Lately, Instagram seems to have been doing some tweaking of its algorithm, which has been making competition for visibility on the platform much tougher.
According to our Facebook connections, this is a deliberate move to help reduce the spammy and less relevant behavior of certain Instagram accounts, and with this algorithm shift has come a fad of people trying to get fancy with hashtag placement in order to game the system.
While trying different tactics is always recommended, we need to be clear that managing a personal Instagram account is much different than managing a brand account. What works for the fun food images on your personal Instagram profile may not work the same way for a law firm’s business profile that you're trying to build.
The trend of putting the hashtags in the comments came about as a way to keep Instagram captions looking clean, but then soon, people realized that hashtags in comments were also discoverable by Instagram’s algorithms. From there, those rascally “growth hackers” decided the hottest tactic to trick the system was to swap out and edit your hashtags to surface your content for more terms. This can be exhausting, especially if you have to work at scale.
So, what's a marketer to do? As with all things in digital marketing, it's best to not make assumptions - we should let data inform the strategy and tactics we use.
I recently came across a great study which analyzed the content performance of Instagram posts when the hashtags are placed in the caption, in comparison to when hashtags are placed within the comments.
This study analyzed 117 posts from 3 accounts with a total of 13,700 Instagram Followers. Of this sample size, 51 posts included posts with hashtags in the comments, while 66 posts contained hashtags in the original post caption. Each post in this study contained 30 hashtags.
After a 30-day period, the data was analyzed:
Posts with Hashtags in the Captions:
- 60.64 Average Likes per Post
- 2.84 Average Comments per Post
- 2.72 Average Profile Visits per Post
- 66 Average Reach per Post
Posts with Hashtags in Comments:
- 55.21 Average Likes per Post
- 3.39 Average Comments per Post
- 2.88 Average Profile Visits per Post
- 51 Average Reach per Post
The proof is in the pudding
Including hashtags in the post caption resulted in 9.84% more Likes, and 29.4% more Reach. Placing the hashtags in the comments resulted in 19.3% more comments for some strange reason.
Placing hashtags in the caption resulted in 18% better content performance metrics. While this might seem like a slim margin, you need to also consider the extra time and steps it would take to go back and remember to add comments into your post comments.
At the end of the day, you should utilize whichever approach works best for your Instagram account, however, the data highlights which is clearly better.