Are your Instagram hashtags not working?

You took the time out, you wore that #OOTD, did your hair and #MUA, called in your favourite photographer, caught that #GoldenHour rush and so much more for the #gram! You also may have taken the extra effort to hide hashtags for a cleaner, uncluttered caption. We’re impressed 👏👏!

You did so much to keep up with social media standards! 🙌🙌

But, looks like when you shared your picture and used those hashtags on the post, it did not reach your Instagram followers and it did not do so well. It means that your Instagram hashtags are not working and that’s worrisome.

Sadly, you can’t just throw attractive-sounding hashtags around on Instagram; there are a lot more checkboxes than that. Your first instinct, when you see an Instagram hashtag not working, may be to assume you are using banned hashtags. However, this may not necessarily be the case.

There are plenty of other reasons why this could be happening.

What happened here

“Why are my hashtags not working on Instagram?!?!

– Every influencer, at some point 🤓

It can be frustrating, with your Instagram hashtags not showing up in the Recents feed. Well, fret not – now that you are here, keep scrolling to find out – what could be wrong and how to make the best of all your hard work and hashtags on Instagram. Yes, hashtags are undoubtedly one of the most vital tools that add to the success of your account growth. They make you ‘discoverable’ on a platform of over one billion monthly users.

So this is us, discussing what could be causing your hashtags to underperform, and telling you how you could use the coveted ‘#’ symbol more optimally!

Firstly, what are Instagram hashtags?

While Instagram has changed a lot since its launch way back when, there is one thing that has stated consistent, and largely unchanged. You know where we’re going with this.

Hashtags. The good old # symbol.

A hashtag is essentially a combination of letters and numbers (with no spaces) that is preceded by the # symbol. Using hashtags, is a nifty way of categorizing your content. For example, #fitnessfreak would indicate that the post you are using it with, has something to do with working out, eating healthy or generally keeping fit.

On Instagram, users can make searches based on hashtags. For example, if a user types fitnessfreak on the hashtag search, a page will appear with all posts using this hashtag in their captions. These posts can be sorted either by popularity or by recency of posting. Hashtag pages can also be followed.

instagram hashtag page

This is the hashtag page for photography. It goes without saying, this is a VERY broad hashtag, and you’ll be very fortunate to have your post show up for this particular hashtag. This is especially true for newer accounts. Posts from accounts like these just won’t make it to a hashtag page with over 700 million posts. You should use more specific hashtags instead. More on this later!

If you have a public account and are using the right hashtags, your post is now exposed to a LOT more people apart from your current follower base.

So, do Instagram hashtags still work?!

Even in the year 2021, using targeted, relevant hashtags on Instagram are some of the best ways to get traction and be seen by a new set of audiences absolutely ORGANICALLY. And from here, it is a domino effect that is sure to translate into more engagement, more followers, and more customers for your business! It is basically a win-win situation. 

But it is very important that you have a public account to leverage these Instagram hashtags for likes and engagement. Private accounts will not help you as much purely because of their ‘privacy’.

There are also some other aspects to consider when using hashtags. You should not string too many words (like forming a whole sentence) together, simply because that string will then be too hard to read without spaces.

You should also use your hashtags in a way such that it looks appealing, and not desperate for reach. Over the years, people have found several ways around this. For example, some Instagrammers put a couple of hashtags in the caption, and more in the comments.

Before we proceed, let’s clarify what we mean by ‘Instagram hashtags not working’:

  • One possibility is that your posts are not showing up in hashtag search results at all
  • Second, your hashtags are simply failing to expand the reach and engagement of your posts, which is restricting the overall growth of your account 

Here we have listed some of the things you might be doing wrong leading to a situation where your Instagram hashtags are not working along with quick fixes for you to ace your #GramGame.  

Disclaimer: There is a lot of evidence that already suggest that these fixes do help, but you shouldn’t expect anything out of the ordinary too soon. Stick to these hashtag best practices, and keep posting diligently. Growth will come, we promise!

Reason #1: You are inconsistent in posting😓 

Opted for a digital detox? Or perhaps you are just having an erratic posting schedule, which means you are sharing two posts today and then five posts in a row two weeks later!

That’s not a good way of managing social media and it needs some rethinking. Find your jam because inconsistency is typically the number one reason why are your Instagram hashtags are not working.

When you are not regular with your posts, you are breaking a pattern and the Instagram algorithm will not show your randomly posted content to a wider audience. 

Posting consistently on Instagram gets talked about a LOT, but for a new social media manager, it can be hard to comprehend just how important it is. Studies show that this is one of the main factors considered by the ever-evolving Instagram algorithm when it decides where posts should show up.

While training our AI, we analyzed some random handles and the below graph shows the impact of posting regularly. 

Instagram Hashtags Not Working ?Graph showing how posting daily in instagram results in better engagement for posts.
Post Engagements Drop With Increased Gaps Between Posts

As you can see, on average, posts generate more engagement when they are posted daily. In case the duration between the posts is more – 3/6 days, the average engagement drops.

Quick fix:

Commit to a posting schedule that can be three times a week or five, and stay at it. This will help your followers know when to expect to see your new content and the chances are they are going to engage.

It also signals to Instagram’s algorithm that you are dedicated, willing to grow your account and provide value. Or else, hire a social media marketer to ace the job for you. If you are running out of steam with your content ideas or don’t know what to post regularly, check out this overview of a tool that can tell you what works best for your handle!

Just making this one change can lead to a HUGE increase in your organic reach, and that’s a genuine promise.

Finish that Posting Schedule

Reason #2: You are mis-matching content & hashtag and hence, Instagram hashtags are not working

Instagram has a separate explore section where you can browse through each hashtag. Here, you can find posts that are branching out from a similar topic having some common visual elements. And most importantly stating the popularity of the hashtag.

For example, search for #QuoteOfTheDay. It has more than 52,000,000 posts – making it an extremely popular hashtag amongst Instagram followers. The posts have a common visual element of a solid background and an easy-to-read font. 

So if you plan to post using the hashtag – #QuoteOfTheDay with a heavy background image and a complicated font the post is most likely to not perform well. However, if you post with a beautiful pastel shade background with an easy-to-read font, the post is likely to perform very well. Consider this when you’re worried about your Instagram hashtags not showing up on the Recents page.

Imagine browsing through the #fitnessfreak page and seeing a post about fast food. How would you feel?

Pro-Tip:

Before you proceed to create content for your Instagram followers, take a minute or two to explore this section of Instagram. This will help you understand the type of content that is resonating with the hashtag’s followers. This easy step will help you reach out to a greater audience set with increased engagement.

Reason #3: You are using the same hashtags🤨 

Now that you have read the above two points, you are most likely posting consistently and posting what your Instagram followers want to see on that particular hashtag.

Now, please don’t keep using the same set of hashtags. Show some variety to your audience so that they don’t get bored. And stop Instagram from penalizing you for spamming with your same tried and tested set of hashtags. Check out this article to find out what software Ajnabi Lahiri, a Netherlands-based content creator, used to revive her dying hashtag reach!

The same hashtags will limit your reach as you are not casting your net wide enough. This might also make the Instagram algorithm penalize your posts. And we obviously do not want that. 

Quick fix:

Reach a wider set audience and manage social media at its best by choosing for variety and broadening out your hashtag use. Mix, match, and whip up the hashtags every time you post new content on your feed. 

Pro-tip:

Look for trending hashtags for that particular day and mix them up with your content. [Tried and tested]

Reason #4: Instagram hashtags are not working because you are not using enough hashtags

There is no particular number of hashtags to be used in one post if that’s what you’re thinking. However, each post on Instagram is allowed up to thirty hashtags. This means if you are using only five spots out of thirty, you are most likely missing out on opportunities to explore with your Instagram followers (click here to see how you can boost your follower count organically!). On the flip side, if you are stuffing your post with too many hashtags it may be counterproductive. For a more fundamental understanding of how hashtags work on Instagram, give this one a read!

So the deal is to find the right balance, and that comes with managing social media accounts with varied genres. We analyzed some random handles and the below graph shows the impact of using Hashtags in Posts. 

Instagram Hashtags Not Working ?Graph showing how using more hashtags in posts results in better engagement for posts.
Post Engagements Typically Increase with More Hashtags

As you can see, there is a positive impact on post engagement due to the number of hashtags in the posts. 

Pro-tip:

It is good to start at the best practices number – 30 to manage your social media account and test out what works best from there. It might take weeks, months, or even a few years before you find an ideal number of hashtags to use on your posts. But, give yourself time, flexibility for trial and error for best results. 

An easy way out here will be to try out Predis.ai. It will give you new hashtag sets based on your post taking away all the stress of finding the perfect hashtags.

Reason #5: You are unable to produce fresh content.

This could indirectly be a reason why your hashtags are not working. Competition on Instagram these days is beyond insane, and you have to innovate on your content regularly. If you fail to do so, your audience will slowly lose interest. And remember, the unfollow button is always just a couple of taps away.

It is easy to say that your hashtags are not working, but oftentimes, this just isn’t the case. Your hashtags may be working just fine and maybe reaching the exact people that you intended to reach. However, without fresh content, they will always be unlikely to take actions on your posts and Stories.

Pro-tip:

Keep introducing new content, new colour themes, engaging Instagram Stories, contests, giveaways, and whatever else you can think of! It’s Instagram after all, anything related to your audience goes.

Innovating your content also means that you will be using different hashtags and hashtag combinations, and this will actively indicate to Instagram’s algorithm that you are trying new things, hence increasing your visibility. Hence, doing this will land you in a blissful multiplier effect on an upward-spiralling reach. Basically, any social media manager’s dream.

Reason #6: You have been shadowbanned by Instagram.

Shadowbans have remained a myth for some time, but there is enough proof now, that they are real and are affecting thousands of bewildered Instagrammers.

A shadowban is when a user’s content on social media sites is blocked from gaining reach/attention. It is done in a way such that the user does not know it is happening, but the user’s content is not showcased on explore pages, which is a huge blow to organic reach. However, it does pop up on the feed of those who are following the shadowbanned user.

It can be very hard to determine what caused a shadowban, but essentially, if you’ve been doing fishy, unethical things with your Instagram account (like buying likes and followers), don’t be surprised if you’ve been shadowbanned. Here are some other reasons why a shadowban could be in effect:

  • Using software that violates Instagram’s terms of service
  • Taking too many actions per hour
  • Using an abused or broken hashtag
  • Getting reported a lot

If you want to know all about the mysterious (but real) Instagram shadowban, hop onto this detailed blog, where we’ve discussed precautions and causes in minute detail.

Pro-tip:

To avoid being shadowbanned, simply be ethical while operating your Instagram account. Refrain from posting content that is violent or offensive in any way, don’t use illegal software, don’t take too many actions per hour (it’s best to distribute them throughout the day) and carry out active hashtag research, so you know the hashtags you’re using aren’t broken.

Reason #7: The hashtags you’re using are simply too competitive.

Most Instagram users sort the hashtag section by ‘Top Posts’ rather ‘Recent.’ Essentially, this means that the posts that are generating the most traction and engagement are shown first. These are usually high-quality posts from accounts that have a vast fan following.

If you are managing a new Instagram account, using a hashtag with such popularity on your posts may not get your post much attention at all. In this case, it’s not a matter of your hashtags not working. You just need to revisit your hashtag strategies.

Pro-tip:

For new accounts, try more specific hashtags. Sure, there are way less posts here, so the followers would intuitively be less as well. However, a lower number of posts means that your post will be more visible to the few people that do follow the hashtag.

It’s a matter of little exposure vs. no exposure. Take baby steps to increase your organic reach, and it will eventually create a multiplier effect; before you know it, your 720 impressions will become 7200!

Reason #8: You’re using too few or too many, leading to your Instagram hashtags not working

Okay, so there is some dispute on how many hashtags you should ideally use per post.

Should you use 30 hashtags per post and reach the limit, or keep it short and restrict the number to 2-3? That’s a question for the ages.

A lot of prior research has suggested that one should in fact, use all 30 hashtags when pushing an Instagram post. Using just ONE hashtag can generate 12.6% more engagement as compared to using no hashtag. Another study suggested that using 11 or more hashtags would generate over 400% more engagement when compared to a post without hashtags.

So these studies don’t exactly line up, but they definitely point to the same direction. The more hashtags you use, the more engagement you generate for the post. The question now is, how to use hashtags so that they don’t look spammy?

Pro-tip:

Creators have figured out a few different ways of inserting hashtags into captions while making them look non-spammy.

One way of doing this is writing your caption first, and inserting hashtags a few lines subsequently, rather than directly next to your caption. This way, the hashtags will still be there, only now they’re neatly tucked away under the Read More button (which the user may or may not click). Here’s an example that I found on the #photography page that I follow; it was in the Top, and not in the Recents section:

how to neatly add hashtags in instagram captions

Another clever way of doing this is by leaving your caption as it is (or with a couple of attractive hashtags) and putting the rest in the comments section. Instagram is unclear on whether this affects reach, but recent studies have shown that hashtags added this way have the same effect.

The bottom line

All this and more will help you in up-ing the hashtag aspect of your #GramGame. We are sure of this all you need is a bit of patience and a bit of perseverance.

Lastly, always use your hashtags correctly! Do not have space between # and the word, and try to use capitals before starting every new word – for example, #MyYogaRoutine instead of #myyogaroutine.

Now, all you have to do is follow the steps and get the party started! Meanwhile, don’t forget to like, share and subscribe to our Instagram, Facebook, Twitter for more ideas. Keep eyeing this blog for more insights on how to increase hashtag reach on Instagram (and reach out to us if you’ve used a strategy not discussed here)!


New to social media management or Instagram? These blogs listed below will get you started, and provide helpful insights on best practices to follow (and those to avoid) on social media: