If there’s one thing that we all know by now, it’s that Instagram is just not a fan of the cannabis industry. Everything from its algorithm to its privacy controls are on the prowl for cannabis-related content, waiting to shadowban or shut down accounts.
In fact, something as small as hashtags could put you at risk of getting your cannabis Instagram account disabled.
From tried and true platforms like Instagram and Twitter to newer ones like TikTok, hashtags are an important part of social media strategy. Clicking on a hashtag leads to a gallery or feed of posts using that particular hashtag. For instance, #cannabis on Instagram will show you the top and latest posts in which someone tagged cannabis.
This gives users the ability to explore related posts on platforms and connect with others who have the same interests. In other words, when you use the right hashtags for your brand, your content becomes searchable and more easily discovered by new audiences, translating into account growth.
While there is no denying the benefits of implementing a hashtag strategy, there is a lot to keep up with, particularly on Instagram. Since its inception in 2010, the app has constantly made changes to the best practices of using hashtags.
What are the recent changes to Instagram hashtags?
In the early days, brands and creators would hashtag every word they could think of, regardless of its relevance to the post or their business. Nowadays, hashtags need to be thoroughly researched before use – or the algorithm will dock points against you.
The answers to common questions around Instagram hashtag strategy such as where to put the hashtags, how many to add, and how to know which ones to select are regularly changing. In fact, best practices have changed more than once in just the past couple of years. In 2021, it’s even changed more than once in a matter of months!
For instance, earlier this year, it was considered better to add hashtags in the comments instead of the post caption itself. This not only made brand posts more ‘clean’, but it was also seen as more accessible as it would prevent a string of words being read aloud for users with screen readers.
However, in a more recent post by Instagram explaining how the search feature works, they share that “For a post to be found in Search, put keywords and hashtags in the caption, not the comments.”
What’s more is that the app has started a new wave of commitment to safety and privacy. Since the 2020 U.S. elections, Instagram has been banning and hiding hashtags to help stop the spread of false information or inflammatory content.
While the initial intent might have been coming from the right place, the censoring of hashtags has created an additional obstacle for content creators and small businesses – particularly those in more restricted industries, such as cannabis.
Using banned hashtags can significantly set your account back from non-cannabis counterparts. Any account that uses banned hashtags – whether that’s #snapchat or #cannabiscures – will not only restrict the particular post in question from being shown to your followers and other app users, but it may also internally flag your account for its content.
In combination with its newer features, like Sensitive Content Controls, one wrong hashtag could make it a lot harder than it already is to gain traction online. Moreover, as Instagram increases scrutiny on cannabis-related content, banned cannabis hashtags are likely to have a greater risk for your account and therefore, for your social media strategy.
What hashtags should cannabis accounts be using?
Selecting the right hashtags is half the battle on Instagram. We recommend doing manual hashtag research regularly (about once every other month or more frequently) to:
- Keep tabs on popular, relevant hashtags in your community;
- Ensure that the hashtags you use are not being banned without your knowledge
Hashtags work similarly to SEO keyword research. In addition to helping you brainstorm different content ideas, you’ll also gain an understanding of which hashtags are popular and how likely it is for you to gain popularity under them.
For instance, let’s say you want to gain awareness for your CBD skincare products on Instagram.
If you use the hashtag #cbd, you’re competing with 13.8M other posts. Whereas if you use #cbdskincare, you are not only getting more specific, but you’re only competing with 352K other posts.
In this case, the “most popular” hashtag is not necessarily worth it for your account. Depending on your following size, your ideal target range of hashtag volume will vary. When we conduct hashtag research for our clients, we spread the 30 Instagram hashtags out to get a healthy range of volume and focus the majority of the hashtags on those that align with where your unique account and audience. This will ensure your posts get the recognition they deserve.
To check if a hashtag has been hidden or banned, search your tag into the Instagram search bar with a ‘#’ and pay close attention to the results and search predictions.
If a tag does not come up with a result, it is likely that it is banned altogether. For instance, there are no results found for ‘#cannabisheals’. However, if a tag appears, it is still important to investigate it further. Many hashtags are hidden by Instagram and will be noted as such in the search results.
While not all cannabis hashtags are completely hidden or banned, they should be used with caution. Our social media team recommends avoiding hashtags with the phrase ‘cannabis’ completely unless they are niched down.
Cannabis Hashtags to Avoid
Here is a list of hidden and banned cannabis hashtags to avoid: