Before You Use that Hashtag, Read This

Locowise recently did a study that offers some updated best practices for the use of hashtags. The study examined how brands use hashtags in their posts, how many hashtags they use, and what the engagement rate is depending on number of hashtags used.

Three months of data from Instagram and Twitter were examined. The engagement rate is defined as the percentage of total followers who either click on like or comment (or retweet on Twitter) on each post.


The study included more than 1,500 active Instagram accounts that posted 135,000+ posts in the 3-month period and had 300+ million followers combined.

  • 13.8% of all posts didn’t include any hashtags.
  • The engagement rate is highest (3.03%) in posts that use three hashtags.
  • Posts with no hashtags had only slightly lower engagement, 3.02%

key_headerThe researcher concluded:

Many brands overuse hashtags on Instagram. 49% of all posts include four or more hashtags even though the engagement rate declines after hashtag number three.


The study involved more than 1,300 accounts that had 60+ million followers combined and that posted almost 600,000 tweets in the 3-month period.

  • 55.8% of all tweets didn’t include hashtags at all
  • Only 4.75% of all tweets had three or more hashtags
  • Tweets without hashtags outperform tweets with hashtags

As you can see in these numbers hashtags may not necessarily be the answer to getting more reach and engagement.


For Instagram, go without hashtags when there’s nothing relevant and fitting. You will not lose out on extra engagement.

Focus on posting interesting content. Take a look at your past performance to see what type of imagery and videos worked best. Look at what related businesses and organizations are doing and learn from their best efforts.

If you find a relevant hashtag or two, include them. Don’t go over three hashtags per post; any benefit decline safter three hashtags.

For Twitter, the recommendation to focus on the quality of content applies. If there’s a hashtag that is relevant and that stands out, use it once in a while. Use no more than one relevant hashtag per post.