If you’re an active social media user, you’ll know that hashtags are vital in making content shareable and discoverable. You’ve seen the classic, #TBT, right? Or how about #instagood?
The hashtag itself was first used in 2007 on Twitter in order to make the content grouping process easier, and since then, the hashtag has become the universal social media tool for gaining reach and creating feeds of connected content for users to search for and enjoy.
So, it’s a pretty big deal, right? Hashtags are widely used by brands and businesses to gain visibility for their content and make sure that it’s accessible by people in their target market. It’s become such an important tool that Instagram even has a hashtag limit to deter users from adding too many.
It’s no surprise that using hashtags effectively can have a big impact on your content’s performance, specifically in terms of reach, discovery, and circulation. Since hashtag strategy is so important, we’re going to tell you what NOT to do so that you make sure your hashtags are optimizing your content in the best way possible.
Instagram Hashtag Strategy: What NOT to Do
If you avoid the ten things on this list, you’re bound to have a productive hashtag strategy that helps get your content max levels of discoverability and reach. This is the ultimate goal if you’re trying to ensure a consistent level of top performance on Instagram.
Here are the hashtag mistakes that you should avoid if you want a successful strategy on Instagram:
1. Focus on Hashtags and Forget about the Caption
Hashtags are typically people’s priority, but you can’t forget that using meaningful captions is a vital part of your content strategy.
People want to see what you’re all about, and one of the ways they can connect with you and understand you better is through your captions.
If you only have a bunch of hashtags and have really no substance to the rest of your caption, you’re likely to lose points in terms of your reputation and credibility.
Users want to see meaningful captions that help to tell a story and contribute to your brand identity and aesthetic.
Hashtags are important for growth, and they can be incorporated into your captions in interesting and creative ways, but they are by no means the only thing that matters. Don’t ignore your captions; tell your story! Show your brand’s personality.
2. Ignoring Hashtag Trends
There are always trends that rise and fall on the platform, so you’ll want to make sure that you’re aware of the most trending Instagram hashtags and take advantage of using them to keep your brand relevant and connected.
When you are aware of what hashtags are currently trending and which ones people are looking for, this can help to expand your reach and be seen by people who may not have seen you otherwise.
People are always curious to see what’s going on with the latest trends, so they’re bound to seek out the hashtags that will help them do so. This can also be related to trending holidays, social topics, challenges, and more.
3. Use Too Many Hashtags
While it seems counterintuitive, using too many hashtags is not the best way to get your content more reach. Instagram algorithms don’t favor content that is overstuffed with hashtags, and if you try to use too many, you may not get any reach at all.
Not only that, posts that have a million hashtags (okay, 30, since that’s the max) look a bit desperate, which doesn’t help your brand to gain any reputation points.
Study your competitors or successful accounts in your niche; what is their hashtag strategy like? You’ll see a variety of things, but use their models and do some tests to find out which number of hashtags works best for you. Don’t just throw a bunch of them in there and hope for the best.
4. Use Very General Hashtags
Using very general hashtags is not usually the best way to be seen by more people. Hashtags like #beauty, #love, #igers, #nature, and more are very popular, they may actually hinder your hashtag strategy.
Because there are so many posts being uploaded with a hashtag like #beauty, for example, it’s going to be virtually impossible for anyone to see your post as it will get funneled down the feed so quickly.
When there are too many posts using a particular hashtag, it’s likely to get less views. When you use hashtags that are more connected to your niche, location, company, product, etc., you’re likely to reach more people in that target audience.
You can still include those generic hashtags, just don’t use them only, and don’t expect to get much out of them. They’re more for looks.
5. Ignore the Instagram Hashtag “Follow” Feature
A while back Instagram introduced the “follow” feature for hashtags, which means that people can now follow hashtags that consistently provide content that they enjoy. For example, if you love Italian food, maybe you follow the hashtag #italianfood to see some of it pop up in your feed every now and then.
This feature is extremely important and you should be knowledgeable about what your target audience follows. If you are constantly popping up in hashtag feeds, more people will see your content frequently and are likely to become a follower if they are interested in what they see.
6. Don’t Create a Branded Hashtag
You should always create a branded hashtag that you use on all your posts. You should also encourage your followers to use it if they’re posting something about you or something related to your brand.
Branded hashtags help to build brand awareness, and if someone is curious about you, they can search your branded hashtag and get a bunch of content that helps them understand what you’re all about.
Not only that, if you get people to start using your branded hashtag, it will help boost your reputation by seeing people using it, as well as offer you a deposit of user-generated content (UGC) that you can feature later. Win-win!
7. Ignore the Meaning of Hashtags
You should always understand what a hashtag means and what the implications of it are. Sometimes people can misconstrue your intentions and it can result in a PR problem or a big ding to your reputation.
For example, maybe you have an interior design business and you want to use an abbreviated hashtag to mean “what’s the feel” for a variety of fabrics that are part of your new sofa designs. If you used the hashtag #wtf, this would mean something totally different than “what’s the feel” and people would be offended or confused.
You’ve always got to take a second look to make sure that your hashtags can’t point at a hidden unintentional meaning or something offensive without realizing it. Check, and then double check.
8. Don’t Include a Hashtag in your IG Bio
You should always include a hashtag in your Instagram bio. When you include the hashtag in your bio, your account will become more discoverable since users of IG can search for “people” and this will help to get your account popping up.
Here, it’s okay to use a more generic hashtag if you’re trying to appeal to a wide group of your target audience. Use one that will help to get your profile in front of the right people.
Alternatively, if you are looking to increase engagement and get people motivated and engaged with your brand, you may want to use a branded hashtag to do so.
9. Ignore Hashtag Generators
Hashtag generator tools are not part of Instagram, but they are third party services that can help provide information about hashtags and generate the best choices for you.
These tools can be really useful if you want to know what some trending hashtags are, how hashtags are performing, how many posts there are with specific hashtags, or gain some related hashtags so that you can diversify your strategy.
Most of these services charge a fee, but you may be able to find some that will generate some basic hashtags for you, free of charge.
10. Ignore User-Generated Content
As we said, UGC is important for any brand’s strategy. UGC usually gets more engagement than regular content, and it is also a great way to strengthen bonds within your community and motivate other users to tag you in the hopes that they’ll get a shoutout.
Use your hashtags to find UGC. Use your posts and Instagram stories to ask your followers to provide you with some. Using UGC is such a good way to build engagement within your followers, making them more interested in your brand and also helping your performance in terms of the Instagram algorithm.
Conclusion: 10 Instagram Hashtag Mistakes to Avoid
While hashtags can be a bit complicated, testing them out and seeing which ones get your content the best performance is a good way to determine what works best for your profile.
Use hashtag generators, be knowledgeable about your target audience, and avoid the 10 mistakes we mentioned above, and you’ll have a winning hashtag strategy in no time!