Hashtags are (kind of) out. Here’s the new way to think about your social strategy.

Hashtags are out (ish).

The key word is ish.

This might feel surprising to people who remember when having a hashtag strategy was the make-or-break element of your social media management. If you didn’t have the right words to match with ten to fifteen of those pound symbols, you were infinitely less find-able by your potential audience.

Fortunately, that’s no longer (quite) the case.

Some social media coaches and agencies will tell you hashtags are dead and you no longer need to use them. Some will say you still need to implement the traditional hashtag strategy.

We’re here to say, it’s a little bit of both.

In 2022, head of Instagram Adam Mosseri posted to his feed that hashtags will not help you get more views and engagement on your post. This was confusing to users because then the question was, “What does help us become more find-able?”

Instagram implemented a new search feature that makes it easier to find posts. One can type “soup recipes” into the search field and find trending reels and posts containing soup recipes. Users can still search through hashtags if they want, but they have to filter out “top, newest,” etc.—meaning they aren’t guaranteed to automatically find the trending things people are talking about.

Keywords are king

With this new feature, content creators and other users need to start focusing on an SEO strategy by pinpointing what keywords they should use. Landing on the right language, whether in the video/image or in the caption, is important, so the previous thinking that long captions were an Instagram “no-no” is reversed. More words, and more search-able words, might work out in your favor.

Since this is the platform’s new default, we suggest looking at prioritizing your SEO strategy. By using keywords in your captions and videos/images, you could see a big difference in your engagement.

Want to see what keywords are trending in your niche? Go to TikTok’s Creative Center under Keyword Insights and it’ll show you all trending keywords. Even if you’re using Instagram, it’s still a great tool to use when it comes to content inspiration, current trends and hashtags.

­­Yes, I did say hashtags. Remember our blog on how the algorithm is impacting your engagement? (If not, go take a read.) In that blog, I talk a lot about the importance of a niche and how you need to perform well in your niche before expanding to a larger audience. If you’re not aware, a lot of creators talk about the “TikTok 200 views jail.” This is because the app doesn’t know where to send your videos.

This is where hashtags come in. Hashtags are now mostly used as a categorization tool. This is a way for you to basically tell the app which niche you want to be in. Seems easy enough, but I think we still get in the habit of going overboard. The current recommendation is three to five hashtags (if you choose to use them), so be limited and purposeful in your approach.

Continue using hashtags in these 3 moments:

1. Running campaigns

Introducing a new product with a particular hashtag can help get new adopters involved. This is when hashtags can serve as a call to action, helping create movement around your social campaigns.

2. User-generated content creation

Hashtags empower users to contribute to your social content and give you an easy way to identify and find their contributions so you can re-post them.

3. Community building­­­

Whether you’re celebrating a national holiday or creating a unique-to-you series of posts, a hashtag can help unite your content or give others an opportunity to join the campaign.

If it’s something trending on TikTok or Instagram but has absolutely nothing to do with the content you post, don’t use it. If you’re a content creator and you want to be with other content creators, add that as a hashtag. Maybe add a hashtag if you do UGC content. But again, if you don’t do it, don’t use it.

This is where you start to see social media coaches and agencies say “hashtags are dead,” because once you’re at a certain point with content creation and you have that niche locked in, these apps will start to learn where to send your videos so that you won’t need hashtags. (This is typically for high engagement creators with large followings.)

Final verdict

Hashtags are no longer make-or-break elements of a social strategy. What will actually help your content find its audience is strategically used key words in your caption or in videos and images. Use hashtags for user-generated content or campaigns, or for community building, since hashtags provide a category for your content and unity between posts. Otherwise, double down on an SEO strategy on your social content, just like you do on other parts of your online presence.

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