In March 2022, Instagram executive, Adam Mosseri, dropped a bombshell on social media managers. In a surprising statement made on his Instagram Story, he revealed that hashtags don’t necessarily get your posts more views. This got a lot of people thinking: are hashtags still important - or even relevant - in 2023?
In Short: Hashtags are still relevant in 2023, despite what some might say. However, hashtags are not so much guaranteed to increase your reach, but they support Instagram SEO, create a space for user-generated content, and help categorise your content.
Here are 3 reasons you should continue to use hashtags on Instagram:
#1 Hashtags Support Instagram SEO
Over time, hashtags have evolved from being a simple way to categorise content to being a critical tool for social media marketing. With use of social media SEO on the rise, hashtags are now believed to support Instagram SEO.
Instagram SEO refers to curating your content in a way that Instagram understands what your content is about, helping it to rank higher in search results and suggested content.
Importantly, because SEO is about helping the platform to understand what your content is about, it’s crucial to ensure you are using relevant hashtags.
#2 Hashtags Create A Space For UGC
Many brands utilise hashtags for collating and encouraging user-generated content (UGC). By having a dedicated hashtag for UGC, it is not only easier for brands to track and record UGC, but it also creates a community for users to explore and participate in.
Furthermore, hashtags can help categorise UGC content into specific campaigns, or even products. A well-known brand that utilised a hashtag to promote a specific campaign was Coca-Cola, who famously ran the #ShareACoke campaign. On Instagram alone, there are over 620,000 posts using this hashtag.
If you haven't already, start by creating a branded hashtag for your own brand.
#3 Hashtags Help Label & Categorise Your Content
While the content of your captions are having a bigger impact on the categorisation process through the rise of Instagram SEO, hashtags also continue to label and categorise content to aid in content discovery.
Think of when you search for a product, place or topic on Instagram. One of the main search options is to search through hashtags.
Within these hashtags Instagram will, by default, order content by popularity. This is where relevance and also quality of content comes in. An Instagram expert has said that the quality of your content is also judged by the interaction received. This includes likes, comments, as well as time spent looking at your content. So, you cannot rely solely on hashtags to help you rank at the top of a hashtag list.
How many hashtags should I use per post?
The general consensus among social media experts is that the optimal number of hashtags varies depending on the platform. For example, Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post, while Twitter and Facebook recommend using only two or three.
In 2021, the official Instagram creators account revealed some exclusive tips on how to use hashtags, which came with some surprising revelations! The recommendations from Instagram itself include:
- Use only 3-5 hashtags per post
- Using 10-20+ hashtags will not achieve additional distribution
However, many people disagree with this official advice, with studies revealing that this may not be as accurate as Instagram claims. A study by Later on over 18 million Instagram posts revealed that those with 30 hashtags achieved the highest engagement - double the engagement of posts with only 5 hashtags.
At Born Social, we know that every brand is unique, and this often means what works for some, won’t work for others. Our recommendation is to test different amounts of hashtags for your brand to see what works best for your goals.
For a couple of weeks, try using Instagram’s recommended 3-5 hashtags, then switch to a larger number and compare results. Don’t forget to look not only at reach, but engagement rates.