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3 Mistakes Brands Commonly Make When Using Hashtags on Instagram

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A graphic with a iphone and Instagram Hashtag Strategy

1. Too Many Hashtags

If you are using more than 7 hashtags on your Instagram posts, it is time for change. In late 2021, Instagram updated their algorithm to favor posts that use between 3-7 hashtags.

Prior to the update, it was best practice to use 30 hashtags per post, so you can see how this is a drastic change. It requires marketers & creators to be more intentional and selective with their hashtags. It may seem like a basic step in the posting process but having a well planned strategy for hashtags can make or break a posts chances of reaching new eyes (without having to use ads).

2. Hashtags That To Broad

Many times when auditing Instagram accounts for new clients, I find that a lot of brands have zero hashtag strategy in place and wondering why their account isn’t growing.

When picking hashtags for your posts, there are a few things you should consider.

  1. What is the post about?
  2. Who is this post for? (outside of your followers)
  3. What hashtags are those people following?
  4. Are there any popular catch phrases or lingo associated with your post that your community would know? (example: #juicebomb – refers to juicy beers or #dipa – refers to double ipa)

Another thing that I see brands doing is, using hashtags that serve as a comedic element or an extension of the caption. This is OK but should be used in tandem with some strategic hashtags.

Now that you have your 3-7 hashtags picked out, it’s time to add them to your post…in the proper order!

3. Arrangement of Hashtags is Wrong

You may not have known this but the arrangement of your hashtags matters. Let me explain. Each hashtag has (3) feeds, Top, Recent & Reels (see below). When using a hashtag, your post is competing against thousands of others using that same hashtag, for a spot in those feeds.

How do you win and make it into the feeds? It is based on Instagram’s algorithm of course, but what we know is that posts that get the most engagement quickly will rise to the top of the feeds. Posts with the most engagement will be filtered into the “Top” feed, which can help put more new eyes on your content.

The “Recent” tab is for posts that have recently posted using that hashtag. This is an important feed for growing your page for free. I cover that in my course which you can watch here. And the Reels tab is for…you guessed it…Reels.

A graphic of a cell phone showing Instagram Hashtag Feeds.
Hashtag Feeds on Instagram

The more posts a hashtag has, the more competition there is…therefore the more difficult it is for your post to show up in those feeds. However, there is a strategy that I found to give posts a fighting chance. When searching hashtags, you can view how many posts each feed has at the top. (See below)

How to see how many posts are within an Instagram hashtag feed

You should list your hashtags from smallest to largest (based on how many posts are within each hashtag). For example: #TampaBeer, #HazyIPA, #Beer

The idea is that if your posts receives enough engagement to rank high in a smaller hashtag (the first one listed), then it will help you rank higher in the larger hashtag feeds because your post is extra engagement from the first hashtag feed.

In conclusion,

It is important to research your hashtags and to have a strategy in place before publishing each post. Keep an updated list of the best hashtags so you can easily Copy/Paste them into your posts. You want to make sure your hashtags are:

  1. A good mix of large, medium and small hashtags
  2. Relevant to your content and audience
  3. Have active communities within the hashtag feeds

Remember to only use 3-7 hashtags per post and to list them in the proper order, smallest to largest. If you want to learn more advanced techniques on how to grow your business using Instagram and social media, check out our online courses. Cheers!