November 19, 2019

These two popular hashtags on Instagram are actually pretty useless.

don't use nofilter and tbt hashtagsFor marketing purposes, you can just stop using #nofilter and #tbt on Instagram right now.

When I proclaim this bold statement while teaching seminars on social media, many people in the audience literally seem to lose their minds. If that just happened to you… take a deep breath and hear me out.

There are basically four strategic reasons to use hashtags on Instagram:

  • Foster post discovery (people search for or follow hashtags and can find your posts that use them)
  • Draw in followers (people find you through a hashtag you used, check out your profile, decide to stay connected)
  • Develop a community (rally people around a united theme, event, brand, location, etc. with a hashtag everyone can use to share news about it)
  • Analyze content (tracking hashtag use and success, learning how people are finding/interacting with you)

If you’re using hashtags on Instagram – and you should – you’re probably using them for some or all of those reasons, even if you’re not aware of it. Many DIY marketers aren’t taught the mechanics of hashtagging… they just dive right in using whatever seems to make sense to them. And often, the ones they choose – whether consciously or not – lean into one of those strategic reasons.

But here’s a critical fact that many either don’t know or forget: Instagram only lets you use 30 hashtags per post and 10 per story. This means that every hashtag you choose is precious, because it comes at the expense of potentially using another, more valuable, one.

And this is why #nofilter and #tbt must go. They simply don’t add value, which means they are poaching space unnecessarily, as follows:

#nofilter: As of this writing, there are 262,000,000 posts on Instagram using this hashtag. The likelihood of anyone finding your post within that jumble is basically zero. Also, lemme ask you this: when was the last time you said to yourself, “gee, let me go on Instagram and search #nofilter so I can see all the pictures people posted that are filter-free?” My guess? NEVER. Because no one does. The idea behind #nofilter is to “prove” that your photo is pure and untouched by editing, but a) there’s no trophy for this, and b) most people either don’t care or don’t believe you anyway.

#tbt: As of this writing, there are 509,000,000 posts on Instagram using this hashtag. Same story applies here… no one is going to find you by searching #tbt, and really… who searches #tbt anyway? Does anyone say “lemme see what people are throwing it back to today?” Doubtful. Using throwback photos might be a valuable, rich part of your brand story…but you can post them without using #tbt. In fact, you can just say “TBT” and people will get that it’s a throwback post…no need to use the “#” and squander one of your limited hashtags.

Bottom line: is the hashtag police going to slap you with a ticket if you use either of these? Nope. So if they bring you joy and don’t put your per-post limit at risk, feel free to indulge. Just know that from a strategic perspective, they’re not adding value to your marketing, AND…why add more things for your audience to read if they’re not bringing value? #dontshootthemessenger