During the last couple of months I have been testing hashtags in Instagram to try to determine their best use, experimenting on the number, position, size and relevance of each tag.
I have not been able to come to any final conclusion on what is the best use of tags, and reading and viewing the material uploaded to the Internet, it is obvious that most of the “experts” are also unsure on how best to use Hashtags. I seems to me that nearly all of the internet world has differing views on the use of hashtags, which suggests there is no BEST way to use them.
Before I explain some of my findings it is worth highlighting what hashtags are used for.
Hashtags have 3 helpful uses:
Being part of a competition or challenge
You can use a hashtag to connect your image to a competition or a challenge, and using the tag will enable the organiser to recognise your picture for their challenge.
Being part of a group or community
You can also use a tag to identify your image as part of a group or a community, showing the rest of your community that your image is associated.
Makes your image searchable
Makes your image more searchable to other Instagram users, and I believe there are 3 ways to search for an image on Instagram.
Search by username
If you know part or all of an account’s username you can use the search facility to find an account and all its content.
Search by location
You can search for a specific location and view all the pictures listed as being in that area. This will only work if the person adds the location to their picture that you are searching.
Search by Hashtag
You can search all images that have been posted with a specific hashtag or part of the tag. This is very powerful and is the best way for your images to be found by accounts who do not follow you. If you want your images to be found, you must add hashtags to your post.
What I think I have discovered is the following:
Position of Hashtags
The placement of the tag has no relevance to the performance of the tag. I have posted images with the tags placed in the body of my description, and in the first comment and I didn’t find a drop or boost in hashtag reach, and I conclude placement of the tag is not relevant.
Number of Hashtags
Some Expert sites suggests the size of your account determines how many tags you should use, and I posted images with just one hashtag, 7 hashtags and 30. My experience and logic tells me that you should use your allocation of the full 30 hashtags, and in each case that I used less than 30 tags I saw a reduction in hashtag reach.
Size of Hashtags
I have also posted images which contain the largest hashtags on Instagram, #instadaily, #love etc etc, and I noted that using these mega tags showed a reduction in hashtag reach. Using these large tags meant that fewer people found my picture via the tag. This seems plausible too when you think anyone searching for an image on a tag of over 300m, is less likely to see my image because it would be drowned out by the other 299m.
I have found that having tags around 1million or lower was best for the reach of my images. I tend to keep the tags between 50k – 1m.
Relevance of Hashtags
Possibly more than anything, I think tag relevance is the most important aspect of hashtags. Using non-related random tags like #potd does not help with reach. What I found was using tags that describe my photo worked best, though this is the hardest part to get right – working out what is relevant to your image.
Using hashtags that describe your image or the type of photo it is works best.
The Next Step
Having described my testing on Hashtags, I am now going to report that hashtags are not as important as post engagement for gaining likes and impressions on your image.
The most important thing is receiving comments on your post and the sooner after your image is posted the better. Instagram sees post comments from other accounts as confirmation that your image is liked, and your picture is more likely to be posted out to more accounts to gain more reach and likes.
The test I did with posting the same image at the same time with two sets of tags emphasised this, where the post with the most tag reach received fewer likes, and the picture with most impressions and most likes was the image that gained more early comments.
I propose to test this theory further by setting up a dedicated engagement group for a short period to test this.
I am looking for accounts that might want to take part in my experiment, and if you would like to join in, please let me know. However, before you jump to your messages, be aware this test will have very strict rules and if you are not able to comply with the rules then you will be removed.
You will be expected to share post metrics before and after the test.
You must post your image within the given timeframe.
You must commit to post a comment on the posted images within the group and in the timeframe agreed.
These details and exact timing will be agreed by the group members.
The group will only exist and be active within the time of the test.
The test and engagement will only be completed on 3 posts.
We will share the results from each account here.
Please message me if you think you would have the time and the commitment to join in. There will only be one group and spaces are very limited.
Engagement Group Process
Each participant must do the following:
At least 3 posts before the test, record how many likes and reach each of your posts receive at exactly one hour after being posted.
Up to 3 posts after the test, record how many likes and reach each of your posts receive at exactly one hour after being posted.
Post an image using the engagement group tag within the agreed timeframe on the agreed date.
Immediately share a link to your image in the engagement group.
Place a comment to each image shared in the engagement group, immediately after it has been shared.
Your comment must be at least 4 whole words.
It might make sense to copy and paste the same comment to each picture you engage with.
Record and share the likes and reach from your post exactly one hour after the image has been posted.
For this test you will not need to post your best most fabulous images, and an example of your normal content is sufficient, we are doing a test of the normal.