Instagram’s CEO Admits Hashtags Don't Effectively Boost Post Engagement, This Research Confirms It

Instagram is one of the biggest social media platforms in the world, and it has quickly started to surpass Facebook in terms of importance in Meta’s business strategies. Facebook’s fall from grace has been swift, so it makes sense that Meta would want to emphasize Instagram more heavily because of the fact that this is the sort of thing that could potentially end up making up for the losses that Facebook is bringing in.

One method that people use to boost engagement on their Instagram posts is to use hashtags, but with all of that having been said and now out of the way it is important to note that (time after time) Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri has admitted that doing so might not be all that effective. According to Mosseri, hashtags are not actually meant to boost engagement, but rather they are meant to help sort content into categories so that people can look through them a bit more easily with all things having been considered and taken into account.

Since what Mosseri is saying goes against what people have been assuming about hashtags for quite a long time, researchers at SocialInsider conducted a study in which they looked over tens of millions of Instagram posts, or 75 million to be precise. These posts were published over a period of one year between March of 2021 and March of 2022. It turns out that this research has confirmed Mosseri’s assertions that hashtags do not, in fact, help people get even slightly more traction on their social media posts despite assumptions to the contrary.

However, an important fact that needs to be considered is that hashtags can still improve post performance slightly, but overloading one’s post with hashtags will not increase its reach in an exponential way although some might logically assume that that’s the case. Using three to four hashtags resulted in the highest boost in engagement of around 3.41%, but in spite of the fact that this is the case most other hashtag quantities produced only marginally less optimal results which indicates that hashtags are not essential to make sure that your post gets good reach.

SocialInsider also cross referenced this research by analyzing Instagram accounts with various follower counts. No matter how many followers an account has, using too many hashtags almost always results in decreased engagement rather than higher engagement levels and reach. This becomes even more prominent for bigger accounts who have between fifty thousand to one million followers. Big accounts generally see the best performance when they use three to four hashtags, but for small to medium sized accounts this ideal number hovers at around five to six so they have more leeway in that regard.

Instead of flooding your Instagram posts with hashtags, it would be better to use fewer hashtags and focus on using the right ones. Some hashtags can result in better reach than others because they are searched for more frequently, or alternatively they might be a bit more relevant to the content that you are creating. Quantity is definitely not equal to quality in most aspects of finding an audience, and hashtags are yet another example of that.
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