On his weekly public Q&A session, Instagram’s Adam Mosseri replied to an inquiry he received about hashtags-and-growth. A follower asked, “Do hashtags help views?”
Mosseri’s reply was (verbatim):
“Not really! They do help us to understand what a post is about, which means it might be more likely to show up in a place like a hashtag page, for instance. But in general, no. I wouldn’t think of hashtags as a way to get more distribution.”
This reply is definitive and clear, and makes sense — but online I’m seeing a lot of confusion and misinformation in its wake.
Hashtags have long been a staple of instagram growth strategy. And that’s not just opinion.
Later.com ran extensive testing on this issue and concluded their analysis of 18 million posts by stating that, “using more hashtags = better results. Reach rate increases by 11% (from 24% to 35%) as the number of hashtags grows from one to 30.”
Instagram uses hashtags in several ways:
So Mosseri’s answer is technically correct — but not big-picture complete. It ignores the very strong influence hashtags have on a post’s potential audience.
A solid content strategy helps you develop posts that encourage engagement on multiple fronts — and posts that generate engagement filter upwards on both hashtag screens and search results screens.
So do not sleep on hashtags — but don’t stress on them either, and continue reading for more on that.
A week later, in his next weekly Q&A session, Mosseri clarified his position:
“I’m not saying that hashtags don’t matter. I’m saying that they’re not going to meaningfully change the amount of reach you get when you post. So if you expect a night and day difference, you’re going to be disappointed. But they can help on the margin.”
Which confirms how they work: hashtags can help an individual post get reach, rather than cause an individual post to get massive reach.
In short, use as many Instagram hashtags as you like and as are effective.
Lately, you may have seen posts and stories advising you to use only a few tags. This is an conspiracy theory. It’s contradicted by extensive industry (and personal) testing. Remember Later’s 11% finding — that’s roughly how much a good hashtag set can help a post.
So it’s wise to ignore any advice to “use only 5-7 hashtags” and the like.
I see the power of hashtags on my own posts, where I continually test them — and where I typically use all 30 slots.
In general, everybody stresses way too much about hashtags. They really are a condiment to a post. Hashtag research should take up probably only 1% of your total content creation routine.
Your time and energy are better spent developing excellent shareable content that serves your audience and increases engagement. That’s where the growth really is.
As always: serve your audience as best you can.