Last week, Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri, had social media marketers rethinking their strategies after announcing in a Story that hashtags don’t really help users get more views.

“They do help us to understand what a post is about, which means it might be more likely to show up in a place like a hashtag page, for instance, but in general, no, I wouldn’t try to think of hashtags as a way to get more distribution,” Mosseri said when responding to a user question in his Stories. 

Allie Mason, an Instagram expert and coach, explained further that hashtags are a categorization tool for Instagram.

The only way hashtags are effective, she says, is if people engaging with the content signal to Instagram that it’s high value.

But what does high value mean?

For Instagram, likes, comments, saves, tapping through to a profile and time spent on the content signal value, Mason says. 

If Instagram picks up that users are engaging and spending time with your content, the platform will suggest it to more people through the Explore page, top posts on hashtag pages, hashtags people follow, and suggested posts in the home feed.

So, if your post is getting attention in hashtag categories like recent posts or followed hashtags, the algorithm will recommend it to more users.

“Let me be clear,” Mason adds. “Your content didn’t get improved reach because of the hashtags you used. This is a correlation but not causation. What caused the post to do well in hashtags was the content itself.”

Mason recommends marketers avoid diving deep into hashtag research. The key, instead, is to focus on creating the most attractive content for your followers. The goal is to have them share your posts, Mason explains, because that’s the best way to get new clients and followers.