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New Study Looks at Optimal Hashtag Usage in Instagram Feed Posts, Based on 18m Examples



How many hashtags should you add to your Instagram posts to maximize engagement?

The advice varies – previous studies have shown fewer is better, while Instagram itself says that you should look to add 3 to 5 highly relevant hashtags to reach the right communities. 

Really, as with all things social media, a lot of it depends on your specific audience and focus. But adding a little more consideration into the mix, the team from Later recently conducted an analysis of more than 18 million Instagram feed posts, specifically (not including video, Reels or Stories) in order to measure optimal hashtag usage for driving engagement and reach.

Their key finding? More hashtags is definitely better, on both fronts.

First off, on reach – Later’s study shows that posts with 20 hashtags see the highest average reach rate, while those with 30 hashtags are not too far behind. 

Later hashtag study

That’s consistent with Later’s previous research, as you can see in this comparative graph.

Later hashtag study

In terms of engagement – i.e. driving more likes and comments – Later found that 30 hashtags generated the best results.

Later hashtag study

So, in opposition to Instagram’s own advice around more limited hashtag use, Later’s study actually found that more was a lot better. Which makes sense, with respect to maximizing discoverability by getting your posts into more Explore feeds and listings. But it can also make your posts look more cluttered – though the insights here would suggest that this is not as big a consideration for users as it could seem.

So what should you go with? Well, there’s no definitive answer, as, again, it will largely come down to your unique audience and what they respond to, and what you’re trying to achieve with your posts.

If you’re trying to connect with very niche communities, it may well be that fewer hashtags is better, as the interest you might potentially get from broader tag use might not result in actual traffic for your site. But then again, maybe more is better, as broader reach would mean that you’re increasingly likely to get your updates in front of more of the right people, even if you reach more uninterested users as well.

It’ll require experimentation to determine what works for you – and as evidenced by the varying recommendations, there’s likely no one right answer for all. But in this instance, based on a broad range of feed posts (again, not including video, Reels or Stories), it would appear that more is better for engagement.


It could be worth testing, and examining your own results – and if you’ve avoided adding too many tags in the past, maybe you don’t need to hold back as much.

You can read Later’s full Instagram hashtag study here.



Ahead of World Cup, influencer ‘Mr Q’ lifts veil on Qatar



Khalifa Al Haroon, known to his followers as Mr Q, has become a social media hit by partially lifting the veil on World Cup host Qatar

Khalifa Al Haroon, known to his followers as Mr Q, has become a social media hit by partially lifting the veil on World Cup host Qatar – Copyright AFP KARIM JAAFAR

Raphaelle Peltier

At a time when prickly questions are being asked about Qatar and its hosting of the World Cup, Khalifa Al Haroon offers a smile, a sigh and a shrug as he seeks to explain its mysteries.

Known to his growing number of followers as Mr Q, the 38-year-old has become a social media hit by partially lifting the veil over the tiny but mega-rich Gulf state that describes itself as a “conservative” Islamic country.

The first World Cup in an Arab nation has put a spotlight on Qatar’s treatment of foreign workers, gender rights and even the use of air conditioning in stadiums.

Haroon’s cheerful #QTip videos broach everything from saying “Hello” in Arabic to the right way for men to wear the flowing ghutra headdress. There is also an edition on labour rights.

With less than 60 days to the November 20 start of the tournament, he now has more than 100,000 followers on Instagram and more than 115,000 on YouTube. And the numbers keep growing.


Qatar has dozens of online influencers on topics ranging from “modest” but expensive fashion, to the latest sports car being imported into what is now one of the world’s wealthiest nations.

Haroon carved out his niche by elucidating Qatar’s unknowns to its growing expat community — and now the hordes of football fans expected for the World Cup.

Haroon — who was born to a Qatari father and British mother and spent 16 years in Bahrain — said he was first confronted by global stereotypes about Qatar and the Middle East while studying for a law degree in Britain.

He had wanted to become an actor, but instead launched his social media presence in 2008 with a blog.

“I was in the perfect position because I was a Qatari who has never lived properly in Qatar,” he said.

– ‘Trust your own eyes’ –

“In essence, I was like a foreigner in my own country and so I had the same questions that foreigners did, and so it just made it easy for me to start putting together information.”

Haroon said there has to be a distinction between “negative news” and misinformation about his country.


“When it comes to fake news, obviously, I think everybody understands that it’s not true and so the only thing that I could do is show people videos and pictures and show them what we’re really like because you can trust your own eyes.”

Some people, he said, have told him they decided to move to Qatar after watching his videos.

Haroon, who is now a consultant to the Qatar Football Association and an eSports entrepreneur, said he is excited about the World Cup “because people can now come here and experience it for themselves and make their own judgements instead of just believing what’s written”.

His main grouse is how outsiders see something negative about Qatar and then believe that all Qataris “accept it or we all agree with it”.

Many supporters of the 31 foreign countries who will play in Qatar have raised concerns, however, about the welcome awaiting them. Can they drink? And what will happen to same-sex couples in a country where homosexuality is illegal?

The government has insisted that beer, normally restricted, will be available and that everyone is welcome. Haroon wants outsiders to experience “real Qatari hospitality”, with its food and coffee culture.

“Of course there are going to be certain social norms,” said Haroon. “What we are asking for is just respect the country. And of course the country will definitely be respecting everyone that comes.”

“Some people might make mistakes because they don’t know what the rules are and that’s OK,” he added.


“The point is our culture is all about intention, our religion is about intention, so as long as you have good intentions and you want to do the right thing, you have nothing to worry about.”

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