Is It Time to Change Your Hashtag Game on Instagram?
This article comes to us from the Speaking Human University Program, which gives voice to the opinions, insights, and perspectives of the next generation of consumers and marketers…
In 2018 Instagram rolled out its new and improved algorithm, throwing Instagram influencers and marketers into a frenzy of research to establish how it would affect their engagement. With the new algorithm, Instagram adjusted a multitude of areas on the content platform—one of them being hashtags.
A year ago many accounts were affected by the so-called “shadowban rule” when using hashtags repeatedly, which caused paranoia throughout the community. Instagram originally classified repetitive hashtag usage as “spam” behavior. However, with the new algorithm, users will see the elimination of shadowbanning posts that are repeat hashtag offenders. What does this mean for marketers and influencers? It means it’s time to update your Instagram hashtag strategy.
What is Shadowbanning?
The term “shadowbanning” refers to Instagram secretly restricting the visibility of certain posts or content for a number of different reasons. This leads to the content not showing up in searches or on a follower’s feed. As a result, engagement drops and growth for the user’s account becomes extremely difficult.
Instagram recently announced that shadowbanning does not exist and they do not hide content with too many hashtags or for other reasons. But there is still speculation about this—with some users saying they are still experiencing symptoms of shadowbanning. Not to say Instagram is lying, but practicing good hashtag usage and an effective Instagram strategy can prevent “symptoms” of shadowbanning from occurring on your account.
Why Are Hashtags Important?
Trying to be relevant and stand out on a platform with over 800 million monthly users isn’t an easy feat. A year ago, many users shied away from utilizing hashtags because of the shadowban frenzy. But hashtags are an effective way to increase and strengthen connections. Hashtags get your posts in front of users who don’t already follow you—which is important for building an audience and boosting engagement.
One way to ensure you’re optimizing engagement is by employing all of Instagram’s features. Instagram likes to boost posts that use the new features it rolls out. This includes stories, Instagram live, the “swipe” feature on posts, the latest IGTV, etc. Posting hashtags on your Instagram stories and following hashtags keeps you engaged with the type of content you’re interested in, and makes your content visible to those looking for it.
Make Sure Your Hashtags Are Relevant
Did you know you could follow hashtags on Instagram? When users follow hashtags, relevant posts under those tags will automatically pop up on their feed. Relevance is key when utilizing hashtags—now more than ever. Why? Because users now have the ability to control whether they see your content.
If your post pops up on their feed under a hashtag they follow and they consider it irrelevant, they can now select to never see your posts for that hashtag. So you are only hurting yourself if you use hashtags that don’t correlate with the content in that post! This feature is meant to tell Instagram what content the user wants to see. However if you get flagged too many times for “irrelevant” content, it could negatively affect your entire account.
Keep a Variety of Hashtags on Hand
Switching up your hashtags for each post is still important to avoid Instagram marking your posts as spammy. Yes, the shadowban is gone (if it ever truly existed), but if you want to optimize your hashtag effectiveness you need to put in the time and research hashtags deserve.
Instead of copy-and-pasting the same hashtag list under every post, try creating a few different lists for different types of posts. For example, if you post a lot of fitness and nutrition content, create different lists for workouts, recipes, product reviews, etc. This will get your posts in front of a wider audience, and keep your content from coming off as spammy. Using an app like Later or Planoly can help simplify this process, because they save your hashtag lists in app so that they are all there when you need them. Also, be sure to avoid hashtags that are already on the Instagram banned list, such as #like, so that you aren’t flagged by Instagram.
There is plenty to learn about hashtag usage on Instagram, but this should be a good start to get your posts seen without getting flagged by the ‘gram.