Hashtags: The Danger of Over-Doing It on Social Media

abstract representation of hashtags: the danger of over-doing it on social media

Hashtag strategies have become more complex and harder to understand. As social media platforms continue to add guidelines that limit the effectiveness of hashtags, many brands are left wondering if the hashtag days are over. 

In the past, marketing strategies often relied on using as many hashtags as possible to connect with audiences and organically grow engagement. But the truth is, hashtags are a sensitive balance. Using too many can lead to dangerous consequences, such as shadowbanning or spam reports, which have a serious negative impact on engagement. 

What does this mean for social media strategies? Hashtags can still be very effective, but there’s a fine line between applying them thoughtfully and over-doing it. 

Every Hashtag Should Have a Purpose

Hashtags are a great tool to reach a specific audience organically on social media. However, if you’re looking to expand your audience, applying more hashtags may not be the answer. In fact, a Statista survey found that brands posting on Facebook using only one or two hashtags had an average of 593 interactions, while brands using over 10 only showed 188 interactions per post. 

To avoid overusing hashtags, brands should focus on quality over quantity. One way to do this is by developing your own branded hashtag. In other words, brands should think of a creative, relevant hashtag specific to their brand that consumers will want to use. Any time a consumer posts about your brand or shares your content, they can include your branded hashtag, which will create a community online specifically for your brand. This is a great way to stay connected with your audience and organically spread brand awareness. 

The Dangers of Shadowbanning

If an account is abusing hashtags by posting too many or using ones that are irrelevant to the content, Instagram can temporarily block that account from showing up on any hashtag feed. This is called a shadowban, because Instagram removes visibility of your content without telling you. 

Why does Instagram do this? Their goal is to keep users safe and prevent malicious content or spam from spreading. To accomplish this, Instagram’s algorithm needs to hide any pages that may be flagged for spam and ban hashtags that seem to be frequently abused. 

According to a recent article by Medium, there are a few hashtag strategies you can follow to avoid being shadowbanned: 

  • Don’t use the same hashtag repeatedly over the course of 24 hours. Each hashtag should not be used more than three times in one day
  • Don’t use the same hashtag set more than three times in row
  • Don’t use the same hashtag more than six times in your last 10 posts

An account of any size following can be shadowbanned. Unfortunately, the only way to overcome a shadowban is to wait it out. Instagram typically hides your account for two weeks. After that, your content should pop back up into the hashtag feeds.

Algorithms Are Always Changing

Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other major social media platforms are always tweaking their algorithms to monitor consumer use. A slight change to the algorithm can sort and prioritize hashtags or content differently, making it difficult for brands to measure engagement effectively. Since social platforms never formally release algorithm updates publicly, it’s up to brands to monitor their metrics and update their social strategies if dips in engagement occur. 

One way to ensure you’re using prioritized, quality hashtags is by using a hashtag generator tool, such as Curate. This tool allows users to organize and measure hashtag performance overtime to track which hashtags lead to the most engagement. 

Want to learn more about social media strategies? Contact us today and find out how we can help you improve your social media presence.