Despite what you may have heard, Instagram hashtags are still a valuable tool for marketers in 2023. Although they are still a useful tool to get your content in front of its desired audience, adding them to a feed post or reels will not instantly solve your engagement issues.
Hashtags help to add context to your posts, which allows Instagram to know what your posts are about. The more Instagram understands your posts’ context, the more likely your content will show up in front of the right audience. One of Instagram’s main ranking signals is users’ anticipated interest in content. This means that if a user usually engages with a certain type of content Instagram gets signaled that that user would most likely engage with content based on a similar topic. Because of this Instagram becomes more likely to then deliver that user content based on that topic.
The ranking signals provide content to followers but hashtags also have the capability of putting your posts on non-follower’s feeds. The user activity, which is the type of accounts they follow/posts they interact with, is the driving force behind suggested content. By getting your content suggested to non-followers, you will increase your audience, visibility, and engagement. Non-followers are able to directly interact with your suggested post or they can follow your account.
You also may engage a new audience if non-followers follow a hashtag that you utilize. Your posts/reels are more likely to be suggested to them, since again it will trigger Instagram’s ranking signal. The hashtags you use also will have a corresponding hashtags page which shows top-ranked posts, recent posts, and reels that all use the same hashtag.
Hashtags provide the context needed to trigger Instagram’s ranking signals, which means you should only be using relevant hashtags. Irrelevant and low-quality hashtags won’t provide any context to your posts, although there are other ways for a post to have context.
How Many Hashtags to Use
Instagram allows for 30 hashtags per post and 10 per story, either using the hashtag button or a text overlay, but it is not always best to max these out. In recent years Instagram has suggested using only 3-5 hashtags per post. This strategy severely limits the amount of context you are able to give your content, but it also helps your account to not come across as spammy.
Since the allowed number of hashtags and the recommended number differ so significantly it is a good idea to test out different combinations. If you have a business or creator account you can easily see the effect that hashtags have on your content’s performance. To check these analytics you would access your accounts “Insights” through the Instagram app. After this you would click on any feed post to view its individual analytics and scroll down to the “Reach”. Under reach you are able to see how many people found your content through your hashtags.
From here you can play around with different hashtags, the amount of hashtags, and hashtags combinations to see which perform the best. You will be able to compare the different analytics results and then decide how to proceed from there with your marketing strategy. Currently, Instagram’s analytics only provides hashtag metrics for posts on your feed not for stories or reels. This means that you will have to do all hashtag testing on your feed posts to get accurate analytics.
What Hashtags to Use
Depending on your business and its social media content the hashtags you use will differ. Although your first instinct may be to use viral hashtags they are much less effective then you would think. Viral hashtags, although popular, will usually have a lot of low-quality content attached to it. Because of this it is more helpful for you to find relevant hashtags to your business that are a bit less common. We would suggest first adding a more popular hashtag with no more than 1 million related posts. The amount of posts per hashtags will show when you search them on Instagram. This hashtag can describe your business, industry, product, ect.
Next, you should find a hashtag that is still relevant to your content but has less than 100,000 posts associated with it. You also will want to find a very niche hashtag that’s highly specific to your business, audience or content. The niche hashtag should have less than 10,000 posts associated with it. Less popular hashtags make it more likely that you will stay on the top of the recent page associated with the hashtag or be at the top of the hashtag search page. You also can select multiple hashtags from each category to try out and test.
Lastly, you will want to add any campaign or company branded hashtags. Although these don’t provide Instagram with context, they make your content easier to search for. If you have a branded hashtag in your Instagram bio your customers will be able to tap that and instantly view your hashtagged content. You also can encourage your customers to add a campaign hashtag to content with your product which will allow you and potential customers to easily find user-generated content.
You can repeat your hashtags from post to post but you should review them each time. Avoid copy and pasting a hashtag group without reviewing as they may not all be relevant or needed.
Caption vs. Comments
As a general rule for hashtags it is better if you add them directly to your caption rather than the comments. By adding the hashtags into your captions your content is able to be found in a search which helps more people discover your page.
If you are worried that adding hashtags to your actual caption will look untidy or spammy don’t be. Instagram cuts off captions on timelines after 80 characters, which means as long as your caption is at least 80 characters long no one will see the hashtags displayed in their feed. You also can add the hashtags at the very end of posts and separate them for your caption with spaces or emojis. This will let the viewer see the more important information rather than being bogged down by hashtags.
Although hashtags are a great tool for adding context for your Instagram content, it is also important to utilize other tools to reinforce context. For example, you are able to add context to your posts by adding keywords to your captions. These keywords help to provide context which in turn puts your content in front of the right audience. They also help your content pop-up in discovery searches which can help boost your page’s reach. Make sure to work the keywords in naturally to your caption so you don’t look spammy or unorganized.
Another way to add context is by adding topics to your Instagram reels. When creating an Instagram reel in the app you can still use your keyword captions but you can also select up to 3 topics per reel. This helps to categorize reels and reinforce context. To add topics go through the publishing workflow and tap the “Add Topics” button on the final screen. Instagram is regularly updating topics so if you can’t find your perfect niche one yet it is probably coming!
Hashtags are not an instant solution for low engagement and reach. But by utilizing them correctly, especially with the other tools mentioned above, your stories, posts, and reels should begin to be placed in front of your desired audience. This in turn creates more opportunities for your company as well as a better reach!