Instagram Hacks: Hashtags
HASHTAGS: POINTLESS OR EFFECTIVE?
With the algorithm changes that have taken place on Instagram, I have been pondering about the same question lately... Do hashtags still work? I have always used hashtags as a means to make myself easier to find for new followers but I'm not actually 100% sure that they are as effective as they used to be. I posted the question to my followers on the platform and ran a poll on Stories to see what others thought. Surprisingly, 61% of people felt that hashtags were still effective for growth. Ever the sceptic, I needed further evidence to back up this stat and so asked two long-time bloggers to share their thoughts on the effectiveness of hashtags for exposure. As always, please remember that there is no judgement to be placed here - it's just an open discussion and I'm incredibly grateful to these two for sharing their opinion with me. Feel free to join the debate and share your own experiences in the comments section as well!
The engagement we used to receive from hashtags has diminished considerably which in all honestly shows a vast improvement in how Instagram is dealing with bots. A year or so ago when you would post and add your standard hashtag comment, you'd see an immediate influx of engagement from accounts that had autolike bots set up to like any posts that were displayed within a certain hashtag. Since Instagram has (thank god) been cracking down on these, we no longer see the influx from hashtags that we once did.
I always say to people "when was the last time you ever actually used a hashtag to find posts / new accounts?" And I don't think anyone has ever said anything but "yep, I never do that in all fairness". We've also dealt with "shadowbanning", which attempts to deal with the uses of repetitive hashtags, spam hashtags and/or using too many. There are so many theories behind hashtags but personally I think they have very little impact in reaching people outside your immediate audience anymore. I've trialled using lots, a little and none at all, and I can say for sure that I see minimal, if not any, engagement difference. In some cases my posts without hashtags actually do better than expected.
With all of Instagram’s frequent changes it’s hard to keep up and understandable to see why people would question if hashtags hold value any more. I view hashtags as Instagram’s currency: the money you pay for your tribe to find you. The algorithm changes mean that more emphasis has been placed on engagement, and while people would argue why bother using hashtags if you can be “discovered” in other ways, I feel that hashtags still hold weight. They act as mini search engines within Instagram, highlighting new accounts to engage with. This can also be applied to Stories, where hashtags are said to help get rack up more views.
The issue that people have to contend with is not whether you should use hashtags but the way in which they use them. Instagram now shadow bans those who repeatedly use the same hashtags - therefore you need to alternate hashtag variations underneath your posts. Furthermore it was never popular to show that you used hashtags, and as a result people would add them as a first comment straight after posting their picture. However, Instagram now views these heavily hashtagged paragraphs as spam, so you won't get the result you want. The best thing to do is hide them underneath your caption with bullet points beforehand.
To sum up, understanding how best to use hashtags is what makes the difference. With algorithms constantly changing you have to know how to play the game....player.