Should Instagram Hashtags be in the Post or Comments?

June 13, 2018 • By

Scott Ayres

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Hashtags on Instagram are crucial and super hot.. We know this from previous studies.

But we’ve had many ask us to test if it was a better strategy to put your hashtags in the post itself or in the comments.

Some Background

So where does this concept that hashtags in comments is better than in posts?

Instagram expert Sue B. Zimmerman says put the hashtags mainly in comments:

“Keep your Instagram captions clean by incorporating the bulk of your hashtags into your comment section. Much like Buffer does with each of their posts, they typically use about three hashtags in their post but put the rest in the first post comment. Just be sure to post your hashtags immediately in the first comment so they don’t get bogged down in the hashtag hub.”

Here’s another example from Riotly Social I found:

“You can just hide them if you don’t want your followers or your competitors to see the Instagram hashtags you’re using, or you just prefer caption-free of hashtags.

You can achieve a clean look by putting the hashtags in a comment, and starting that comment with five dots, each on its own line break, and then add all your hashtags in the bottom. This forces Instagram to collapse the comment.

Putting the hashtags in the comments works just as fine as if they were in the caption.”

Louise Meyers disagrees and says to only put hashtags in the post itself:

If you insist on using uber-popular hashtags, you MUST post them in your post caption. If you wait even a second to post them in a comment, they’re pretty much worthless, as your post will be buried in that hashtag feed the instant you add it.”

Hypothesis

This one is a bit of a cointoss as to which will perform better but I’ll make a guess.

Hypothesis: Instagram hashtags in the original post will have higher Reach than hashtags in comments.

instagram hashtags hypothesis

There I said it.. Now let’s test it!!

Setting Up The Test

Here’s a look at how I tested this.

Accounts

To test this Instagram hashtag strategy we’ll use 3 different accounts:

  • @Agorapulse – Our company’s Instagram account with 4200 followers
  • @Scottayres – My personal Instagram account with 6600 followers
  • @Spacewalkctx – The account for my local bounce house business with 2900 followers.

Posts

I tried to get an even amount of posts with comments and without to look at on each account.

Throughout the testing going back to the post to immediately try and put the hashtags in the comments didn’t always happened as planned.

Here’s how the numbers ended up when it comes to the amount of posts:

3 Accounts Combined:

51 posts with hashtags in comments.

66 posts with hashtags in the original post.

Here’s the breakdown per account:

Agorapulse: 8 in comments, 12 in original post

ScottAyres: 22 in comments, 28 in original post

SpaceWalkCTX: 21 in comments, 26 in original post

I scheduled all posts using Agorapulse – which is super easy now that the app posts directly without having to use my phone!

Here are samples from each account with the hashtags in the original post:

agorapulse hashtags in post

scottayres hashtags in post

spacewalkctx hashtags in post

And here are samples where the hashtags were in the comments:

agorapulse hashtags in comments

scottayres hashtags in comments

spacewalkctx hashtags in comments

The posts were scheduled over a 30 day time frame. The @scottayres and @spacewalkctx accounts posted twice per day on most days. @agorapulse only once. While this is a test I also wanted to remain as natural as possible for each account.

I used 30 hashtags for each post, and they were identical in the post or in the comments (but different per account obviously to be relevant for that account and content).

  • @agorapulse: #socialmedia#socialmediamarketing #marketing #social#branding #digitalmarketing#marketingdigital #socialmarketing#bebold #beawesome #seo#contentmarketing #getcreative#socialmediatips #inspired#onlinemarketing #advertising #business#entrepreneurship #smm #webdesign#entrepreneur #smallbiz #startup #tech#facebook #sales #marketingtips#remotework #remotelife
  • @scottayres: #bigfoot#sasquatch #yeti #monster #ape #animal#animals #pet #wild #beast #woods#washington #oregon #texas #findingbigfoot#xfiles #hunt #hunting #fiction #nonfiction#myth #legend #pnw #pacificnorthwest#species #science #forest #skunkape#bigfootsighting #gonesquatching (used on my Bigfoot related images). #motivational #inspirational #successful#motivationalquotes #entrepreneurship#entrepreneurs #entrepreneurlife#businessman #businessowner #startuplife#success #businesswoman #quoteoftheday#successquotes #startup #motivationalquote#inspirationalquotes #entrepreneur#hardworkpaysoff #entrepreneurlifestyle#inspiredaily #business #ceo #startups#hustle #millionaire #billionaire #grind#moneymaker #millionairemindset (used on inspirational images)
  • @spacewalkctx: #spacewalk #gatesville #waco#temple #killeen #hamilton #wacotown#waterslide #kids #inflatables #bouncehouse#parents #dadlife #summer #water #hot#texas #igtexas #atx #tx #texasforever#ilovetexas #visittexas #texas_ig #texaspride#ig_texas #exploretexas #instagramtexas#snaptexas #igtx

The Data

So that’s the setup, here are the results.

To easily show you data we’ll focus on all 3 accounts averaged together to compare. To see the full spreadsheet you can click the image at the bottom of the post to grab it and look at the details per account.

Hashtags in Post

  • Likes: 60.64
  • Comments: 2.84
  • Profile Visits: 2.72
  • Reach: 66

instagram hashtags stats

Hashtags in Comments

  • Likes: 55.21
  • Comments: 3.39
  • Profile Visits: 2.88
  • Reach: 51

In percentages this means Likes was 9.84% higher with hashtags in posts, Comments were 19.37% higher with hashtags in comments, Profile Visits was 5.88% higher with hashtags in comments. and Reach was 29.41% higher with hashtags in posts.

Whew that’s some conflicting numbers depending on which data set you focus on.

But let’s make a conclusion based on the data and with our hypothesis in mind.

Conclusion About Using Instagram Hashtags in Posts or Comments

Recall that I predicted the posts with hashtags in the original posts would have higher Reach.

instagram hashtags in post

I was 100% correct on this prediction! (yes I do get some of these correct at times!)

With Reach being 29.41% higher when simply putting the hashtags in the original posts it’s clear to me there is no reason to go through the hassle of trying to add them to the comments after the post is live. It especially is useless if you wait more than just a few minutes to do it.

Comments were drastically higher when we put the hashtags in the comments. Why? I don’t know. This could simply be a coincidence.

And while that 19.37% difference seems high you’re only talking about 1/2 a comment more per post.

Not worth building a social media strategy around.

social-media-lab-raw-data

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