Adding hashtags to posts is one of the major things we picked up with the rise of social media. Today, Instagram hashtags have gone from fads to “must-haves” especially for Instagram posts in the business world. Indeed, Instagram is, without a doubt, the social media platform where hashtag usage is an integral part of the overall experience.

Unfortunately, understanding the Instagram hashtag game is not a cakewalk.  If Instagram hashtags are not working for you, don’t despair. You are not alone! This article covers all you might be doing wrong.

Your Account is Set to Private

If you are using a business Instagram account, your account can’t be on “private”. However, if your strategy involves running a personal account, confirm that you have not set your account to “private” by going to Settings>Privacy and Security> Account Privacy.  If the box is checked, your Instagram hashtags won’t work.

Instagram Account set to privateInstagram Hashtags Not Working? (Here are 7 Reasons Why)

Uncheck it straight away if you have no reasons to keep your account private. If there are reasons to remain in that mode, you’ll have to find an alternative way to reach your audience!

For your Instagram hashtags to work, your account must be public. This will allow the content you post to get added to the community content and make it searchable.  Content posted on a private account can’t be a part of the conversation. 

You Don’t Use Researched Hashtags

Hashtags are not just random words with the # sign in front.  If you want your Instagram hashtags to work, you have to research them.  During your research, make sure you do the following:

  • Find hashtags your target audience is using
  • Create hashtags around things your customers are searching for 

Not sure how you can find what your customers are searching for? Place yourself in their shoes and think about what you’d enter into the search bar if you are looking for services in your niche.

  • What phrases will you use?
  • What trends will you look at?
  • What posts and account groups will interest you?

Your research will start off on the right footing if you can answer these questions. Hashtags are a way to communicate with your prospects on Instagram, so you need to find the right “language”.  When you have made a list of Instagram hashtags, check them by simply entering them into the search bar to see the number of posts they have.

That should give you an idea of the depth of the conversation around the specific hashtag. Here’s an example with the hashtag #Newmum.

Instagram Hashtags Not Working? (Here are 7 Reasons Why) hashtag Newmum

{Read this article to find out how to give your Instagram page a fresh start in a manner that works: Spring Cleaning Your Instagram Account For A Fresh New Look}

In the results, we can see that there are almost a million posts around the hashtag. This 5-second research also showed other important Instagram hashtags in the niche that are not as popular (more on this below). Just adding an ‘s’ to the phrase reduces the number of posts that will be competing with yours by almost 900,000 posts!

So, research all hashtags to ensure you aren’t wasting time and energy on unnecessary options.  

You Use Banned Instagram Hashtags

On Instagram, banned hashtags are fairly common.  There are a few reasons why a hashtag can be banned.  Mostly, it has to do with the hashtag having a high number of inappropriate, provocative or racist content.  

Unfortunately, even the most innocent-looking hashtag may have been banned. A popular example of a banned hashtag is #beautyblogger.

To find out if a hashtag has been banned, use the search function to bring up the hashtag’s page, and then scroll down. If new content is displayed as you scroll, the hashtag is fine. If it has been banned, you will see a message similar to the one below:

Banned hashtag Instagram Hashtags Not Working? (Here are 7 Reasons Why)

If you use a banned hashtag, the post will be limited. Your account may also be flagged for wider censoring by Instagram.  So use the research stage to weed out such hashtags. 

You Only Use Highly Competitive Hashtags

As we mentioned briefly above, your research into a hashtag can show you the number of existing posts with the hashtag.  If you are only using the top result in the average hashtag search, your post will most likely be competing with millions of others.  As a rule of thumb, any hashtag with more than a million posts shouldn’t rank too highly on your priority list. 

Focus on using relevant but less popular Instagram hashtags first and only include a few of the popular ones here and there.  Keep things to a ratio of one popular hashtag to three less-popular options.

If you are in the Asian food niche and you only use #food in your posts, you are competing with 370 million posts, with more added daily.  It is an extremely broad category.

Drill it down to #asianfood, and you have around 3.7 million posts, which is still too high. 

If you change the hashtag to #asianfoods, you suddenly have 67,000 competing posts only.

If you go a step further and use the name of a specific Asian delicacy like #padwoonsen for example, you are competing with less than 3,000 other posts.

So, drill down on your audience and use highly specific hashtags.  Remember, you don’t have to do away with the broad hashtags completely. Just ensure you are using the targeted and less competitive options a lot more. Are you wondering if they will all fit? See the next point!

You Are Using Very Few Hashtags

91% of brands use seven or fewer hashtags on their posts, but is it the right thing? In many cases, it is not. Instagram allows you to use 30 hashtags in a post.  At the very least, you should use half of that allowance.

The higher the number of hashtags used, the wider the reach of the post. If your hashtag research allows you to fill up the 30 slots, go for it!

You can increase your number of hashtags used gradually, keeping tabs on your analytics dashboard to see if the increase is bringing more traffic. If the engagement levels peak at a certain before you have reached the limit of using 30 hashtags per post, that’s the sweet-spot number of hashtags to use for your brand. 

Hashtags Not Visually Appealing

You may have seen the posts of people converting their Instagram caption area to a huge wall of hashtags.  Some go to the extent of #turning #random #words #into #hashtags.

Apart from the fact that this makes it harder for people to read the post, it uses up prime real estate unnecessary and comes across as spammy. Proper hashtag use involves using relevant keywords and phrases at all times. 

{Elsewhere on our blog… we think you will like this: Instagram Marketing: The Ultimate Guide [2020]}

To ensure your hashtags are visually appealing, you need to keep them as far away from the caption as possible. Here is a good example:

The space between the caption and the hashtags makes it easier for the audience to read the content. Remember, no one reads the hashtags. They are only there to make your content discoverable. So, make sure your hashtags don’t come anywhere near the first three lines of your caption.

Alternatively, put the hashtags in as the first comment on your post. This will help you retain discoverability while maintaining aesthetic appeal.  Once people start commenting on the post, the comment with the hashtags will most likely disappear. This gives the post a cleaner, clutter-free appearance.

You Use the Same Hashtags all the Time

Instagram limits your reach if you always use the same hashtags from week to week, month to month. To avoid this, switch things up from time to time. As you do your hashtag research, create unique lists.

Use a separate hashtag list per day, per week or per month.  If you understand your audience well enough and do your research properly, it’s not hard to come up with 120 unique hashtags for your posts that can be split up into four groups. 

Fortunately, there are solutions on the web that can allow you to schedule your posts and incorporate a hashtag list. You don’t have to worry about doing it all manually. 


Hashtags make it easier for your target audience to find you on Instagram.  By understanding the psychology of your audience and what they are most likely searching for when they log into Instagram, you can increase your chances of using the right hashtags that can reach them.

If you focus on less competitive phrases as much as possible, avoid banned options, and put your 30-hashtag allowance to good use, Instagram hashtags will start working for you!