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We tried the viral hashtag strategy. Here's what happened

Updated: 6 days ago

One of the keys to success when running socials for your brand is keeping on top of the ever-changing platform best practices. Often, the platform will walk you through their recommendations, but other times there are a lot of grey areas in regard to some aspects…like hashtags.

No matter where you look on social media marketing sites and blogs, no one has a concrete answer on how many hashtags to use on Instagram, or where to put them. If you’ve been around Super Duper’s social media long enough, you’ll know we’re advocates for keeping hashtags in your post copy. But we weren’t 100% sure if the recent tales of getting more engagement using fewer than 10 hashtags vs. using all 30 were accurate. So, we put it to the test. For the month of October, we used only 5-8 relevant hashtags to see how it would impact our content; and we noticed a significant difference in our analytics.

Follower growth stayed the same

We received 15 more followers than in the month of September. This wasn't a surprise to us since we have a weekly engagement loop that we do on Instagram to reach new followers. This technique allows us to engage with fellow creators within our niche by interacting with them in the environments that they live in: The Explore page and in the topics they often spend time. (Want this hack? DM us!) So, our follower cadence stayed the same throughout the experiment.

Major dip in engagement

Halfway through the month, we discussed that we felt that our content wasn’t performing as well as it normally would for us. We were noticing slower likes and even fewer comments than in previous months. It was discouraging for sure, but we decided to keep with the experiment to see the whole month through and have the most accurate numbers for 30 days of a different hashtag strategy. Over the month of October, we saw a 33% decrease in accounts engaged on our content compared to where we were in September.

Dive in reach

The more shocking drop we saw was in our account’s reach. We saw a 64.1% drop from the reach we saw in September. While this number is, as we said, shocking; it’s understandable when you really think about it. Reach is how many accounts have seen your content, so if you cut your hashtags from 30 to less than 10, you’re missing out on 20+ opportunities for your posts to be seen by people lurking in a specific hashtag.

So, TL;DR cutting down on our hashtag usage didn’t boost our content or show us any wow-factor numbers. We saw a dip in our engagement, reach, and performance overall. The algorithm works in mysterious ways, so what works for some accounts may not be the law of the platform, but we’ve seen enough to sell us on our previous strategy. If you’re not seeing the engagement and reach you want and have been underusing hashtags, it might be time to give the full 30 available a shot.

On the hunt for a digital branding partner? Super Duper Studios is a digital branding agency in Toronto. We specialize in game-changing visual identity, websites that make sense, and double-tap worthy social media content. Nice to meet ya! Email me at and let’s chat.


Rebeca MacKinnon

Social Media Specialist at Super Duper Studios.

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