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174. [BIZ BITE] Do Hashtags Still Work on Instagram & How Many Should I Use?

If you’re an avid listener of the podcast, you may remember a guest I had on the show a while back, Katie Wight. While she was sharing the social media strategy she uses for product-based businesses the topic of hashtags definitely came up and she said – don’t bother. The time energy and effort you put into researching them for such little payoff, just wasn’t worth it.

And I ain’t gonna lie, I was like sweet! Because I’m sick and tired of fucking hashtags. 

One caveat to that though, and as I’m saying this it feels really familiar, I think I said it on a podcast episode recently – anyway – Katie does put money behind her organic content and it’s part of her overall strategy for herself and her clients, so in that case, hashtags definitely aren’t really worth her time. 

This was also around the time, I think, that Instagram came out and said don’t use all 30 hashtags, stick to 3-4 or 5-10 or something like that. And once that announcement came of course every social media strategist on the internet started warning people not to use all 30 hashtags. 

Somewhere along the lines, I myself started using fewer hashtags and stopped putting all that much effort into it. Frankly, this year overall has just been tough for me with the home buying and the moving and a host of other things so hashtags and Instagram in general were not top of my list. 

But over the last few weeks, I started being more intentional about my Instagram strategy and testing some things out. Specifically with hashtags. And here’s what I found. 

Yes, they still work. And I get more reach from hashtags if I use 28-30 vs. when I only use a handful. 

In fact, and you may have heard me mention this in my emails or somewhere else on the interwebs, I’ve been getting A LOT of organic reach lately – and anywhere from 20-50% of that reach is coming from hashtags. 

Now, I of course am no Instagram expert. I’m not the most consistent. I don’t have a big audience. But… I have seen some crazy organic increases. It’s a bit difficult to pinpoint specific overall numbers because we did launch the Lounge in September and we were running ads. 

BUT, I can see the difference because I’m looking at the individual post results all the time. 

Here’s the thing though. Hashtags aren’t magic. They’re a way to get your content in front of the people that are most likely to care about it, but it still has to be really good content. 

In addition to the increased reach, I’m seeing a lot more engagement overall. Anywhere from 12-15% per post. 

Now, what is really good for one is likely going to be different than what’s really good for the other – so you’re gonna have to test some things out at first – but once you find the common thread I recommend you do more of it. I’m finding that long-form carousel posts are doing the best. Some of my students tell me that the sassier they are, the more response they get. For others, it’s more entertainment.

You have to find what works for you. 

Oh, and one other note about all this is that 2 of the posts I posted recently, both of which were standouts in terms of reach, engagement, follows, etc. I had posted both of them before. Sure, it was over a year ago or so and I updated the content a smidge, but they were the same posts. 

But you know. There are a lot of new people in my audience since a year ago. I got way more exposure and response to them this time around. And if you’re an OG I wonder if you even noticed that it was a repeat? If you did, please come DM me on Instagram! And no scrolling back to figure out which ones they were – either you noticed or you didn’t, lol. 

Okay, so back to the question at hand. Do hashtags work and how many should you use? Yes, they work, and use all 30 if it makes sense for your post. Make sure they’re more mid-size hashtags nothing too big where you’ll get buried or so small that no one is looking at them, and then of course make sure they’re relevant to your post and your customer. They need to be hashtags that your perfect customer would be searching for or following. Think about not just the product you sell, but the outcome they’re looking for and how they identify as a human. 

Listen to this Episode

Important Episode Links:

85. Why You Might Be Doing Social Media Wrong & How to Do It Right with Katie Wight

Holiday Planning Guide & Content Prompts for Product-Based Businesses

Learn eCommerce Strategy on Jessica’s Instagram

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Jessica Totillo Coster of eCommerce Badassery eating gelato on stairs in Rome Italy

Hey, I'm Jessica eCommerce & Email Marketing Strategist

I support scrappy female entrepreneurs with actionable steps & strategies to grow and scale the traffic, sales & profit in their eCommerce businesses. Learning from the top experts in the digital marketing & eCommerce industry I love working with female entrepreneurs and teaching the secrets of 7-figure eCommerce businesses.

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