This is a post I originally planned to post back in October or November last year, but I just never got around to writing. Why? Because it frustrated me.
Many of you probably feel the frustrations of trying to be moderately successful on Bookstagram. As much as we tell ourselves the numbers don’t matter, we still want our posts to do well. Trying to figure out exactly WHAT makes a post do well is not as easy as you would think though because there is no clear formula.
There are so many “tips and tricks” floating on the internet and one common theme among them is the use of hashtags. Common claims you might see are:
- Use a mix of small/ big/ medium hashtags
- Don’t use too many hashtags
- Don’t use too few hashtags
- Sacrifice a goat to the hashtag gods
- Don’t use banned hashtags
In September or so last year, I decided to look back at my posts and do an analysis on the posts that had high reach. I specifically focused on the level of reach from hashtags used in posts from August to October 2020 (I think… I may have the wrong months. It was a while ago I collected data) to see if I could pinpoint which hashtags were more successful.
What started out as solely a hashtag analysis quickly morphed into an examination of more variables. Here are the results.
Did style of photo have an influence?
Flatlays were more likely to have a higher reach in hashtags. However, I’m not sure this is all that significant because flatlays are my most common style of photo.
What about the books featured?
You would think that the more popular the book featured and tagged, the higher the reach, right?
NOPE. I had super popular book posts flop and less well known ones do well, but not on any consistent basis. They did usually do a little bit better in that period but not all that much.
How many accounts can you/ should you tag?
This has some importance when it comes to engagement groups. Currently I tag 8 or so groups (some fluctuation depending on if I’m tagging a bookish merch store, publishers, authors, etc). At the time of my data collection, 4 to 6 tags was my norm. Unsurprisingly that number had higher hashtag reach. So once again, no strong evidence for anything.
Which hashtags got the most reach?
There were 14 hashtags that commonly appeared in posts with high reach/ impressions. This is not an accurate look at the success of the hashtags because there are so many things I didn’t take into consideration, such as the combination of types of hashtags (popular/ large, medium, small). And honestly, they could just be the hashtags I used the most soo….
Anyway, here are the hashtags I used most frequently in my popular posts:
What is the best number of hashtags to use?
This is the only category where I feel like I had a strong result. However, it’s also the result where I think I made an error during data collection…
11 to 15 hashtags per post appeared to have highest reach (assuming I did not have an error). Followed by 16 to 20 hashtags.
So what combination of all of the above is the best?
Honestly, WHO KNOWS?!?!
There was absolutely nothing conclusive in my results. No strong front runner in any category that could not be explained by other variables, nothing that really stood out. Everything was hit and miss. No particular strategy/ element guaranteed success for a single post. It all remains a mystery.
I’m honestly not surprised that it was inconclusive. The Instagram algorithm is a secret, and they’re not just going to tell us how to take advantage of it (they want us to pay to boost posts). Anyway, it’s quite disheartening.
If you’d like to see my raw data (it’s chaotic), you can see it here.