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How to use hashtags on Instagram
If you’ve been using social media for any reasonable length of time, you will have come across the term ‘hashtag.’ It’s to social media what peanut butter is to bread. But not too many people fully understand what a hashtag is, how to select the right ones for their posts, and how to use hashtags to their full potential. Knowing these things though could make the difference between going viral and going down in flames. Here is how to use hashtags on Instagram.
Hashtags are search shortcuts meant to make it easier for someone to find the content they're looking for, based on a keyword. You should insert them into your social media posts to make them more discoverable, both by users and the social media platform itself.
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What are hashtags on Instagram?
A hashtag, in simple terms, is a search keyword preceded by a # symbol (the hash). Entering a # before the keyword on social media immediately makes that keyword clickable, and brings together all of the posts tagged with that word in one place.
For example, if I wanted to look for pictures of dogs on Instagram, I would put into the search engine — #dogs.
As you can see, some hashtags are used more than others. Almost 155 million images are tagged with the #dogs hashtag, whereas #dogslife ‘only’ has 21 million. So, if you’re posting pictures of your dog, the key is to find a hashtag that’s busy but not that busy. If you only slap #dogs on it and call it a day, your masterpiece image will be lost in a sea of 155 million other images. We’ll go into this a bit more later in the article.
If you are simply looking for pictures with a particular hashtag, click on the one you want to be taken to the page containing images with that hashtag. Alternatively, on the desktop, go to https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/TAG_HERE/ to get a direct link to the hashtag page.
If you want, you can click the Follow button to get all images with that tag to appear in your feed. But as I said before, if you choose a heavy traffic tag, be prepared for a flood of images to hit your screen.
Why use hashtags on Instagram?
What we have discussed so far should already give you a pretty good idea of why you should use hashtags on Instagram. It all comes down to visibility and promotion.
- Your image will appear on the hashtag page along with all the others. Anyone subscribing to that hashtag will see it (even if they don’t follow you.)
- If you are a company, you can build marketing campaigns and user-generated content around hashtags. For example, hashtags can be made from a company’s current marketing slogan. You can tell customers to tag their images with your custom-made hashtag.
How to use hashtags on Instagram
We’ve just gone over how to use hashtags from a user perspective. We’re now going to go over how to use it if you’re an Instagram content creator.
There is no actual section in the Instagram post creation process for hashtags, so there are two competing fields of thought. One side thinks you should place the hashtags in the image description. The other side thinks you should post the image first, then post the hashtags as a comment.
Wherever you decide to put them, let’s look at two ways to find the best hashtags and insert them effortlessly.
The desktop method
There are lots of desktop hashtag generators if you search on Google, but the best one I’ve found by far is Display Purposes. Just start typing some general keywords into the search engine and Display Purposes will start generating more underneath.
Obviously, some are going to be completely irrelevant, as well as some being in foreign languages, and some duplicates. So it’s best to switch to Manual in the Tag Selection box. If you then scroll a bit further down, you’ll see all the generated hashtags with checkboxes next to them.
Deselect the ones you don’t want and the list up-top will update immediately. If you want to see popularity stats for a particular hashtag, mouse over the colored bar next to the checkbox.
When you have your list, click the green Copy Mode button up top and this will copy all of the hashtags to your clipboard. You can then CTRL+V (or CMD+V on a Mac) to paste them right into your Instagram post.
The mobile device method
Most Instagram users are on their mobile devices, so it makes sense to have an app to do this for you. The best one is Hashtag Key, although the iOS version seems to have disappeared. The Android version of Hashtag Key is still available though. iOS users can use something like Hashtag Expert which works more or less along the same lines as Hashtag Key.
Hashtag Key is integrated into your device’s keyboard and you can flip between keyboards at will. You can save groups of hashtags so it’s a simple case of tapping each one to enter them into your Instagram post.
Simply by typing one into your post. If it hasn’t been created already, then using it for the first time ‘creates’ it.
To access analytics, you need to change your account to a professional account or a creator account. This is free and can be done in Settings.