One of the most common questions we are asked about Instagram is, "Why so many hashtags?"
What Is A Hashtag?
A hashtag is a combination of letters, numbers, and emoji preceded by the # symbol (i.e. #NoFilter, #MeToo, #DreampilotFilms). They categorize content and make it more discoverable to searches and browse categories on social media. Anyone who clicks on a hashtag or searches for it will see a page with all the posts tagged with it.
Where Did Hashtags Begin?
It all started back on Aug. 23, 2007 with a tweet by San Francisco techie and former Google developer Chris Messina. He wrote on Twitter, “How do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?” Two days later, another techie, Stowe Boyd, suggested the # symbol be called a hashtag.
Messina started using the # symbol and convinced some of his friends to do the same. During the 2007 San Diego fire, people started to use the tracking system Twitter had in place, but the spaces between the words San, Diego and fire made it difficult to track. Messina suggested the hashtag with no spaces.
By 2009, Twitter adopted the idea and hyperlinked to the hashtags. Messina said that’s when its usage skyrocketed.
Do Hashtags Help Reach More People?
In a 2014 study by Simply Measured indicated that posts using at least one hashtag had 12.6% more engagement than those with no hashtags at all. They concluded that:
"Hashtags are an important part of discovery on Instagram, allowing brands to gain exposure to niche groups and specific areas of interest. While they may not drive exponential engagement growth, they give audiences an organic way to discover branded content through the topics and forums that interest them. "
So Should You Use All 30 Hashtags On Instagram?
We have tried numerous ways to reach audiences on Instagram, from 0 to 30 hashtags per post, and our findings show that the more you use, the wider your reach gets. Each time you post a hashtag on a photo, that photo is shown to the users who either search or follow that exact hashtag. So if you get even one viewer per hashtag, that is one more that you'd have received otherwise.
Though we are by far no experts in the designs and algorithms of Instagram, we do use it more than any other social platform, and have found it to be quite effective in finding new viewers. For us, using all 30 hashtags is as syrup is to pancakes.
If you’re looking for a way to track hashtags check out these 3 hashtag search tools.