The Instagram marketing debate of hashtag placement of either in the caption or the first comment has been clarified with a recent study of nearly 650,000 Instagram posts over the past year from Socialinsider.

Without a clear answer about how the Instagram algorithm works in this case, people have been coming to their own conclusions, but no one could come to a consensus. 

Among the mixed opinions about how to use hashtags on Instagram posts, here are a few arguments:

  • The engagement does or doesn’t differ due to the hashtag placement
  • Too many hashtags are good or bad for performance
  • Fewer hashtags work better or worse
  • The overall aspect of the post that can seem cluttered or even “spammy” when using too many hashtags
  • Not using enough hashtags results in low reach
  • The hashtags distract from the message
  • Hidden hashtags work better or just as well
  • Hashtags in comments don’t always work.

Socialinsider has partnered up with Quuu in trying to debunk the myths and see how Instagram hashtags actually work in this comprehensive study.

They looked through 649.895 posts from over 6.700 accounts of different sizes to see what the data tells us about how to use hashtags for better Instagram performance. Overall, the data, which was taken from August 2018 to June 2019, shows a preference of the majority of brands—with a 93.8% majority—going with hashtags in the caption over the first comment.

Here is a sneak peak about all of the insights it contains ⇣

A. Summary

Reading this study, you'll discover:

  • How most brands use their Instagram hashtags to get followers - we reveal brands’ habits when using hashtags depending on their profile size.
  • When it is better to put Instagram hashtags in the posts’ caption and when it’s preferred to use them in the first comment - we discover how engagement, reach, likes and comments are affected by hashtag placements.
  • How many hashtags should brands use - we explore how many hashtags are generally used in posts, and how that affects performance for different Instagram profile sizes.
  • If hiding hashtags in the caption or in the comment works - we look into the performance of posts with and without hidden hashtags.

B. Key Findings

  • Brands place hashtags in the caption. Most accounts prefer to use hashtags in the caption: 87.7% vs 12.3%. An overwhelming majority of posts include hashtags in the caption: 93.8% vs 6.2%
  • Brands use fewer hashtags when placing them in the comments, and more hashtags when using them in the caption. Most posts have 2 hashtags when looking only at hashtags in the first comment. However, when brands are using hashtags in the caption, most posts have either 7 hashtags, either between 27 and 30 hashtags.
  • Posts with 27-30 hashtags do not bring the peak engagement. Despite not performing bad across the board, posts with close to 30 hashtags never went up to the higher levels of engagement, compared to posts with a lower number of hashtags.
  • Profiles up to 100k followers have a better Reach Rate when using hashtags in the caption. Data shows that using hashtags in the caption brings small and medium-size Instagram pages more reach per post.
  • Profiles with more than 100k followers have a better Reach Rate when posting their hashtags in comments (15.9%). Judging by the reach metrics, large Instagram profiles - with over 100k followers - perform the exact opposite from the smaller and medium sized profile.
  • The Engagement Rate calculated per Post is affected by the placement of the hashtags, the number of hashtags and the size of your Instagram profile. It is not enough to only look at the placement of the hashtags to understand what works best when it comes to engagement.
  • The engagement rate per post is higher when posts add shown hashtags in the first comment or insert hidden hashtags in the caption. Brands prefer not hiding their hashtags across the board, but that’s not always the best decision. Hide the caption hashtags, but don’t hide the ones in the first comment.

To read the full report, visit the SocialInsider website here.