Episode 96

[QUICKIE] The Instagram hashtag update you may have missed

Last autumn, Instagram published an update that included new recommendations on using hashtags.

Like many creators, I adopted the new recommendations and was surprised by the results.

So I decided to do some further research. 

In this short podcast episode of the Courageous Content Podcast, I share my findings on how to use Instagram hashtags in 2022. 


Useful links

Janet Murray’s FREE Ultimate Course Launch Checklist

Instagram Hashtags: everything you need to know in 2022 (Later blog)

How to use Instagram hashtags in 2022 (Preview blog)

How do you measure social media success? (podcast)

Could deleting Instagram followers help you grow your audience? (podcast)

Instagram growth strategies for 2022 (podcast)

Janet Murray’s Courators Kit

Janet Murray’s Courageous Content Planner

Janet Murray’s website

Janet Murray on Instagram

Janet Murray on Facebook

Janet Murray on TikTok

Janet Murray on Twitter

Janet Murray on LinkedIn

Transcript

IMPORTANT: THIS TRANSCRIPT IS AUTOMATICALLY GENERATED. WE GIVE IT A QUICK CHECK THROUGH BUT WE DON’T CORRECT EVERYTHING AS IT’S INTENDED TO HELP YOU FIND PARTS YOU WANT TO LISTEN TO AGAIN - NOT AS AN EXACT TRANSCRIPT. SO THERE MIGHT BE A FEW QUIRKY WORDS/PHRASES HERE!

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Last October Instagram published a list of do's and don'ts on hashtags is included all the usual advice about using relevant hashtags, using a mix of well-known hashtags and days in your niche. But it also included a surprising recommendation using just three to five hashtags. I'm Janet Murray, one of the UKs leading content marketing experts. And in this short episode of the courageous content podcast,

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I'll share my insights on this hashtag update as what it might mean for you and your business. So what I was a bit surprised to hear Instagram recommending using just three to five hashtags, I thought it wasn't surprised at the same time, because Instagram seems to be following hot on the heels of everything Tik TOK is doing and what the TikTok recommend three to five hashtags.

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What did surprise me was that the thing to be some kind of inconsistencies in the advice. So first off, despite recommending just three to five hashtags, you still have the capacity to use 30 on Instagram. The advice also said the recommended number is three to five, but don't use any more than 15 to 20. So it all seemed a bit confusing,

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but like many creators I took on board the advice and I've reduced the number of hashtags I was using. But since then I have seen a dip in my overall reach and views. So I thought I'd do a bit of research and share my findings with you. I found two really interesting articles. I want to share with you. And I will link to them both in the show notes.

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So the first one was from later, which is a scheduling app, and they've done some research where they've looked at. I think it was 18 million Instagram feed posts comparing the number of hashtags used per post with average reach rates. And they found consistently that those with more hashtags tended to do better. So for an account with 20,000 followers, that would mean about an additional two and a half thousand accounts reached per post.

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Their recommendation is to use your three to five hashtags in your caption, but to try adding hashtags in the comments. So I found another interesting blog post from preview apps. So preview is an Instagram scheduling tool, and this one really confirmed something I have said all along and we'll keep saying it really does come down to the quality of your content in this blog.

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Article preview also confirm something I've said many times about the way the Instagram algorithm works and how it works on both social media platforms. When you publish a post, typically it's shown to a small percentage of your followers. If it gets a decent amount of engagement in the first hour or two of pasting, usually it will be shown to more of your followers and then pushed out more widely depending on how it performs.

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So no surprises there at all. What did surprise me, however, was there advice on hashtag size? So if you've been following my content for a while, you'll know that I've been teaching and using quite a specific strategy on my own Instagram and a couple of years ago, it helped me grow my Instagram by about 10,000 in a matter of months. And this was really down to hashtag size.

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So making sure that in those 30 hashtags I was using, I was using a mixture of different sizes. So if you think about it, Instagram is like Google. So if you've ever created any blog content or you've ever tried to get on the first page of Google with your website, you'll know that if you're using very popular search terms, then that makes it more difficult to get on the first page of Google for that search term.

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So we talk about long-tail keywords. And the example I often give is I had a blog post on my previous websites, which was about how to write a press release for your small business and it had the prime spot. So it was the first entry on the first page of Google for how to write a press release for your small business. How do I use the phrase,

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how to write a press release it's much broader, which means it's much more competitive. So it would be much more difficult for me to rank on the first page of Google, because they're just much more competition. What Google is really trying to do is to serve up the best piece of content on that topic, to anyone who searches that term. And really it works similarly on social media.

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So my hashtag strategy was based on that idea that if somebody was searching for a specific hashtag and hashtags are basically like keywords that people are looking for, looking for content that answers their questions off their problems, then using big competitive hashtags with millions of posts attached. Well, it was going to be really hard to rise up to the top of that hashtag.

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And if you've ever looked at the hashtags on Instagram, if you haven't, I really recommend that you do you'll see that it literally is a case of rising to the top. So what I found was that using more smaller, less competitive hashtags meant that my posts rose to the top of those hashtags, if they were performing well in those smaller hashtags, then they would tend to perform better in slightly bigger hashtags.

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So I have been using for a couple of years now, a strategy whereby I would typically use a mix of very small ones. So not to 5,000 or probably not completely normal, but under 5,005,000 to 50,050 to a hundred thousand, a hundred to 500,500 to a million and only a handful of small hashtags, but the preview blog recommends not to worry too much about hashtags and that it's more important to use hashtags that make sense for your accounts or business,

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which again, kind of makes sense because that's how it works on Tik TOK, because although, and this is certainly something I have tested on Tik TOK, it can help to use a smaller, less competitive hashtags. Typically it is about having the right keywords preview breaks it down into four areas. So industry hashtags, product or service hashtags, ideal customer hashtags and location hashtags,

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which depending on your type of business may or may not be so relevant. Obviously, if you're a restaurant or you want to have that on a beauty salon dog groomers, then it's going to be more relevant if people are actually coming to your premises or perhaps you specialize in something for a particular geographical area. And that kind of makes sense because if I think about the hashtags that I choose for,

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TikTok typically I will have a couple that are specifically about the topic of the video or the product or service that I'm selling. So it could be about content planning or content strategy. And that'll have a couple of, which are basically about my ideal follower or customer. It's almost like you're calling them out, say female entrepreneurs or online course creators. If my business was geographically based,

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I would add a local hashtag in there as well. It's not. So I don't. So that all makes a lot of sense. However, what I would say is that with all of this stuff, it's very difficult to look at what's happening in isolation, because with marketing, there's always so many things to consider. So for example, on my own account,

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I've actually changed my content strategy quite significantly since the end of last year. So my tip in reach and views could be down to the fact that I've changed my strategy and I've moved from using more inspirational quotes and memes, which is quite a specific strategy that I use to build up the followers on my account to much more educational content. And what I've noticed is an increase in saves and shares.

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And for me, that's the golden ticket. That's what you're looking for. It's much better to get people sharing and saving your content because that really suggests intent than liking it because let's face it. It takes a few seconds to like something. And if you want to know more about this, I do have a specific podcast episode on this topic it's called,

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how do you measure social media success? And I will link to it in the show notes. I did a few comparisons on my own account and I compared some of the motivational quotes or beams that I was posting last year with some of my more recent content. And what I noticed was a very definite increase in the number of shares and saves. So I did almost like a kind of ratio.

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So I looked at the number of people who had seen the post. And then I looked at the number of saves and shares, and I could see the percentage was quite significantly higher in some cases for my more recent posts, which had been seen by fewer people, as I'm analyzing all of this, I need to take into account. There's been a change in my content strategy and not just look at the views and the kind of vanity metrics,

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if you like another thing to bear in mind. And I do have a really good podcast episode on this. If you hadn't listened, this will blow your mind a bit. It's an interview with Janine Cummings and it's called, should you remove followers on Instagram to grow your account? And we'll link to that in the show notes, it's really worth listen because the way the algorithm works as you now know,

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if you didn't already is that when you post a new piece of content, it gets shown to a percentage of your followers. If that gets good engagement in the first few hours, it will be shown to more of your followers and then it will be pushed out further. And that's where these hashtags were really come into play. If you've got the wrong people following me,

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then that is going to impact on your reach and views as well. And I know it's not all about reach and views, but of course the more of the right people you can get to see your content, the more shares and saved you're going to get sort of stands to reason. So I grew my own Instagram account using a very specific strategy around sharing motivational quotes and means,

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and I've really moved away from that. And it was great for growing my account quickly. I added about 10,000 followers in quite a short space of time, but I've really moved into providing much more educational content that makes people take action. So over the coming months, one of the things I really want to do is to give my account a good color and remove some of those people who are following me because they,

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they like motivational quotes of means, but it's easy to sit there and tap a light and say, oh yes, that's, that's a good quote. What I really want is people who are saving and sharing my concept because that suggests real intent. Those people are going to take action in their business and they're much more likely to become customers or clients. So I hope that has been an interesting insight into hashtags.

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I'm sorry. I don't have all the answers. I don't think anyone has all the answers because when it comes to boxing, there are so many factors to consider, but hopefully it's given you some things to go off and explore two key takeaways for you. Number one, it does always come back to the content. This is a horrible phrase, but you can't Polish a turd.

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And what I mean by that is spending hours on hashtag research, investing in fancy apps or tools to help you find the right ones, paying somebody to do hashtag research. None of that matters our jobs. If you're not creating engaging content for your ideal customers or clients, if you are then the right hashtags, we'll get that in front of more of those types of people.

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This is why I really recommend focusing on getting your content right, and your content strategy right before you get too bogged down in hashtags, because unless your content is good, unless it's a good fit for your ideal customers or clients, it won't make much difference at all. And the second takeaway would be experiment, test and compare just like I have done.

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Don't just blindly follow hashtag strategies that you read about what you see on Instagram. What's important is that you use strategies that work for your business. And unfortunately, there is no one size fits all strategy. Marketing is about tweaking and testing. And then as I've just described to you in this episode, things work for a while and then they don't. So you have to be nimble.

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You have to change, see this as an opportunity to do some testing and maybe do some research of your own as ever. I do love hearing from you. So if you found this episode interesting, if you've got any follow-up comments or recommendations of your own or any questions, then do reach out to me on Instagram at Jan Murray, UK.

About the Podcast

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Courageous Content with Janet Murray
Content marketing advice for small businesses

About your host

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Janet Murray

I’m Janet Murray and I’ve helped thousands of coaches, creative and entrepreneurs learn how to create engaging content – so they can build their online audience and make more sales in their business.

I’m also a podcaster and keynote speaker who has spoken all over the world about content marketing and building online audiences.

Work with me and I’ll teach you the strategies I’ve used to grow a multi six figure online business, selling digital products (including Ebooks, online courses and two membership sites). And launch a physical product – the Social Media Diary & Planner, which has sold thousands of copies, all over the world.