How many hashtags should I use?
Social media users have been asking how many hashtags to use since they first started on Twitter. Then the questions and confusions over hashtag strategy spilled out into other social platforms. We’re a social media agency that’s been around since 2009. We follow the advice, test and learn on more social media accounts than most. Here’s what we currently advise.
How many hashtags should I use on Instagram?
According to Meta who run Instagram, you should only be using 3 – 5 hashtags on each post.
There are a lot of social media experts that preach using the full list of 30 hashtags. That tactic used to work. Lots of tactics used to work. As social platforms mature, they start removing the easy wins for content creators because they have so much content, they don’t need to reward you for contributing to their platform. They already have enough creators hooked on the platform that they don’t need to keep you contributing. They don’t need you. As a marketer, you need them, and they want you to pay for ads. Can you still get good reach with hashtags on Instagram? The truth is that it’s just not as easy as it used to be. You’re not doing anything wrong. You don’t need to start dancing and or looking for the latest viral tactic. You need to start building your business. That means that you need to start using what social media was meant for. You need to be part of the community. Comment on other people’s posts. Start discussions and private message people you know to ask them to contribute. You can’t passively sit back and expect your content to “blow up.”
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Instagram Hashtag Research
- We started working for a new customer in April 2022.
- They weren’t previously posting on their Instagram account.
- We posted 3 times per week.
- They started out with 215 followers.
- We only do organic content creation for them with no ads.
- In July and August 2022, we did an experiment and used the full list of 30 hashtags. The rest of the months, we used 2 hashtags on each post.
Instagram Hashtag Verdict – Should you use 30 Instagram Hashtags?
No. You should not use 30 hashtags on every post. You will see from our results that using 30 hashtags did initially boost the number of engagements, impressions, and the engagement per impression rate. Notice that we had a larger number of impressions the very first month we started posting content consistently. We’ve always preached that posting consistently is the most important part of social media marketing. The consistency continually puts you in front of new potential customers. You may not “blow up” your content, but you will most likely outlast your competition who don’t have the fortitude to continue with a marketing schedule. Slow and steady wins the race!
Now back to the social media statistics… (see the end of this article for the data)
You’ll notice that in July, the first month of using the full list of hashtags, the number of new followers dropped. In August, the number of followers stabilized to the usual number. Engagement dropped and was only 4 better than we were doing the month before we added the full hashtag list. There was an increase in impressions, but no corresponding increase in engagement. If your posts are branded, even if you don’t get engagement there may be some value in higher impressions. People who see your brand may not engage with it, but you are building awareness. Familiarity increases the chance they will engage with your content at a later date or be able to recall your business if they need your product or service. Sadly, that’s not money in the bank, and it’s impossible to know whether those impressions will ever convert.
Why we’ve concluded that using 30 hashtags isn’t the best Instagram hashtag strategy
To reinforce what’s important, posting consistently should be your top social media marketing goal. We recommend that you research hashtags that you believe will be relevant to your content and save this list to go back to. By all means, research and pull together a list of 30 hashtags. Actually, if you have the time, research more than 30 hashtags. Choose some popular hashtags, but make sure choose some that are used in 10,000 posts or less. If a hashtag is being used in millions of other posts, why would Instagram show your post, when you only have a few hundred followers (deep breath…or less)? You’re far more likely to get your content seen if you use less popular hashtags. Mix up your list. Choose 3 hashtags per post. Vary your hashtags.
The main reason why we don’t recommend you share 30 hashtags on every post is that it takes longer to schedule your content. You can’t share 30 hashtags on any other platform, but sharing 3 hashtags is perfectly acceptable on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tik Tok. (Hashtags are not needed on Google Business posts, but you won’t be penalized for using them, so make it easy on yourself and schedule the same hashtags on each social platform.)
Let’s say you’ve seen our data below and considered our strategy, but all of the other posts you’ve read from Insta Influencers about using 30 hashtags is giving you major FOMO anxiety, here’s a little tip to try. Instead of using the full hashtag list on every post. Once a month, choose a post to use the full hashtag list. Make sure that every hashtag you use is relevant to the content. That one post may give your stats a little boost, and it will give you peace of mind.
Important productivity tip – do record how long it takes you to put together your list of hashtags for the post and measure if it did actually make a difference. Think about the time you are spending and the creative energy you expelled creating that hashtag list and decide whether the extra engagements or impressions were worth it. Would you have got a better return on your time if you had called a customer, sent a sales email or had a conversation with a prospect on LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram direct message?
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Have you always wondered best practices for Instagram Link in Bio? Read our article, Instagram Link Post to find out all about sharing links on Instagram.
Instagram Hashtag Case Study Data
If you think these numbers look low, remember that you’re here to learn because you have doubts about social media hashtags. You’ve read other information that says you should be getting better engagement when you use 30 hashtags. That’s an old tip. “Above 6% = very high engagement rate.” When you have a small number of followers, your posts are not going to get loads of impressions. Buying followers isn’t the answer either. Consistently building a small following of people who like you and your content is the prize, not vanity metrics. Most people are not ‘blowing up’ on social media without paid ads or an unusual event like media coverage or a recommendation by an influencer. That’s a fact! These numbers are real. If you have a nagging voice making you doubt this advice coming from a marketing agency owner who has been helping small businesses since 2009, check out these stats in the article by Advertising Row: What is a good engagement rate per impression?
Apr 2022 2 hashtags
2.4% enagement per impression rate*
*engagement per impression rate – the ratio between engagement and impressions received during the reporting period
May 2022 2 hashtags
4.2% engagement per impression rate
Jun 2022 2 hashtags
6.5% enagement per impression rate
Jul 2022 – used all 30 hashtags
9.6% enagement per impression rate
Aug 2022 – used all 30 hashtags
5.7 enagement per impression rate
Sep 2022 2 hashtags
5.2 enagement per impression rate