Do you want more people to see your Instagram content? Wondering if hashtags can really help—and what to try instead?
In this article, you'll learn how and why hashtags for Instagram matter to your strategy and 12 ways to get more reach without them.
Do Hashtags Increase Views on Instagram?
In March 2022, Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri addressed this question in an Instagram story. After initially responding, “Not really,” he expanded on his answer.
Over the course of the 15-second story, Mosseri explained that hashtags do help Instagram figure out what your content is about. That could increase the likelihood of your content appearing on a hashtag page. But he clarified that hashtags alone aren't a tool for increasing distribution.
About a week later, Mosseri posted a follow-up story about the importance of hashtags. He clarified, “I'm saying they're not going to meaningfully change the amount of reach you get when you post. So if you expect a night-and-day difference, you're going to be disappointed.”
Ultimately, both stories confirm that hashtags can add context to your Instagram content. They can also help your content appear in relevant searches, which can drive discovery. But if you're looking for a tool to increase reach on Instagram, hashtags won't affect exposure in a meaningful way.
Why Mosseri's Hashtag Statement Matters to Marketers
For social media marketers, this revelation has been nothing short of surprising. After all, it doesn't align with the general conviction that hashtags affect Instagram reach.
For example, official Instagram accounts have published tips and guides for using hashtags. Researching trending hashtags, choosing the right combination of terms, and experimenting with different numbers of keywords are part of most marketers' standard workflows. Many marketers use third-party tools to track hashtag interactions, which fuel the belief that these keywords boost reach.
But given Mosseri's statement, marketers should question how they plan to continue using hashtags. To start, it's a good idea to begin thinking about other tactics for increasing reach on Instagram.
What the Research Shows About Hashtags for Instagram
In response to Mosseri's initial statement, Socialinsider launched an analysis of more than 75 million Instagram posts published over the past year. The study aimed to offer insight into whether hashtags increase views and how much value they provide to businesses.
Ultimately, Socialinsider found that hashtags don't affect distribution, which confirms Mosseri's statement. In addition, the study found that the number of hashtags in a post doesn't have a measurable impact on views. No matter how many hashtags a post has, the average engagement rate by impressions falls within the same range.
But that doesn't necessarily mean that you should stop using hashtags altogether. As Socialinsider explains, Instagram has recently made a push to enhance its search functionality. Since hashtags are still critical for appearing in relevant searches, they should still be key components of your Instagram content. You just shouldn't rely on them for increasing views.
12 Tactics to Get More Organic Exposure on Instagram (Without Relying on Hashtags)
If you're struggling with organic reach on Instagram, now you know that hashtags aren't a reliable solution. To get more organic exposure for your Instagram content, take a look at the tactics below.
#1: Post at the Best Time for Your Audience
One of the simplest ways to get more views on Instagram is to publish content when your followers are using the app.
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By posting when your audience is already active, you'll have a better chance of grabbing their attention and getting engagement when your content is fresh. Since engagement is one of the key signals for the Instagram algorithm, it can help you increase exposure in the long term.
To find out when your followers are active, use Instagram Insights in either the Instagram app or Creator Studio. The latter offers much more detail, including hourly breakdowns. You can hover over any hour of any day to see how many of your followers are generally active at that time. Then you can test posting new content in the busiest time slots.
Keep in mind that Meta updates these metrics continuously. It's a good idea to revisit audience activity at least once a month to make sure you're still posting at the optimal times for your followers.
#2: Share Instagram Feed Posts to Stories
What if your audience tends to be active at several key times throughout the day but you only publish content once or twice daily? You can experiment with your publishing schedule to see which times generate the best reach or you can consider new ways to distribute your feed content.
In addition to posting content to the feed, you can share it to your Instagram stories. Your followers can tap to view the post or reel from your story, increasing views for the original content. To encourage people to tap through, use Instagram Stories stickers and calls to action (CTAs) that show them what to do.
#3: Tell Stories That Resonate
Your Instagram feed may be filled with eye-catching visuals and on-brand creatives. But if the captions and CTAs mainly focus on selling products, your audience may start to ignore your content.
To increase engagement and exposure, weave compelling stories into your content strategy. By introducing your team, talking about your challenges, or revealing what it's like to work for your company, you can connect with followers more authentically.
For example, the @ftlofshop reel below gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the designer's process. In less than 60 seconds, the designer makes a genuine connection with followers while showing a snippet of the painstaking process of making jewelry by hand.
#4: Produce More Reels
At the end of 2021, Mosseri announced that Instagram would focus on short-form video, as this would give the platform the most opportunities for growth. Since then, the platform has already rolled out a Reels tab, added Reels to the feed, and introduced new features and effects. Because Instagram is prioritizing Reels, it's reasonable to expect publishing these short-form videos to increase your reach.
If you haven't added Reels to your content strategy yet, there's an easy way to start. Go through your Instagram story highlights and find one you want to repurpose. Tap the Reel icon in the bottom menu to use your story highlight as a Reel clip. You can add audio, stickers, and other effects to take full advantage of Reels features.
#5: Create Carousel Posts
Whether you create a reel or a feed post, it typically appears in your followers' feeds once. If they don't interact with it the first time, you may lose your chance to get engagement. Over time, that could cause the algorithm to deliver your content less often.
To avoid a decrease in exposure and give the platform more opportunities to deliver your content, create Instagram carousel posts with up to 10 images and videos. Instagram typically displays carousel posts up to twice in followers' feeds. Since it shows a different carousel card each time, you get more chances to grab your audience's attention.
The @worldmarket post below features a carousel. The carousel cards show the featured products from different angles and followers can tap to shop without leaving the Instagram app.
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#6: Experiment With Content Types
If reels and carousel posts are so great for increasing views, should you simply choose one content type and stick to it? Not necessarily. Instagram is constantly changing and so is your audience. Rather than finding one thing that works and sticking to it, do some experimenting.
It's a good idea to mix up the creative formats you use, the types of stories you tell, and the kinds of CTAs you add to captions. That way, you'll have plenty of opportunities to find what works best for your audience. You'll also avoid committing to a single tactic or feature that Instagram phases out weeks or months down the road.
#7: Tag Shoppable Products
No matter what type of content you create, tagging relevant products is a good idea. When you add product tags to posts or reels, the content can display in your Instagram shop. People can swipe through the product carousel on your shop page and tap through to view your original content.
For example, the @occasionalish Instagram shop features several product photos of the pin pictured below. The carousel also includes content like the reel below, which shoppers can tap to view in full.
#8: Reshare User-Generated Content
Your team may produce tons of high-performing content but not every post you publish has to be original. Sharing user-generated content (UGC) is a great way to connect with your community. Since UGC tends to appear more authentic than branded content, there's a good chance it will resonate better with your audience.
Before you repost UGC, make sure you have permission to do so. You can DM the original creator or comment to request permission. Or you can run an Instagram campaign that requires people to opt into your terms when submitting their posts.
In the post below, @canva includes several carousel cards featuring UGC. The original posts come from the design app's weekly challenge, which invites users to create and submit content on a certain theme. Users can click the link in @canva's bio to see the full terms and conditions of the design challenge before participating.
#9: Leverage Instagram's Collaboration Tools
When you share UGC to your brand's feed, you might tag the original creator in the post or mention them in the caption. But when you want to establish a more official partnership, it's helpful to use Instagram's collaboration tools.
When you create a post or a reel, tap the Tag People option and then select Invite Collaborator. Any account you invite gets credited in your post and they can share the post to their own profile. That means your followers and your co-creator's followers can all see the content in their feeds, which can lead to a lot of added exposure.
For example, @ella.mills__ and @deliciouslyella both appear as creators in the Instagram post pictured below and it displays on both accounts' profiles. As a much newer and much smaller account, @ella.mills__ can benefit from tons of added exposure by collaborating with the much more established @deliciouslyella account.
#10: Host a Contest or Giveaway
Instagram collaborations open the door to a lot of opportunities for increased reach and engagement. One of the best ways to get even more exposure from a collaboration is to host a co-branded contest or giveaway. When you work with another business to give away products or services, both can benefit from the increased views and audience growth.
The Instagram post below features a co-branded giveaway by @adwoabeauty and @uomabeauty. The entry guidelines ask people to follow both brands, which can improve reach in the long term. For a bonus entry, users are asked to share the post to their stories, which can boost content views.
In addition to featuring a co-branded giveaway, the post uses Instagram's collaboration tools to publish the post on both brands' feeds.
#11: Work With Instagram Influencers
Instagram's collaboration tools are great for increasing views with co-created content. But if you'd rather contract a creator to produce original content independently, working with an Instagram influencer is a better choice.
By partnering with an influencer, you can introduce your brand's content to a completely new audience. Although influencer partnerships typically provide indirect exposure, they can help you increase views and grow your audience in the long run.
For example, this @saltyseattle Instagram post features a partnership with @misfitsmarket, noted by the #ad hashtag. Both @saltyseattle and @misfitsmarket published their own posts featuring the content and tagging the other, effectively introducing their audiences to the other account.
In the Instagram post below, influencer @collegeceliackc uses Instagram's paid partnership tools to work with @scharglutenfree. As the sponsoring brand, @scharglutenfree can get more views and gain more followers by partnering with an established influencer.
#12: Build a Loyal Community
In addition to publishing compelling content, it's also important to cultivate a community on Instagram. Engaging with followers is helpful for a couple of reasons.
Responding to Instagram follower comments can help you form deeper relationships with your audience. That can make followers more likely to comment again, which can tell the algorithm to deliver your content to engaged users more frequently.
When your audience has a genuine interest in your brand and enjoys interacting with your account, they may also be more likely to mark your profile as a favorite. Favorite accounts appear higher in the feed and users can now view the favorites feed exclusively. That means the bigger the community you build, the higher your Instagram reach can go.
Now that Mosseri's statement and Socialinsider's research have confirmed that hashtags don't generate meaningful reach, it's important to find other ways to get more eyes on your Instagram content. By using the tips above, you can take steps to get more organic exposure on Instagram without relying on hashtags.
Get More Advice on Instagram Marketing
- Grow an Instagram following that converts.
- Set up an Instagram shop.
- Create Instagram reels like a pro.
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