The Real Reasons Hashtags Aren't Working For You

October 21, 2021

So, you've been using hashtags for the amazing social media benefits you've heard about:

  • Boosted reach
  • Better engagement
  • More followers
  • Higher-quality leads

Still, your hashtags just aren't "working."

You're not seeing more likes on your posts, or more views on your Stories, or new followers and leads. You're beginning to think that hashtags don't actually work at all, despite what social media influencers say. Perhaps the word "scam" even comes to mind ...

But before you give up, or worse, head over to the Dark Side and engage in questionable tactics like buying followers and using engagement pods, here are some real reasons hashtags aren't getting you the results you desperately want – and should be getting.

Reason 1: You're only using highly competitive hashtags

If you've got 1,000 followers, chances are you're not at the stage to compete with accounts like the brand Nike (178 million followers) or reality TV celebrity Kylie Jenner (276 million followers).

That's why you need our "Placement" feature. It gives you personalized advice about which hashtag groups will work based on how many followers YOU have, using data gathered by our AI.

After you’ve selected a group of hashtags in the app, you may have seen that they are "Extremely Hard" or "Very Hard" to place for. Ideally, you want to aim for groups that are "Possible" or "Easy."

This Hashtag Expert article explains the "Placement" card in detail and shows you how to make it work for you.

Reason 2: You're using trending hashtags to "cheat" the algorithm

Let’s look at a hypothetical example: Say you run a local clothing boutique in Los Angeles. You want to post a photo to your Instagram account of new stock – casual summer dresses. You’ve noticed some trending hashtags and decided to use them to boost your post reach:

  • #NewYorkSummer
  • #InstaReels
  • #InterviewOutfits
  • #Like4Like

Let’s break down why each of these hashtags is not suitable for your particular use:

  • #NewYorkSummer: Because this hashtag contains the word "summer," one would think it relates to summer dresses. But it’s a location-specific hashtag that isn’t relevant to a LA business.
  • #InstaReels: Reels content might be popular at the moment ... but the content being posted isn’t a Reel.
  • #InterviewOutfits: It's reasonable to think users searching this hashtag are looking for clothes, right? But are they looking for casual dresses to make a good first impression? Not likely.
  • #Like4Like: This is 100 percent spam, so don’t use it – ever!

If you're using hashtags that aren't relevant to your actual content or account, you're not going to be rewarded with a higher reach by Instagram.

In fact, using hashtags that are misleading or spammy will do the opposite: put you in the bad books. So before you include a hashtag, ask yourself this question: “If a user searches for this hashtag and my post appears, will they be satisfied with the result, or will they feel misled?”

Have a look at our article, "How to Include Hashtags in Your Social Media Strategy" for more tips on how to use hashtags correctly.

Reason 3: Your content isn't educational/engaging/entertaining

Hashtags are there to help you achieve results on social media, but you've got to put in the work.

If your foundation isn't there, hashtags are not going to compensate for a lack of quality content and be a magic fix. What you need to get right first is creating social media content that is:

  • Authentic
  • Relevant
  • Valuable
  • Current

Easier said than done, right? We understand that running a business is demanding and often leaves little time for in-depth content creation. However, it might help you to prioritize social media if you change your mindset and see it this way:

Investing in good content is investing in your business.

With that in mind, try to plan your content ahead of time to eliminate stress and deliver content that is strategic to achieve your business goals. If coming up with engaging content is a hurdle for you, we have 8 content ideas to help you out when you need inspiration.

Once you are confident with the quality of your social media content, you can then move on to adding hashtags.

Key Takeaway

While hashtags are a powerful tool that can help you make your social media content more discoverable – and thereby increase the potential for interactions and leads – they are not a substitute for good content and need to be used correctly to see results.

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