Instagram, the social media giant, has undergone a significant transformation in recent times, with one of the most noticeable changes being the way hashtags work. Gone are the days when slapping on a cluster of hashtags would automatically translate into likes and followers. In this blog post, we will explore the latest shifts in Instagram's hashtag algorithm, debunk some outdated strategies, and uncover a new approach to leveraging hashtags effectively.
Instagram Hashtags: A Quick Recap
Remember the days when hashtagging was all about amassing likes and followers through the strategic use of high-volume and niche hashtags? Well, times have changed, and the landscape is evolving rapidly. The traditional strategy of using broad and small-sized hashtags has lost its efficacy. The widely-believed notion that posting content under high-volume hashtags will ensure visibility is no longer holding true.
The Mysterious Algorithm Update
Instagram CEO, Adam Mosseri, recently commented on the evolving role of hashtags. He emphasized that hashtags can indeed be beneficial but acknowledged that they can also serve as spam vectors. This mixed stance might explain the shift in the effectiveness of hashtags. While many have declared hashtags dead, it's not that simple.
Hashtag Myths and the Fading Strategy
Previously, strategies like the "hashtag ladder" were popular, where creators would gradually escalate to high-volume hashtags. This strategy worked on the premise that smaller creators should start with less competitive hashtags and then progress to larger ones. However, recent data shows that this approach is losing its effectiveness.
Debunking the Biggest Hashtag Myths
A closer look at the hashtags reveals a surprising twist. High-volume hashtags like "#beautiful" often contain posts with surprisingly low engagement, whereas smaller niche hashtags like "#BeautyChannel" are yielding better engagement results. This discrepancy contradicts the traditional understanding of hashtag usage. Furthermore, it raises questions about the credibility of widely-promoted strategies.
Hashtags and the New SEO
Instagram is gradually becoming more search-oriented, placing greater emphasis on searchability and context. This shift aligns with Adam Mosseri's statement that Instagram is focusing more on search functionalities. Hashtags are now playing a dual role: they serve as context-providers for content and help categorize posts for search terms. The revelation here is that hashtags are not just for visibility but also for content categorization.
Hashtags + SEO = Unlocked Potential
Instagram's transition into a search engine-like platform means hashtags are no longer just about traffic sources. They are integral to the recommendation algorithm and content discovery. Users now search for broader terms, similar to traditional search engines. The "For You" page and content categorization have become critical. Understanding these dynamics is pivotal for a revamped hashtag strategy.
The Rise of Contextual Hashtags
The focus is no longer on using the maximum number of hashtags. Rather, it's about using contextually relevant and accurate hashtags. The goal is to align hashtags with content, context, and audience interest. By matching hashtags to the content theme, the algorithm gains a deeper understanding of your content and its intended audience.
Cracking the Hashtag Code
The challenge is in finding high-volume search phrases on Instagram. Predicting user search behavior and aligning your content with those queries is the key. Tools like AnswerThePublic and studying TikTok trends can offer valuable insights. The aim is to pick hashtags that overlap with high-volume search phrases and contextually match your content.
Hashtags on Instagram have evolved beyond mere traffic generators. They have morphed into essential components of the platform's recommendation and search algorithms. While conventional strategies are losing their edge, a new era of contextually accurate hashtags is dawning. The key lies in aligning hashtags with your content's theme, context, and audience interests. Embracing this shift will not only ensure better reach but also contribute to Instagram's vision of a user-centric and content-driven platform. As the hashtag landscape transforms, creators who adapt will thrive in this new era of Instagram.