Another Instagram Algorithm Myth Confirmed: The Proper Way to Hashtag

Stressed woman working instagram reach

I have been reading news lately about the new algorithms on social media and Google, and I have been pretty worried about what is going on.  

Facebook and Instagram have slowly been making it harder and harder to use social media as a free promotion tool for a freelancer or small business. 

As my metrics dropped, I became curious about how to boost them again. I wanted to learn more about Instagram, in particular, because I feel it is most valuable for promoting my art. I have been running a few experiments to see if the myths about the new IG algorithms are true. 

See the results of my first experiment and a few tips on how to boost visibility here. 

In the past, social media offered an invaluable method of increasing engagement and creating a community around a brand. It is still an awesome avenue for exposure, but it is getting harder and harder to succeed without paying for ads. The new algorithm changes decreasing the effectiveness of social media have been a big hit to the businesses of many entrepreneurs I know. Reach, engagement, growth, impressions… every metric seems to have tanked over the past year for many people I know. In the past few months, it has seemed like social media marketing hit a huge slump. 

I wanted to find a way to grow real visibility. I am not talking about just churning out posts and hoping for new followers. That is what the big companies are doing, and it works because they have a better reach (due to being prioritized because they pay for ads- another rant for another day). I am talking about my fellow artists, designers, writers, marketers, and makers. We honestly don’t have a big advertising budget, and most have other areas that they need to prioritize. Marketing a business is a part-time job by itself, which is why many companies are hiring VAs (virtual assistants.) I work in that capacity for a few businesses, which is why I am interested in these myths and keeping up with changes to the way platforms work. 

Most of us are looking for a high-quality following, and you should be too! I want to reach people who like my work, want to see more, and who ask questions about my products. I want followers who are interested in my field and whose posts will enrich my feed as well (yes, I do follow some of my followers back- I am always looking for great people to network with.) 

That brings me to the results of my experiment: How I boosted visibility AND started attracting high-quality followers. 

I have seen a few posts floating around about hash-tagging in particular, and one idea stuck out to me: a generic hashtag will get lost in the flood of posts with that same hashtag. 

I follow several social media management and news sites like the HootSuite blog, the Moz SEO blog, Marketing Tech News, and a few others. I use Bloglovin' so I can save time and read them in one place. Some of those sites mentioned that more concentrated tagging could be improving some accounts' reach, so I thought it was worth a try. The idea of not using my go-to list of hashtags made me nervous. I have always subscribed to the whole ‘hashtag the crap out of your posts' concept. Recently I decided to just go with it on my IG art account with a bit of an ‘I’ve got nothing to lose’ attitude. So I started using a dozen or fewer hashtags that feature longer, more specific wording. In the past, I used tags like #watercolorart, but I realized that the chances of someone seeing my post in the deluge of other watercolor art posts were pretty slim. I have started to use tags like #watercolorsurfacedesign, #watercolorfloralpattern, and #floralpatterndesign. I think the key is to find tags that are just common enough that they will be searched by the right people, but also not so common that a lot of people are using them. These tags are ones that I know are right in my niche, and are more likely to be searched by someone looking to license my work.

The experiment hasn’t been running long, but refined hashtags coupled with my engagement strategy have boosted my discovery, and even with fewer hashtags, the number of likes I receive on the posts hasn’t dropped. I am hoping that over time, as I continue to implement these practices, that my Instagram visibility and reach will keep growing. 


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