Using hashtags with Instagram’s new rules of engagement

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Instagram is one social platform that is truly dedicated to evolving and updating its offering, with changes emerging almost daily. More than just hashtags and reels, these functionality and feature updates are designed to support businesses and users as they engage with the app. This is all great, but the problem over time is that it can be tricky to keep up with the new rules of engagement, and failing to do so may mean your content is overlooked.  Read on to learn more about using hashtags with Instagram’s new rules of engagement.

Hashtag Stuffing

When we think of Instagram, we’re probably thinking of a static image with a bunch of hashtags below the caption, or at least, we used to. Hashtags (up to 30 are permitted on a single Instagram post), gave us the opportunity to connect with key communities and potential customers through every post, so why wouldn’t we take advantage?

On top of that, it became clear over years of Instagram use that you could somewhat “game” the system and add those popular, most searched and most viewed hashtags to any post at all, giving you more chance to show up on a feed and gain those all-important likes. If you are old enough, it might bring back memories of the early days of website SEO where desperate marketeers stuffed their websites repeatedly with the same (or similar) keywords and phrases to trick the algorithm into thinking it was super relevant content. It worked for a while until they were all penalised by being de-ranked! 

Several years in now, and with Instagram being a key platform for many businesses, hashtags are not so simple. As of late 2021, Instagram released a series of ‘Dos and Don’ts’ via their blue-ticked @creators page, putting the kibosh on some OTT hashtag behaviour – so let’s take a look at the best way to hashtag, according to Instagram themselves.

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Relevancy is king

In times gone by, you’d be forgiven for not wanting to “waste” a chance to cram in as many hashtags as possible – after all, there are entire tools dedicated to finding the right hashtags to align with your brand – but Instagram says to stick to those hashtags that are truly connected to the post and your content theme.

They also guide us to stay informed of what our ‘fans’ are engaging with across hashtags, and within our relevant hashtags, choose both niche and broad #s (again, this still means they make sense when sitting under your post).

Be specific

Instagram also encourages you to create your own specific hashtags, which is a great way for businesses to see when their audience is engaging with them. It doesn’t just have to be your brand name, it might be a slogan related to your latest offering. For example, Boost Juice are promoting their latest canteen-themed smoothies with the hashtag: #keenforthecanteen.

Hashtags are going lean

Now the big, game-changing rule from Instagram is this: “Do keep the number of hashtags between 3-5.” Mind blown. For many users, this feels incredibly light on the hashtags – but likely this is Instagram’s way of getting us to consider our choices wisely and to keep all content relevant under each hashtag umbrella.

As for the ‘don’ts’? Avoid things like #explorepage in the hopes that you’ll pop up on everyone’s app, and don’t be tempted to push that 3-5 rule, with Instagram sharing: “Adding 10-20 hashtags will not help you get additional distribution.” At the end of the day,  using hashtags with Instagram’s new rules of engagement is about making a better experience for you and the consumer. 

Well, there you have it – from the @creators themselves, the best practice for Instagram hashtags is low volume, high relevancy and niching down. As always, you’re likely to be rewarded for sticking to these guidelines, and for businesses curating and creating great content, this means more eyes and potential customers on your brand.  

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