All about hashtags

Social Media

One of the most common series of questions I get is about hashtags. Let’s talk about them, starting with banned hashtags.


You might be saying to  yourself: I’ve never heard of banned hashtags. A LOT of other people haven’t either.

A banned hashtag is a hashtag that breaks Instagram’s community guidelines or has been attached to posts that have been heavily reported by users as spam or inappropriate.

Instagram changes banned hashtags all the time, so it’s best practice to check a hashtag’s status before you use it. Before we talk about how to do that, what happens if you use a banned hashtag?

First, you won’t know you used one. No alert comes from Instagram that says you did. But, you might notice the distribution of a particular post is less than your posts normally distribute. Most likely it’s a drastic decrease.

When you use a banned hashtag, the algorithms avoid your post completely and will not distribute it to anyone who is NOT already connected to you. In most cases, it won’t deliver to many people you are connected with either. Which of course, defeats the entire purpose of posting.

To check hashtags before using them, follow these steps:

  1. Open the search bar in Instagram.
  2. Add the hashtag, using the # sign.
  3. Click on the first result which shows you how many times it’s been used.
  4. Next to the hashtag, you will see a blue button that says FOLLOW.


Continuing with our conversation about hashtags, let’s bust 3 myths I hear people say about using hashtags.

Myth #1: Hashtags don’t matter to your posts.

Busted! This couldn’t be further from the truth. Hashtags are essential to your posts for three reasons:

  1. They help you reach people who you are not already connected to, bringing you new potential connections.
  1. They help categorize your posts with other similar posts so if someone is searching for something that you hashtagged, your post might be included in those results. This brings your post to the attention of people who like the topics you’ve hashtagged.
  1. They help the algorithms identify what you are talking about in your posts thus helping distribute that post to people’s feeds that might be interested in similar topics. This allows you to reach a more niche group of people who actually want what you are offering.

Myth #2: Hashtags only work on one or a few social media platforms. 

Busted! With the growing popularity of hashtags, all social media platforms have adopted a similar version of using them. Twitter was the first to start using them back in 2007, and since then everyone has followed suit.

Myth #3: You should use the most popular hashtags to reach the maximum number of eyeballs. 

Busted! If you consider a hashtag working like a virtual file cabinet, think about how many “folders” are in that cabinet if a hashtag has been used 71.1 million times (like #marketing has). When you pick your hashtags, you want to use a balance of super-popular, popular, and niche hashtags. This narrows down your post content and its audience, giving you a higher chance of actually reaching people who care about what you’re talking about, and can find you in the file cabinet!


While the information helps you understand more about hashtags, if you are still unsure about how to PICK your hashtags, this 5-prong approach will help.

On Instagram, you can use up to 30 hashtags. For the sake of this example let’s assume that’s what we are aiming for. Before we start, people often ask if there is a perfect amount of hashtags, the magic number to use for best results. Marketers have been debating about this for years. Many of them have an answer of their own. 

For this reason, I recommend that you pick the number of hashtags that feel inclusive of your post based on these five categories.

  1. BRANDED HASHTAGS – these hashtags directly relate to your business name (#lamplightcreatives), your name (#allisonlamplugh), or your tagline (#makingyourideasbrighter).
  2. SERVICE/PRODUCT HASHTAGS – these hashtags encompass what you do (#marketingconsultant}, the products you sell (websitedevelopment), or the services you offer (#copywriting).
  3. LOCATION HASHTAGS – these hashtags are related to the city, region, state, or territory you serve to help localize your post to the people around you. 
  4. EXPERTISE HASHTAGS – these hashtags help define what you’re an expert of (#digitalmarketing, #websitedesigner, #copywriter) in order to connect you with people looking for someone with your skillset.
  5. POST-SPECIFIC HASHTAGS – these hashtags directly relate to the content of your post, meaning what you talked about in the caption. If you are talking about the best food for your chocolate lab (I’m bias here with one of my own!), you might choose: #chocolatelab #lab #healthydogfood #spoileddogs #freshdogfood.

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