When you look up a hashtag on Instagram, you will notice 9 posts pinned at the top (aptly named Top Posts). If you have ever wondered how to get featured here, I have developed a method which gets me on the Top Posts page a couple times a week. Despite having less than a couple thousand followers, I have scored hashtags with over a million uses.
DISCLAIMER: No one outside of Instagram knows exactly how the Top Posts algorithm works, so always be wary. What I am about to describe is my method, which has worked reliably, however it is built on a series of educated guesses.
Create Your Post the Night Before
Load your content into Instagram, edit it, add a caption, and choose your hashtags. Once your post is ready, hit the back button a couple times and save it as a draft. I use an app called Focalmark to pick out the first 25 and then I pick 5 hashtags that are hyper specific to my content. I suggest you aim to hit to Top Posts for smaller more obscure hashtags first and work your way up later.
Prime Your Audience
Now that you know what hashtags you are aiming for, engage (like/comment/follow) with the most recent posts for those hashtags in short bursts consistently until you post. Waiting for the bus, going to the bathroom, and sitting in bed are great times to do this. This attracts attention from active users within your targeted niche.
Come in with a Bang
Right before and after you post, you should be hitting the most recent posts hard. If you aren't already in an engagement group, find friends or other creators who you can rely on to like and comment on your content, preferably as soon as you post. Many theorize speedy engagement is key to getting in the Top Posts.
Keep the Ball Rolling
It's a good idea to keep with the bursts of engagement, but your role should now be more reactionary. Like and reply to any comments you receive and engage with commenters' content as well. This stimulates and encourages more discussion. In my opinion, comments are one of the most important factors in hitting the Top Posts.
Assess and Evaluate
Now that you've put in the hard work, check to see if it's payed off. Try to check as many of your hashtags as possible, you may be surprised where you get featured. If you don't think you've hit the Top Posts on any, reevaluate your strategy; either increase your engagement or target smaller hashtags. Having more followers doesn't hurt either.
If this method works for you I would love to know. If you would like to see my method at work, follow me on Instagram @michaeljfreund. Good luck!