Should I use hashtags? An easy guide by a social media expert

Hashtags have become so deeply engrained in contemporary language that the term is now an official entry in the Oxford English Dictionary. But should you use them on your next Insta post, or are they outdated? We asked our travel Instagram expert, Lauren Bath for her thoughts.

Hashtags have become deeply engrained in contemporary language, so much so that the term ‘hashtag’ – as it relates to social media – is now an official entry in the Oxford English Dictionary. But should you use them on your next Instagram post, or are they outdated – and causing your account more harm than good?

 

First things first: what is a hashtag?

“Hashtags are searchable topics that social media accounts – particularly Twitter and Instagram – can use to ‘tag’ individual posts. They are a useful way of helping you identify messages and images relating to a particular topic. For example, searching the hashtag ‘travel’ will bring up content relating to travel.”

 

What’s wrong with using hashtags?

” Have you ever searched a topic on Instagram via a hashtag? It’s a search function that a lot of users take advantage when browsing the platform. Personally, I think there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain by using a select group of the right terms; adding just one hashtag to your Instagram post will deliver an average of 12.6% higher engagement than a post without, as they make your content much more easily searchable. Some people shy away from hashtags because they think it makes you look desperate for followers. There’s no need to spam people with a huge stream of them, but a few well chosen inclusions will only benefit you.”

Where should my hashtags sit?

“Currently the general consensus is that hashtags should be placed in your caption, perhaps a few spaces below the last sentence. You can create space by adding a few dots, with one per line — check one of my recent posts to see how this is done.”

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Image by Liz Carlson

“Adding just one hashtag to your Instagram post will deliver an average of 12.6% higher engagement”

How many hashtags should I use?

“Instagram allows up to 30, but a recent analysis by TrackMaven shows that the current sweet spot nine hashtags per posts is the sweet spot on that platform. On Twitter, you generally don’t want to use more than three hashtags as they’re harder to read. Every account is different, however, so play around with different amounts to find what’s right for you.”

 

What kind of hashtags are worth including?

“If you’re a traveller, include relevant tourism hashtags for the country, state, region or city that you’re in, as well as operator hashtags and feature account hashtags. It helps to keep a list of your favourite hashtags on your phone, so you can easily copy and paste.”

 

What hashtags should I avoid?

“Topics of an overtly sexual nature are not appropriate for public platforms. Instagram has also started limiting reach on hashtags relating to animal cruelty or environmental damage – something like #elephantride won’t do your account any favours, and I wouldn’t recommend a practice like riding elephants in any case. Finally, be wary of generic hashtags like #love and #happy, as well as overly specific ones such as #lakelouiseonacoldwintersday. The former is too general – your post will be instantly buried among millions of others – and hashtags that are too niche are unlikely to be searched.”

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