Debunking 6 Instagram Hashtags Myths Social Media Marketers Follow

Debunking 6 Instagram Hashtags Myths Social Media Marketers Follow

The Instagram hashtag is the number one leader in the pedestal of common myths social media marketers believe in. It is a popular topic, on which you’ll find thousands of articles that explain how to use Instagram hashtags to drive engagement rates. However, let’s be honest. A hashtag is not a super-powerful feature in 2020. And here is an article that debunks the common myth about hashtags’ algorithm, don’ts & do’s, and we’ll back our opinion with real experiments. 

What are the most common Instagram hashtag myths?

  1. Hypothesis 1: Instagram hashtags bring a free and organic audience to your Instagram account
  2. Hypothesis 2: The Instagram algorithm cares where you put hashtags (first comment or inside the caption)
  3. Hypothesis 3: Instagram punishes for using the same hashtags over and over again
  4. Hypothesis 4: Instagram punishes for using irrelevant hashtags
  5. Hypothesis 5: Using top-performing hashtags is going to give you access to a broader audience
  6. Hypothesis 6: Using banned and broken hashtags are going to cause shadowban

Instagram Hashtag Algorithm Experiments

To back our opinions with real experiments, the Sociality.io team has created brand new accounts for @nike.fanpage.running and @dyson.hairtech.fan Instagram pages and run experiments to test all common myths associated with hashtags. 

Instagram Hashtags Myths

For each account, we’ve uploaded 54 and 42 posts, which are mirrored pictures taken from Unsplash. Essentially, here are 5 experiments in total, executed 3 times on two different accounts with different audiences. We’ve tripled our tests on both pages to eliminate inconsistency caused by visuals’ quality. 

Experiments were run for 30 days and tightly monitored via Sociality.io Report module to get deeper access to metrics. 

Note that for the sake of simplicity, under each hypothesis, we’ll explain only 1 experiment in case the other experiments show similar results. 

Why did we use Dyson and Nike as examples? 

Dyson and Nike follow two different approaches to using hashtags in their Instagram marketing strategies. Our intention here is not to throw tomatoes at anybody, but check which method drives better results. On top of that, Nike and Dyson’s audiences share similar demographics characteristics, but different interests. 

Dyson uses typical hashtag strategies, whereas Nike predominantly uses branded hashtags and never uses more than 3 hashtags at once. 

@Dysonhair

Dyson-IG-account

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Hashtags used by Dysonhair. We can group them into 3 categories.

Branded hashtags#dyson #dysonhair #dysonhairathome
Product-related hashtags#hairstraightener #straightener #hairtech #hairtools #hairdryer 
Hair related hashtags#hairstylingtips #stylingtips #beachwaveshair #hairhowto #hairtutorial etc

Now let’s compare?

@Nike

Nike

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After analyzing the most recent 50 Instagram posts here is a list of Nike’s hashtags. We can group them into 3 categories.

Branded hashtag#justdoit
Campaign hashtags#madetoplay #Nike2020
In support of Nike’s involvement in ongoing world challenges#UntilWeAllWin #YouCantStopUs #PlayForTheWorld #playinside etc

Hypothesis 1: Instagram hashtags bring a free and organic audience to your Instagram account

Using Instagram hashtags brings “free promotion”. By posting content with 8-11 hashtags is going to bring a wider “organic” audience to your page. Bigger the impressions rate equals to more followers, which ultimately equals higher sales. 

Hypothesis logic: 

A) Hashtags open access to a broader audience (currently not subscribed to your Instagram page)

B) The more people see your content, the higher the chance they’ll discover your business page and follow. 

C) The higher the number of followers and reach, the higher the conversion rate since more people will enter your top funnel. 

Hypothesis 1: Experiments’ results

Although, we can’t show you data from Nike’s and Dyson’s original posts’ Instagram Insight metrics and show you how much engagement came from hashtags. Here is what we’ve done.a

No hashtags

Curl. Wave. Smooth. Dry. With no extreme heat
With hashtags

Curl. Wave. Smooth. Dry. With no extreme heat.

#dyson #dysonhair #hairstraightener #straighthair #straighthairstyles #straightener #hairtech #hairtools#hairdryer #hairstyling #haircare #hairtech #hairtools#curlyhair #curlyhairstyles
#dysonhairathome #hairstylingtips #stylingtips #beachwaveshair #hairhowto #hairtutorial” hashtags

Conclusion: Adding hashtags improved the engagement rates and indeed brought non-followers to our @Dyson.hairtech.fan page. After inspecting these 6 people, who liked the post, we can conclude that they are real people with real Instagram profiles. However, the hypothesis failed since nobody followed our fan page. 

Since we’ve concluded that hashtags increase engagement rates, let’s discover further about hashtags algorithms and what hashtags boost engagement rates more effectively than others. Several experiments were run to discover the truth.

Hypothesis 2: The Instagram algorithm cares where you put hashtags (first comment or inside the caption)

Social media marketers believe that Instagram algorithms bans posts with hashtags used in the comment section instead of caption and is considered as a cheating mechanism. Here is a insightful study conducted by Social Insider: https://www.socialinsider.io/blog/instagram-hashtag-study/

  • Profiles up to 100k followers have a better Reach Rate when using hashtags in the caption. Data shows that using hashtags in the caption brings small and medium-size Instagram pages more reach per post.
  • Profiles with more than 100k followers have a better Reach Rate when posting their hashtags in comments (15.9%). Judging by the reach metrics, extensive Instagram profiles – with over 100k followers – perform the exact opposite from the smaller and medium-sized profile.

Hypothesis 2: Experiments’ Results

We’ve posted 4 posts using top-performing hashtag combinations from the previous week. 2 posts with hashtags in caption and 2 hashtags in the comment section. 

Hashtags in caption
#running #nature #run #travel #fitness #photography #runner #naturephotography #runnersofinstagram #photooftheday #workout #love #training #beautiful #fit #instagood #motivation #picoftheday #marathon #adventure #instarunners #landscape #marathontraining #travelphotography #trailrunning #art #runhappy
Hashtags in first comments
#running #nature #run #travel #fitness #photography #runner #naturephotography #runnersofinstagram #photooftheday #workout #love #training #beautiful #fit #instagood #motivation #picoftheday #marathon #adventure #instarunners #landscape #marathontraining #travelphotography #trailrunning #art #runhappy

Conclusion: The insights show an even between using hashtags in comment vs caption sections. The location of hashtags didn’t affect the discoverability of content. 

Hypothesis 3: Instagram punishes for using the same hashtags over and over again

Both Nike and Dyson use the same hashtags over and over again. If you paid attention at the beginning of the article, you saw that both Nike and Dyson are using pretty much similar hashtags combination. Dyson hashtag usage gives a filling that there is a document with all approved hashtags and a recipe for the right mix. 

To run the experiment on Nike fan page, we’ve used a top-performing set of hashtags and copy-pasted them again to see if the hashtags are going to generate similar engagement. And it worked!

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Hypothesis 4: Instagram punishes for using irrelevant hashtags

There is no need to perform experiments as it is just common sense. Instagram Interest page has to reflect peoples’ interest. For example, if a person is interested in cats’ videos and pictures, seeing a random post with non-cat related content but with a cat-related hashtag creates a poor user experience. And since the Instagram algorithm can, in fact, detect the content essence and detect what is portrayed on each uploaded post/video, it can easily understand the relevancy of used hashtags. 

Hypothesis 5: Using top-performing hashtags is going to give you access to a broader audience

If you want to use top-performing hashtags, why not? However, tens of thousands of photos are published daily. The chances for your posts to be noticed are minimal.

Hypothesis logic: 

  1. Top-performing hashtags give you access to millions of Instagram users.
  2. Mid and low-level performing hashtags provide you with access to thousands of Instagram users
  3. Thus, the small portion of million users is equal to the significant portion in mid and low-performing hashtags. 

We’ve created content with top-performing hashtags generated using https://keywordtool.io/.

Hypothesis 5: Experiments’ Results

The following experiments were conducted more than 20 times, due to inconvenient results that we were getting.

HashtagsContentEngagement
#love #photography #travel 
#instagood #usa #art #california #photooftheday 
#nyc #losangeles #fashion #newyork #miami #nature 
#music #fitness #beautiful #summer #picoftheday 
#florida #style #atlanta #happy #beauty #model #food 
#repost #hiphop #motivation #instagram
#UntilWeAllWin
#YouCantStopUs
#PlayForTheWorld
#playinside
#playfortheworld
#justdoit #Nike2020
#JustDoIt #FlyEase
#BETRUE #UntilWeAllWin
#justdoit #BeTheProof
#justdoit #madetoplay
#justdoit #HWPO
#nike #nike2020 #nikeshoes #shoes #sneakerhead #supreme #kicksonfire #hypebeast #airmax #sneakers #nikeairmax #airjordan #instakicks #justdoit #nikeair #kotd #offwhite #complexkicks #sneakernews #kicks #streetwear #fashion #airmaxalways #thewordonthefeet #crepecity #airmax1 #highsnobiety #kicks0l0gy #kicksoftheday #solecollector
#UntilWeAllWin #justdoit #JustDoIt #BeTheProof

As a result, in the majority of cases, we saw zero to no engagement. However, interestingly some hashtags combination in @dyson.hairtech.fan would constantly generate 3-4 likes a page with almost similar reach rates. It is either because the hashtag combination was successful or the visuals were bright and captured Instagram users’ attention.

Ginger

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Hypothesis 6: Using banned and broken hashtags are going to cause shadowban

In 2020 Facebook has confirmed shadowban existence! Hashtags page similarly to feed is determined by the algorithm. Hundreds of non-disclosed factors define whether an individual is going to see your Instagram post or not.

How does shadowban work? It hides your Instagram posts from non-subscribers and decreases your profile growth rate. If you get shadowbanned on Instagram, the social network is going to destroy your chances of benefiting from hashtags you use. Thus, using hashtags in the shadowban is meaningless. 

Getting shadowban can be a big problem since your reach will drastically fall. Stagnation and decline meant of engagement rates are unavoidable. 

To avoid shadowban, don’t use banned or broken hashtags on your posts.

Repetitive use of banned hashtags can lead to account removal. Let’s run the last test!

For the curious ones to check which hashtags we used from banned categories visit our https://www.instagram.com/dyson.hairtech.fan/ page and check all the middle posts with blank visuals. We DON’T advise you to click on hashtags! However, you need to be aware that some hashtags such as #easter, #thanksgiving, #eggplant, #costumes, #beyonce are banned from Instagram. 

Hypothesis 6: Experiments’ Results

1.0

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Conclusion: Although the account wasn’t removed visibly from the Instagram platform, the posts did not receive even 1 like. 


The results from 96 posts have shown that hashtags drive engagement and bring people to your Instagram profile. But at the end of the day, do these tiny spikes in engagement rate even matter? 

Social media marketing is your superpower in building communities, brand credibility, and a marketing channel that can and will drive real results. And hashtags are not your solution that solves all your problems. Unfortunately, the algorithm changes way more often under the hood without your knowledge. Note that, Instagram is a pro profit organization that wants business accounts to spend money and compete via paid channels in audiences’ feeds. 



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