Not only have I been asked this question by a few people recently, I’ve also found myself asking it: Are hashtags on Instagram really that important?
Some social media experts tell you to use them in every post, 30 of them at a time, maximising your reach by using a mix of popular and less popular ones; but others are telling you not to bother using them at all.
Which way is the right way?
Should you use hashtags in every Instagram post?
Are they REALLY that important?
Let’s take a little look at both sides of the debate …
Yes — Hashtags on Instagram ARE Important
Hashtags can help you in a number of ways.
Firstly, they help you to reach more people than you would without them.
Secondly, they help you to categorise your content, so people know what they’re getting.
And thirdly, Instagram is all about the hashtags … isn’t it? That’s what we’ve always been told, right: use hashtags, get more reach, enjoy the increase of engagement?
New accounts on Instagram can benefit from using hashtags, I feel — but only when they’re used in the right way.
Admittedly, there isn’t a “wrong” way to use them, but there are ways of using them that will benefit you, and ways of using them that won’t.
Using the same hashtags over and over again will probably not help you much. You’ll reach the same audiences every time, and no new ones — and you might even get the infamous and supposedly not real “shadowban” slapped on your account.
When that happens, your reach goes down, your engagement goes down, and you basically want to give up on Instagram forever. Reusing the same old hashtags is seen as spam-associated behaviour.
(I’m not fully on-board the shadowban bus, but I do feel like there is a shadowban-like situation going on. I believe my own UKWordGirl account is being subjected to some kind of Instagram punishment, and has been for some time, especially when compared to other accounts I run/own.)
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No — Hashtags on Instagram ARE NOT Important
Instagram does appear to be moving in a direction AWAY from hashtags.
To start with, keyword searches are a thing now. Rather than having to search for a specific hashtags, with the hashtag symbol, you can now enter search terms into the search bar and get the kind of results you want.
Search for “chocolate recipes” and you’ll see something that looks like this screen:
The results include posts that have “chocolate recipes” in the caption as well as accounts that offer “chocolate recipes” in the bio, similar results, and more.
These search results are much more wide and varied than what you would get with hashtag-searching and turns Instagram into something akin to Google. You enter whatever it is you’re looking for and the platform gives you results that are related to that term.
What do these keyword-based searches mean for you, a blogger or influencer?
It means that you don’t NEED to use hashtags in order to reach new audiences. Your reach and engagement doesn’t rely on them. If you have something chocolate-recipe-related in your bio, username, or any of your posts captions, you could/will be included in those search results.
Before keyword searching was a feature that Instagram offered, you would only technically be found by non-followers if you used the hashtag #chocolaterecipes and an Insta-user then searched for or clicked on that hashtag.
Moving on …
Hashtags are seen as a bit … well, spammy now. Using all 30 hashtags is a strategy almost looked down on by big-account experts. Not using them is seen as a badge of success, somehow.
“I don’t NEED to use hashtags to get my content seen by hundreds of thousands of people.”
Moving on again …
And, as if spamminess wasn’t bad enough, Instagram has starting clamping down on hashtag abuse. Every day I find a brand new temporarily or permanently banned hashtag.
This is actually something I talk about a lot more in: The 2021 Guide to Instagram Banned Hashtags.
Are Hashtags on Instagram Really That Important? ~ Conclusion
Personally, I’m on the fence about hashtags. Some days I’ll use them, some days I won’t. It mostly depends on my mood and whether or not I can be bothered. (#RealTalk)
Some bigger accounts have noticed that they tend to get LOWER reach when using Instagram hashtags on carousel posts. I can’t say I’ve noticed this myself, but I have noticed that certain niches of Instagram content get more engagement WITHOUT hashtags. I’m experimenting further, but I think I’ve definitely noticed a trend.
Also, if you have a habit of spending far too long researching hashtags and organising them in your posts, you may find that the time is better spent elsewhere — such as creating content, engaging with the community/your followers, and generally being more present on the app.
It doesn’t matter how much Instagram hashtag research you do, inconsistent posting and zero engagement will undo all of your hard work every time.
I personally recommend experimenting with hashtags on Instagram. Use 5 in one post and 30 in another, and then try another post with no hashtags whatsoever. What works for that really big account on Insta won’t necessarily work in the same way for you. Social media marketing, and particularly Instagram, doesn’t come with a one-size-fits-all solution. It all comes down to you, your content, and your audience.
You CAN use up to 30 hashtags in a feed post — but that doesn’t mean you have to use all 30.
You can include hashtags in both your caption and/or as a comment, but Instagram has officially stated that it doesn’t matter where you put them. It looks neater in the comments, yes, but it really, honestly, genuinely doesn’t matter where you put them.
Knowing that, I suggest putting them where YOU think they look best. Alternatively, why not use Instagram Story polls or questions to ask your audience what THEY think. Do they have a preference? Comment or caption? Hashtags or no hashtags? 10 or 30 hashtags?
What do you think about the big hashtags on Instagram debate?
Do you use them? Hate them? Have the best success with them?
Let me know! Throw a comment my way on social media [all links below], or better yet … write your own blog about it! (Just don’t forget to let me know about it so I can have a little read for myself.)
Thanks so much for reading my blog post today. I hope you’ve found it super helpful.
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