Table of Contents:
- What Are Hashtag Games?
- Hashtag Games Were Once Powerful
- Are Hashtag Games Worthwhile Today?
- Hashtag Games in Action
- After All That Work, Are Hashtag Games Good For Your Feed?
- Sacrifice for the Sake of Growth?
- Sacrifice Continues
- Pros & Cons So You Can Decide on Hashtag Games
- Be Careful How You Spend Your Most Valuable Commodity: Time
- What is the Best Use of My Time on IG?
- Also Important for IG Growth
- How About Playing the Hashtag Games?
- Should I Say Yes to Guest-Hosting?
- So, About Those Hashtag Games
- Take Your Instagram to The Next Level
Instagram Hashtag Games: Are They Really Worth it?
The Design Twins share expert advice on how to grow on Instagram, focusing on hashtag games, and how to BEST use your time to create a powerful brand on Instagram.
Gone are the “good ‘ole days” of Instagram! Well, it’s true. The Instagram of today is not the same one we joined a few years ago or even last year. The only constant is change. But I for one am not upset about this. And you shouldn’t be either.
Luckily you have Julie and me here to help you navigate through the changes and help you thrive on the “NEW” Instagram. Today we are going to specifically address an important topic: Hashtag Games. Are hashtag games really worth all the time and effort spent? Whether you are creating and hosting, invited to guest host, or playing them regularly, we will give you our best advice based on where you are in your journey and your ultimate Instagram goals.
We’ve talked about the Instagram Algorithm, we talked about your Instagram Trust score. We have covered how important Instagram Stories are to your growth on Instagram and a host of other topics. These are all useful to read if you are really serious about taking charge of your Instagram growth.
What Are Hashtag Games?
Right now, we want to talk to you about hashtag games. These are hashtag “decor challenges” that are specific to the IG Decor Community. If you brand new to the IG Decor Community these are simply groups of people who have organized a decor topic or idea, invite people to play and follow them, and reward their favorite by featuring them. These are the general perimeters. Decor challenges have been the bread and butter of growth strategies for this IG niche ever since Julie and I first joined IG back in 2014. But alas times have changed, a lot.
Hashtag Games Were Once Powerful
I still remember the very first decor challenge. It was called #tenforTuesday (or something like that). It was such a novel concept, so foreign, that it really was groundbreaking. With this first one and the early challenges it was a BIG deal. Rules were specific and people played carefully. We planned our decor around the early hashtag challenges. And if you were talented enough to be chosen as a winner you could gain unprecedented exposure throughout the community.
Now there are way too many to count, and way too many to keep track of. Everyone is creating them left and right, so they have become almost meaningless. Perhaps this sounds a little harsh, but this is just reality.
Are Hashtag Games Worthwhile Today?
The questions we want to answer for you is this: Are hashtag games and challenges still a viable way to grow your Instagram feed and are they worth your valuable time? While the answer may depend on where you are in your growth journey, it is important to understand the pros and cons.
Let’s take it apart. Let’s assume you gather together a very nice group of like-minded decor accounts and you decide to create a hashtag together. You put a lot of time and effort into creating a hashtag game.
Creating a hashtag game involves:
- picking the right group of people
- then choosing a creative & unique idea
- next, creating the perfect, catchy name
- selecting the ideal day or days
- developing the rules or guidelines
- then creating the write up
- next, deciding what picture you will use to promote and announce your hashtag
- creating the graphic with words so people know your hashtag has started
There is a lot of time and effort just getting this idea off the ground. And the hashtag hasn’t even started yet.
If you want to learn more about Instagram besides just hashtags, we might have the perfect thing for you! We can help you make the most of your valuable time and efforts spent on Instagram. We invite you to join us in our comprehensive online course called “From Confused to Confident: 6 Steps to Instagram Success.” Learn all about it and sign up for our Instagram success course here.
Hashtag Games in Action
So much time, so many decisions, and all of it taking away from how you could and should be spending time creating stand-out, unique, spectacular pictures for your own feed and building your own brand.
You have to:
- manage the hashtag
- comment and thank everyone to encourage and reward participation
- vote on your favorites
- negotiate your choice
- determine when and how to announce the winner
And on, and on, and on. If done well hosting one hashtag can take over your life. Sadly, many are not done well, making them even less meaningful. To read all our best advice on Instagram Etiquette and more head to our dedicated blog post.
After All That Work, Are Hashtag Games Good For Your Feed?
You’ve put in all this work, and now you are ready for the payoff: Growth. But with all the hashtag games out there it is awfully hard to create one that gets noticed and catches on. Even if people do play how many people actually follow?
We need to talk about the elephant in the room: What does posting an announcement for a hashtag game do to your engagement?
If you don’t know this already, I am going to tell you now. Words on pictures kill them. Even the most gorgeous photo will be scrolled over, passed by, shunned, as soon as words are put across it. Imagine, it’s like reading an advertisement. People don’t want to read advertisements. You can take the same photo and post it without words and then post it with words and the photo will get significantly fewer likes and fewer comments guaranteed.
Sacrifice for the Sake of Growth?
So, let’s say for the sake of the hashtag announcement you are willing to accept that your picture is not going to get a lot of attention. Fine. And you’re going to post another picture that you really like an hour later, and you are hoping that the IG God’s won’t punish you for the poorly performing picture. Except guess what? They are, in a way, going to punish you for the poorly performing post.
Think of it this way. One bad post is like adding one bad test score to a whole semester’s worth of good grades. It’s going to bring down your average. What am I talking about? Your picture with the words on it that didn’t do very well is going to bring down your overall engagement score and IG will respond accordingly.
This is the news flash: it all matters. Every picture matters.
So, in your effort to gain followers by starting the hashtag game instead you are sacrificing the most important determining factor in whether IG shows your pictures to people. They are measuring your level of engagement (likes and comments) on every single post.
Once you launch your game, depending on your rules and schedule, maybe each week you have to come up with a winner. You go through the process of choosing a winner, creating a feature post (more time and more effort) and you get ready to post another photo with words on it. This beautiful picture that might have brought a lot of love to your feed (in the form of likes and comments) now has words across it and it looks again, more like an advertisement than an inspirational decor picture.
The other thing that unfortunately will decrease the amount of attention/engagement on the feature picture is that it is going to be posted by ALL your hashtag hosts all on the same day, thus diluting the power of the picture. The idea is that each time a picture is seen its power is reduced. Sad but true. People like original content. Instagram rewards original content.
Pros & Cons So You Can Decide on Hashtag Games
- you join forces with other like-minded people
- you grow in relationship with people in your niche
- more people might follow you to play the hashtag game
- it is a statement that you are active in your community
- if you are small it is a way to begin connecting
- takes a TON of time and commitment
- takes away from time spent creating your own content
- people are playing the games less & less
- many who play don’t follow
- you are giving up control over what appears on your feed
- pictures that have words on them perform significantly worse
- even if you later delete the poorly performing posts the damage to your IG engagement has been done
- hashtag games have lost their power because there are too many
- if you are involved in too many, they can take over your feed
- time spent on creating and working on the hashtag game is time taken away from more important activities like working on your own content and liking and commenting authentically across IG
Be Careful How You Spend Your Most Valuable Commodity: Time
Time is a rare commodity Actually, we talk to many of you, and it is probably the resource that is in least supply. So, you need to be very strategic and intentional in your choices with how you spend it. Let’s go back to the amount of time spent on the many activities involved in hosting hashtag games. Remember the list we made above to illustrate a general picture of the time it takes? It takes a lot of time.
This valuable time would be better spent:
- working on new decor projects
- creating new content for your feed
- responding to comments
- perfecting your photography skills
- editing your photos
- honing your voice, saying something on your posts
- commenting on posts that you love
- discovering new accounts & making new friends
- spreading your reach
What is the Best Use of My Time on IG?
Number one is creating original content. This involves many things (see the list above).
Next is something people either don’t think is important or don’t realize the timing of it is so important: Answering your own comments in a timely manner, preferably right after you post. This is the most critical time. This is the time when IG is deciding, based on the percentage of your followers that like and comment, whether or not and how many people to show your post to. If you are there to comment back this will encourage interaction with others. The idea that you might be there and see their comment is encouraging.
The fact that this is in your control is huge. Consider part of your posting process to be staying on your feed to greet and encourage comments. Create and encourage dialog. Answering seven hours later is not nearly as powerful. We understand that it’s not always possible but try your best.
Also Important for IG Growth
Comment on others’ posts, not just your besties. Comment on all the people that you follow and maybe some that you don’t.
Here’s the deal. Have you ever noticed that the people who you follow who take the time to comment on your posts are the posts that IG shows you? Yup. And the same is happening for you. If you go and comment on people’s feeds IG is going to think you are “friends” and they are going to show your picture to them. The whole premise is that IG wants to connect you to the people that you like and who like you. If you stay on IG commenting and connecting with just your favorite circle of 20-50 people you are not going to grow your account as much as if you show IG you have more like hundreds and hundreds of friends. Instead of focusing inward you want to focus outward.
No, you don’t have to give up DM’s or give up your friends. Apparently, DM’s count as engagement too. But just limit the percentage of time that you spend with your besties and get out there.
For more info on the true function of social media hashtags, read, “The Value of Social Media Hashtags.”
How About Playing the Hashtag Games?
Playing hashtag games doesn’t take nearly as much time as hosting. Also, you remain in control of your feed. Playing hashtag games doesn’t require posting other people’s photos or words on your photos, so it really is very different.
We advise not spending too much time on this task, however. Here are our recommendations for playing:
- don’t waste a lot of time
- quickly look up on #dailydecortags to get a view of current or seasonal decor hashtags
- choose a couple or as many as 10-15 that seem relevant
- use the remaining number of hashtags (30 total) to play larger, relevant hashtags (that aren’t games)
- always carefully count so you don’t use over 30 (IG will delete your text)
- add them at the end of your post (if you add them as a comment IG sees this as spam-like behavior)
- give a little distance between your quality message (which you want people to focus on and read) and your list of hashtags
Should I Say Yes to Guest-Hosting?
So, you’ve played the hashtag games to increase visibility of your post, participate in the IG home decor community, and increase exposure by hopefully “winning” and being featured by a group of IG accounts.
It is always an honor to be chosen. And sometimes we have a hard time saying no, to anyone, ever! We don’t want to seem rude or ungrateful, and yet there are sometimes reasons why saying yes to becoming a co-host may not be the best idea.
- the more your pictures are posted in IG the more Instagram recognizes it as unoriginal. They reward original content.
- if the accounts are small the exposure will be minimal.
- it adds more work and commitment to your week that will take away from time spent elsewhere.
- if words are added to your photo this will have a negative effect on post performance.
Agreeing to guest-host is an easier way to stay involved and active in the IG Home Decor Community. It is a fraction of the time commitment and can be a nice way to “meet” new friends by temporarily being involved in their tag. Guest-hosting definitely has pros and should be considered.
So, About Those Hashtag Games
We aren’t saying hosting hashtag games is inherently bad. But, we don’t recommend using it as your main strategy for growth. And we don’t recommend hosting more than one at a time. In the beginning, when you are just getting started, it’s a good way to connect with the community. Hosting one at a time can be a good way to connect, possibly grow, and show your commitment.
Playing hashtag games can also help connect you to other accounts and bring more eyes (more engagement) to your posts. Showing love and support is always a good idea. But you can show love and support without hosting a hashtag. You can feature people you love in authentic ways, both on your feed and in your stories. Always keep in mind what you are sacrificing as you make your decisions. When you understand all the factors that go into creating and hosting hashtag games you can make more intentional choices and best manage your Instagram journey.
We hope this post has been helpful. We invite you to read the rest of our Instagram help posts. They are all written for you so we can be there with you as you create your own Instagram story.
Take Your Instagram to The Next Level
Now that you’ve learned all about hashtags do’s and dont’s, it’s time to start taking your entire Instagram account to the next level. Sign up to receive our 90-minute Personalized Instagram Audit today. We will analyze every aspect of your account, create a clear plan for you, and coach you personally for your ultimate success.
Jodie and I have been teaching and coaching clients how to build Instagram success for years. We love helping you find your groove on Instagram. Many of our past students are now successful influencers and have grown their brands beyond their wildest imaginations. We can do the same for you. You just have to be willing to take the leap with us.
It’s time to invest in yourself and your goals for a change! You can do this.
With love and gratitude,
This was by far the most informative post I’ve read on hashtags. I had no idea that responding to comments quickly mattered, I do try to always respond but sometimes life gets in the way. Pictures with words “are” like ads and I do sometimes scroll past them. Hosting a hashtag does seem like it would be an timley responsibility… and after reading this I’m glad I’ve said no to the few I’ve been asked to host.
I have a question about adding hashtags. I usually post with a few tags and edit and add tags several times right after I post. Is this a bad thing?
Thank you for such quality information ????
I do the same thing and sometimes it doesn’t show up under that hashtag right away….. but I don’t think it’s a bad thing because it always broadens your audience…… new hashtag=new likes ✔️
I like that thinking. And you are probably right on! Thanks for sharing your insights. And of course, thank you for reading and replying. Hoping you continue to enjoy our blog. Blessings to you, Julie & Jodie
Hi Patti, Great to hear this was helpful for you. We did put all our effort into it and it’s just so satisfying to know it was helpful. In answer to your question we used to do what you describe adding our tags to comments afterwards. We learned a few months ago that Instagram now views that as “spam-like”. How and if they penalize you for it we can’t see exactly, but with the new changes in the algorithm we know that it’s very important to avoid ANY behavior that could possibly be perceived as spam-like. Put some space if you want between the text you want people to read and your list of hashtags, and avoid adding hashtags as comments. Wishing you all the best, Julie & Jodie
Thank you for your response, I already see a difference in posting at the right time as well as responding to comments quickly. ????
Reguarding my question; I miss- communicated, I edit and add to “original text” I don’t add my hashtags to the comments.
OK, good. That’s all great news! Love how you are working hard and seeing improvements too. That’s so cool to hear! There are so many factors in play on IG at all times. Sometimes it is hard to identify cause and effect…but we try hard and sometimes we get things right 🙂 IG sure keeps us on our toes! Happy posting, Julie
As always, so informative and timely!!! I just love your posts and I was getting bogged down honestly by trying to include all the hashtags I could think of to get my pictures out there. Very time consuming and it took me away from why I started Instagram. (To fuel my creativity) so again, thank you, thank you, thank you! ????❤️
Tracey, I think many people feel this way. That very feeling is a big part of why hashtag games aren’t working…that and the fact that there are just so many. The power they once held is completely diluted in the sea of hashtags, which only makes sense. Use your valuable time instead on focusing on your message, your content, your photography and it will be better spent. Wishing you all the best, Julie & Jodie
Thank you for taking the time to explain so many of the nuances I had no idea about on IG. So well written, understandable and informative. Lots to think about and a lot if truth here! You guys are the best!
Paula, Wow, your kind appraisal makes us feel so good! We have devoted the past 3 years of our lives to Instagram, not only creating for Instagram and posting on Instagram, but also researching and analyzing!! We are happy to share all we have learned. Our information is based on our own experiences, the home decor niche on IG, and of course our own opinions. All that being said we know we can help others by sharing, and are delighted when people feel enlightened. We hope you will sign up to receive our blog so you continue to enjoy our informative and inspirational posts. Blessings, Julie & Jodie
New to the IG world I have been feeling a little overwhelmed but am now excited to read your other posts to help clear up some of that confusion. Looking at the overuse of #hashtags on posts gave me a mini panic attack, what should I use and if I did would I seem like a cars sales man, knowing not to use more than 30 (which still seems overkill) is definitely a goal to remain under. Thank you ladies.
Welcome to our blog…and welcome to IG! I can barely remember when I was brand new to Instagram, but I do remember it feeling like entering a foreign land, with it’s own unique rules and even unique language. Hang in there…it will slowly reveal itself. And yes, our many other blog posts are written for you! We wish there were resources like this when we were feeling our way through. So happy you have joined us here on our blog! We hope you will sign up so you don’t miss any of our posts. Happy to be on this shared journey! All the best, Julie & Jodie
It boggles my mind. I think you convinced me not to play these games. 😉 I do use hashtags on Instagram though. I use an app called Flume that immediately shows me how popular the hashtag is before I settle on using it. A great post. I’m in awe about how accomplished you are about Instagram. As always, excellent tips.
Dear Jean, Thank you for reading and even more, thank you for your kind reply. We LOVE hearing from our readers so much! How you use hashtags is a slightly different topic than this post, which mainly addresses the ins and outs of hashtag games. Playing the games is not as time consuming obviously as hosting them. Either way if you spend too much time it is time better spent on other aspects…if your goal is to grow. We sure appreciate your kind support of our blog. We hope you will sign up and “become a regular” 🙂 Happy to be on this shared journey! All the best, Julie & Jodie
Julie and Jodie,
This has been a great help! I have gone through a season of trying to decide if I want to continue my account? Honestly, I have been all over the road! I love this community and love the friend ships I have made! Any way , thank you for sharing! Love all the info and now realize why I never see certain accounts that I used to see more often!
Love you both! You both have always been so encouraging to me!
This was a very informative article Ladies!! Thank you!! Jenni Jeffers @thelittlemendedtable
Aw Jenni, You are so sweet! Thank you for reading and for taking the time to leave a kind reply. It means a lot always! We hope you will sign up to receive our blog (if you haven’t already) and that you continue to learn and be inspired here. With gratitude, Julie & Jodie
Thank you for sharing all of this valuable information! I thought that when your picture gets posted by others who are featuring you (preferably without words) it gets more “positive attention” so can you clarify the part in your blog that reads
“the more your pictures are posted in IG the more Instagram recognizes it as unoriginal. They reward original content”? I would appreciate that. This is a great blog post and it came at the perfect time!
Thank you so much for taking the time to share this post! I am a “larger” account over on IG in terms of numbers but not in terms of engagement. This is so helpful! I have been doing so many things wrong…like commenting much later and not quickly and hosting tags with words on the pics! Yikes! Your post and encouragement gives me hope. I serisousdy was ready to be done with IG and just blog. Thank you both so much!.
Kelly, You are so welcome! We are thrilled that you not only took the time to visit and reply but most importantly, that you found helpful information and encouragement. We hope by making some practical changes you see an improvement. Best wishes always, Julie & Jodie
This post was so helpful. I always look forward to your insights and words of wisdom. It’s easy to get caught up in the frustrations of all the changes with IG but your post makes a good point about embracing the change and trying things that will help build better engagement. Thank you!!
Jessica, We are so happy to hear you enjoyed the post. Jodie and I know that attitude is everything and knowledge is power. When you feel more in control of what you are doing it makes you feel better about spending your valuable time. We hope to bridge the gap so you don’t feel powerless or out of control on Instagram, but more like master of your own destiny! haha! Well, this is our hope anyway! Wishing you blessings on your journey, with gratitude, Julie & Jodie
This is such an excellent read and informative article. For newcomers like me who don’t really know the good ol days on the influencer side of ig, it’s been a whirlwind but maybe a blessing! ????. Thank you for this info. It really brings everything into perspective!
We are so happy to hear that this post helped you gain perspective. That is exactly our goal, to improve your framework so you understand how your actions affect your feed and your growth. Then you can make informed choices for how you spend your time. Everyone’s journey is different so we aren’t saying this is right and this is wrong. Everyone needs to weigh the pros and cons for their particular goals, amount of time they can spend, etc. etc. We sure hope you will join us regularly as we continue to share all we learn to help you on your IG journey. With gratitude, Julie & Jodie
This was so helpful and informative! I have been feeling a little overwhelmed with the hashtag groups I am in and wanting to get back to the basics and focusing on my own content, and this gives me the encouraging push I needed! Thanks for all the helpful information!
We’re so happy to hear you got something out of this post. We definitely feel they have some value….but as you said, it’s good to keep it in perspective and not allow the focus to be taken away from the content. We can’t wait to see what you do with your IG account! All the best!
Jodie & Julie
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Thank you once again for your insight. I recently followed a few #’s and I did not do exactly what they said to do mainly because they broke the # in to different groups.
One of them called my name out for not sharing and that was awkward. The other one was kind enough to explain the rules again. I did grow followers but it is time consuming.
I just want to sit back and get inspired by all of you wonderful bloggers and enjoy getting and sharing ideas. Not about the numbers for me anymore because I am not doing this for anything but enjoyment! I understand IG much better now.
Thank you again for always listening and responding.
Bobbi, You are so welcome. We’re glad this post made a few things clear. It’s tough because every hashtag group has different guidelines. In order to discover the guidelines sometimes you need to become a detective of sorts! We are happy you have decided to simply enjoy Instagram. Blessings, Julie & Jodie
Bobbi, We’re so glad you found this post helpful. It’s tough because every hashtag group has different guidelines. Sometimes you need to become a detective of sorts in order to figure them out. It’s good to understand etiquette in order to fully enjoy. We’re happy you’ve decided to let go of the numbers and simply allow yourself to find joy in the journey. Blessings, Julie & Jodie
Hi friends! First, thank you for always sharing incredible content. Your blog posts are always helpful. I have a question about the hashtag game. I want to make sure I understand fully. Is the hashtag game the same as the group that gets together with two people as the main “boss” of the hashtag who tells everyone what to post and on what day? The post usually has wording at the end that says something like, “If you want to participate in the “hashtag”’you must follow and message “Insert name” to be included? I think I get confused between the hashtag game and engagement hacks. I hope this question makes sense:)
We wrote this post a few years ago before the hashtag “tours” you describe developed. The only thing these newer fake hashtag tours have in common with the content-driven hashtag games that used to dominate Instagram is the fact that they organize through hashtags. Hashtags are an organizational tool, a search tool. So they are used in endless ways. We understand your confusion, but we want you to focus on what does an activity requires you to do. Is it content driven or is it based on artificial engagement? You’ll be able to discern the good from the harmful. Hope that helps, Julie & Jodie
Thank you so much for explaining this to me. I love the question to ask myself regarding whether it is content driven artificial engagement. That is a fantastic guide to keep at the front of my mind. It is easy to get caught up in the wrong direction on Instagram. Thank you continuing to provide content that helps keep people focused on the right action items. You two are the best! 💚
You are so thoughtful. Such a gift to have amazing students such as yourself. It makes teaching a true joy. Blessings, Julie & Jodie