How to Research Hashtags for Instagram Posts

How to Research Hashtags for Instagram Posts - Stafford Technologies

How do you research hashtags for Instagram posts…? Good ol’ hard work.

It’s that simple.

There’s no magic bullet. There’s no mysterious formula like the juicedratic equation. And sadly, there’s no Fortress Hashtag where our supervillain, the Darth Hash, concocts diabolical hashtags to subliminally draw people’s attention to posts (sorry – I’m listening to Wagner’s “The Ride of the Valkyries” as I write this and it reminds me of Darth Vader).

Research takes plain old hard work. Having said that, there are plenty of companies out there offering up software that will help you choose hashtags. But, to be honest, they’re not doing anything you can’t do on your own. And I’d bet you’d do a better job anyway.

Below I will give you a step by step guide on how you can do the research for Instagram hashtags. But, before I get to that, let’s talk about the why.

Why do I have to research  hashtags for Instagram?

Like anything else you do, you don’t want to waste your time.

You’re posting on Instagram to build an audience so people will buy your stuff or hire you to do crap they don’t want to do or can’t do. It’s business. And business is hard enough without you wasting time posting things that never get seen.

We post so people will see us as the go-to for their website design and Google My Business Management & Optimization (snuck in my shameless plug using that literary license I talked about yesterday…😁). I mean, I’m grateful that my sisters and my mom like my promotional posts but, to be brutally honest, there is no way I could care any less! They’re not my target audience and they conflate my Instagram Insights.

This is why we want targeted hashtags. We want to be sure we are attracting the correct audience. More importantly, we want to ensure we’re growing our targeted audience.

Last week, when I first started talking about this topic in my post, Why Use Hashtags When I Post to Social Media?, I talked about my mea culpa that “I never took the time to learn much about them” and now, just a week later I wish that wasn’t so true. When I started posting my Digital Marketing in 60 Seconds or Less videos, I had about 45 or so followers. Now I’m up to 219.

Imagine how many I would have if I knew how to use hashtags when I started.

Look, this stuff is important. And, if you’re going to post on Instagram or any other social media channel, you may as well do it right instead of wasting 3 months like I did.

What do Hashtags actually do?

That’s easy. Hashtags allow your posts to be found by people in your targeted audience who follow that hashtag. As an added bonus, your posts with the hashtag they’re following may show up in their main page feeds.

This is why it so important top get this stuff right. A great hashtag strategy can catapult a post’s engagement and catapult a campaign to incredible success. But, you have to use relevant hashtags. Because Instagram is allowing users to follow hashtags they also give users the power to mark hashtagged content as something they don’t want to see or in simple terms; SPAM.

Admittedly, it is a bit more involved than someone reporting your post as SPAM. And, considering how we all know way leads on to way, I’m hoping to come back to that topic later – fingers crossed🤞🏼.

So now you know why it’s important and you know why you have to research great, relevant hashtags, let’s get into how to research Instagram hashtags.

How to research hashtags for Instagram posts

Let’s first get through the step by step guide then we’ll talk about what we’re looking for.

Step 01

Navigate to your profile and click on the search icon at the bottom of the screen.

How to Research Instagram Hashtags - Stafford Technologies STEP 01

Step 02

Click to get the search started. You will immediately be brought to the next screen.

How to Research Instagram Hashtags - Stafford Technologies STEP 02

Step 03

Click on the “TAGS” tab.

How to Research Instagram Hashtags STEP 03- Stafford Technologies

Step 04

Start typing your hashtag search.

Let’s take a look at what I found when I searched for ‘contractors’, my main target.

The first two hashtags that come up are #contractorsofinsta and #contractors. Great! But it shows the people I follow who are following that hashtag instead of the number of posts. Not sure why… I tried to duplicate it but couldn’t. I’m kinda glad it came up so I can show you but it’s not exactly what I was looking for.

Anyway, as you can see UNDER the two errant hashtags on top, the hashtag search tool lets you know how many posts include that hashtag. This is great information. You can see if the hashtag is popular and worth using and you can see if the hashtag is too popular to bother. I’ll use my ‘#love’ hashtag example. With literally millions of posts a day using the ‘love’ hashtag there is no way my post can be found.

This is where your decision making acuity comes in to play.

You have to decide what to use. It’s pretty random at first but you have to start somewhere.

I’m still doing my own research so giving you a definitive answer as to how you make that decision may not be in the cards today. I can tell you that I look for around 10K to 25K posts. I feel that is enough traffic to be relevant but not enough to get buried. On the other hand we use some hashtags, especially for our niche like #contractors that have over 500K posts. There is a place for those as well but I’m convinced we will get more targeted eyes by using hashtags with fewer posts.

I’ll let you know a definitive answer (opinion) when we have enough sample data.

That brings up my next point. Once you get started you should measure the results so you can make better more informed decisions later.

We’ll talk about how to measure the hashtag performance in a later post but for now here is your actionable step. Make a list of ten hashtags using our guide on the types of hashtags you should use for your Instagram posts. That would be two Community hashtags, two Subject hashtags, two Niche hashtags, two Location hashtags, and two Branded hashtags. Start using them on your next post.

Then make another list of ten and another and another and another. It’s not good practice to use the same hashtags over and over (I’ve read this on several blogs so I’m going with it for now… if and when it is shown to me that this is bad information I will update this post) except for the branded hashtags (we use #staffordtechnologies in every post now).

Next we’ll talk about how many hashtags is optimal, when the best time to post on Instagram is, and how to measure your hashtag performance. There’s a lot to cover over the next few posts – I hope you’ll stick with me.


Til next time…
Michael 🙂

P.S. Here are some great ways I can help you grow your business right now:

Website Success Call: We’ll talk about the concerns you have about your website and see if we can answer some of your questions and get you moving in the right direction.

Google My Business Success Call: We’ll talk about the problems your having with getting some traction in local search and see if we can help you move the needle a bit.

All calls are 100% FREE and carry no obligation. We’re passionate about ridding the world of website shame and we love sharing when we can.

P.S.S. If you need help with something or would like too see an article or a “Digital Marketing in 60 Seconds or Less” video about a certain topic, email me directly at



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