The Human Side of Digital

You Only Talk In #HASHTAG

Posted on 19 Aug 2015 in NXT\ Connects | 0 comments Twitter icon Facebook icon

The topic of the Hashtag and its use on Instagram has had me pondering for a while now.

We all know that “A picture paints a thousand words” and that a relevant and catchy caption, accompanied with hashtags can generate a thousand likes.

But what exactly is a hashtag and what is its purpose on Instagram?

A hashtag on Instagram (or on Twitter, Google+ and even Facebook) is the ‘#’ symbol before a word or series of words (all run together without a space). The use of the hashtag can vary but its main purpose is to categorize and summarise the images you post, and make them searchable; thus creating common interest communities. Other uses include:

  • The Flagging of popular locations; for example: #TableMountain, or #EiffelTower.
  • Adding Humour to a post or picture; for example: #sorrynotsorry (look it up), or an ironic #fitspo when posting a pic of a giant burger.
  • Hashtags are able to depict themes: Even the infamous Kim Kardashian uses the #tbt (throwback Thursday hashtag) in her Thursday posts, which I shamelessly look forward to seeing on a weekly basis.

In short, the hashtag creates a reliable calendar of content which keeps bringing consumers back to the platform.

My question is: where does one “draw the line (hash?)” when it comes to the amount of hashtags used in a picture? At what point does the amount of hashtags or the overuse of hashtags tarnish or cheapen the brand; or even, ruin the picture entirely? Does the overuse of hashtags ooze insecurity about your brand, or do they enhance brand awareness?

My next question is: what is the real value of generating hundreds and thousands of likes? Does it really lead to more business; or does it simply stroke the ego? How many of those “likes” that you generated actually turned into followers? This is particularly difficult to track as Instagram doesn’t allow hyperlinks to other sites, so conversion is difficult to measure. #FoodForThought

I’ve  also noticed that some users have posted pictures incorporating up to 20 different hashtags, only to delete the hashtags once they’ve accumulated the hundreds (or even thousands) of likes they were after. It’s a Sneaky black hat tactic used to generate glamour metrics, and in my opinion this proves that people are ashamed of using excessive hashtags.

Instagram, by its very nature is a clean social network that clamps down on fakes and phonies. It is image lead and about composition and beautiful imagery, not about garnering 10 000 “likes” on a picture. The majority of users are quite particular about their feed and prefer quality over quantity.

So what does this mean for a #brand?

Let’s take a look at @nike, for example.

On Instagram, they have +- 11 000 000 followers.

They only use a minimal amount of hashtags in their posts. Sometimes even none.

In this post, their Caption was “There truly is no finish line” – Joan Benoit Samuelson #Nikeforwomen

With a clear image and a short, yet strong caption, the picture is powerful.  And it generated 297 000 thousand likes along with 1922 comments.

Now, I might be a bit biased in my opinion by choosing a brand like Nike as  they are iconic and do not need to build a name for themselves.

So then, let’s have a look at a local ecommerce giant, @yuppiechef.

On Instagram they have +- 7500 Followers, a sizeable number for a niche  South African business.

In this post, their caption was “Top Deck cupcakes: the ultimate for all  chocolate fence sitters (link to recipe in profile)”.

Again, take note of their careful composition. Each image is put together with care.

In my opinion, less is more. Pictures should have the power. #WhatDoYouThink


  • Less is more: find a clever hashtag that encapsulates what you’re posting in a smart way, rather than adopting the spray and pray approach. #yuck
  • Focus on imagery and awesome content: spend more time creating images and videos people actually enjoy looking at, and the likes and followers will come.
  • Ride those trend waves: There’s nothing wrong with a #tbt as long as it’s fun and relevant to your brand
  • Engage, engage, engage: Reply to those who comment on your pic and follow them back…Unless they’re a #spambot

If this all sounds too overwhelming, remember that NXT\ Digital Innovation with our team of Social Media experts are here to help!

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