Since it was launched in 2010, Instagram hashtags have been one of the best ways to reach more people. Increasing your Instagram reach means more eyes on your business, and that’s a good thing.
Knowing how to use Instagram Hashtags takes a bit of insight to get right.
Instagram’s popularity continues to grow, and so has the number of people using hashtags for fun and for business.
If you’re a gym owner, Instagram hashtags are going to be your number one source of free traffic to your profile. It’s also one of the best ways to drive awareness for your brand.
Doing Instagram hashtags right means you will be discovered by people who haven’t followed you. And if they haven’t followed you, odds are they’re a new membership opportunity for your box.
However, not every Instagram hashtag is created equal. Using one over the other will bring you different results. Knowing how and when to use specific hashtags will impact the way you get new members through the platform.
That’s why I’ve prepared the ultimate guide to Instagram hashtags for you. It contains everything you need to successfully market your gym on the most popular social platforms in the world.
Let’s take a look!
Creating an Instagram Hashtag Strategy
The first thing you should take a look at is your business goals: What are you hoping to achieve with Instagram hashtags?
- Do you want to increase the number of your followers and potential members?
- Do you want to grow brand awareness and get more people to know about your business?
- Do you want to communicate with your existing members and followers?
All of these reasons are valid. Maybe your best members have been coming from a different source, and you want another channel to communicate with them.
Why does this matter?
There are different Instagram hashtags for everything. If you want to become a known name in the fitness space, you’ll want to go for high-populated hashtags. Popular hashtags all you to brush shoulders with accounts that have millions of followers.
Conversely, if you want to get more people in your local box, employ hashtags that are used by people looking for motivation. These people are looking for life-change, and that’s precisely what you can give them.
Knowing your goals helps to determine the Instagram hashtags you use.
Know your audience
The second thing you’ll need is a deep understanding of who your target audience is. A successful marketing campaign doesn’t just reach the most people, it reaches the right people.
Reaching the right people means knowing a few basic things about your target market:
- How old are they?
- Where do they live?
- What is their gender?
- What problems are you solving for them?
- Do they lack the motivation or the expertise to start training on their own?
It also means knowing some other marketing details you can use:
- How do they find you on Instagram?
- What are the Instagram hashtags they follow?
- What content do they interact with?
You can find out these details by visiting your members’ (or followers’) profiles and analyzing them.
What do they post about? What hashtags do they use?
And if you want to see what kind of content they’re engaging with, do this:
- Open up your Instagram app
- Click on the heart icon at the bottom
- Swipe right to the Following tab
In this tab, you will see the activities of the people you are following. This is one reason you should only be following people who are your members or potential members.
If you’re just following anyone and everyone, it will be much harder to research your target audience. (And it makes your account look spammy.)
All of this can help you pinpoint what will make people click on your post and follow-through by visiting your profile.
Create a customer avatar (or persona)
The more you know about your customers, the better. You can organize it into a list of your typical member characteristics (you can give them a perfunctory name like Joe or Mary).
Let’s say your member is Joe. Answer the following questions about him:
- How old is Joe? (For example, 30)
- Where does Joe live? (Your local area)
- What’s Joe interested in? (Getting back his high-school/college athletic body)
- What brands does he like? (Nike, Adidas)
- Which social media platform(s) does Joe use? (Instagram, Reddit, and LinkedIn)
- Why does Joe like your product? (Because he loves the group training environment and camaraderie that he gets there.)
- What Instagram hashtags does Joe use? (
- What Instagram hashtags does Joe interact with? (
Once you’ve created an ideal member profile (a.k.a. Avatar or Persona), you can begin building your list of strategic Instagram hashtags.
What Are the Right Instagram Hashtags?
Firstly, you should know that using the most popular, generic hashtags on Instagram is not a good idea. I’m referring to hashtags with millions of posts under them.
Why? Because when an Instagram hashtag is really popular, that means there is a lot of competition, and you’re likely to get drowned out faster. You want to find the right balance between popular and unsaturated hashtags.
Additionally, popular Instagram hashtags are often the target of shadowbans because users upload explicit content to them. This means that you’ve used up your hashtag space for nothing, and you could risk the rest of your hashtags being useless.
And if you’re using hashtags that are not popular enough, that means there’s probably not a massive demand for them. Your Instagram content is not going to be seen by many (if anyone at all).
Which obviously leads to the next question…
How popular should my hashtags be?
The golden middle is hashtags from 10,000 to 1 million posts.
You can see the number of posts in each hashtag when you search for them inside the Instagram app.
There are also a handful of tools and apps which will give you this information which we’ll talk about later in this article.
Instagram hashtags that have less than 1 million posts (but more than 10k) are the best. This volume ensures that it stays visible for longer than a minute.
How many Instagram hashtags should I use?
According to a recent study from Agorapulse, you want to be using the maximum of 30 hashtags per post.
According to the study:
Compared to previous data, we find that 30 hashtags had 135% more Likes on average!
Let’s be clear, Likes are nothing more than a vanity metric. However, they are one signal that the Instagram algorithm uses to determine who sees your post. The more Likes you get, the more likely Instagram will show it to more people.
This means that you’re reaching plenty of people who could be interested in your business.
Posting hashtags: caption or comment?
Some people post hashtags in the initial photo caption, others post them in the first comment below the post. But which is better?
Both strategies are valid and will result in your post showing up for the hashtags you selected. Based on another recent study from Agorapulse, your reach may be better when you add the hashtags in the initial caption.
“Reach [was] 29.41% higher when simply putting the hashtags in the original posts… There is no reason to go through the hassle of trying to add them to the comments…”Scott Ayres
Since the nature of this study was limited, I think it’s mostly a matter of personal preference.
Although you should be aware that if you’re adding hashtags in the initial caption, you get the auto-suggest feature while typing out hashtags. This gives you the ability to see the popularity of the hashtags while you’re writing them.
You also get to see other related hashtags you may not have thought of.
If you write hashtags in a comment, you don’t get the auto-suggest feature.
Hiding hashtags in captions and comments
If you post hashtags in the first comment, they won’t appear in your caption. If you want to post them in the caption, you can use the following method.
Once you’ve finished typing your caption, hit the Enter (or Return) key to start a brand new line of text. Make sure you haven’t left a space at the end of the previous line, or this won’t work.
Add a hyphen on this new line. Repeat this 3-5 times, so you have a wall of hyphens below your caption like this:
Then on a new line, begin entering your Instagram hashtags. This separates them from the main picture and text caption, making it easier to read. People get turned off by big blocks of text, so you want to keep your hashtags away from crowding the caption and photo.
How to Create Instagram Hashtags List
Having a list of go-to Instagram hashtags is a great idea! It saves you time on re-typing or trying to remember what hashtags to use every time you post. Plus, you’re going to have a few favorites that always bring in new people.
The question is: Where can you find the right Instagram hashtags?
You have a few options.
Option 1: Instagram hashtags auto-complete and Related
Whenever you start typing a hashtag on Instagram, the platform will automatically supply you with all the related hashtags. It will also show you the number of posts using that hashtag.
For example, if you started out writing #fitness, you’ll see hashtags like
#fitnessmotivation (66.3m posts),
#fitnessgirl (29.2m posts),
#fitnesstransformation (944k posts).
Out of all these hashtags, only
#fitnesstransformation suits our 10k-1m formula.
What do we do? We add it to our Instagram hashtag list!
This list can be a spreadsheet or a plain text note. Personally, I like to keep a spreadsheet. This allows me to store more information and even categorize hashtags quickly and easily.
Wait… categorize? What do you mean, Dustin?
Be patient, skipper. We’ll address this mega-sauce strategy in the final section below. Until then, keep reading.
Additionally, you can use Instagram’s Discover tab (the little magnifying glass icon next to the Home icon) to search for a hashtag. When you do that, Instagram will give you a list of Related Instagram hashtags at the top. Use these related hashtags to get more ideas.
Pro-tip: If you’re looking for hashtag ideas, try using popular prefixes and suffixes, such as:
- Insta- (e.g. #Instafitness)
- -life (e.g. #fitnesslife)
- IG (e.g., #IGfitness)
Add one of those prefixes or suffixes to your target word/phrase and see what pops up. You may discover a new set of hashtags you wouldn’t have thought up otherwise.
Option 2: Learn from your followers
Again, it’s essential to see what kind of hashtags your existing followers and members are using.
These aren’t necessarily hashtags with a lot of posts, which means that they’re meaningful to a small community. People in them often post, participate, and engage with one another.
And there’s nothing like attracting the attention of a community that’s full of your potential members.
Option 3: Learn from your competitors
If your competitors’ Instagram hashtag game is on point, why not learn something from them?
Take a look at what kind of hashtags they use, and use the ones that aren’t connected to their brand.
However, don’t rely too much on their wisdom. They may not have a clear social media strategy in place.
Option 4: Use tools to help you
There are a lot of social media marketing tools out there. For our intents and purposes, I’ve gathered a set of hashtag tools out there that can help you reach the right people.
For example, Display Purposes recommends Instagram hashtags based on relevance and popularity. You can also see the most popular hashtags in a given location (especially handy if you’re local).
It’s free, as well.
Another tool you can use is Hashtagify. It comes with free and paid plans. It is also very efficient at helping you understand the Instagram hashtags you should be using to get more members.
In addition to related hashtags, you can also see if the hashtag you chose is rising in popularity or not. You can even see the primary influencers in the hashtag!
Tailwind (affiliate link) is excellent at going one step further and using contextual hashtags.
What does this mean?
Instead of finishing your #fitness seed hashtag with additions like -life and -motivation, Tailwind understands the context of your posts.
If you’re posting about nutrition in fitness, Tailwind will suggest appropriate hashtags.
It’ll also show you how competitive Instagram hashtags are. Do they have millions of posts or thousands? You can then modify them to make sure people are seeing them, and that you’re growing your followers post by post.
Other features Tailwind offers are:
- Competitor hashtag research
- Finding the right-in-the-middle hashtags (between 10k and 10m) that get you the best results
- Creating hashtag lists, you can reference whenever you post
- Create formatting templates, so your hashtags aren’t displayed right with your caption but hidden
Once you’ve got some tools to help you with your Instagram hashtags, it’s time to get strategic.
Get strategic with your Instagram hashtags
So you’ve done your hashtag research, you’ve got a list of dozens and dozens of great hashtags. But you don’t want to just throw together any 30 and paste them in.
Remember how we talked about picking hashtags with the right level of popularity? Not too popular to get drowned out by the noise, yet popular enough that people will actually see it?
Well here’s how you can strategically combine hashtags in a way that allows you to hit the best balance of visibility.
First, you’ll need to categorize your hashtags into 3 volume tiers:
- High: Hashtags with 100k-1m posts
- Medium: Hashtags with 10k-100k posts
- Low (niche): Hashtags with 1k-10k posts
When adding hashtags to your post, you want to pull a mix of all 3 categories–most of them coming from the Medium tier.
Think of it like putting together a great WOD–you don’t want to do too much of one thing. You want the right balance and variation to maximize your results.
But why, though?
Higher volume (popularity) hashtags are harder to rank at the top for. You’ll notice when you search for these hashtags the posts often have hundreds of likes and comments. It’s more competitive to gain a top spot there.
Lower volume hashtags are easier to rank high in, and therefore will help you gain more engagement than the higher popularity hashtags. Doing this consistently can build momentum, and thereby help you begin to rank for more popular hashtags down the road.
By having a good spread, you widen your chances for discovery.
Instagram Hashtags FTW!
Now that you understand the strategy behind using Instagram hashtags for your gym business, you can go out and start putting it to work.
Just like your physical fitness, it will be challenging at first. Stick to it, though. Be consistent and do the work.
Now, if you want an easy shortcut to the research side of putting together the right Instagram hashtags, we’ve done the research for you.
SoVisual.co members have access to our Hashtag Generator. It automatically puts together 30 optimal fitness hashtags with a perfect blend of high, medium, and low volume. These hashtag groups are engineered for maximum reach.
If you’re not a member, give it a try free for 14 days!
Optimized Fitness Hashtags Generator
Our members have access to our instant optimized fitness hashtag generator built into every download page. Give it a try for free!
You’ll get access to our hashtag generator plus our vast library of fitness photos and graphics. These graphics are hand-crafted to grab attention.
Consider this you’re “done-for-you” Instagram strategy for gym owners who don’t have time to post on social media every single day.
Has this crash course on Instagram hashtags given you a few ideas? Let us know in the comments below!