A bitesize guide to hashtags & the “Shadowban”

A bitesize guide to hashtags & the "Shadowban"

Are hashtags the be all and end all?

In a nutshell. #No. A single hashtag won’t win you followers. Neither will a hundred hashtags. Amazing content will. And the content’s got to come from a genuine place.

The recent quandary over the elusive Instagram “Shadowban” has revealed the way the forward thinking channel is going. And that direction is towards quality, not quantity.

In response to people experiencing issues with hashtags not surfacing content on an Instagram search – a conundrum users coined the term Shadowban for – Facebook stressed that hashtags shouldn’t be the crutch that users rely on when building a community on Instagram.

“When developing content, we recommend focusing on your business objective or goal rather than hashtags,” the company advised.

The strength of an Influencer is not necessarily in the number of followers. A lot of people make the mistake of believing that larger numbers of followers gives a level of credibility to individuals without taking into account the quality of content or the number of genuine interactions.

On the contrary, Facebook advised that users focus on remaining creative on the platform by having a distinctive visual presence and by being compelling storytellers.

This news might not have been met with joy by everyone on Instagram as it’s not as easy to reach new audiences as it used to be. Instagram has cracked down on bots and programs used to gain followers big time in order to clamp down on spam and make way for better content. Part of this effort is that they’ve also prevented people from clogging up hashtag channels with irrelevant content.

Users who were posting the same hashtags again and again or irrelevant ones might find that their content no longer shows up in certain hashtag feeds. Hashtags should always be used to describe the content and users need to be as creative and savvy with these choice words as they do with their caption copy and the image itself.

What does this mean for Influencer Marketing?

The way we see it, the changes are a really positive thing. Instagram is acknowledging Influencers as leaders in this space. (Read all about how Instagram’s proposed solution to the transparency question legitimises Influencer Marketing alongside other forms of digital advertising.) 

By reducing the amount of spam on the channel, Instagram is rewarding the best Influencers and Creators and encouraging those whose engagement is dropping to be more creative and authentic into order to grow.

Building a community is hard work! Influencers can spend up to 4-7 hours a day creating original content and engaging with their community. With the new algorithms and restrictions, only the best creators will shine through.

But I still want to grow my brand’s followers – how do I go about this?

Quite simply by playing by the rules. Instagram rewards those who post engaging content. Be selective with your hashtags so that it doesn’t appear spammy to your community.

To figure out what the optimum number of hashtags is for your brand by monitoring the engagement of your posts when you use different numbers of hashtags and compare how many hashtags influencers and competitors in your industry use.

Follow the 80/20 rule (80% of the time your content should be inspirational, educational or informative and 20% of the time should be self-promotional).

Brands who re-gram our Influencer content during or after campaigns very often see higher engagement rates on the Influencer content than any other photo on their feed.

How many hashtags should I use in my Influencer Marketing campaign?

VAMP’s advice to any brand embarking on an Influencer Marketing campaign is to hand over the creative reigns to Influencers. This includes creative direction over the imagery and the caption copy.

We recommend limiting the mandatory inclusions to 1x @mention driving to your brand’s Instagram page and 1x #tag for the Influencers to include in their main caption. Any more than this and the post seems too contrived and the message is diluted.

Forcing multiple hashtags on an Influencer’s post might see that post cropping up in lots of different channels but if a tree falls in a wood (or multiple woods) and there’s no one to hear it – is there still a sound?

You can of course provide a number of optional additional brand hashtags for Influencers to include if they choose to. Don’t be offended if these end up being posted in the first comment after the caption. This is normal Instagram behaviour – it’s not for people to see on the post but rather to reach the relevant new audiences.

Ultimately Influencers are natives to Instagram and on the ball with what hashtags get the most traction. It’s in their interest as well as your brand’s to choose the best hashtags as both have the same objective of reaching new audiences. Influencers have developed their niche audience and will know which hashtags are trending and which will reach the most relevant people.


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