Did you know that bullet journal hashtags have increased engagement on my instagram posts by 83%?!

 

I did over 7 years of research and now I want to share with you my secret formula (literally) and all the tricks that REALLY DO help journalers get a head start showcasing their work.

If you have trouble finding the right hashtags for your bullet journal — or if you’re just starting your journaling account — read this post to get my free Hashtag Guide with my top 121 hashtags.

I’ll show you the exact hashtag strategy I used to get 60k+ Instagram followers (in less than a year).

I’ll also introduce you to my Happy 30 Hashtag Formula” to help you choose the perfect amount of hashtags AND you’ll get a free Google sheet template for your hashtag research!

This post will take about 10 minutes to read. Before you get started, make sure to create an Instagram account if you haven’t already.

Ready to get started? Let’s do this! 😃

Chapter 1:

Instagram Basics

Chapter 2:

How to Research Hashtags

Chapter 3:

How To Hashtag

Chapter 4:

How to Use Instagram Stories

Chapter 5:

How to Get Followers

Too Busy to Read?

Grab the freebie printable below and watch the video below.

It’s free.

Chapter 1: Instagram Basics

Let’s cover some basics first to make sure we are all on the same page (if you’re a regular Instagram user, feel free to skip this chapter).

What’s a Hashtag?

Hashtags are great because they make it much easier for people to find your posts when they search for specific content on Instagram.

The meaning of a hashtag is not always very clear though, that’s for sure. So let’s define it. 🙂

A hashtag is this symbol: #

It’s a way for you to assign your post to a specific category, which makes it much easier for Instagram to show your posts to the right people, for the right queries, when they search for a specific topic within the app.

As a good rule of thumb, the hashtag symbol (#) comes right before the topic of your content.

Here’s a quick formula:

# + adjective + your topic

(don’t include any spaces).

For example, say you just designed an awesome journal spread, you might post a picture of it on Instagram with hashtag #bestjournalspread or #awesomejournal or #instagramart.

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What's the "@" symbol mean?

The “@” symbol is used to denote a username. Use it in your captions when tagging other users.

Why Use Hashtags?

Hashtags are SUPER important for getting engagement on Instagram.

Using the right hashtags can expose your picture to a ton of new accounts and even your favorite brands!

Remember my stat from earlier? Hashtags increase engagement on my instagram posts by 83%!

In fact, hashtags are the #1 reason for my follower growth AND they are the primary way I generate business leads and partnership opportunities.

Bottom line: Don’t forget hashtags.

The reality is, if you do forget them, you will not get any engagement and your Instagram account (and your business) will never gain traction.

But wait! There’s good news! Finding relevant hashtags is easier than you think…

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What's the difference between a Hashtag and Tagging?

Hashtags are used to classify your posts. Tagging on the other hand, is a way for you to identify someone in a post with “@” + their username, which will also notify them.

TIP: Be on the lookout for users who like to like — meaning they’re fishing for likes themselves. You’ll end up noticing that most users just go through popular hashtags — either for inspiration or out of curiosity — and will like to just try to get you to reciprocate. 😉

Chapter 2: How to Research Hashtags

Now that you know hashtags are super important for Instagram engagement, here’s the best way to research hashtags.

Search Instagram for Top Tags

  1. Open up the Instagram app and click the magnifying glass in the bottom bar.
  2. Click in the top search bar.
  3. Click Tags under the top search bar.
  1. Start typing a common hashtag for your parent topic, for example, planner.
  2. Now you’ll get a ton of hashtag ideas from the list that displays underneath! Then it’s time to choose…

How to Find Relevant Hashtags

Now it’s time to narrow down your list and find only relevant hashtags for your topic or business.

Here’s the basic process and criteria you’re looking for:

  1. Click on any hashtags (from your list above) that are very relevant to your post AND have under 1 million uses but over 100,000.
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Should I only choose hashtags under 1 million and over 100k uses?

No, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Many hashtags are up-and-coming OR belong to feature accounts, so you’ll want to include those on your list too if they’re relevant.

  1. Click on the most recent picture to see when it was last posted. If it’s been more than a day, forget the hashtag and move on.
  2. Now check the hashtag frequency (i.e. how often it’s being used), by checking the posted dates of the first few pictures. If there are only one or two pics a day, forget it.
  3. Start a master hashtag list — use this Google Sheet or just grab a pen & paper and make two columns.
  4. In column 1, write down your favorite hashtags that passed the test. In column 2, jot down the number of uses (the post #) of each hashtag.
  5. Use this hashtag template download to get started — it’s already full of the best 121 journal hashtags.

It’s easy to use.

TIP: Before you post, make sure to read the How Many Hashtags Should I Use? section to learn about the “Happy 30 Hashtag Rule” — it will help you decide which hashtags to actually use when posting.

Research Brand Usernames and Tags (optional)

If you have a business or brand, it’s definitely worth researching other businesses’ usernames and their branded hashtags.

This is especially helpful if you want to attract new customers (or steal your competitors)… or to just get on a potential partner’s radar.

Let’s start by discovering a business’s username:

  1. Google their name and visit their website.
  2. Search their website for links to their Instagram account (usually in the universal footer or top menu bar).
  3. If you still can’t find their username, hop on over to the Instagram app and look them up in the search bar.

Many brands also have specific branded hashtags they use consistently for brand recognition, to promote their latest product, or really any type of marketing campaign.

These hashtags are easy to find — they’re typically right there in their Instagram bio, like this:

Add these business hashtags to your master list (the template download) and use them as frequently as you can.

TIP: If you want to create unique journaling designs (like the pic up top) to attract new business, the Beginner’s Bundle has everything you need.

Hashtag Generators

You do have tools at your disposal to help you generate quick hashtags and related hashtag ideas.

These tools are called hashtag generators.

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What are hashtag generators?

Hashtag generators are simple tools that curate a list of recommended hashtags based on your “seed” keywords, which are the most top-levels words or phrases that best describe your post content.

I’ve tried and tested a TON of tools.

But to get right to it, the only one I use now is Display Purposes.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

Pros:

  • Generate hashtags quickly based on popular hashtags.
  • Can select manually or have it auto-select for you.
  • Adds five dots for spacing automatically for easy copy/paste.
  • Good research tool to find big and popular hashtags related to your niche.
  • Can add multiple search terms in the search box.

Cons:

  • Only shows hashtags with A LOT of action (does not show many smaller good hashtag ideas).
  • Often shows global hashtags in foreign languages.
  • Not a ton of variety for our bullet journal world. 😌

You can see more Instagram hashtag generators here.

Now let’s learn how to put those hashtags to work shall we?!…

Chapter 3: How to Hashtag on Instagram

Alright! We’ve made it this far and you’ve done all that hard hashtag research.

Now it’s time to talk about how to post hashtags and where to add them.

It’s important to keep in mind there’s a method to picking the best hashtags.

You want to use popular hashtags… but not TOO popular.

Using the same hashtags over and over again, may work for a little while, but Instagram tends to like variety!

So when you are posting, make sure you use a wide variety of different hashtags, but more importantly, make sure they are super RELEVANT to your post.

Start by following these guidelines…

Hashtag Guidelines

Remember these hashtag limits and guidelines, when you’re deciding how many hashtags to use:

  1. Instagram frowns upon more than 30 hashtags. There are ways around adding more than 30, but I don’t recommend trying it.*
  2. Do not use the same exact hashtag block on all of your pictures.*
  3. Use mostly tags with 100,000 to 1 million uses (# of posts).
  4. Use brand and feature account tags if they’re relevant to your picture.
  5. Research brand usernames and brand hashtags before posting.
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What's a "Feature Account"

Feature accounts are certain accounts that repost user-submitted
content. Most have a particular hashtag they search often.

*TIP: A word of warning. Repetitive behavior — like reusing the same hashtag blocks — can get your Instagram account shadowbanned.

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What is "Shadowbanned"?

It’s Instagram’s way of punishing hashtag abusers. This means your pictures won’t show up under ANY hashtag searches performed by users that don’t follow you!
Your punishment usually lasts about a week. 🔨

How Many Hashtags Should I Use?

Want to know how to choose the right hashtags when you post?

Use the Happy 30 Hashtag Formula” — it will help you decide which hashtags to actually use when you post.

Here’s how to use the “Happy 30 Hashtag Formula” to choose the best 30 hashtags:

  1. Pick 20 hashtags with 100,000 to 1 million uses (refer to your earlier research).
  2. Choose between 0 and 10 brand or feature account hashtags.
  3. Then choose between 0 and 10 hashtags (depending how many you chose in Step 2) with more than 1 million OR less than 100,000 uses.

TIP: Remember, your goal here is to get a grand total of 30 hashtags. You want to stay within Instagram’s 30 rule.

Where to Add Hashtags

In Instagram, you can add hashtags in two places: the normal caption or the first comment after you post a picture.

I recommend you hashtag in the first comment, rather than the caption.

Here’s what the normal caption looks like when you add a new post:

It’s preferable to add your hashtags in the very first comment after you post, by opening up one of your pics and clicking the comment icon. 💬

Have your hashtags ready to paste, because you want to paste them within 1 to 2 minutes or you’ll lose the chance to get the immediate likes that help boost the post.

You could lose up to 30 to 50% of your likes if you don’t post your hashtags immediately.

TIP: The timing here really is SUPER important. You want to paste your hashtags ASAP to boost your post and to stay fresh in Instagram’s algorithm.

Here’s the exact process that I use when I post:

  1. Select a picture and edit it.
  2. Write or paste my entire caption in the normal caption box (I may include a few hashtags here).
  3. Add 5 periods — each on separate lines — to add space under my caption.
  1. Add all the hashtags I need in that bottom space.
  2. Count to make sure there’s no more than 30 hashtags!
  3. Select the text from the first period down to the end of the last hashtag, and select Cut.
  4. Tag any relevant brands or feature accounts IN the picture (see next section).
  5. Click Post!
  6. Quickly head to the picture, hit the comment icon, and click Paste in the comment box.

It’s not necessary to add the periods (Step 3), but it helps the “look” of your post (don’t include all 30 hashtags in your caption or else it will look cluttered).

But when you add it to the first comment, you won’t even see the hashtags when viewing the post while scrolling. It will just look like […]. 

So I definitely recommend adding your hashtags block to the first comment, and not the normal caption 

Use whatever symbol you’d like to make this spacing — dots, periods, or blank spaces work to push the hashtags down and keep a clean look.

You can learn how to add blank spacing to your post captions/comments here.

TIP: Need help editing the perfect Instagram photo? These 9 Easy Steps should help.

How to Tag Brands & Feature Accounts (correctly)

When you post, make sure to tag brands IN your picture as well.

In fact, a brand is more likely to see your picture if you actually tag them in the pic, and not just in your caption.

Here are the steps:

  1. In Instagram, make sure your account privacy settings are public (i.e. not set to private). 
  2. Start a new post by clicking the ⊕ icon in the bottom bar.
  3. Select one of your photos.
  4. Then tap Tag People.
  1. Then tap directly in your photo to tag people (this will open up a curated list of accounts).
  2. Use the top search bar to find a specfic brand.
  3. Keep searching and tag up to 15 brands in your photo!

TIP: Instagram allows you to tag up to 20 accounts in every photo, but I only recommend using 10 to 15 max (20 looks spammy). A good rule of thumb is to only tag brands in your pic that you also tagged in your caption.

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What happens when you tag a brand or celebrity?

They’ll receive a notification as long as YOUR account is set to public.

So if you want any accounts that you’re strategically targeting to see your posts, your account needs to be public. If it’s private, your target accounts will have to be following you to see it.

Learn more about sharing from the Instagram mothership.

Use a Planning App

Scheduling your Instagram posts can be a huge time-saver.

The best part (in my opinion) is you can preview how a picture will look on your feed BEFORE you post it.

The one app I use is PLANN.

Pros:

  • Generate hashtags quickly based on popular hashtags.
  • Can select manually or have it auto-select for you.
  • Adds five dots for spacing automatically for easy copy/paste.
  • Good research tool to find big and popular hashtags related to your niche.
  • Can add multiple search terms in the search box.

Cons:

  • It’s paid — $12/mo. for unlimited use.
  • Doesn’t post for you automatically (they send you a reminder if you schedule ahead).
  • No desktop version (it’s in the works apparently).

Use any planning app you like of course. Just make sure it has all the features you want, before you shell out any cash.

Now that you’re a hashtagging expert, let’s talk story time…

TIP: Do you know someone that is getting married? I found this cool article on how to create a wedding hashtag? 😇

Chapter 4: How to Use Instagram Stories

Instagram stories are your behind-the-scenes photos and videos, that have 24 hours to live (until they’re automatically deleted).

They’re Instagram’s version of Snapchat.

You can tag brands and use hashtags in stories too! Up to 10 relevant hashtags to be exact.

How to Hashtag in Stories

In stories, I recommend using the biggest hashtags on your list — your photo could start to trend in that hashtag’s story, and you’ll get a ton of eyes on it!

Here’s how to add a story with a hashtag:

  1. Click your circular profile pic (top left), then swipe to select a photo from your phone.
  2. Then tap Aa in the top right to add text to your story.
  1. Start typing # + your hashtag. For example, #journaling.
  2. Add multiple hashtags by separating them with spaces.
  3. You can also pick one of the suggested hashtags that display underneath when you start typing.
  1. Then just click Done and add it to your story. That’s it!

TIP: You can add up to 10 hashtags, so make them popular, relevant ones. 😉

How to Tag in Instagram Stories

Tagging a brand (or feature account) in your story sends a very strong message.

You are essentially endorsing them and telling all your trusted followers that this company is worth their time.

It’s a powerful statement, that you should definitely make… and make it often.

  1. Click your circular profile pic, then swipe to select a photo from your phone.
  2. Then tap Aa in the top right to add text to your story.
  3. Start typing @ + your hashtag. For example, @journalyou.
  4. You can also pick one of the suggested brands that display underneath.
  1. Add more than one brand with spaces.
  2. Then click Done and finish your story.

TIP: If you tag a brand, make sure you actually use that brand’s offering IN your post — don’t just tag a random business account in an attempt to get noticed. You’ll unlikely see any reciprocation.

How to Add Invisible Hashtags & Tags

Sometimes you should hide all the hashtags and tags in your stories, so it doesn’t distract from the photo… not to mention, too many may make you look a little desperate. 😊

You hide your tags by covering them up with STICKERS. Here’s how:

  1. Follow the steps above to add your researched hashtags & tags.
  2. Pinch all your tags to shrink them VERY small.
  3. Now click the sticker icon up top or swipe up from the bottom to access all the stickers.
  1. Add one hashtag sticker and one tag sticker (note that Instagram only let’s you use one of each sticker type).

TIP: If you’re a jounaler, use the hashtag #bulletjournal. It’s my #1 most successful hashtag.

  1. Drag your stickers over your any other tags to hide them.
  1. Then click Your Story (bottom left) to finish your story.

Stories done. Now let’s quickly touch on how to get those elusive followers..

Chapter 5: How to Get Followers

It’s time to talk followers.

They’re not easy to attract, but these tips will skyrocket your growth…

Best Practices

It pays to be smart when posting on Instagram.

Here are some beginner rules you should always follow, so the master algorithm sends followers your way:

  1. Post Consistently – You need to post once a day, with quality photos, utilizing the hashtag advice given above.
  2. Create Original Content – Take your own photos and don’t repost often – meaning, 90% of your content needs to be original.
  3. Restrain Your Likes – Is there a limit to how many photos you can like in an hour? Yes. IG has a limit to ~350 an hour, but you should keep it under 100 an hour.

When is the Best Time to Post?

Short answer: It all depends on the local time zone and culture of your target market.

You want to be mindful of your typical user’s work week and what time of day they most likely would be on Instagram.

For example, if you’re like me and most of your followers are from the United States, you would want to think about things like the Monday through Friday work week (and lunch breaks during those days).

But if all your users are in Spain, it’s different — they’ll be having a siesta most of the afternoon during those same work days. 

Also be aware of holidays that are celebrated in your target market. Are your followers traveling during that time? Would they have cell service? Think along those lines.

You might be wondering:

This is great and all, but how do I really know when they are online?

It’s all in the numbers.

If you have a business account, check out your Instagram analytics (via the app settings) to see your posts’ best engagement times.

If you have a blog or website, log into your Google analytics and follow these steps:

  1. In the left sidebar, go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels.
  2. Under the column Default Channel Grouping, click Social.
  3. Click Instagram.
  4. Select Secondary Dimension (the dropdown above the table) and scroll down to Time > Hour
  1. Look at the Hour column to see what hours of the day you acquire most of your users!
  2. Also refer to the line graph above the table to see which days are your followers’ favorite.

Easy right?!

You can also use an app like PLANN, which will show you good times to post.

TIP: Did you know you can also check the same analytics for Instagram Stories? In step 3 (above), just select Instagram Stories from the column list.

If you don’t have a website or business account, remember what times YOU are most active — this is when your followers are most likely to be online too and when you can engage with them!

Here are my personal rules I try to follow when it comes to timing posts:

  • Post right before lunch (or mid-morning) on weekdays.
  • Post during the same time on Sundays.
  • Avoid posting on Saturdays (I don’t see the same level of engagement).

Now let’s tackle some advanced tips to get even more followers…

Advanced Tips

These are advanced tips & tricks (in question format) to help your personal or business account move up the charts.

You’ll want to read and remember these

Is it bad to go back and edit a post after I post it?

Yes, DON’T DO IT!

If you MUST edit a caption — either to correct your caption grammar or add a hashtag — you should wait a few hours since Instagram’s algorithm can reset your engagement metrics and you can lose all the “engagement juice” you’ve acquired thus far.

By “engagement juice”, I’m talking about all those likes and comments you’ve got up to that point.

What's the fastest way to get likes?

Use your hashtags from this post.

If you get enough likes within the first few minutes of posting, IG will keep boosting your post up, and you might wind up on their featured page… where you’ll get even more impressions. 😉

Make sure to stay in the app for 5 to 10 minutes after posting, to engage (like & comment) with photos from similar hashtags or accounts you follow.

Does it help to like other photos right after I post?
Yes. Immediately after you post:

  1. Click on one of the top hashtags you used (with over a million uses).
  2. Click on Recent tab and go through each of those pics and like them.

 
Take a step further with this bonus tip:

  1. Look at the accounts that are liking those pics too and stalk them by liking their pics.

So what you’re doing here is liking the likers pics, because you know they are active right now and they like to like pics too!

Should I comment on other people's accounts?

Yes. A comment is 10x more valuable than a like.

Even more importantly, a comment will get you noticed by the people that matter. 🙂

When is the best time to like other photos?

The absolute best time to like other photos, is right after you post your own!

You’re much more likely to see positive engagement.

What's your comment policy?
When it comes to replying to other comments, you need to reply to as many as you can.

Try to reply quickly.

How late is too late to reply? It’s never too late.

How do you handle negative comments?

Do you delete or reply?

Actually, ignoring is the best policy. You don’t want to start any drama and turn off any potential new followers.

And don’t delete any comments unless they are 100% untrue… or obviously spam.

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What is "Engagement Juice"?

Engagement Juice is the engagement equity — all those likes, comments and reposts — your post has accrued since it was first posted on Instagram.

Wrapping Up: You’ve Reached the End!

Don’t Forget Your Freebies

Use the buttons below to download this entire guide to refer to later.

Also get your hashtag spreadsheet, to create your master list from your hashtag research.

Free PDF.

Google Sheet.

I hope this guide gave you ideas and hashtag inspiration!

Did I miss something? Have any helpful tips to share with everyone?

Tell us in the comments below! 👇👇👇

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