If you're into Instagram, you probably heard the rumor going around these last few weeks that the new algorithm adds a “spam” factor to accounts using more than seven hashtags per photo.
What does that mean?
Basically if you're using more than seven hashtags per photo, Instagram (supposedly) decreases your organic reach and impressions on that photo to (hopefully) decrease spammy behavior and not let Instagram become the next Twitter (they even added a nice new feature in the “Activity” (the heart) tab, where you can see “People” now, making it a little easier to see who followed you, and in turn, if someone who just followed you unfollowed you a few hours later… but that's not the point of this post).
So there was a mini-meltdown in the insta-world about this new seven hashtag theory. With engagement already being down thanks to the new algorithm, it seemed counter-intuitive to decrease use of the one tool that could actually boost our organic reach. Alas, my friend Steffanie from Brighter Darling, decided to sacrifice her Insta-account and give this new theory a shot for one week…
She reported that historically when she posted a photo she would see a big quick surge of engagement, which quickly died off. With the seven hashtags, engagement came much slower, but steadier and within a few days time her engagement on each photo was exactly where it normally was. However, she reported her organic reach and impressions were significantly higher. However after the second week she reported her impressions and reach were down again, so she went back to using however many she pleases!
After hearing her experience, I decided to give it a try myself for about two weeks. Here is what it was like:
1. Choosing seven hashtags is beyond difficult. I honestly could not decide which seven to use. Every time I would get it narrowed down, I would recount them and realize I still had eight to ten and had to nix some! Which also meant nixing my personally branded hashtag (#TCMillennial), which I wasn't happy about. It seems like this new hashtag rule would also lead to fewer people creating their own branded hashtags…
2. Impressions & Reach. Just like engagement, this started off slow. The first three to four days my impressions and reach were 700-1,000+ less than normal! Again, I was panicking but decided to stick with it. Slowly the numbers balanced out at the end of the week my “reach” was exactly the same, but my impressions were 9,000 higher! So while the same number of people saw my posts, they saw them more frequently, which could also explain why engagement was lower (because those who were going to engage, already did). Then a week after that, my impressions increased by over 9,000 and my reach increased by over 1,000!
The far two on the left were after 7 days of testing it, the two screenshots on the far right are from 10/19, where I had snuck two photos in with 30 hashtags
3. Engagement comes in MUCH slower. Honestly, I started to have a full on panic by day three and was seriously regretting taking this on. I went from an average of 500-600 engagement per photo to like 200-300… I was SERIOUSLY questioning things. A week later it still seemed like I was averaging 100 less likes compared to my usual posts however this was also the week of Hurricane Matthew so maybe some of my audience just wasn't on? I typically still have quite a large number of likes and comments trickle in on a week or two old photos — so it MIGHT be too early to tell on this front… as I sit writing this almost two weeks since starting this experiment, things seem to have balanced out overall.
The bottom two rows in the second photo are all quote photos with 7 hashtags (the pumpkin and last photo I posted in the last 48 hours so those will continue to go up) – The four quote photos on the left photo are all with 30 hashtags.
4. Followers. Despite the increased reach/impressions my follower growth stayed about the same during this time.
So what's the Life Lesson in all of this?
DO WHATEVER THE HECK YOU WANT! Seriously, if you want to use seven hashtags or thirty hashtags, it's all okay, as long as you are posting quality content that your audience engages with. Things will balance themselves out.
Have you tried 7 hashtags, or ten hashtags? What were your thoughts?