Out with the old, in with the new.
Hashtags aren’t dead, but they’re dying. Hashtags aren’t as great as you think and if anyone has told you anything different, they are just selling you a dollar and a dream. This is your sign to stop doing hashtag research. Stop reading articles that repeat the same information, Stop clouding your posts with so many hashtags because they aren’t reaching anyone. Hashtags aren’t what they were 10 years ago. Instagram was in its infancy and we all clung to the idea of using hashtags because it was the only thing that made sense. Now that Instagram is a seasoned social media app that has undergone more algorithmic changes than we can count, hashtags don’t have the same spark that they used to. When Instagram first came out, we had the feed, hashtags, and the explore page, now we have all of that, as well as, Reels, IGTV, Stories, Shoppable Posts, Monetization, Ads, and more. With so many features, hashtags have taken a backseat and I’m pretty sure they are going to stay there.
I’m not saying hashtags are dead, but I do think it’s time to scrap what you’ve always known about hashtags because they are not one-size-fits-all. Let’s dive right in.
What Is A Hashtag?
A hashtag is a combination of letters, numbers, or emojis that are followed by the # symbol. Hashtags have been deemed as a great way to increase organic reach and I’ll be the first to admit that they were a good tool for organic engagement.
Hashtags are a great way to build a community and increase engagement and visibility on your account. Instagram breaks hashtags down into 9 general categories. They are:
Community Hashtags: #catsofinstagram or #graphicdesignersofinstagram
Seasonal Hashtags: #nationalhamburgerday or #nationalicecreammonth
Location Hashtags: #atllife #discoveratl #weloveatl
Daily Hashtags: #mondaymotivation, #transformationtuesday, #fearlessfriday
Relevant Hashtags: #livefearlessly #interiordesignerlife
Acronym Hashtags: #FBF (Flashback Friday) #MCM (Man Crush Monday)
Emoji Hashtags: #treelovers🌳, #books📚, #makeup💄
How Has Hashtag Usage Changed?
It’s been over 10 years and as Instagram has changed so has the way we use hashtags. Hashtags don’t get the same love they did back in the now. We know that billions of posts populate under hashtags daily, but how many people are searching for these hashtags? I’d say not that many.
Although there is no statistical data to support this, look at your analytics. Our analytics show that in our month’s worth of posts the average return we’ve gotten from hashtags has been around 8%. When I look at a post from 1 year ago the average was around 56%. Do you see the drastic difference? Need I say more? We’re no longer searching for hashtags. We’ve stopped using hashtags as frequently to build a community. Instead, we’re using hashtags to secure our spot in the community, one that few people search for. Although the app has made countless changes, the usage of hashtags has seen few.
When Instagram developed its algorithm, hashtags became less and less important. Instagram continues to develop so much that now there is more than one way to reach your target audience. Now, you have the ability to follow the tags you like, but if the feature was truly beneficial should our hashtag analytics have seen such a dramatic dip in a year? I’d think not.
What’s The Alternative?
Now it’s time to throw out all the social media textbook information you’ve learned about hashtags. Throw out the 30 hashtags rule. Get rid of doing hours of research. Stop overcrowding your posts with tags that barely reach anyone. Follow these 4 steps to make the most of your hashtags and the platform.
STOP using 30 hashtags.
You can stop putting 30 hashtags on your posts. Research has shown that 9 is the optimal number for engagement. 30 is fine if that’s what you want to do, but if you don’t reach as least 30 people (one for each hashtag) you’re wasting time.
See what your competitors are doing.
You should always check to see what your competitors are doing. See which tags they are using and test them under your posts to see how many people you reach. Social media is a constant experiment and your competitors are a great way to determine which are worth trying.
Determine the purpose of your posts.
Knowing the purpose of your posts will determine whether or not you should use hashtags and which ones you should use. If you’re a skincare business and you want to post about a face scrub, this is your time to niche down in your hashtags. #skincare is so broad (81M posts) vs #facescrub (500K). Let your hashtags speak to specific details of your content.
You should always do your own research because your hashtag strategy should be specific to your business, but if you need a starting place try this.
If 30 is the max number of tags you can use, take ⅓ and do 10. If you have a location-based business make sure most of your hashtags are location-based (4 is a good number ex: #atlanta #Atl #discoveratl #weloveatl), use one branded hashtag (#thekoolsource), use at least 3 community hashtags (#marketingagency, #marketersofinstagram, #digitalmarketing), and use other two as relevant hashtags (#marketerlife, #instagramtips).
Use tags that speak to the content in your posts. If you sell skincare products use tags that relate such as, #skincareroutine, #skincareregime, or #skincaresaturday. If you are a business coach, it would help you more to use hashtags such as #businesscoach, #businesscoaching, #entrepreneurlife. The point is, the hashtags you use will vary based on your business.
If you do choose to incorporate hashtags into your Instagram strategy, Shopify has a helpful blog post that lists over 300 hashtags to increase likes and follows.
Remember, an Instagram hashtag strategy is not one size fits all. Research your competitors and your industry and develop your strategy, or work with a team of experts like our team at The Kool Source to draft the perfect plan for your business.