Using Instagram? Then you need to use #hashtags.
It’s advice I’ve been dishing out for years and continue to push to this day. After all, hashtags are key to making Instagram work; there’s no key word search so they’re the best way to discover content and, by tapping into the most relevant tags to what you post, they’re the best way for your content to be discovered and to build a following.
That advice was all based on pre-algorithm Instagram. Ever since my feed left the chronological sphere, I’ve absolutely noticed a drop in engagement. I’ve also not really noticed any difference between posts with hashtags and those without.
So, to satisfy this growing curiosity around whether my own hashtag advice still holds true, I ran an experiment on my own Instagram feed – two weeks of posts using hashtags (usually around 10-15 per post) and two weeks of posts with no hashtags at all.
Here’s what I learned, based on the official analytics for my Instagram account (which I’ve had activated for a few weeks now)…
Hashtags don’t seem to increase impressions
In fact, my posts with no hashtags generated slightly more impressions on average than those with tags. The average impression per tagged post was 1,630 while the tagless posts generated an average of 1,677 – that’s a 2.88% increase without tags.
Ditto for reach
It was an almost identical story for reach – posts with hashtags reached on average 1,250 accounts, while posts without tags reached 1,274. That’s a difference of 1.92%.
Hashtag do still generate more engagement
While the difference for impressions and reach is basically non-existent whether you use hashtags or not, when it comes to engagement hashtags do still matter. Each of my posts without tags averaged 86 likes and 1 comment, while those with tags earned 120 likes and 2 comments. That’s 28% more likes and twice as many comments when using hashtags.
The difference in engagement rate (total likes & comments divided by reach) was striking too; an average of 6.68% for posts without hashtags and 9.27% for those with tags.
To sum up
Based on my little experiment it appears that, if you’re simply looking for impressions and reach on Instagram, you don’t really need to worry too much about hashtags. Use them if you like, but they’re not essential.
However, it appears that hashtags are indeed still vital if you’re looking for any type of engagement on your content. Quite simply, using hashtags gets you more likes, more comments and a better engagement rate.
So, my original advice – is it still true?
Yes, I’d say so. They still make a difference and finding the right hashtags for your content is still a skill you should aim to master if you’re diving in on Instagram.
This makes me happy – the fact that I have a following of more than 50,000 and only manage to reach around 3% of them with my posts makes me less happy, but this post is the time to talk about that! At least I can still stand firm by my advice.
What about you? Do you notice any difference when you do and don’t use hashtags? Let me know in the comments!