With 800M+ users on Instagram, it’s difficult to grasp someone’s attention without the use of hashtags. Instagram hashtags is a way for users to search for content. The idea is that users will use keywords to describe their photos with a series of keywords in which the audience can quickly discover.
For example, if you’re posting a picture of a Ferrari, you could use the hashtags #ferrari, #cars, or #supercars which all relate to what you are posting and have a high likelihood that users will engage with your content.
Purpose of Hashtags
The purpose of hashtags is to have your content discovered by a group of audience that is likely to engage with your content. Ultimately, the desired outcome is for users to like and comment on your posts, and as a result, follow your account.
Hashtags aren’t the only way to have your content discovered on Instagram. The more engagement you receive on your post, the higher likelihood your post will appear to a broader audience.
Instagram algorithms select the most popular posts and promote it on the top of each hashtag, and shows it the feeds of users who are likely to enjoy your content. That means users who are not following you can still see your posts if your posts are popular enough.
Though Instagram’s character limit for a single post is 2,200 characters, this does not mean you can fill it with hashtags. Instagram limits and restrictions on hashtags:
– You can use up to 30 tags on a post. If you include more than 30 tags on a single photo/video, your comment won’t post.
– Numbers are allowed in hashtags. However, spaces and special characters, like $ or %, won’t work.
It’s critical to make sure you do not go over 30 hashtags in your post. If you go over 30, Instagram will remove all your hashtags along with any text in the description. What you will end up posting is a photo without any text in the description.
How Many Hashtags Should You Use in an Instagram Post?
Our recommendation is to use a maximum of 5. The more hashtags you put in your post, the more places your post will appear, increasing the likelihood for your post to be liked and commented. But when you add more than 5, it will be perceived as spam, and likely for users to swipe away from your content.
According to a TrackMaven study of Instagram accounts with 1,000 followers or fewer, there is a strong correlation between the number of hashtags used and the number of engagement. The result is that you will receive the maximum amount of engagement around five hashtags. Then it dips between 5-9 and slowly rises back up after 11+.
Another study by Klear shows similar results. Klear shows that you will receive the most engagement at two hashtags, then engagement will gradually decrease as you use more.
Therefore, the result indicates that you should use at maximum 2-5 hashtags for your posts. Anything more will end up hurting your engagement.
Optimize your Hashtags
Our suggestion is to create a few sets of hashtags with five hashtags each, and cycle between them every week. For example, you can use the first set this week, the 2nd next week, and 3rd the third. Measure the performance at the end of each week then determine on average which set brought the most engagement. Then come up with two new sets to compete for the following weeks until you are happy with the results.
It’s all about trial and error, and this process is made easy as long you have a reliable tool to track your engagement. Our recommendation is the Command app for iPhone which we reviewed in detail here: Command for IG: The Only Instagram Analytic Tool You Need
If you also need help finding the right hashtags to use for your posts, we covered this in depth with many different ways to discover relevant and popular hashtags to use here: How to Find the Best Instagram Hashtags for your Posts
2018 Instagram Hashtag Updates
It’s 2018, and Instagram has rolled out some major changes recently. The most important is the ability to follow hashtags, most importantly the ability for users to report content that is not relevant to the hashtag.
Once a user follows a hashtag, Instagram algorithms start populating relevant content into the users feed. If the user decides that they don’t like the content, they can click “See Fewer Posts Like This,” which tells Instagram that the post is either low quality or not relevant.
Enough of these flags will get your account flagged as spammy, and you can expect a huge drop in your impression numbers. Worst case scenario, Instagram might shadow banned your account, which means that the content you post can only be visible to your followers and yourself.
The lesson here is to make sure the hashtags you use is relevant to the content you’re posting. Don’t post just any content using hashtags that are trending and popular. We’re human and it’s easy to distinguish between low quality, spammy content versus targetted posts.