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How to best use travel hashtags on Instagram

If you’re reading this you are probably struggling with the ever-changing Instagram algorithm and it’s effecting your engagement and reach. You may be here to simply learn more. Well if its the former, then I think every travel account has felt this sting lately so I want to start by saying; do NOT worry, you are NOT alone!

Around three weeks ago I noticed a massive slump in impressions, mostly through hashtags as that is where I usually get around 50% of my reach. I put this down to a lot of people either going back to work or traveling for the summer so therefore being on their phones less. However, in the last few weeks I have noticed my reach increasing and getting between 5-11k impressions through hashtags alone! My most popular post hit 16.3k views just from hashtags! When I put some interest out on my Instagram stories asking if people would like to hear some tips, 99% of my followers said ‘yes please’, so I’m here to share. I’ll share some examples in screenshots too which are all from the past three weeks.

Some of you may already use some of these techniques and some may be new ideas, but the key is to just keep trying and seeing what works for you. Every account is different so the way your account is shared and viewed will always be different too. Don’t give up!

But first, the basics…

What is a hashtag?

On Instagram, a hashtag is a keyword or phrase used to categorise and easily group related content into one place. It is also used on other social media sites to link tweets, information, articles etc. but on Instagram it is used to categorise posts (photos, videos or reels) and stories.

Why do we use hashtags?

People use hashtags for many different reasons but for photographers or creators the main reason we use hashtags is to be noticed by other accounts, whether that may be fellow travellers who feel inspired by your photos and want to follow your journey or brands who may want to work with you. It’s a great way to gain a following and make sure your pictures are seen by more people. Hashtags are also a common way for travellers to research tips or find inspiration when they are due to travel to a new destination. You can also use hashtags to find comical content, memes, vital information, learn new things and so much more.

For example: #BLM hashtag is a great resource for finding information on protests and ways you can help.

How do you use hashtags?

All you need is a # sign and a word/phrase. The hashtags are always clickable so whenever you click one you will instantly be taken to a page full of images of that topic. You can use up to 30 hashtags on any photo and I would recommend either adding them to your caption (after a few enter/return spaces so it doesn’t confuse the reader with your caption) or in your first comment. You cannot use special characters like full stops or exclamation marks in hashtags but numbers and underscores are okay.

‘Top’ page on hashtags

The aim of the hashtag game is to be seen on the ‘top’ page which shows the most popular images of that hashtag. When you first click on a hashtag you will be instantly taken to these ‘top’ results and then you can switch to ‘most recent’ at the top of the screen to see the content in chronological order. Being in the top 9-12 of the ‘top’ page will mean your content is seen by more people. On the online site, Insta only display the top nine images before they show the most recent.

Tip #1 – don’t use BIG hashtags.

Hashtags with tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of posts may seem like a good idea for more exposure but they are actually worse for attracting attention. For example #travel has 523 million posts on their page! This means a lot of content is going up every second and within seconds your post will be quickly lost in the digital crowd. Not only will it not stay visible for long in the ‘most recent’ section, but it is very unlikely that you will be seen in the top page of the bigger hashtags because of more competition. Sometimes you can get lucky with some hashtags with 1-10 million posts and I will usually try 3-4 of the bigger hashtags in this range if they are relevant to the photo or caption. I have been really lucky with #greece (37m) on two photos after posting many Greek photos and got 3-4k clicks on each post from that hashtag alone! But… it’s a risk.

#greece has 37m posts and #sheisnotlost has 5m so I got pretty lucky with these two

HOW DID I GET THESE TOP 5 HASHTAG STATS?

I will explain at the end…

Tip #2 – use mostly MEDIUM hashtags

Hashtags with between 100k and 900k seem to work best for me. They aren’t over saturated with photos but are still getting enough attention to drive traffic. Hashtags under 100k can work too but if they are too small there may not be enough people actually checking these tags.

Tip #3 – use location hashtags

This is probably one of my favourite ones that gives me some of my best reach. When I personally go to a new destination, I always check hashtags to get some inspiration on where to visit and I guess other travellers will too. This is a great way for potential followers to see your work. Of my most popular recent posts, the majority of the best performing hashtags have been related to the destination.

notice 4/5 of my top tags are location specific!

Tip #4 – don’t be afraid to use the same hashtags

I’ve heard it time and time again, that using the same hashtags will flag as spam and isn’t good for your account but I’ve actually found the opposite to be true. Some hashtags I use often actually boost me to the top more regularly. Consistency is key here because if you use new hashtags for each photo and they are all very different themes, Instagram won’t know what kind of account you are and where to put you. I wouldn’t use the same exact hashtags each time, mix them up but definitely don’t be scared to have favourites, especially if it fits your brand.

Recently I used the same three hashtag for every photo and two weeks later, one of those hashtags is still showing four of my posts on the top page (on a 450k hashtag). My post from yesterday is also already on the top page for this so that makes five! The second showed two of my posts in the top and the third one showed none. So it just shows it won’t work for every hashtag but definitely worth trying!

I always make note of the ones that are continuously bumping me to the top.

Tip #5 – save hashtags in your phone under CATEGORIES

I know a lot of people have 2-4 sets of 30 hashtags saved in their phone to alternate, ready to just copy and paste into the photo but this means your not specifically tailoring the hashtags to your picture or caption.

I like to research different hashtags that match the sort of photos I usually post and find a group that work for each.

My notes look a little something like this (with many more options as I am always adding new ones as I find them but this example just gives you an idea):

HASHTAGS

TRAVEL
#travelchannel #prettylittletrips #thetraveltag

TRAVEL 1M+
#travelcommunity #doyoutravel #darlingescapes

MOUNTAIN/HIKING
#alpinebabes #mountaingirls #hikingbangers

NATURE
#outdoortones #adventuregirls #natureshooters

BEACH/OCEAN
#bluesea #beachlove #oceanlovers

GIRLS TRAVEL
#shetravelz #girlstravel #femaletraveler

BLOG
#contentcreation #travelblogging #microinfluencer

INSPIRING WORDS
#forgeyourownpath #solotravels #inspiredtravels

EQUIPTMENT/SOFTWARE
#shotoniphonex #olympusomd #lightroomedit

(when I visit a new country and I know I will be posting a lot from there I also add certain hashtags categories based on the location)

So for example if I post a photo of me hiking in the Andes mountains in Peru, I would use a few location hashtags then grab a few of the hiking/nature or other relevant ones, some girly tags if I was in the picture plus some general travel ones and it would look something like this:

#andesmountains #perutravel #visitperu #igersperu #southamericatrip #southamericatravel #hikingtrails #hikingbangers #mountaingirls #alpinebabes #hikingtheglobe #shetravels #girlstravel #femaletraveler #wanderlustgirls #travelcommunity #adventuregirls #doyoutravel and so on…

If the caption for this photo was focused on climate change for example, I would also add #climatechange #climatechangeisreal.

Tip #6 – use all 30 hashtags

You might as well use them all! Also, if you put the hashtags in the first comment, make sure to post the comment straight away. I always write up the hashtags at the end of the caption then cut, (post) and paste.

Tip #7 – keep the hashtags relevant

Instagrams uses visual intelligence to track what elements are in your photo, so it can tell if you post a photo at home in your backyard and use #mountains when there aren’t any in the picture. The hashtags need to match the photo or caption in some way. I will use an example from a photo I posted from a village in Naxos which had flowers in the frame. I spoke in the caption about it being my birthday weekend so hence why these hashtags did well:

Tip #8 – research the hashtags you’re using

Not only should you be researching hashtags that fit your brand and fit within the ideal post count (100-900k), but research the ones you are already using! I always check my insights after a few hours and then again after 24 hours and go through the hashtags to see if I’ve made it to the top page. If I did, I tend to keep then saved in my notes as well under a ‘TOP RANKING HASHTAGS’ category as I know that hashtag has favoured my posts before so is likely to do it again. Keep this favoured list updated.

Tip #9 – tag the equipment or software you use

I don’t use this one too often but sometimes I can find myself in the top page of tags relating to the camera I am using or tagging the software/app I use to edit. Are you using presets by someone with a big following? Hashtag them! They might re-share meaning more exposure. Or you can simply tag #lightroomedit or #vscofilters (though not #lightroom or #vsco). If you speak about editing or photography in your caption then definitely add these!

So with these tips, this is how my hashtags usually look:

5-10 location specific hashtags (medium range between 100k – 900k posts)
10-15 category tags (medium 100k – 900k)
3-4 category tags (large 1m+)
2-3 smaller hashtags (under 100k) from location or category
2-3 equipment hashtags (medium range)

BONUS TIP #10 – SECRET TIP TO DISCOVERING WHICH HASHTAGS ARE WORKING FOR YOU

As per the above screenshots of my hashtag reach for certain photos, I’ve found a way to sneakily discover the top 5 hashtags and how many unique hits you’re getting for each. Follow the steps below and thank me later 😉

  1. Go to the photo you want to check and click the blue ‘Promote’ button at the bottom right corner (you will need to link your Facebook for this feature).
  2. Set the destination and audience to whatever you wish (this won’t matter as you won’t be going ahead with the promotion)
  3. Set your budget to the minimum allowed and then the duration to 1 day.
  4. Review and click ‘Create Promotion’ (you won’t be charged yet).
  5. Once the promotion is pending approval, click ‘View Insights’ and for one time only you will be able to see a ranking of these top 5 hashtags. Screenshot that page!
  6. Once you get out of that and check insights again, it will view the same as it always does and then go to the bottom of the page and click ‘Delete Promotion’. You won’t be charged as the promo is still pending with Instagram.

I hope you found some of this information valuable! Would love to hear any other tips you may have or let me know which tip will help you the most!

Follow me on Instagram for more @_thewanderlusttimes.

3 Comments

  1. Ioana says

    This is great information! Unfortunately when I did the little trick to see the hashtags mine didn’t show up. I only saw the Impressions part but not Impressions from Hashtags.

    • Thank you so much! Oh I am so sorry that didn’t work for you, I know it worked for some people who tried it so maybe it has to do with your location or settings? Do you have a creator account? I have a business one but not sure if it is much different. Thank you for the feedback. xx

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