Knowledge is a core value at SCG. This weekly column highlights something interesting learned recently by one of our team members. We hope you find it intriguing, relevant and informative:
About 125 million hashtags are used every day on Twitter alone (including some by yours truly). Instagram, on the other hand, thinks that might be simply too many. After all, what good is a hashtag if everything’s a hashtag?
Patrick Whatman at Mention recently wrote about exactly that. His company’s 2018 Instagram report revealed that, on average, engagement rates on Instagram posts drop as hashtag usage rises – pretty #precipitously, actually. But hashtags are supposed to increase your reach, so what gives?
Too Many Hashtags = Post’s in the Trashbag
Though Whatman admits their numbers might be skewed (Beyoncé uses exactly 0 hashtags and gets crazy engagement, for example), it’s the principle of the thing that matters to marketers. For example, just like a blog article can get weighed down by keyword stuffing, Instagram posts carry hashtags like baggage. Your posts will be penalized if their hashtags are too similar to your other posts, if they contain inappropriate content (see below) or if there are just plain too many of them.
Another way Instagram is curbing spammy or inappropriate content is by banning certain hashtags (some permanently). You can still attach them to a post, but that post won’t show up in other users’ feeds at all. Instavast keeps a pretty comprehensive list of banned hashtags (about 60,000 as of writing), and a lot of it is what you’d expect – explicit content, bot names, hate speech, the word “swole” – while others may come as a surprise (cable network block/media publisher Adult Swim no longer gets to use their name as a hashtag, but we think they’ll get by).
(Don’t Do) Whatever Bloats Your Posts
This isn’t to say you should stop using hashtags altogether, but you should use them strategically. That means only using one or two per post, avoiding banned ones and not repeating the same ones over and over.
Sorry for the lack of a magic bullet, but success on Instagram is still a game of creating, finding, sharing and promoting great content regularly. Just don’t let hashtags hold your content back.