hashtag manager feature to create hashtag lists and easily add custom groups of hashtags to posts before they are scheduled. (Related: How to use PLANOLY’s Hashtag Manager)

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The Most Underrated Instagram Hashtags for Niche Industries 

We analyzed millions of anonymous Instagram posts made by PLANOLY users to uncover the most underrated hashtags that led to the most likes and impressions. 

We can’t express enough how important it is to find and leverage the niche hashtags in your community. Using small hashtags with less search volume may seem like a small thing, but it's very meaningful to the users and potential customers that notice your effort to reach them. This is how you target your audience and ultimately identify potential customers.


























Food and Vegan Community













Hairstylists and Makeup Artists








Plants, Botanicals, and Florals 
















Literature and Publications 










Instagram Hashtag Best Practices

  1. Understand Your Target Audience – Before creating relevant hashtags, make sure you understand what your target audience is searching for and how they search for it.
  2. Use 10-20 Hashtags for Each Type of Instagram Post – Use the strategy of developing a balanced list of 10-20 hashtags for each content bucket. 
  3. Mix it Up – Use a combination of brand-specific, niche, location-based, and product-specific hashtags in each Instagram post. 
  4. Put Hashtags in Your First Comment – The best way to add hashtags to your posts is by adding them in the first comment under your post. Placing them in your caption adds a bit of clutter, and is the reason content can look spammy. 

Researching and establishing a set of frequently used, popular hashtags is a part of every effective Instagram growth strategy. With the right mix of hashtags with these tips and well-researched hashtags, look forward to generating more engagement, followers, and sales on Instagram! 

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Tareen Alam

Tareen Alam is the Senior Manager, Content & Channels at PLANOLY. She is always thinking up creative ways to help brands stand out and grow their audience.

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