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3 Hashtag Tips to Outsmart Instagram's Algorithm

Updated: May 4, 2020

It seems everyone has been experiencing an engagement slump on Instagram lately. Knowing I’m not the only one to experience it, I decided it was a great time to experiment with different techniques now more than ever. What could it hurt? I’ve tried a few different things lately and while they may not be a fool-proof way to get your engagement back, here’s what I recently tried and learned.

1. Swap out your hashtags. I stick to two niches – social media and travel. I noticed I was often recycling the same hashtags on a lot of my recent posts. So, I decided to try a couple posts where I swapped ALL my hashtags out for ones I’ve never used or haven’t used in several months. I also started putting them in the comment section (I’m still undecided if this has any effect on engagement.) I found using all new hashtags increased my visibility these past few weeks. I’ve heard others share they’ve had a similar surge in views when they swap out their hashtags from what they’ve been using over-and-over again, even if those hashtags were once successful for you. Don't get me wrong, I still like to use my favorites, but whenever there’s a good opportunity to swap out my "go-to" hashtags, I’ve been trying to do so lately.

2. Do your research. I spent a decent amount of time filtering through my existing hashtags that I love and looking for new tags. I recommend researching hashtags by number of uses. For example, #texas has 34 million uses vs. #texastodo, which only has around 140,000 uses. I like the majority of my hashtags to fall under 500,000 uses because they are more targeted. However, I still add a few larger hashtags (>500,000) because it drives quick visibility. For example, the second you post you will likely receive several immediate likes because the hashtag is so largely followed. However, those likes tend to trail off very quickly because so many other individuals are also using the same hashtag, pushing your content further and further down.

Those smaller used hashtags have a tendency to keep your post living for longer and are often times viewed by people who are looking for something specific. For example, #texastodo are individuals looking for activities and ideas of things to do while in Texas.

Lastly, for smaller-use hashtags you have a greater opportunity to end up in the “top 9” section if your post performs well for a specific hashtag. It doesn’t matter how old your photo is, if it out performed others who also used that hashtag, it will stay in the “top” posts section and will continue to garner you visibility until another post receives more. This is definitely a "sweet spot" that I aim to be in with my posts right now.

(Want a quick way to find hashtags? Read this.)

3. Look into feature accounts. Find and target feature accounts. I used to always go after huge accounts in hopes of getting featured. I would use their hashtags, tag them in photos and once in a while I saw a feature that would draw in a new following. They are competitive though, which is why lately I’ve focused on smaller accounts, especially local ones too. These have been the most lucrative so far because they are easier to attract. For example, #texastodo is the official hashtag for Travel Texas’ account and they often feature photos from those who use their hashtag. (If you need good Texas trip ideas, visit their Instagram!)

In addition to feature accounts that will reshare your photo, also aim for the small reshares in Instagram Stories. Use local businesses hashtags (and mention them) in your stories. I gain new followers when I’m tagging the places I visit in my day-to-day life and that business then decided to reshare it. That coffee shop you stopped by? The new spin studio you went to? The restaurant you just ate at? All great opportunities to tag them, use their hashtag and tell your followers what you thought!

I hope these 3 simple, but effective, strategies can help you amp up your Instagram game or at the very least bring you out of the algorithm rut we’re all in these days. And if you're thinking, how much can hashtags help my visibility? Here are a couple recent screenshots sharing impressions brought in by hashtags. Take a look!

Lastly, I offer an Instagram audit service where I delve deeper into each client's account and provide actionable recommendations to help you grow your account. Send me a message if you're interested.

Have a great day!


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