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The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Hashtags in 2021

Instagram hashtags are still an effective way to get more eyes (and engagement!) on your Instagram posts in 2021.

A post with at least one Instagram hashtag averages 12.6% more engagement than posts without a hashtag. So it really is worth creating a hashtag strategy for your brand if you want to grow your account!

This ultimate guide to Instagram hashtags will help you understand everything you need to know about using hashtags to get more followers, improve your engagement rate, and build a community around your business.

Ready to learn how to use Instagram hashtags strategically? We bet you are!

instagram hashtags guide


  1. Why Instagram Hashtags Are Important
  2. The Top 50 Instagram Hashtags of 2021 (UP-TO-DATE)
  3. The Top 50 Instagram Hashtags of All Time
  4. The Different Types of Instagram Hashtags
  5. How to Find the Best Instagram Hashtags for Your Account
  6. How to Organize Your Instagram Hashtags
  7. 8 Ways to Optimize Your Instagram Hashtags
  8. Best Practices for Instagram Hashtags in 2021

Why Instagram Hashtags Are Important 

Instagram has gone through a lot of changes since 2010, but through it all, one thing has stayed consistent: the importance of Instagram hashtags.

Even in 2021, using relevant, targeted hashtags on your posts and stories is one of the best ways to get discovered by new audiences on Instagram. And this can translate into more engagement, more followers, and more customers for your business.

brand tryouts: instagram hashtags

Instagram hashtags work by organizing and categorizing photos and videos.

If you have a public Instagram account and add a hashtag to a post, that post will be visible on the corresponding hashtag page (it’s basically a directory of all the photos and videos that were tagged with that hashtag).

instagram hashtags

Since hashtags are used with an intent to discover content, the right hashtags can put you in front of your target audience, even if they haven’t connected with you before.

For example, a food blogger might post a picture of a gorgeous smoothie bowl, and then use the hashtags #superfoods, #cleaneating, and #vegansofig when it’s uploaded to Instagram.

instagram hashtags

By using these three hashtags, the image is cataloged so other Instagram users who enjoy healthy foods can easily find it.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • When people with private profiles tag posts, they won’t appear publicly on hashtag pages
  • Numbers are allowed in hashtags. However, spaces and special characters, like $ or %, won’t work.
  • You can only add hashtags to your own posts. You can’t tag other people’s photos/videos.
  • You can use up to 30 hashtags on a post and 10 on Instagram Stories.

Ready to get started? From boosting engagement to finding new communities, in the following video, we break down everything you need to know about Instagram hashtags in 2021:

The Top 50 Instagram Hashtags of 2021

While using ultra-popular hashtags isn’t always the best strategy for getting more engagement on your posts and stories (we’ll explain this more below), here is an up-to-date list of the top 50 Instagram hashtags of 2021:

  1. #beach
  2. #l4l
  3. #blogger
  4. #instadaily
  5. #lol
  6. #blue
  7. #instagram
  8. #model
  9. #nature
  10. #hot
  11. #followme
  12. #pink
  13. #bestoftheday
  14. #night
  15. #blackandwhite
  16. #nofilter
  17. #food
  18. #f4f
  19. #family
  20. #foodporn
  21. #fashionblogger
  22. #black
  23. #me
  24. #gym
  25. #home
  26. #makeup
  27. #photography
  28. #girl
  29. #pretty
  30. #fitfam
  31. #lifestyle
  32. #work
  33. #sky
  34. #love
  35. #amazing
  36. #beautiful
  37. #sun
  38. #luxury
  39. #vsco
  40. #landscape
  41. #cute
  42. #llike4like
  43. #hair
  44. #girls
  45. #london
  46. #tbt
  47. #life
  48. #picoftheday
  49. #beauty
  50. #smile

The Top 50 Instagram Hashtags of All Time

  1. #love
  2. #instagood
  3. #photooftheday
  4. #fashion
  5. #beautiful
  6. #like4like
  7. #picoftheday
  8. #art
  9. #happy
  10. #photography
  11. #instagram
  12. #followme
  13. #style
  14. #follow
  15. #instadaily
  16. #travel
  17. #life
  18. #cute
  19. #fitness
  20. #nature
  21. #beauty
  22. #girl
  23. #fun
  24. #photo
  25. #amazing
  26. #likeforlike
  27. #instalike
  28. #selfie
  29. #smile
  30. #me
  31. #lifestyle
  32. #model
  33. #follow4follow
  34. #music
  35. #friends
  36. #motivation
  37. #like
  38. #food
  39. #inspiration
  40. #repost
  41. #summer
  42. #design
  43. #makeup
  44. #TBT
  45. #followforfollow
  46. #ootd
  47. #family
  48. #l4l
  49. #cool
  50. #igers

The Different Types of Instagram Hashtags

Understanding the different types of hashtags and their corresponding audiences is key to developing an effective Instagram hashtag strategy:

#1: Community Hashtags

Community hashtags are hashtags that connect like-minded users around a specific subject. They’re a great way to connect with others, improve the searchability of your posts, gain followers, and grow your own community.

Here are 9 different types of community hashtags you can use for your business:

  1. Hashtags indicating your product or service, like #sweater or #coffeeshop
  2. Hashtags indicating your niche in your industry, like #weddingphotographer or #travelphotographer
  3. Hashtags for Instagram communities in your industry, like #bakersofinstagram or #foodiesofinstagram
  4. Hashtags for special events or seasons, like #whiteday or #nationaldonutday
  5. Hashtags using locations, like #pastrynyc, #madeintoronto, or #sydneysweets
  6. Daily hashtags, like #mondaymotivation, #tuesdaytip, or #wellnesswednesday
  7. Hashtags with phrases relevant to what you do, like #becreative or #bakerylove
  8. Hashtags with acronyms, like #qotd (quote of the day) or #ootd (outfit of the day)
  9. Hashtags with emojis, like #???? or #????

We recommend using a variety of hashtags on your posts and stories so your posts can reach different communities. For example, if you run a food account, you could use #cleaneats to reach users looking for healthy recipes or #sweettooth to nab attention from the dessert-loving crowd.

instagram hashtags

A branded hashtag is a hashtag that’s unique to your company when using Instagram for business.

It can be as simple as your company name, tagline, or the name of one of your products or campaigns. Or it can be a hashtag that has nothing to do with your brand name but everything to do with your brand identity!

#2: Branded Hashtags

A branded hashtag is a hashtag that’s unique to your company when using Instagram for business.

It can be as simple as your company name, tagline, or the name of one of your products or campaigns. Or it can be a hashtag that has nothing to do with your brand name but everything to do with your brand identity!

instagram hashtags

While community hashtags are meant to increase the reach of your message, branded hashtags are designed to connect themes for you and your audience. They can be used to promote a campaign or collect user-generated content (UGC).

For example, the “natural” sneaker company Allbirds uses the hashtag #weareallbirds to drive awareness around their brand by giving their followers a place to share relevant content.

instagram hashtags

Getting your Instagram followers to use your branded hashtag in their posts and stories is key to getting discovered on Instagram by new audiences.

Once you create your hashtag, remind customers they can use your business’ hashtag by sharing it on your stories or calling it out in your captions. This way, your followers can tap the hashtag and see other posts about your business.

It’s also a good idea to follow your branded hashtag to keep track of new content that’s being shared!

#3: Campaign Hashtags

While branded and community hashtags are meant to last, campaign hashtags are usually shorter-term and run for just a few days, a season, or a year.

The reason campaign hashtags are shorter-term is because they’re usually tied to specific campaigns, like new product launches, special events, or partnerships. So they’re great for building a lot of engagement in a short period of time!

For example, Tezza App recently used the hashtag #12daysoftezzaapp to promote a holiday campaign.

instagram hashtags

How to Find the Best Instagram Hashtags for Your Account

When used correctly, Instagram hashtags can help you grow your reach, get more engagement, and attract more followers.

But in order to be successful with hashtags, you need to be strategic about what hashtags you use and when you use them.

instagram hashtags

While the most popular hashtags on Instagram have been used millions of times, that doesn’t mean you’re going to get a ton of likes and comments simply by adding #love, #happy, or #dog to your posts.

Instead of using the most popular Instagram hashtags, it’s better to find and use hashtags that are smaller, more niche, and have an engaged audience that’s relevant to your industry.

So, how can you find these cool, creative, and community-oriented hashtags?

The best way is to look and see what Instagram hashtags your audience, competitors, and industry leaders are already using.

@later.comSo simple, you can do it while watching Tiger King ???????????? ##fyp ##foryou ##instagramtips ##socialmediatips

♬ Vibe (If I Back It Up) – Cookiee Kawaii

We’ve noticed that the more niche the topic, the more conversations users are having around it, so it pays off to really hone-in on a topic or theme. And you’d be surprised by how niche hashtags can get!

For example, let’s say you’re posting a photo of a French Bulldog. Instead of just tagging #dogstagram (over 95 million posts), you could also tag #pupsofinsta and #frenchiegram to reach a more targeted audience of people who really love French Bulldogs. This is the best way to get a lot of targeted engagement on your posts!

Here are 5 ways to find the best Instagram hashtags for your account:

#1: Use Later’s Hashtag Suggestions Feature

Need some help finding unique or industry-specific hashtags? Then you may want to check out Later’sHashtag Suggestions feature.

Hashtag Suggestions works by automatically finding relevant hashtags for your posts based on other hashtags that you use. Just give us a hashtag you’ve had success with, and we’ll show you 30 other, related hashtags you can experiment with.

You can pick and choose which of these hashtags to add you to your post. All you have to do is click “Insert Hashtags” and they’ll be added to the end of your caption.

Or you can use Later’s First Comment scheduling to automatically post your hashtags in the first comment. This is a great way to make your caption the star of the show, without compromising any of the engagement you can get with hashtags!

Hashtag Suggestions is available on all Later business plans — upgrade now to get access!


#2: Research Your Audience

Throwing random hashtags at the end of your Instagram posts isn’t going to grow your audience. Instead, find out what hashtags your audience is using and see which ones fit the content that you’re publishing.

Your hashtags should be relevant and contain keywords that your audience is actually searching for.

#3: Research Your Competitors

A great way to gain valuable hashtag inspiration is by looking at what successful brands in your network are doing.

Look at brands with similar content, products, or target audience — and carefully assess their content strategy.

Hone in on their top-performing posts in particular, and highlight the hashtags that could be applicable to your brand for future posts.

#4: Research Industry Leaders

One of the best ways to find relevant hashtags is by following Instagram influencers that have the same (or similar) target audience as you.

Every industry has its respective key influencers. Find out who these people are in your niche and use their posts as inspiration. These people are already well-established with your target audience, so why not learn from the best?

#5: Find Related Hashtags

Surveying the landscape of trends that are relevant to your own hashtag is an easy and effective way to grow your community.

Simply type your hashtag into the app’s search bar, and then select “tags” from the dropdown menu. You’ll then be able to see all of the top hashtags that are closely related to your own hashtag, revealing additional ways to reach, monitor, and engage with your community.

You can also browse through posts containing a hashtag you’re already having success with. Do you see a trend of any other common hashtags that could be included in future posts? If yes, write them down.

instagram hashtags

How to Organize Your Instagram Hashtags

It used to be that the best way to organize your hashtags was with a spreadsheet. You would create an Excel sheet with headers like “hashtags,” “category,” “# of posts,” and more, and then actively fill it out as you found new effective hashtags.

Thankfully, there’s a much better way.

By using Later’s Saved Captions feature, you can create multiple hashtag lists based on your frequently used hashtag categories, all from your Later account.

saved captions later

For example, if you run a travel brand, you can use Saved Captions to keep all of your travel-related hashtags organized, so you can quickly add them when scheduling in the future.

If you want to schedule a photo of a beach in San Diego, since you’ve already saved hashtags for different categories, you can insert relevant hashtags for beaches, California, travel, and San Diego with just the click of a button!

After you’ve written your caption, just click on “saved captions” and then click on the appropriate hashtag list to instantly add those hashtags to your caption.

Saved Captions is available on all Later plans — including our free plan!

8 Ways to Optimize Your Instagram Hashtags

Hashtags on Instagram really can be an effective way to grow your following and engagement, but the best practices are constantly changing.

A great Instagram hashtag strategy doesn’t just reach more people — it reaches the right people for your business. Here are 8 tips for optimizing your Instagram hashtags to reach your target market and grow your engagement:

Tip #1: Check Your Instagram Hashtag Analytics

Looking at the performance of the hashtags you’ve used in the past can be a great way to decide what hashtags to use again in the future.

Instagram’s native analytics tool offers some of this data, but the insights are fairly limited.

instagram hashtags

Instead, we recommend using Later’s Hashtag Analytics to track key insights about the hashtags you use, including a breakdown of which hashtags are driving the most likes, comments, impressions, saves, and reach on your Instagram posts.

instagram analytics tools

Plus, as you continue to add new hashtags, you’ll be able to accurately track how they perform for your content. 

Instagram Hashtag Analytics are available on all Later business plans.


Tip #2: Try to Get Into the “Top” Results for a Hashtag

If you’ve ever searched for a hashtag on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed “Top Posts” are at the top of the results page.

instagram hashtags

Getting in the top posts for a hashtag is a great way to get discovered by new users. Like getting featured on the Explore Page, it can result in a huge network effect that essentially makes your post go viral on Instagram.

So how do you actually get into the Top Posts for a hashtag?

Based on our experience, the two factors that play the biggest role in determining whether a post gets into the top posts for a hashtag are how much engagement the post gets, and how quickly it gets that engagement.

Top posts generally take their position within the first 24 hours of posting, so you need those likes and comments to roll in quickly after posting. If you can generate a lot of engagement on your Instagram post shortly after posting, this signals to Instagram that your post is quality, engaging content.

Tip #3: Include Your Branded Hashtag in Your Instagram Profile 

Thanks to a recent-ish update, you can now add clickable hashtags (and usernames) to your Instagram bio, making it a lot easier to build an Instagram bio that converts to website visits!

What’s so great about this feature is that it makes your bio even more functional — you can use hashtags for everything from promoting your Instagram community to highlighting your branded content and announcing your Instagram campaigns.

instagram hashtags

All you have to do is include a “#” before any word in your bio and it will automatically become a clickable link that leads visitors to that hashtag.

Tip #4: Post Your Hashtags in the First Comment

While adding hashtags to your posts is one of the best ways to boost your engagement and get your posts in front of your target audience, too many hashtags in your captions can look untidy (or worse, spammy!).

Instead, posting your hashtags in the first comment is a great way to make your caption the star of the show, without compromising any of the engagement you can get with hashtags.

brand tryouts: instagram hashtags

Here’s how to schedule a first comment on Instagram with Later:

  1. Open up the post scheduler in Later. You can do this from anywhere — Later on desktop, iOS, or Android.
  2. You’ll see a text box called “First Comment.” Enter your hashtags or any text you’d rather have in the first comment.
  3. Schedule your post as usual (including adding your Linkin.bio link!) and the first comment is scheduled along with it. 
  4. You’re done!

instagram hashtag hacks: first comment

You can now craft, schedule and automatically post the first comment on your Instagram posts — available on all Later paid plans


Tip #5: Add Hashtags to Your Instagram Stories 

Did you know you can add hashtags to your Instagram Stories too?

Adding hashtags to your story is a great way to give your content an added chance to be discovered by new audiences.

When people search for a hashtag on Instagram, if it’s popular enough, they’ll be able to see a collection of tagged stories on the search results page — including yours!

You can add as many as 10 hashtags to each Instagram story, including 1 clickable hashtag sticker.

And if you’re worried about how hashtags will impact a carefully crafted aesthetic, there are a few hashtags hacks to make them seamlessly fit in with your post, or be hidden completely.

For example, you can make your text-based hashtags smaller (just ‘pinch’ the text) and hide them under a GIF or sticker.

TIP: Don’t make your hashtag text too small — if it becomes illegible, Instagram won’t pick up on it and it’s unlikely your post will appear in any hashtag searches.

Tip #6: Entice Your Followers to Follow Your Branded Hashtag

In a big update from 2018, Instagram added the ability to “follow” hashtags, meaning you can now stay up-to-date on various topics (or communities) by following a hashtag related to your interests.

Following a hashtag works just like following a user’s profile. When you find a hashtag you’d like to follow you simply open the hashtag page and tap on the follow button.

instagram hashtags

For brands and businesses, this opens up a great opportunity to regularly appear in a follower’s feed. For example, if you have a branded hashtag for your business, you can invite your followers to also follow your unique hashtag.

This means that your content could appear twice in a follower’s feed — once as they follow your profile, and once again as they follow the hashtag. It doubles your chances of engagement!

Tip #7: Run Hashtag-Based Campaigns & Promotions

Contests structured around user-generated content (UGC) are all the rage, and with good reason: they’re fun, popular, and great for both driving engagement and reaching a new audience.

The easiest way to do this is by encouraging your audience to tag relevant content with a branded hashtag — they’re like a filing system that everyone in your community can use to help you collect UGC.

For example, Sezane hosts a weekly giveaway and encourages their community to share photos with #SezaneLovers to enter.

instagram hashtags

Create a contest where your followers upload photos on Instagram and tag their posts with your branded hashtag.

Tip #8: Avoid Using Banned Hashtags on Instagram 

Last but not least, our final tip is to avoid using banned hashtags on your Instagram posts.

Banned hashtags have been flagged and “disabled” by Instagram for infringing community guidelines — making them completely useless for your brand exposure.

What’s more, even seemingly innocent hashtags are on the banned list, such as #humpday and #elevator, so it’s definitely worth giving your tags a quick check!

You can view a list of banned Instagram hashtags here.

Best Practices for Instagram Hashtags in 2021

Instagram hashtags can be a powerful tool for discovery when used properly — but they can also look spammy and damage your brand perception when used incorrectly.

Here are some rules to get more from your Instagram hashtags in 2021:

#1: When Should I Use Instagram Hashtags?

The short answer? As often as possible! Whenever you share content on Instagram, whether it’s a post or Instagram story, if your goal is to get it seen by as many people as possible, you need to be using Instagram hashtags.

instagram hashtags

That being said, there might be occasions where using hashtags isn’t necessary, like if you’re sharing a particularly sensitive subject or story.

At the end of the day, it’s best to weigh the tone or topic of your post, along with what you’re hoping to achieve, and then decide if it makes sense to use hashtags.

#2: How Many Hashtags Should I Use?

Unfortunately, there’s no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to deciding how many hashtags you should use. While some experts like Alex Tooby recommend using the maximum number of hashtags allowed, because it gives you more opportunities to be discovered, others recommend using just 5-10.

We’ve seen all sorts of strategies and ideas on how many hashtags make the difference, but at the end of the day, it’s really up to you. If you can find 30 super-relevant hashtags to add to each post, then you should definitely go for it.

instagram hashtags

However, if you don’t feel comfortable using that many, feel free to use fewer. It’s okay to experiment with the number of hashtags you use in your posts — it’s all about finding your hashtag sweet spot!

#3: What Hashtags Should I Use?

The most important thing to keep in mind when deciding what hashtags to use is that you’re being intentional — as in, you’re using hashtags that your target audience is actually searching for and following!

It’s important to switch up your Instagram hashtags in every post to avoid being “spammy.” It’s also a good idea to avoid gimmicky hashtags such as #likeforlike, and hashtags that have been used over 1M times. While these hashtags might get you a few extra likes, they aren’t going to help you grow a highly engaged, targeted following.

instagram hashtags

Instead, try looking for ultra-niche community hashtags that are specifically relevant to the content you post. It’s a good idea to use Saved Captions to build multiple hashtag lists that are organized by theme or category.

For example, if you’re a business that targets small business owners in the fashion industry, you may have multiple hashtags that you use on different topics.

Some may be specifically for small businesses, while others might be about fashion and e-commerce. The key is to collect and categorize them so that when they are used in a post, you can easily tell which pulls in the most engagement on your post.

And don’t forget to use a branded hashtag whenever it makes sense! The first step to getting other users to share your branded hashtag is to use it yourself.

#4: Should My Hashtags be Visible?

According to Instagram, you can add hashtags to either the post caption or the comments.

However, by adding hashtags to captions, you’ll benefit from the extra engagement as soon as you hit publish, rather than having to wait until your comment is written and posted.

If you prefer a tidier caption, you can also add line breaks between the main part of your caption and the hashtags. This will keep your hashtags neatly tucked away, so you can maintain a beautiful streamlined aesthetic:

instagram hashtags

If you’re a Later user, you can easily add line breaks to your captions with the Later app. All you have to do is press the return key while writing your caption and you’ll have lovely, spaced out captions for your Instagram posts!

Using Instagram hashtags strategically is a great way to connect with customers, find content created about you by your followers, and build long-term relationships with influential partners!

Ready to get moving with your Instagram marketing strategy? Later makes it easy for you to plan, manage, and schedule your Instagram posts!

Written By

Benjamin Chacon

Benjamin is a Content Marketing Strategist at Later and recent transplant from Toronto. You can follow his day-to-day on Instagram @benjaminchacs.

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