I always get asked what hashtags I use on my Instagram posts … and it’s probably the second most frustrating question I get. So, I let me provide a simple answer about how I use hashtags and what you can—and can’t—expect from hashtags:

Hashtags are NOT a shortcut to growing your following.

Hashtags will NOT lead to more people liking your post.

Hashtags will NOT increase engagement on your post. 

Now, let’s unpack this a little.

First, growing your following on Instagram—or any social media platform—requires posting consistently great and helpful content, engaging with your audience, following others, and being active. If you’re not doing these things, the best hashtags on the planet will not increase the number of followers you have.

Second, hashtags may create an opportunity for new people to see your content, but they won’t make them like it. If your posts are not helpful or the image quality is poor, people following a hashtag will simply scroll past.

Finally, for all the reasons above, hashtags alone will not lead to people commenting, sharing or recommending your posts. This only happens when your posts are helpful, engaging and when you’re actively connecting with people. Focus on these things first.

So, what should you do with hashtags then?

The answer is simple: Use them. I do. But don’t expect them to be a magic bullet to Instagram stardom. They’re not.

Hashtags help you become part of a collection of posts or a conversation that is already happening. They’re not a fast pass to more likes, but they can help you hone your posts toward a specific theme, niche or passion.

Now, you may be tempted to use the most popular hashtags with the most number of posts, but doing so can mean you get lost in a sea of other posts. For example, if you’re a landscape photographer, you may want to use #nature or #beautifuldestinations, but these hashtags have 280,000,000 and 17,700,000 posts respectively. The chances of you appearing as a Top Post on the discover page of this hashtag are remote unless you already have a HUGE following, or you’re posting the best photo ever taken. Ever. In the world.

So here are two things I do when using hashtags on my Instagram account.

1. Use medium-sized hashtags. You’ve got more chance of featuring on the discover page of a 50,000 to 120,000-post hashtag than on 17 million-post hashtag. Use the smaller, more niche hashtags to feature as a Top Post on the hashtag’s discover page.

2. Put your hashtags in the caption—not in the comments. I know … it looks terrible, but Instagram is known to shadowban posts when hashtags are used in the comments. If you’re shadowbanned, you’re hashtags are useless because you’re not appearing on any searches.

Lastly, if you’re wondering what hashtags I am currently using on my Instagram posts, here’s a list: #verseoftheday #bibleverse #bible #godisgreat #prayer #jesus #christianity #amen #christian #faith #holyspirit #bibleinphotos #god #jesuschrist #jesussaves #godisgood #shereadstruth #dailydevotion#devotional#wordsofwisdom #prayers

And if you want to see how I use my hashtags, check out https://www.instagram.com/aussiedave