Why You Shouldn’t Be Using Popular Hashtags

Woman on Social Media
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Yes, you read that title correctly. You shouldn’t be using popular hashtags.

Let’s back up for a second. Hashtags can be used on all major social media platforms—from Facebook, to LinkedIn, to Twitter, to Instagram. When used in a caption, hashtags group your content with other posts under the same hashtag, allowing more people than just your followers to see your content. Sounds great, right? Of course you want more people to see your content!

But here’s the catch: If you use the wrong hashtag for your post and the size of your social audience, that hashtag might not actually help you be seen at all. Just like your content calendar should have a strategy, your hashtags should have their own distinct approach to best optimize your social content.

Instagram analytics

Pick Hashtags With Less than 1.5 Million Posts

Some tags are more popular than others. At the time of writing this blog, a hashtag such as #MotivationalQuotes has over 34.5 million posts attached to that tag on Instagram alone. If you were to tag your next Instagram quote-post with #MotivationalQuotes, there’s a slim chance it would be seen by people following that tag.

Why? Let’s continue with our #MotivationalQuotes Instagram example. On Instagram, when you’re looking through a tag, you see two categories: the top posts, and the most recent posts. Top posts are included on that page when they have the most engagements for that given hashtag. For #MotivationalQuotes, most of the top posts have thousands of likes.

Screen capture of #MotivationalQuotes on Instagram

If you’re a small business account with less than 1,000 followers, it’s not likely your posts will make it in the top category. Similarly, with 34.5 million posts already under #MotivationalQuotes, this means hundreds—if not thousands—of people are using that tag every day. You may show up under “recent,” but only for a moment as more posts start streaming in.

For a small account—someone who is not an “influencer” or a corporation with a huge budget behind them—using an extremely popular hashtag may be as useful as washing your car without water. The hashtag #MotivationMonday simply becomes extra words on your caption.

At Eternity, we try to stick to tags that have less than 1.5 million posts but also have a sizable usage (at least 10,000 posts attached to it). That way, you’re more likely to be noticed by a smaller but still active audience.

Someone taking a picture of food

Use Phrases over One-Word Hashtags

If you’re trying to find the perfect tags for you—the ones that aren’t overcrowded—we’d suggest tagging with phrases rather than just one word.

Oftentimes, one-word tags are the ones that fill up with millions and millions of posts. Want to take a guess at how many posts on Instagram include the tag #Dog?

Got your guess? The answer is 291 million at the writing of this post.

If you have a cute office dog photo, alternatives to the one-word #Dog include #DogFeatures (886 thousand posts), #OfficeDog (535 thousand posts), and #WorkDog (138 thousand posts). Each tag is less crowded but still exposes your content to a large number of eyes. Simply put, these tags do more work for your content because they more likely match your social reach.

When you have the time, research phrases you could use on your posts to replace one-word descriptors.

Someone taking a picture of their friend

Find Targeted, Local Hashtags

Finally, a great way to really make your hashtags work for you is by using closer-to-home tags. At Eternity, we like to tag our content with #VermontBusiness (which has a small 5,000 plus posts attached to it). Why? We’re located in the lovely Burlington, Vermont and this smaller, localized tag applies to the people directly in our community.

By using this tag, we can connect with our neighbors, network with new businesses, and solidify ourselves in a community. We can get noticed by a group that truly matters to us. Trust us when we say a local business partner liking and sharing your post can take you a lot further than #MotivationMonday. Their social referral builds trust and introduces you to their loyal customers.

Community tags may have less eyes, but they have the eyes you watch to catch. Try finding hashtags close to your home and use them on your posts to enter a more close-knit social space. 

So, in the future, #Dog is out and #OfficeDog is in. If you’d like to see how we use hashtags to our advantage across social media, you can follow us for more at @eternityweb on Instagram, and by following these links for Facebook and LinkedIn. We’ll #SeeYouThere!

We have won the Best of Business (BoB) award for five years. W00t! 🎉 Read more