How You Should Use Hashtags, According to Instagram

Instagram’s advice on using hashtags clears up a lot of misconceptions. Here’s their official list of do’s and don’ts, and what hidden knowledge we can extract from them.

Do’s:

• Do use hashtags that are relevant to the theme of your content

This one should be a no-brainer, but we often see brands using random popular hashtags in the hope that it will improve performance. Including heavily over-saturated hashtags like #instagram or #love will not result in better engagement. Your content will be buried amongst the millions of other posts.

• Do check which hashtags your fans already use and follow

A useful bit of advice, but Instagram doesn’t make it clear how you check which hashtags your fans use. Personally, we use Sprout Social’s hashtag performance tool. It allows you to see which ones are generating you the most (or least) engagement. Scrap the ones that aren’t adding any value.

• Do mix well-known and niche hashtags to broaden your discoverability

Similar to the last tip, Instagram recommends including hashtags of varying popularity. You can go for ‘big’ hashtags, just don’t go for generic hashtags. For example, instead of using #marketing, drill down and use #socialmediamarketing or #festivalmarketingtips – ones that highlight your focus areas.

• Do use specific hashtags so your fans can easily search for your content. You can even create your own!

Instagram highlights the importance of having your own hashtag. Having a business hashtag allows fans to indirectly communicate with you, and provides a hub to gather that all-important UGC (user-generated content). You could keep it simple and use your brand name (e.g. #WeAreFSTVL) or they can be campaign-specific (e.g. #ShareACoke). The less brand hashtags, the better. You’ll only confuse fans otherwise.

• Do keep the number of hashtags between 3 – 5

This is the first time Instagram has directly specified how many hashtags to use. Turns out it’s a law of diminishing returns – the more you use, the less of an engagement boost you’ll see (beyond the initial 5).

The long-standing assumption amongst ‘grammers was that the more hashtags, the better. It’s time to say goodbye to the unappealing wall of 30 hashtags beneath your caption. Tools such as Sprout Social can help determine what your top five hashtags are for reach and engagement.

Don’ts:

We were going to include the hashtag don’ts, but they’re essentially the opposite of the above, and you’ve got hashtags to find! To summarise, don’t use ‘generic’ hashtags (e.g. #likeforlike), don’t use ones that have absolutely nothing to do with the post, and don’t use more than 10 – it doesn’t help with distribution.

If you’d like to view the original post, you can do so here. Instagram’s Creators page is full of extremely useful tips, direct from the app themselves. As we’ve explained there’s also plenty of hidden knowledge to be read between the lines.

For example, did you notice that the opening slide is a static image, posted as a video? It’s safe to assume that Instagram knows how to get the most out of their own platform. It strengthens Instagram’s assertion that it’s ‘no longer a photo-sharing app’. You can read our thoughts on this game-changing statement here.