One of Instagram's most popular hashtags is without a doubt girlboss.
With over 6,116,245 posts to date, the girlboss attitude has captivated many female entrepreneurs, bloggers and small business owners, myself included. And as a true girlboss at heart, it pains me to warn you that this powerful hashtag is officially no longer safe to use on Instagram.
Why I'm concerned about the hashtag girlboss
Have you recently clicked on your beloved girlboss hashtag and seen what comes up? Here is what came up when I clicked on it (prepare to be shocked):
I'm concerned about # girlboss because of nudity.
This is actually not the first time that I've expressed my concerns about the hashtag girlboss: in May 2017 I posted about it from my Instagram account, and I was amazed by all the comments I received. Even today, I'm still receiving 'thank you' notes from girls who were made aware of the situation through my post, and who are now more careful about # girlboss.
Why a good hashtag like girlboss can go bad
"Why do hashtags go bad?" Because some people use hashtags like girlboss to tag inappropriate content, like nudity or pornography. Instagram has guidelines, and it is against those guidelines to post nudity or pornography.
IG's community guidelines forbid showing:
- Bullying or harassment
- Drug use
- Graphic violence
- Nudity or pornography
- Self-harm (like cutting, suicidal content or eating disorders)
When users report images that violate IG's guidelines, the hashtags associated with this image also get flagged. The more one hashtag gets reported in conjunction with an inappropriate image, the higher the risk for this particular hashtag to go 'bad'. Unfortunately, this also makes the hashtag unsafe for anyone else.
Why you should check your hashtags - especially girlboss - before using them
Many girls are completely unaware of the dangers of using a bad hashtag.
In many cases, using a bad hashtag can lead to your IG account being shadowbanned. For example, I got affected by it myself simply by using a completely harmless hashtag. (You can read the full story about which hashtag I used, how my Instagram account got fully affected and how I got rid of my shadowban here.)
How to keep your Instagram account safe from bad hashtags
- Research EVERY hashtag before you use it, every day.
- Report anything inappropriate that violates IG's guidelines.
- Stay away from using popular hashtags and use smaller, niche ones instead. Niche hashtags are easier to control and to check than popular hashtags with millions of posts.
- Download my free Top 50 hashtag guide for creative female entrepreneurs, bloggers and small business owners, which I constantly update to make sure it's safe to use.
- Try to create a growth strategy that doesn't involve hashtags at all. I'll show you how to future proof your brand a bit further down the post.
How to report a 'bad' hashtag to keep your account (and the community) safe
Remember that what was a perfectly good hashtag yesterday may no longer be a safe hashtag today. Keep your Instagram account safe by checking daily that each hashtag is safe before you use it. If you see anything suspicious, report it. Either report the image or the entire account.
Here is how to report an account that violates IG's guidelines.
1. First, tap on the 3 dots, top right corner. Tap 'Report'.
2. Then select 'It's inappropriate'.
3. Select 'Report this account. Why are you reporting this account?'
4. Tap on 'I believe this account violates Instagram's community guidelines'.
5. Select 'Report account'.
6. Next, you'll get asked 'Report this account. Why are you reporting it?' Select 'Posting inappropriate content'.
7. From the dropdown menu select 'Nudity or pornography'.
8. After you tap on your selection you'll get a 'Thank you' message. Done. The original photo belonging to a reported account then appears marked as flagged.
Why I believe you shouldn't rely on hashtags anymore
With over 200 million daily active users today (Source)
, it's impossible for Instagram to check every hashtag and piece of content that's posted. This makes it easy for users to slip inappropriate content into popular hashtags unnoticed.
Popular hashtags are huge, with hundreds of thousands or millions of posts. The speed the hashtag gets used makes it really hard to stay on top of all the content posted, which is an opportunity for those who mean harm, and which therefore pose a threat to any business owner, like you or me, who is unaware of it.
Why it's safer to grow your brand without hashtags
IG is fully aware of the hashtag situation and released a statement at the end of Feb 2017, advising its community to no longer rely on hashtags as a way of achieving brand growth. But then how do you grow your brand instead?
How to grow your brand on Instagram without hashtags
Let me tell you how I grew my IG account from zero to over 800 in less than 2 months. Content. The future of IG lies in brands that are consistent and provide value on a daily basis. This is the real key as to what keeps your tribe coming back to your account. In my eBook, I'll show you exactly how to create the perfect content + visual strategy for your brand on IG, without the use of any hashtags at all.
I'm not against the girlboss hashtag. But I'm all about helping IG to stay a beautiful and safe community for every REAL girlboss out there. Please stay safe and make sure to check your hashtags every day.
What is your experience? Were you aware of 'bad' hashtags and have you reported an inappropriate Instagram account before?