Instagram Can’t Make Up Its Mind

social media social media for creatives social media for entrepreneurs social media marketing Oct 04, 2021

What's Happening

Instagram creators lost their collective minds this week over a post from the @creators account run by Instagram. The seemingly innocuous post included two sentences that have creators up in arms:

“Do keep the number of hashtags between 3-5.” 

“Don’t use too many hashtags – adding 10-20 hashtags will not help you get additional distribution.”

Some context: A maximum of 30 hashtags are allowed on each post. The generally agreed-upon recommendation was to use all 30, making sure they were relevant to your industry, niche, or the topic of the post. A few months ago, Instagram told us to use 12-15. More may confuse the algorithm. Now, no more 3-5. Using more won’t help you.


Use it for Your Business

Many social media marketers I respect reacted with polar opposite advice on whether or not to listen to the new recommendations. Which, at first, had me scratching my head.

Whenever I’m trying to decide whether or not to follow any social media advice, I come back to what I know to be true. Maybe they will help you as well:

  1. Content is king: No matter how many hashtags you slap on a post, it’s going to sink or swim based upon how it resonates with others.
  2. Consistency is key: Just like that friend who texts “on my way” and never manages to arrive, you stop trusting the message. Hashtags aren’t going to make a difference for the sporadic poster.
  3. Growth is slow: Meaningful growth is slow growth. Viral growth is, by definition, abnormal. Building a community of engaged followers takes time and attention. Hashtags are a discovery vehicle, and including hashtags gets more eyes on your posts. Then, it’s up to your content and consistency to keep them there.


My verdict: Instagram said “will not help” not “will hurt” your distribution. Focus first on delivering great content consistently. Then, add at least 3-5 hashtags to your posts. If you have more relevant hashtags, add them!

This one post from the @creators account doesn’t change how the platform fundamentally works. You’ll still appear in hashtag feeds, keyword searches, and hashtag follows. The additional hashtags only have the potential to help.


Relevancy Rating

Just because it's new doesn't mean it's worth your time: Is adding more than 3-5 hashtags worth your time?

MAYBE: I give it 3 out of 5 thumbs up.

Focus on your essential task of delivering great content consistently. Then, add those hashtags!


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