The new IG Hashtag Strategy

I’ve lurked and commented on this forums for a while, but I finally feel ready to share some thoughts in the form of a thread.

I’m on Reddit, and constantly check out the Instagram subsection. And soon after, I started following closely a user who runs a high-performing science/facts/etc Instagram page (@strange.feed)

I’ve analyzed the page, as well as browsing through the Reddit posts, and have here some conclusions that could be a part of a new growth strategy:

1.) Size doesn’t matter. Both the Top Hashtag Feed and the Explore are personalized to the user. Your posts appear in those feeds to followers of those who engaged with the photo, regardless of your account size. So long as you receive enough follower engagement from the initial rollout, you’ll always appear on those viral feeds…it’s only to your small sphere of influence starting out, but snowballs greatly starting around the couple thousand mark or so as long as you…

2.) Keep engagement rate high 10% seems to do the trick. Or maybe 15-20%? Just maintain such percentage until you reach the couple thousands, and you may be one of those accounts that accumulates followers just by posting (not including autobots).

3.) Use hashtags people actually search for. The new hashtag strategy is simple: just think about what people would actually search for, then use it. It draws back from the first point about personalized feeds, meaning that you don’t necessarily need to worry too much about size. For instance, use “nature” instead of “zomgnatureislit.” Smaller hashtags only are preferable when they happen to specify a niche in your photo: for instance, using “elephant” for a picture of an elephant rather than “animal.”

4.) How many? When your account is small, you can load up all 30 since you’re too small to matter to the algorithm, but once you reach a couple thousand, you can start experimenting with using fewer hashtags that are big and topic focused (around 10 based on general descriptors of the photo, stuff like #nature, #technology, #space, #architecture, etc). The natural account evolution seems such that hashtag engagement starts out high, shifting gradually to Explore focus as the account grows larger.

Just some notes I’d thought I share. I’m testing this strategy with my own account, and if it’s true, then the traditional styles of “hashtag research” that marketing blogs often push out may very well be dead.


Always good if someone tries out new strategies - keep us posted how it works for you!

This I agree with, however one of the big reason targetting hashtags that are more fitting to your engagement levels is improved possibilities of being in the top 9…it doesn’t mean one shouldn’t target super popular tags, just using a healthy mix tends to work better for me.


I mostly agree with the points you referred, will wait for the results you get with your account tho.

Interesting points, looking forward to seeing the test results

Ahaa this cleared up a few things I was pondering about. I keep seeing smaller accounts pop up in the top posts of larger hashtags, but I guess it’s possible if the ER is high enough.

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Based on strange.feed’s posts, top 9 doesn’t exist anymore, the feed is entirely personalized as outlined in the first point. On the phone, it’s literally just a “Top” feed.

So you can definitely still stick with the mix, but it’s good to make sure the smaller hashtags are easily searchable, and have a good engagement mix.

As far as trends, OG accounts that create their own original content will continue to flourish, whereas traditional repost pages will be on the decline. The repost pages that flourish will be those that can effectively frame an ideal throughout their feed.

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Some good strategies, thanks for putting in the time to outline them.

This though is a rather flawed statement. Everything depends on your niche.

A travel blogger may or may not be more successful using their own content. Some of them are knocking it out of the park, some cannot even come close to competing with the repost travel and wanderlust pages.

A meme / viral / comedy niche - those are almost entirely dominated by repost pages.

A luxury or motivation niche - as the above, almost entirely dominated by non-original content.

A mom blogger - posting about her own experiences as a mom more often than not creates better results than a repost page with cute kids (although there are repost behemoths as well).

Every niche is different and almost nothing can be generalized as a whole with IG.


The Top 9 post doesnt exist anymore, that is right. But that doesnt mean that you have high chances to rank on the popular hashtags with a small account. The size of the hashtags still matter and should be tailored to your current your reach.


I honestly hope so. I’m sick and tired of repost pages constantly growing and people like me who create original content are being penalized because of them.

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I’m thinking about what can I do with my own instagram, which is filled with my music performance.

Especially with those saturated niches, the successful repost pages seem to either be early adopters, or, again, were really good at framing their ideals through their feed.

However, if the niche is uncommon enough, (i.e. say, a page dedicated to micro-organisms or mass transit) then just reposting alone is more than enough to stand out.

That’s what I meant by “sphere of influence.” As long as engagement is high enough, every post makes it on Top Feed/Explore…but only to a tiny number of people when the account is small. But that share gradually gets larger and larger as the account grows.

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I don’t mind repost pages much as long as they are framed. For example, a Florida travel agency page reposting beautiful beach pictures from around the state, or a HumansInNewYork style of page which features reposted travel content, but tells its own unique story within the caption.

I know and I get it, but at the same time Instagram should at least do something to prevent pages who repost only to grow so fast and get a lot of exposure. What’s the point in getting out there and creating content when you can just use other people’s work? I can’t afford to post every day because I’m a photographer and I have to get my ass out there and not every time I shoot something it’s a beautiful picture. But repost pages have an infinite amount of material to use.

That’s just the nature of the world. There are a lot of content creators who post rarely but get a ton of followers and engagement, because they use the platform a lot and because their post quality is ridiculously high.
The only thing is that nowadays it’s pretty hard to grow that way since organic growth is so hard, especially for small accs, so you gotta do it how GaryV says, both quantity and quality.

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I can second the OP strategy.
I watched this happen on two twin accounts (similar names but in opposite ways)
The right pictures
Some Conservative F/U
Posts 3-6 times a day
Uses all 30 hashtags including a brand hashtag

Results: Maintaining about a 20% ER through the first 1000 followers, the page grew exponentially faster.
After 2000 followers turned off F/U completely, still growing at between 70-100 per day just posting.

ER dipped a bit but the page is growing.
Still hitting viral posts for over 40% engagement every so often.

I will say. Advanced hashtag research content will remain valuable. Just throwing in tags is like a crab shoot, so this content on general marketing blogs will die. You need to know which ones work, and typically the methods shared on finding hashtags tell you which ones people follow.

Of all the “growth hack” methods, I’d say targeted follow/unfollow, hands down, is the best, in terms of combo of results, overhead, and applicability across various niches. This is followed by “powerlikes” (aka valued influencer networking) and “shoutouts” (features from big accounts in your niche).

Paid shoutouts/powerlikes aren’t worth it outside the common Instagram niches. Mother/Slave works very well, but takes expertise/lots of management to master, and also isn’t worth it outside the common niches.

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Can you explain what the mother/slave thing is?
I’ve been trying to figure it.