Jenn Herman
March 16, 2017

How To Use Hashtags to Find Your Target Audience on Instagram

Instagram Target Audience

Continuing our “Great Articles You may have missed” series. Jenn Herman helps us in forming our Instagram Hashtag strategy. For businesses and bloggers using this medium, they represent a gateway to our target audience….

Finding Your Target Audience on Instagram

If you’ve used Instagram for more than 5 minutes, you know how prevalent hashtags are on the platform. They’re abundant! And as a non-hashtag lover, I was one of those who hated the all-consuming use of these hashtags on Instagram. That is, until I realized their full potential and discovered ways to use hashtags strategically to actually find your target audience on Instagram.

Or, more accurately, how to get your target audience to find YOU on Instagram.

So, if you haven’t heard me talk about hashtags on Instagram before, let me explain to you how they are the secret sauce to success.

Of course, anyone can throw up any hashtags in hopes of getting more likes on their posts. And, let’s face it, this happens all the time. Most people think only about popularity and the “appearance” of a popular post. But what if you could actually use hashtags to have your content found by the “right” people?

Here’s how to do it!

I use a very strategic formula when it comes to hashtags to ensure that my posts show up as a top post in searches for the key niche and industry terms for which I want to be found. And you can do the exact same thing.

But first, you have to figure out what you want those targeted keywords to be.

You need to know what hashtags you’re gonna use to stand out on Instagram. Those keywords that people will search for to find you.

Understand that this won’t be some generic term like “fashion” or “blogger” or “photographer” or whatever else. Good luck with that! Ha! No, you need to be super specific. It may be a geographical distinction like “virginiabeachphotographer” or a specific niche characteristic you fall into like “healthykidsmeals”.

You need to know what specifically sets you apart, but also, more specifically, what your audience is looking for on Instagram. You can use all the best keywords in the world, but if they aren’t what your target audience are actually looking for and clicking on, then you’re wasting your hashtags. So take some time, do some research, and choose your best hashtags to represent your brand, business and target audience interests.

Ok, now that you have that figured out, here’s my super secret (but that I tell everyone), recipe for hashtag success.

Your Instagram Hashtag Recipe for Success

First, you’re going to use 15-20 hashtags per post. You can use up to 30, but can’t use more than 30 or your caption won’t post. So go up to 29 to be safe, if you want to.

Second, use 4-5 super popular hashtags. These are hashtags that are related to your content but that fall in the realm of millions of posts on that hashtag. For example, I use hashtags like #socialmedia and #business and #entrepreneur. All super popular but still related to what I do and the content I’m posting. We don’t want you hashjacking some random popular tags just for the sake of it. Every hashtag you use should be related to your content, your business,and/or your context.

Third, use 5-7 moderately popular hashtags. These are the hashtags that have tens to hundreds of thousands of posts associated with them. Again, these are hashtags related to your content and brand but that start getting a little more targeted in terms of scope and context.

Fourth, use 2-5 niche specific hashtags. These are those target keywords I told you to figure out. The ones your audience is actually searching for. And these are the ones that don’t have a lot of content associated with them in the hashtag search galleries.

Fifth, use 1-2 branded hashtags that are only for your branded content. Whether you or your customers are using them, these are the hashtags that will house all of your content.

If you’re good at math, you already know this adds up to a maximum of 19. If you want to use the full 29 hashtags, just up each category a little or add in a couple just because you like using them.

That’s all you have to do.

Simple, right? But why does it work you ask…

Why This Strategy Works

When you post your content using this strategy, you will see an initial burst of activity from the popular hashtags. Yes, some of this activity may come from bots. Some of it may come from randoms. We don’t care. You just need that initial burst of engagement. Then, literally, in a matter of minutes, because those popular hashtag hubs are so active, your content is buried in the archives of that hashtag, never to be seen again. But that’s ok!

This is where the moderately popular hashtags kick in. Your content will stay active in these hashtag hubs for hours, if not days, keeping your content actively engaged over time.

And this is only your hashtag activity. You’re also getting constant engagement from your followers on your post, so it’s staying active in both your existing audience, and new audience views. This is golden to Instagram’s algorithm for search criteria!

And It Could Get Better Still!

When Instagram is looking at your post content, it sees good immediate engagement, good long term engagement and good engagement across new and existing audiences. So it determines your content is worth showing to more people! And then, what ends up happening is that you show up in both the Explore tab for the right target audiences, but also that you show up as a top post for your niche specific hashtags that you have already determined your audience is searching for.

And posts that show up in the top post section of hashtag hubs can stay there for days and weeks! Which means you have the opportunity to put yourself in front of all the right people looking for what you have to offer!

It could mean new followers, more engagement, more click-throughs to your website and eventually, more sales. I don’t have to tell you this is a winning strategy!

I literally use this strategy on almost every single post I share to Instagram. And I recommend all my clients use it. I teach this formula and strategy when I do live training sessions and webinars. Because. It. Works!

Over To You

What strategies have worked for you? We’re always interested in your thoughts, so please comment, below.


Originally titled “Use Hashtags to Find Your Target Audience on Instagram” on, this article is republished here with permission

Featured image: Copyright: ‘‘ / 123RF Stock Photo

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Jenn Herman is a social media strategist and Instagram advocate who writes a blog focused on understanding trends in social media management. She provides tips, resources, and training for small to medium sized businesses that need to structure their social media strategies for success. Her business background includes Administration, Sales, Human Resources, and Marketing. If you would like to learn more about how to use Instagram, you can download "The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Instagram" here.