What I L**rned About Instagram and Hashtags
by Hassan del Campo, Social Mediums
While there’s still an ongoing debate as to the efficacy of hashtags, most would agree that there are some very practical and effective uses. This rings especially true when we delve into the social beast that is Instagram — whose platform is essentially designed for its use. #Facts
The truth behind marketing is that nobody knows what they’re doing and only a few kindaknow what they’re doing. Experimentation is the modus operandi around these parts, but we empathize with those trying to stay up-to-date with the ever-changing spectrum of what works and what works now, in the world of social media. So, for your reading pleasure, we’ve compiled a short list of (our recommended) best practices to consider when hashtag-ing:
Change Your Hashtags Frequently
Why? Because if you’re simply copy+pasting the same hashtags for every post during an extended period of time, you run the risk of getting shadowbanned (Instagram’s response to what they feel is behavior that violates their platform). It’s always a good idea to avoid spammy behavior. Takeaway: Switch up hashtags to stay relevant and competitive in your industry.
Don’t Use the Maximum
Just because Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post, doesn’t mean you need to use all thirty. When your followers see a wall of hashtags they might be turned off by your unintentional cries of digital desperation (just kidding!). But seriously, thirty words is a lot of text considering that’s it’s not “read” by the viewer. As always, look to your industry and your own discretion for what works.
Don’t Use Oversaturated Hashtags
People use hashtags to be seen, so naturally, you’ll want to use the most popular hashtags to increase engagement — right? Not necessarily. Overused hashtags can place you in the sea of other accounts that are all competing for the most likes, comments, and engagement — oh, and that sweet spot on that coveted Explorer page.
*Place Hashtags in Comments, Not the Description
This one we’re on the fence about. There’s at least two ways to look at this. On one hand, placing hashtags in the comments gets rid of the “Read More” caption that users will see if your caption is too long. But, what if that is your call to action? Also, it just looks cleaner.
There’s a theory brewing amongst some marketers that reposting content may not generate the results that one would expect. Images posted to an Instagram account must pass through Instagram’s (or shall we say Facebook’s) algorithm as well as image recognition, in order to be indexed and categorized in the appropriate niche and relevancy. A reposted image and group of hashtags will be analyzed against the already indexed original image — thus giving the hashtags less power the second, third, etc. time it is posted.
The Contrarian Perspective
Don’t rely on hashtags. Rely on quality content.
While the notion that quality over quantity wins the social media network race is popular and noble, it might just not be enough to get the likes, comments, and follows you desire. If pages with the best content received the most engagement, this would imply that Instagram’s algorithm is either inefficient or nonexistent — and we know neither is true.
Then there’s the question of ghost followers; automated bots that users can program to follow, like, comment, and unlike accounts that use certain whitelisted hashtags. Hashtags are magnets for ghost followers, which can inflate your followers and give a false representation of how much organic reach your posts generate.
Lastly, many marketers claim the search feature of hashtags themselves are only used by (gasp) other marketers. And understandably so. Search using hashtags can provide great reconnaissance for your competitors or audience, but it is possible to reach the explorer page without ne’er a single hashtag.
You need to think about the behaviors of people using the platform and which of those behaviors you want to nudge. Much of the suggestions displayed here are best guesses framed from the user’s experience. It’s simply too nuanced to know for sure what will work all the time.