Are you staring at your latest Instagram post wondering where all the hashtag love went? You‘re not alone.
As a fellow Instagram enthusiast, I‘ve noticed my own posts getting way fewer likes from hashtags lately. And friends across industries mention seeing huge declines in hashtag engagement too.
So what‘s going on with Instagram hashtags in 2022? Why are they failing to deliver the viral reach and likes they once did?
I dove deep on this trend to get answers. In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll break down the key reasons your Instagram hashtags aren‘t working anymore.
Even more importantly, I‘ll share my best pro tips as a social media geek for reviving your hashtag strategy. With the right techniques, you can stay discoverable, connect with your community, and keep growing your Instagram presence.
Let‘s get right into it, fellow ‘Gram lover!
Why Your Hashtags Aren‘t Working Anymore
First, let‘s understand why hashtag performance has tanked recently. There are a few key factors at play:
1. Saturation of Ultra-Popular Hashtags
Remember the days when slapping #followforfollow or #likeforlike on a post pretty much guaranteed engagement? Those days are gone.
Generic hashtags like #love, #instagood, and #tbt are now ridiculously oversaturated. With millions of posts using them, your content gets buried almost instantly.
As a rule of thumb, avoid any super generic hashtag with over 500 million posts. Instead, focus on niche hashtags actually relevant to your content.
2. Possible Shadowban
Ever wonder if Instagram is "throttling" your reach? You may be temporarily shadowbanned.
A shadowban essentially hides your posts from hashtags and Explore without you knowing. This kills your hashtag reach.
Getting caught repeatedly violating Instagram‘s rules with things like spammy hashtags or prohibited content can trigger a shadowban. Tread carefully to avoid it.
3. Decline of Bot/Automation Activity
Back in the early Wild West days of Instagram, bots and services promising automated engagement were everywhere. This artificial engagement juiced up hashtag metrics.
But Instagram is getting extremely sophisticated at detecting fake engagement. As bot activity declines, organic hashtag reach drops too.
4. Using Overly Competitive Niche Hashtags
Avoiding ultra-generic hashtags is smart. But even more niche hashtags can be overly competitive.
For example, #socialmediamarketing is used on over 17 million posts. As a busy hashtag, your content will quickly get buried here too.
5. Using Irrelevant Niche Hashtags
On the flipside, an overly niche hashtag like #pastrychefofinstagram won‘t reach many folks interested in your content either if you‘re a hardcore gamer.
The niche hashtags you use must precisely match your content‘s topic to generate interest. Using unrelated ones won‘t connect you to the right audiences.
How to Revive Your Instagram Hashtag Strategy
Now that we‘ve diagnosed the problem, let‘s bring your hashtag strategy back to life!
Here are my top tips for regaining Instagram hashtag superpowers as a social media geek:
Use a Hashtag Discovery Tool
Manually digging through hashtags to identify promising ones just won‘t cut it anymore. Leverage tools to analyze performance.
My favorite is Iconosquare – it tracks millions of hashtags to uncover hidden gems trending across topics and industries.
Iconosquare offers a free plan, but upgrading to its $29/mo Pro plan unlocks more robust analytics.
Join Engagement Pods
Engagement pods involve partnering with fellow Instagrammers in your niche to cross-promote content.
By commenting on and liking each other‘s posts with key hashtags, you amp up visibility in hashtag searches and unlock viral reach.
Search relevant hashtags or groups to find pods focused on your industry. Participate consistently to see results.
Analyze Your Audience‘s Habits
Your followers‘ habits impact when you should hashtag to maximize exposure.
Use Instagram Insights to view your audience demographics, top hours for engagement, and more.
Then, use key strategic hashtags during peak hours when your audience is most active in-app.
Diversify Your Hashtag Types
A hashtag strategy using only super popular or super niche tags won‘t cut it anymore. Diversify your approach.
Here‘s how I structure my own hashtag combos for maximum impact:
- 2-3 popular hashtags
- 3-5 niche hashtags closely matching my content
- 1-2 very niche "micro" hashtags
This gives me wide reach, targeted exposure, and hidden viral potential.
Regularly Refresh Your Hashtags
With Instagram‘s ever-changing landscape, no hashtag stays hot forever. You must cycle in fresh ones continuously.
I regularly plug upcoming content themes into Iconosquare to uncover rising hashtags to test.
It‘s a numbers game – try new niche hashtags often, see what resonates, then reuse the winners.
Post at Just the Right Times
Timing matters more than ever. Use your audience insight data to determine when your hashtagged posts will stand out.
I use Later to schedule Instagram posts during my audience‘s peak hours for each day of the week.
Scheduling with Later is awesome because you can easily analyze the best times directly within the platform.
Give Stories Some Hashtag Love
Don‘t just hashtag your grid posts! Re-share posts as Stories and strategically hashtag them too.
The Instagram algorithm favors frequently-used hashtags, so this doubles your hashtag exposure.
Similarly, use relevant niche hashtags directly in your Stories to unlock new reach. Test out creative placements.
Go Live Using Niche Hashtags
Jump on Live occasionally using a collection of related niche hashtags in your title.
This exposes your broadcast to new audiences tuned into those hashtags who may stick around and engage after the Live.
Interacting with your viewers in real time also builds authentic community and loyalty.
Limit Hashtags Per Post
A common mistake is over-tagging posts with a crazy number of hashtags. Not only is this annoying, but 30+ hashtags can flag your post as spam to Instagram.
Carefully handpick only the most relevant 10-15 tops per post. Quality over quantity is key for the algorithm.
Recent Hashtag Changes on Instagram
Understanding Instagram‘s ever-evolving platform helps explain the hashtag struggle. Here are some key changes:
Declining Organic Reach: From 2018 to 2022, organic hashtag reach plunged over 70% according to marketing data. Ouch.
Continued Crackdown on Fake Engagement: Instagram is getting scary good at detecting inauthentic activity. Expect bot/automation purge to continue.
Push Towards Reels: Instagram really wants Reels to rival TikTok. Expect them to keep pushing Reels over photos in hashtags and Explore.
New Limits to Target Users Under 18: Instagram now limits advertisers targeting under 18. This may impact organic hashtag reach to Gen Z audiences.
These changes explain the hashtag engagement drops many of us are seeing lately. But with the right strategy, we can adapt and thrive!
Reviving Hashtag Success on Instagram
The Instagram landscape shifts extremely fast. As social media consultant Jen Herman wisely notes:
"Hashtags help Instagrammers find specific content and communities. If used correctly, they bring targeted new eyes to your brand."
Remaining discoverable through smart hashtag usage is key to Instagram marketing success. With the tips in this guide, you have a blueprint to stay visible.
The future lies in using the right mix of popular and targeted niche hashtags. Keep testing new hashtag combos, analyze performance, and pivot your approach frequently.
Most importantly, engage with your community authentically through hashtags. Building genuine connections and loyalty helps withstand algorithm changes.
With a revamped hashtag strategy, I‘m confident your next Instagram post will regain that viral hashtag mojo. Social media is ever-changing – but together, we got this!
What niche hashtags are working for you lately? Share your secrets with me in the comments! Let‘s rebuild our hashtag engagement, fellow Instagrammer.