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STOP! It's Hashtag Time.

I was recently onboarding a new client who couldn’t understand why her Instagram feed engagement had been on a steady decline since 2019. A little digging revealed two key culprits:

1. The birth of Instagram Reels.

2. The misuse of hashtags.

After a closer look, we saw that her reel content was garnering significantly more engagement than her still photos – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There is a clear proliferation of short-form video content being consumed online. Projections state that approximately 82% of online content will be video based by the end of this year. That’s a whopping 15x higher than it was in 2017! It’s also been noted that Instagram Reels receive more engagement than regular video content on the platform at a rate of about 22%. My advice? Lean into it.

Second, her hashtag game had gone astray. The hashtags being used for photos in her feed weren’t relevant to the image and caption. Rather, they were content-adjacent hashtags that were popular. Think a picture of olive oil with #recipe when there’s no recipe included. Going that route only hurts the poster. If someone finds your content through an irrelevant tag, the odds of you garnering engagement or a follow are slim to none. I know the act of hashtagging can feel like spinning around in circles and then throwing a dart with a blindfold on, so here are three simple tips to help guide you.

1. Don’t just use popular tags, use relevant and hyper-relevant ones.

If a tag is popular, that means there are likely millions of posts using it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it if it is truly relevant to your post but know that finding your post through that tag might be like finding a needle in a haystack. Ensure you’re using tags that are relevant and even hyper relevant. For example, if you’re a boutique store in Chicago and you post a picture of new handmade necklaces from a local artist, instead of simply using hashtags like #boutique and #necklace (both over 37M public posts), try to use include hashtags like #chicagoboutiques (68,497 public posts) and #handmadenecklaces (130,881 public posts).

2. Avoid using tags that are banned.

There are a surprising number of banned hashtags on Instagram. These are hashtags that are either being inappropriately used or that violate Instagram’s Community Guidelines. When you use one, your post will be hidden which is detrimental to your reach and growth. Unfortunately, Instagram doesn’t simply provide a list of banned hashtags. The good news is there is a simple way to see if the hashtag you’re thinking of using is banned. Click on the Explore tab type in the hashtag you intend to use. If it’s banned, when you click on the hashtag there will be a page that says Posts Hidden.

3. Look at brands in your category that are succeeding.

If there are brands in your category you see crushing it on Instagram, carve out some time to look at their hashtag strategy and see what might be applicable to carry over to your brand. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

If you want some more guidance or need ideas on how to build your brand via social, contact us!

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