Wondering why your Instagram hashtags are not working, or aren’t giving you the results you expect? Here’s what you should be doing to reach more people.
Your content looks great. Your captions are on point. But despite your enthusiastic hashtagging, people just aren’t discovering your posts. So you’re probably asking, “Why are my Instagram Hashtags not working?!”
(Or some variation thereof that would require some *@!$ censorship on our behalf. Because let’s face it, it’s pretty frustrating.)
Well don’t worry. If you’re wondering why your Instagram hashtags aren’t working in 2019, read on.
First up, let’s clarify what we mean by “not working”.
One possibility is that your posts aren’t showing up in the hashtag search results at all.
Another is that your hashtags are simply failing to expand the reach and engagement of your posts. And thus they’re not working as a useful tool to grow your account.
And they should – when used right, hashtags are one of the best tools for successful Instagram account growth.
Here are some of things you might be doing wrong, leading to a situation where your Instagram hashtags aren’t working…
For maximum exposure on Instagram, you should stick to using the most popular hashtags. Right?
Not exactly. Popular hashtags are great in that more people search for and look at them. But they’re also super competitive. That means that if you use a popular hashtag, your post is competing with the hundreds of thousands (even millions) of other posts using that hashtag.
To put it another way, your post is like a needle in a haystack.
Hashtags can also be too competitive if the people ranking highly in them are getting a high average number of likes on their content – which helps to push their posts up higher and leaves yours to get lost in the lower results. (See this post on social media management for more about how Instagram hashtag ranking works.)
So, what’s the solution? Broaden out your hashtag selection to include terms that are less competitive. For example, rather than #yoga, you might try #yogaforbeginners or #getonyourmat. Even better, go for a combination of broad/popular hashtags and specific niche ones to cover both bases.
You might want to capitalise on a trending hashtag by adding it to your post, but if it’s not completely relevant to your content you’re wasting your time. Worse – you might even get people offside.
On the other hand, if you keep your hashtags highly relevant to your content, you’ll maximize your potential for engagement. This is simply because there’s a greater chance that people searching for that hashtag will be interested in your post. Makes sense, right?
Instagram are pretty particular about their community guidelines. So hashtags that are found to sit outside of those guidelines get flagged for assessment and, potentially, get banned all together.
So what happens if you use these flagged or banned hashtags in your posts?
Let’s just say, nothing good. Your posts won’t be discoverable for those hashtags, and you risk the chance that your Instagram account will shadowbanned – aka, your posts won’t be seen by anyone who doesn’t already follow you – leaving you to wonder why your instagram hashtags aren’t working.
It’s not easy to know which Instagram hashtags you should avoid. That’s why Flick’s hashtag tool automatically removes any that are flagged or banned when suggesting which hashtags to use.
Another potential reason for your instagram hashtags not working is that you’re doing a copy-paste of the same hashtags over and over again. While this makes life easier, it unfortunately isn’t going to win you the audience you want.
Why? Firstly, because your account could be penalized for spamming those hashtags (even if that’s not your intention).
Secondly, because you’re not casting your net wide enough. To reach more of an audience, you want to maximize the potential for people to find your content – and that means broadening out your hashtag use.
On top of that, users who see your content repeatedly for a hashtag they follow can select the option “don’t show for this hashtag” on your posts. All the more reason not to put all your Instagram hashtag eggs in one basket.
You may not see it, but behind Instagram are AI functions that analyse images and detect their content. To what degree this happens and the accuracy of it is constantly changing – but if you consider Facebook’s face recognition AI (remembering that Facebook owns Instagram) you’ll have an idea of what we mean. And these days, social media platforms are becoming more and more intelligent at recognizing other objects and branding elements as well as faces.
This capability means that it’s worth considering the contextual relevance of your hashtags. In other words, you should think about using your hashtags to describe the literal content of your images, helping the platform to analyze and contextualize your posts.
You can read more about how to do this here. but to give a quick example: let’s say you’re posting a picture of your lunch. A hashtag without contextual relevance would be something general like #lunchdate, while contextually relevant hashtags would describe what’s on your plate (#veganburrito, #beansandrice, etc).
We get it – painstakingly thinking about and researching which hashtags to use for every single post can be boring and time consuming (that’s exactly why Flick was created!). It can also be confusing if you don’t really know what you’re doing.
The best bet here is to have an Instagram hashtag strategy in place. Make sure you understand how Instagram hashtags work and how to find the best ones for your content.
Having a strategy will make life easier because it gives you guidelines to work within. You’ll know what type of hashtags to use, the ratio of popular to niche hashtags to use, and how to group your hashtags for maximum impact.
From there, giving every post the hashtag research time it deserves will be much easier.
When you find your hashtags on Instagram not working, it can be disheartening. But really, you don’t need any kind of black magic to solve the problem.
It mostly comes down to knowing which hashtags are the right ones to use.
Following the above points will help you narrow it down.
Also try out Flick’s #1 hashtag tool for free if you really want to get an idea of just how simple it can be when you have the right tools. Flick was built based on everything we know about hashtags and Instagram algorithms, so it automatically takes all of these points (and more) into consideration when recommending which hashtags to use.