Wondering if using hashtags is worth your valuable time and effort? Curious how to choose which ones to use? Wondering which ones are banned and which are safe to use? Are you sitting there asking yourself, “What is a hashtag? OK, we’re going to clear up all the confusion, break through the nonsense, and answer all your hashtag questions right here.
What is a hashtag?
# This fun little symbol called a hashtag is the ingenious way Instagram developers created to search their platform. You’ll notice when you go to search you have the choice of “Top” “People” “Tags” or “Places”. Obviously, hashtags are not the only way to search on IG but they are still a very viable (and valuable) option.
How many should I use?
IG allows a maximum of 30 per post. I suggest using at least 15 relevant hashtags every time. If you don’t it’s like leaving money on the table. But be sure to count. Just this morning I forgot to count and over-estimated. IG posted my picture and deleted my entire text. It was back to drawing board for me!
Where should I put them?
We used to add them to a comment immediately following this post. With the new crackdown on spam-like activity IG now views this as spam. They will shadowban any hashtags you list in a comment, at least we have seen this happening when we post a comment with 20+. They ban them every time.
A way to use hashtags without distracting from your text is to create some space between your text and the hashtags. Use some type of symbol or emoji (to reserve the space otherwise IG will delete the empty space) and enter all your hashtags there. They are still be within the post itself but will not distract much from your text.
How do I choose which ones?
Do your hashtag homework. Maybe once a week (or when I find the time) I take my little notebook and go through my feed or through all of IG and write down trending hashtags. It’s important to check to see which ones are banned, and you can do that HERE. Find new ones to keep relevant and fresh. Basically I do my homework. Here are some key pointers:
- make them relevant. If they are not you only succeed in annoying people.
- use a few bigger, more general RELEVANT tags but make sure they are not banned.
- use more smaller, more specific tags
- spread the types of tags around, think of it as “sprinkling love around IG”. You want a variety of people searching for a variety of reasons to come across your pictures and be pleased they have done so!
- change things up all the time. Don’t get stuck in a rut or your audience will be stuck too.
- double check that the hashtags you use to make sure none of them are banned. Click HERE to check a complete list (warning, some words are offensive)
Use short cuts to save time
Many of us have discovered the help of saving lists in our NOTES section of our phones. Create a list, and then copy and paste. There are some downsides to this, but it’s good to use when necessary and to help save time and help remember.
Tips if you are going to use this method:
- have multiple lists
- don’t use the same every day
- adjust them to fit the specific post
- check the list for relevance
- don’t allow it to be completely random
What I do: I probably have 20 or more saved lists that I browse through and choose the most relevant. About once a week I go through my lists and delete old ones that are outdated or change a few items within the lists to make them up to date and double check to make sure they are not on the banned list. If you do your homework you can create several updated lists and have them ready to go.
Are there “rules” with hashtags?
Besides the IG restriction of no more than 30 per post there are no “rules,” just guidelines. IG does not want you to use them to generate artificial growth so there is a risk to random use and overuse. Based on the new crackdown we need to be more cautious with how we use them and which ones we choose.
- Check to make sure the ones you use are not banned.
- Use smaller, more specific ones to stay safe.
- Always choose relevant hashtags.
- Don’t add them in a comment, IG thinks this is “spammy”
What about the hashtag challenge games?
First, A Little History…
Design Challenge games have been a favorite method for accounts in the Home Decor Community on Instagram to get found. It worked very powerfully until there was an overload.
Before the design challenge games people would play a game of tag using the #WIDN (what I’m doing now). And it was just a friendly way to mention each other and open up a little conversation. Things were very casual and informal back then.
I remember when some of the very first hashtag design challenges were created. It was a totally novel concept, and they only happened on specific days. It was a big deal! After those first hashtag challenges, groups slowly developed, but is was a gradual thing. The challenges were carefully crafted, the rules meticulously laid out, and it was all a big deal. People played along with careful planning, hosts were equally diligent in responding. Hosts took their responsibilities as seriously as the people playing took their posting. Winning was a coup d’etat, a real feat! Because the rules were so strict about following hosts accounts leading the groups really benefited.
Fast Forward to Today
Interesting how things have evolved. Now there are WAY too many hashtag “games” for any one person to keep track of. It has become a monster to manage.
Several people have attempted providing a type of service posting updated daily lists, but these people grew weary after not too long (and I don’t blame them!) The good news is there are a couple new resources listed at the end of this post.
Most groups still try to have “rules” but only a relatively small number of people can or do keep track of the finer details of who’s and the what’s involved. Most people are happy enough to be aware of the hashtags and to use them.
If you want to win and be featured you still need to find the hosts, follow them, and play by their guidelines. In order to do this you will have to pick and choose just one or two to try to play at a time. I advise still adding 28 other hashtags that you just use for “traction”.
So What are the Benefits of Groups or Individuals Creating/Managing Hashtags?
Even if people are not following along with the hashtags as meticulously as before, what are the benefits to creating and hosting a hashtag? Consider this:
- By creating a hashtag you are saying to the community, I’m here, I’m committed and part of this community.
- Listing it in your bio does add a bit of credibility and it can help define your focus.
- There are always some people paying close enough attention and you can gain followers.
- You can connect with the other hosts in your behind-the-scenes direct message conversations.
- It’s great to occasionally feature inspiration from someone else. It is a win-win.
Some guidelines for featuring:
- Never alter someones’ photo. Don’t make it smaller, don’t change the editing, don’t put words of any kind on it. (without express permission from the owner of the photo.
- Next, give clear credit, preferably at the beginning. Mention their name and their IG handle.
- Finally, tag them in the photo so they are notified of the posting.
- Even better etiquette, ask them in advance to make sure it is okay with them.
Can you host too many hashtag groups?
I realize this is based on opinion, but I absolutely think you can go overboard. I personally don’t want to see a feed full of hashtags. Firstly, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for creating original content, which in my opinion is the true hallmark of a great feed.
Secondly, “advertisement” posts for hashtags that have words splashed over them is very distracting and in my opinion, not aesthetic. Don’t forget, Instagram is a VISUAL platform. Nothing is more powerful than beautiful photos. If a feed is sacrificing beautiful photos on a regular basis it is not necessarily a winning strategy.
Resources for Hashtags
Firstly, there is a group of IG accounts who have taken on the task collectively to provide a list each day. The accuracy (and completeness) of their lists depends on hosts communicating with them, and I’m not sure how complete they are each day, but it’s definitely a resource.
You can search #DailyDecorTags Each day a different person hosts it, and usually there are so many tags it necessitates two posts.
Secondly, there is a new feed called @decorhashtags They are doing a good job so far, but they have only been at it for a short time. At least for now they are a useful source of current hashtags.
Thirdly, we have a friend who has created a Hashtag Calendar! Her website is www.huntfordecor.com This resource is great because in one spot you can see all the hashtags for each day in advance. What’s even better is she includes the guidelines and the hosts! If she is able to keep this updated this is an amazing resource.
Those are the strategies, opinions, and resources that guide my hashtag use. Yes it takes a little more time (and commitment), but if you want to win in this Instagram game you need to play the “game” and hashtags are a definite part of that! Hashtags have the power to give your posts that added boost get your posts found. Is it worth a little extra time and effort to use them? I think we can easily conclude YES! It’s worth it!
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What’s up next? How to create your own Hashtag.
XO ~ Julie