March 12, 2021

How To Grow Your Instagram Following Using Hashtags

By Mary Kate Gulick, Creative Director at KidGlov 

At any point of running an account on Instagram, whether for personal or business purposes, your account is rated somewhere between small and extra-large, depending on the number of followers you have. 

Searching for a hashtag on Instagram brings up all the posts featured under that hashtag. For a small account with less than five hundred followers, for instance, the odds are low that a post from such an account will be featured if the posts targets hashtags with a very large number of users, say a million plus users.

What this implies is that the size of hashtags that you select to include in your Instagram account would determine how discoverable you are. If you have few followers and you decide to target posts on major trending hashtags, don’t expect that your post will come up when people search for that hashtag. 

On the other hand, a post from a large account with numerous followers will certainly be featured for hashtags with a massive number of users.  

This article would guide you on how to use hashtags to grow your Instagram following.

Growing Your Following Using Hashtags

Before we go on, it is necessary to know that hashtags are categorized differently.

It goes beyond just knowing that there are hashtags; one important thing we will be pointing out is that hashtags are grouped into four different categories, according to the number of uses the hashtag has.

Four Categories of Hashtags

  • Small Hashtags: If you look up your hashtag on Instagram and find that the number of uses that hashtag has fallen below a hundred thousand, although that’s a large number, the hashtag comes under the small category.  
  • Medium Hashtags: Any hashtag that has between one hundred thousand and five hundred thousand uses falls under this category.
  • Large Hashtags: A large hashtag has between five hundred thousand and one million uses.
  • Extra-large Hashtags: This category of hashtags exceeds all the previous and has a massive number of uses above one million. 

What we’ll be showing to you here is the strategy called Rightsizing Your Instagram Hashtags, definitely needed to grow your Instagram following all the way up.

The Concept of Rightsizing Your Instagram Hashtags

Rightsizing your hashtags would mean that you make use of the types of hashtags that correspond to the current size of the account you are trying to grow. It won’t be in your best interest to use only hashtags that fall in the extra-large category when your account has less than a thousand people following. 

Doing that would raise the odds against you and reduce your chances of getting in front of new people that could have had more awareness of your account at its current level. 

The algorithm used by Instagram ensures that posts with the most engagements, from accounts that have more following, are the ones featured when anyone looks up those hashtags. 

  • Rightsizing for a Small Account: The right approach for a small Instagram account, that is, an account with less than even a thousand followers, would be to get about thirty hashtags that can be used with every post. Bearing in mind to avoid those extra-large hashtags when dealing with this type of account. 


Even though experts argue that using thirty hashtags is a bit too much, the latest usage data encourages that all thirty of them can be used because it increases the opportunity for exposure to a new audience and provides a chance to grow your account.   


A good way to allocate your thirty hashtags would be to use twenty-four (80% of the sum) small hashtags, that is, hashtags with less than a hundred thousand uses; then, three (10% of the sum) medium hashtags, two (6% of the sum) large hashtags, and just one extra-large hashtag, which is less than four percent of the total sum of hashtags used.


The reason why we recommend using that one extra-large hashtag is that, as the engagements improve while using the rightsized (small and medium) hashtags, there is potential for your account to be featured in one of the large or extra-large hashtags.


For small accounts with less than a thousand followers, emphasis should be placed on those small hashtags above every other.


Active step: Businesses with small accounts should carry out hashtag research and find very well-aligned hashtags with less than a hundred thousand uses.


  • Rightsizing for a Medium Account: For an account between one thousand and five thousand followers, the allocations are shifted to make sure that there are chances to be seen by more people as engagements increase. 


An active step for this type of account would be to retain ten of the small hashtags because those are the easy hashtags to get featured in, and it’s more likely for those people to see you.  The medium hashtags can be increased to ten; then six of the large hashtags and four extra-large hashtags.


This shift in allocation makes it more likely that people see you, and the engagements increase by showing up in the small hashtags. There’s also more potential to be seen by the large and extra-large hashtags.


  • Rightsizing for a Large Account: Once your Instagram followers are now between five thousand and ten thousand, the allocation shifts more towards the middle. You can have six small hashtags, eight medium, ten large, and then six extra-large to make up the thirty hashtags. 


At this point, most of the engagements you are going to get will come from medium and large hashtags. Your posts should target such hashtags.


When an account hits over ten thousand followers, the shift is now towards the large and extra-large hashtags, with twelve large and eight extra-large hashtags. Even here, there’s still a need to have some small and medium hashtags since the account hasn’t reached the hundred thousand mark.


When in that messy middle, between a thousand and one hundred thousand followers, careful consideration should be given to the hashtags you want to target with your posts.


Between ten thousand and hundred thousand is a very large window, and if your account falls closer to the lower limit, then attention should be given a bit more to small and medium hashtags.


  • Rightsizing for an Extra-Large Account: As the account continues to grow bigger, the allocation of your thirty hashtags should be shifted even more. When your followers increase to over a hundred thousand, the target should be for the large and extra-large hashtags. 


At this point, there won’t be any need to go after small hashtags since you have the ability to be featured in front of larger audiences.


Having a small or stagnant number of Instagram followers can be such a handful to deal with. But a good look at the approach we have provided above should motivate anyone struggling to grow the number of Instagram followers he has. Let it be known that every account can be grown from whatever point it is to where you intend it to be.

KidGlov is a boutique, full-service, advertising, branding and content marketing agency and certified B Corp, with offices in Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, specializing in nonprofit marketinghealthcare marketingfinancial services marketingsocial impact marketing, and purpose-driven businesses.