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Hashtags are always a hot topic on Instagram. However, since Reels are distributed on Instagram differently than traditional posts, there are many rumors about whether it is effective to use hashtags in Reels.
In our Reels study, we explored this very question, and today we will tell you if and how you should use hashtags to optimize the reach and engagement of your Instagram Reels.
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After examining hundreds of Reels, one thing can be said: Hashtags work. Compared to those without hashtags, Reels with hashtags receive an average of 47 percent more likes, comments and shares, and an average of 43 percent higher reach.
Lots of hashtags mean lots of reach
The average reach increases with the number of hashtags being used. While Reels with one to four hashtags reach seven percent more people than Reels without hashtags, the audience is already 27 percent larger when up to ten hashtags are being used in a Reel. For Reels with ten to thirty hashtags, the reach jumps by a staggering 247 percent on average compared to Reels without hashtags. This disproves many currently circulating rumors stating that Instagram classifies posts with more than five hashtags as spam or that it limits the reach for Reels with many hashtags.
Hashtags are a way to not only appear randomly in other users’ Reel tab or explore page, but also to be found when users are explicitly looking for a specific topic. Take advantage of this opportunity and do not solely rely on the Reels algorithm. Let users who are actively searching for the type of content you post find you by integrating hashtags in your Reels.
Another argument for using hashtags is that Instagram users can follow hashtags, which means that your Reels will end up in the feeds of many users, even in the feeds of users who don’t follow your account (yet). By following the hashtag you used, they will see your Reel.
Engagement also increases with the number of hashtags
A clear picture also emerges in terms of engagement: Reels with many hashtags achieve the highest engagement rates. Reels with one to four hashtags achieve an average of 20 percent more engagement than Reels without hashtags. For Reels with five to ten hashtags, engagement is already 60 percent higher on average, and for Reels with more than ten hashtags, the increase in engagement is an impressive 160 percent compared to Reels without hashtags.
Having established that it pays to use as many hashtags as possible in Instagram Reels, we now dive deeper into the question: “Should you use popular and generic hashtags or specific niche hashtags? Or perhaps a mix of both?”
Generic hashtags work best
When examining the question of whether
- generic and short hashtags, for which there are already over 1 million Instagram posts,
- specific and long or “branded” hashtags with fewer than 1 million posts
- or a balanced mix of generic and specific hashtags
perform best, it turned out that Reels with generic hashtags perform better than the alternative approaches in terms of both audience interactions and average reach. This seems counterintuitive at first glance, as nowadays people are often admonished to stay within their niche and target their content only to their specific niche.
But in terms of reach and engagement, the numbers speak for themselves. In contrast to Reels that use generic hashtags, Reels with mixed hashtags and Reels with specific hashtags, respectively, show an average of 56 and 41 percent fewer user interactions and 44 and 62 percent fewer reach per follower.
The more generic a hashtag is, the more competing posts there are for that hashtag, which should tend to negatively impact a Reel’s number of impressions and reach. However, as we discovered, generic hashtags in fact increase reach, while specific niche hashtags result in overall lower reach. A plausible conclusion seems to be that users on Instagram significantly prefer searching for broad, short hashtags such as #puertorico, #summer and #weekend over specific, long hashtags such as #puertoricoweekends. This higher search volume, in turn, compensates for the significantly higher number of competing posts to generic hashtags and results in an even greater average reach of a post with generic hashtags compared to the average reach of a Reel with specific niche hashtags.
In a direct comparison between mixed and specific hashtags, specific hashtags show 35 percent higher post interactions, while mixed hashtags show 46 percent higher reach. If your primary focus is to increase your overall reach, specific hashtags are not the way to do it. We recommend making use of them only if you are looking to grow within your particular niche and build a fan base only around the most avid fans.
In our study, neither the widespread rumor that you should only use 3 to 5 hashtags to increase reach, nor the tip that you should use primarily long niche hashtags, could be verified.
Choose hashtags wisely
One thing to keep in mind: the more hashtags you use, the greater the chance of being found. However, the reach of a Reel depends not only on its hashtags, but also on Instagram’s Reels algorithm. And the algorithm focuses in particular on how strongly the users who have seen the Reel have interacted (liked, commented, shared) with it. The higher this engagement, the higher the number of users will be to whom the algorithm will show the Reel in their feed.
This means that if you use a lot of generic hashtags, there is a risk that they will neither match your video content particularly well, nor the tastes and interests of the people searching for a generic keyword. The result would be a low engagement, which in turn leads to the algorithm not organically multiplying the Reel and showing it to ever-increasing amounts of users. So keep in mind, to use a lot of popular and short hashtags, while making sure that the hashtags fit your Reel so that peoples’ expectations are not disappointed…
If you want to get inspiration for the best hashtags for your own Reels, try out our free Hashtag Composer.
Do hashtags in Reels have a positive impact on reach and engagement? The answer is a resounding Yes. Use as many generic hashtags as possible in your Reels which appeal to a wide range of audiences if you want to achieve a higher reach and increasing engagement. Yet, always remember that setting hashtags is an art. Not only should you choose hashtags that are generic if you want to build reach, but also those that match your Reel as closely as possible and actually describe what can be seen or heard in it. This way, you increase the chance of being found by Instagram users who are actively searching for Reels like yours via hashtag search. And through their high engagement the Reel algorithm will classify you as a Reel with great potential and distribute your Reel to increasingly larger user bases.
All of our results were obtained through an analysis in Fanpage Karma. If you want to find out for yourself what works best in your industry and with your fans, we invite you to try Fanpage Karma for free and find out for yourself.
Also check out our other blog posts on Instagram Reels.