Is your hashtag really increasing your engagement on Instagram?

Instagram hashtags, like any other social media hashtags, are seen as an important tool by brands for consumers to easily find their posts. Hashtags group similar posts together, allowing users to browse images and videos by subject.

While some may perceive having more hashtags on Instagram would mean more engagement such as likes and comments on the platform, a recent report by media monitoring company Mention has found otherwise.

The report, which analysed 115 million Instagram posts, found no clear correlation between the number of hashtags in a post and the number of engagements. In fact, the report stated that it is better to use no hashtags if companies want higher engagement on Instagram. This finding contradicts other studies online, which state that hashtags do increase engagement.

According to the report, this trend may be a result based on a common notion that the best content is engaging on its own merit, and hashtags are not going to help lacklustre Instagram content perform better. In addition, "power users" do not rely on hashtags, with their content usually receiving plenty of likes, affecting the average number in the report. Another reason for this finding is that users could be using the wrong hashtags.

Meanwhile, the report also noted that one third of Instagram posts contain no hashtags, with the number of posts decreasing as the amount of hashtags increase. While Instagram limits users to only 30 hashtags, Mention's report said that many users try to use the maximum number allowed to increase their posts' visibility, with some even finding ways to beat the system, resulting in as many as 60 tags.

Among the list of hashtags with the most engagement include #ad, #comedy, #bts, #meme and #perfect, while the most used hashtags on Instagram are #love, #instagood, #fashion, #photooftheday and #style

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User engagement on Instagram

The type of content posted onto Instagram also matters when it comes to measuring engagement on the platform. According to the report, video posts receive 2.1 times more comments than image posts on average. Video posts also have the highest overall engagement rate, with 1,699 average engagements per post, which is 38% higher than image posts.

According to Mention's report, while video posts receive the highest number of likes on average (1,635), the median number of likes for image posts are higher. This suggests that the most popular video posts may receive a disproportionate number of likes, skewing the average. Also, the median number of likes is roughly the same for all post types, suggesting that the type of post is not a key factor in generating likes.

Meanwhile, video posts receive a significantly higher average number of comments per post (46), nearly doubling that of image posts on average (29).

One way to increase Instagram engagement is by tagging other users, and Mention's report found that the median number of likes for a post will increase from approximately 300 to close to 600 if more users are tagged.

It added that on average, the best number of tagged users is only 1, garnering 1,675 likes per post, but this statistic is likely affected by a small number of "incredibly popular" posts. After 20 users are tagged, the number of likes fluctuate "wildly".

Also, more tagged users lead to more comments, from less than five comments when there are no users tagged, to over 15 comments when 20 users are tagged. With that said, however, 72% of posts do not tag any users.

Identifying potential Instagram influencers

Followers are a key factor for brands, especially when they are increasingly turning to micro-influencers who typically have between 50,000 to 100,000 followers, to promote their products. Those users, however, only form 2.8% of the Instagram population and are rare.

According to the report, nearly 70% of Instagram users have fewer than 1,000 followers, and 15.7% have between 1,000 to 10,000, while 5.7% have 10,000 to 50,000 followers. The report added that the length of a user's bio has no effect on the number of followers, and Instagram profiles using hashtags in their bios do not have more followers.

For many users and brands, Instagram is all about the followers. This is also a simple way to identify influencers (although by no means the only factor).

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Does this align with your social media strategy? Share your thoughts with us!