Of all the features of social media people find completely unfathomable, hashtags are certainly high on the list, perhaps outranked only by the elusive ‘algorithm’. I know this because whenever I bring up the subject with clients, it rarely elicits anything more positive than a resigned eye roll, which is a shame, because hashtags are one of the cheapest and most effective ways to grow your engagement and following on Instagram.

I know. I know. But, before you cue up your face palm emoji, hear me out…

My theory is that the problem people have with hashtags is not that they’re difficult to use, or complicated to understand, but rather that there is a huge, dark pit of misinformation and myth out there in the landscape of social media advice. People want tools they can utilise with confidence and which render clear, quantifiable results, and there is a lot of confusion around hashtags that somewhat muddies the water.

So, I thought it might be helpful to clear a few things up, and bust a few hashtag #myths:

Myth 1: Hashtags DON’T increase engagement.

Truth: This one is just straight up nonsense. Not only are they more visible now that we can choose to follow particular hashtags, but they’re also appearing in more places across the platform, such as lives, stories and IGTV episodes.

The only truth here is that hashtags won’t increase engagement if they are irrelevant to your content or if you are using hashtags that your ideal audience doesn’t care about. Otherwise #IgnoreTheHaters.

Myth 2: You should focus exclusively on the HUGE hashtags.

Truth: Sure, we’d all love to be trending on the top posts for #EntrepreneurLife, but it’s important to be realistic. You’re much better off targeting similar, relevant hashtags that have a lower engagement, increasing your chances of being featured and having your content shared with users. You stand to gain much more from an audience of engaged, relevant followers than from one of spambots and fame-chasers: Think big fish, small pond.

Myth 3: Hashtags need to be in your caption and/or comments.

Truth: Nope! Whichever way you’ve heard it spun, this isn’t true either. Hashtags work in exactly the same way via caption or comment. Provided you don’t wait too long to post them and post them from the same account as the caption, you’re golden.

Myth 4: You’ll be punished or considered ‘spammy’ if you use all 30 hashtags.

Truth: Listen, if Instagram only wanted you to use 15 hashtags, that’s how many they’d let you use. They’re not a weak-willed pushover and they’re not out to get you either: They’ve chosen that limit for a reason.

Each hashtag is a free opportunity to connect with your audience and drive engagement. If someone offered you £30 of advertising credit would you just use £15? I hope not!

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth: Use those hashtags and get the best bang for your buck. Just make sure they’re relevant and that you change them up to suit each post.

Myth 5: You need to be posting every single day if you want to grow your following.

Truth: First, let’s pluck the kernel of truth from this myth: Yes, if you want to grow your following and create engagement, it’s a good idea to show up, in some way, regularly and consistently. But let’s be clear, the important word here is consistently.

You will gain zero credit for bombarding your followers with constant stories and 5 posts one week if you then go completely dark the following week. If you want people to engage with your content, and regularly consume it, you must be consistent.

If you only have time to post twice a week, make those posts count. We are all busy. We live in a digital age where everyone is fighting for our attention at all times, and in that environment quality beats quantity every time. If your followers trust you, and are trained to expect two epic posts weekly, plus a story only when you’ve got something cool or relevant to share, they are much more likely to flip on your post notifications and take the time to consume your content when it arrives.

Thank you to our guest Blogger Chantelle Davison – Choice Words By Chantelle