July 25, 2014 | Social Media

Hashtag Research in 30 Minutes and 3 Seconds on Instagram

Is social media giant Instagram 100% images? Not quite. In this day and age, social media gurus know that you don't need to search endlessly to find what you want, it is served up on a well-polished silver monitor. You may not be a guru, but you should know what a hashtag is. Instagram takes full advantage of hashtags to help deliver images to people who are most interested in seeing them.


When analyzing the anatomy of almost any Instagram post, the actual post is comprised of dozens of hashtags and barely any text. Why? Because without a hashtag attached the content just doesn't circulate. Having a photo without any hashtags is like having a text message in your drafts folder; you have something to say, but nobody is getting it.

So, we decided to do a little experiment on Instagram. What is the power of a targeted hashtag? Does it get you followers? Likes? Or does it just hang out in cyberspace? Very few people realize that the true hidden power of Instagram is in its hashtag research capabilities.

Our test subject for this little research project was our intern Abi’s rescue dog, Tye. We made him an Instagram page appealing to a specific demographic: rescue dogs, and dog advocacy. The first step in any marketing campaign, is research. This is especially true on Instagram as there are millions of hashtags out there, choosing the right ones does not happen by accident.

We wanted to find out what hashtags got the most action for his demographic, Abi thought of a few things that were top of mind such as #DogsOfInstagram, #Rescuedogs, and #PitbullsOfInstagram. Tye is an American Staffordshire Terrier mix which falls under the pitbull category.

Hashtag Research:

1) Explore Instagram by clicking on the compass (highlighted in red):


2) Search the hashtags that come to you naturally, we used #rescuedog. As you can see this hashtag yields 113,201 posts on Instagram. Just to be sure we want to search it and see what shows up.

Rescue dogs real

As we expected it is over 100,000 pictures of adorable rescue dogs, just like Tye! Looks like a good hashtag!

RescueDog Results

To find more hashtags that relate to #rescuedogs you want to click on the pictures in the results. This will allow you to see what additional hashtags are already in use. After searching the initial hashtags we came up with a dozen more hashtags that were yielding thousands of results. Those included #rescuedogs, #dogsofinstagram, #lifeofapitbull, #pitbulllove #dontbullymybreed, #dogslife and more!

After all was said and done we put about 30 minutes into researching our hashtags and making sure they were the ones we should be using.

3) Post a test image:

Tye Milk Bones

Each hashtag on this image was researched (aside from #imawesome, we just added that because it’s true!). In seconds, Tye had 9 likes and 3 followers. This almost seemed like a fluke so we kept posting.

Tye Beach Sand

Again each hashtag was part of our initial research. We also wanted to add in a few that are relevant to the photo in this one it is #naptime and #adventures, it keeps it personal and relevant. Again within seconds Tye had 11 likes and even a couple of comments!

The following examples were posted around 8:00 pm EST.

Tye Bed Likes

Here is the picture and the likes it received.

Tye Bed Comments

These are the hashtags that were used, and Tye got a comment from a puppy follower!

Tye Notifications page 1 Tye Notifications page 2

Within 3-10 SECONDS Abi’s phone had all of these notifications. That is real time engagement with the content posted. Imagine if that was a brand image, or something promoting a new product or service? This experiment was done completely organically through Instagram.Tye started out with zero followers and his page was not pushed out through any other outlets.

Key Takeaways:

    • Researching hashtags is well worth a 30 minute investment.
    • Using relevant hashtags opens you up to a world of people that you didn’t even know existed.
    • The life of an instagram hashtag is most likely not more than five minutes so timing is very important.
    • The life of the instagram post as it shows up in followers feeds is most likely not more than an hour so again, timing is very important.
    • Abi’s dog is more popular she is. #SadAbi

Instagram away and research your hashtags!

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