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How to Increase the Performance of Your Instagram Posts for Free

We all want to take advantage of a social media platform’s organic reach (or should want to) because it enables us to reach people without having to spend money.

People sitting down in a row in public all looking on their phones at their social media accounts

Maybe you’re wondering why your Instagram posts don’t get many likes, shares, or comments. It could be that you’re not producing quality content. That’s definitely a possibility.

Perhaps your content (stuff you post) is good quality though and you’ve obtained an audience of people that like it. Now, it’s no secret that Facebook doesn’t have great organic reach these days. What we mean is that if you have 100 followers for your business on Facebook, that is 100 people who have said they like your content, and want to see more of it, on average less than 10 of those 100 people would actually see your post (or less). Yikes!

One can deduce that since Facebook owns Instagram, you can see a trend in the business model coming.

That’s not to cause worry though.

Facebook certainly has its advantages—even if you have to ‘pay to play.’ Reaching the demographic of 30+ (in the U.S.) while being able to target exactly who you want is an amazing aspect. Did we mention that it’s cheap too? The cost to actually get in front of your target audience and convert sales is totally possible with just a few hundred dollars a month. For some of our clients, we’re getting qualified leads for less than $2.00 a pop. may not even know if your content is being shadow banned.

Now, let’s talk about what you’re really here for: boosting performance of your Instagram posts.

One insight that we’re honing in on today is hashtags. Hashtags provide a unique ability to but your post in front of the people that would find it relevant and that would actually be customers of your business. Hashtags are free; therefore, you should use hashtags.

Did you know that there are rules for using hashtags? Yes, rules. Failure to follow these rules can get your business shadow banned. Shadow banning is too real of a real thing to ignore and it will cause your business to have the post suppressed in the amount of people it reaches if these rules are not followed. Instagram’s CEO says that shadow banning is not happening, but what he means is that content is not being suppressed from your followers if you use banned words or hashtags. It is however suppressed (or shadow banned) from the general public (i.e. your potential customers that are not already following you). What’s worse is that you may not even know if your content is being shadow banned. Don’t worry though, shadow bans are lifted and they’re not permanent (usually).

Too many people are using hashtags haphazardly or just completely in the wrong way. Let this serve as your intro to hashtags or your starter kit on ‘how to Instagram.’

First, know that we’re just going to cover hashtags for Instagram. Hashtags for Facebook have an entirely different set of rules and should only have one to two per post, if any.

Note: There are additional strategies beyond these rules that we’ll cover another time since that’s not the scope of this article.

Audience targeting is good for the business as well as the consumer.

Rule #1: Don’t use more than 30 hashtags in a post.

This includes in the original post as well as in any subsequent comments. Instagram is allowing you to use 30 unique hashtags—don’t get grabby and try to push for more. They don’t want the platform to become more spam-filled than it already is.

Should you use 30 hashtags as a business? If you’re able to come up with 30 unique, relevant tags, then yes! Some may tell you that using that many hashtags looks desperate or trashy, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Most people using the platform understand how the hashtags work and that the efforts to put the content in front of the relevant audience goes a long ways. In fact, most people today prefer that ads (not just posts) are relevant to them. We don’t have to go too far back to remember when we were bombarded with ads for things we cared nothing about. Audience targeting is good for the business as well as the consumer.

Think about this. Every hashtag has followers. Those hashtags could range anywhere from a few to a few million. So even if a small subset of each of those tags were to see your post, then that is amplified by the amount of tags you used (e.g. if you used 30 hashtags with 1 million followers in each tag (not recommended), and .01% of those followers saw your post, that would entail your post getting seen by (an impression) of 3,000 people that would not have otherwise. You on board yet?

Then, when people like, comment, share, or save the post, this triggers the algorithm to know that people are liking it and they will push it out to more people. Instagram’s goal is to keep people on the platform as long as possible. How do they do this? By pushing the best content forward.

a phone displaying Instagram analytics where the hashtags resulted in 4,435 views for the post

Rule #2: Use the correct spacing.

The correct spacing for Instagram hashtags is to use the number symbol (#) followed by your word(s) without spaces (all one word). Then, the next hashtag should have a space (only one) followed by the next word(s). A simple spacing error will render that tag (and possibly your post) unusable by the algorithm. They won’t tell you this, so you just need to slow down and triple check everything.

Bad example (too many spaces in-between hashtags):

Good example (only one space between tags):

Bad example (spaces in-between words):

#socialmedia marketing #business help

Good example:

Rule #3: Don’t use your hashtags in consecutive posts.

Definitely don’t use the same hashtag in the same post, but even better, don’t use your set of hashtags within a range of 5 posts.

Instagram is trying to protect against spam, and this is one method they use. Some say that you can rotate hashtags every 3 posts, but our agency uses the 5 post rule of thumb and we don’t have any issues.

If you got that, yes, that means you need to create at least 5 completely unique sets of 30 hashtags (150) for your business to rotate. Don’t forget that each set should correlate to the actual content of the post for best results. For us, that means even if we’re using a set of hashtags that we’ve done our research on to create, we will alter every set for every post to ensure maximum relevance.

Rule #4: Don’t use hashtags that have been banned.

Instagram has banned certain hashtags that are either overused, are offensive, or promote/lead to other activity they don’t condone.

It would be worth your time to Google ‘banned hashtags on Instagram.’ There are several companies out there that put together lists and update them frequently that coincide with known bans from Instagram.

Using a hashtag, or even a phrase in your caption, that contains these words will almost certainly end up getting your account shadow banned.

If it's reaching people that the post is not relevant to, it will negatively impact the rate at which the social media platform continues to push out your content.

Rule #5: Use tags that are relevant to your post.

This is more of a tip than a rule. The algorithm is a mysterious thing and as previously mentioned, Instagram wants to cut out spam. It will be in your best interest to look at the photo/video in your post and your caption to guide you with your hashtags. Think about your audience and what they want to see. If it's reaching people that the post is not relevant to, it will negatively impact the rate at which the social media platform continues to push out your content.

Don’t #justinbieber when you’re selling windows (unless of course Justin Bieber is in partnership with you).


One last tip we’ll include here is to double check your spelling. An unfortunate reason for your post to not reach people would be due to incorrect spelling of the hashtag.

Okay, one more tip for fun. The easiest way for you to start finding hashtags is to go to your IG app, click the search icon, and start typing in a keyword that will relate to your post or your audience.

You may be thinking, ‘that’s a lot of work.’ It is for the average business leader. But that’s why our team has created solutions for you to focus on what you love and do best. With our social media starter package, we can handle the hashtags and more starting at just $500 a month. Contact us to get your business in front of the right audience today!


a creative team of four men sit in a room to plan the marketing strategy for a company at Final Touch Media


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