June 10, 2013

Instagram is all about sharing photos. And, getting people to see your photos. One of the best ways to do this is to use hashtags on your photos to increase their visibility in searches. But there is definitely a hashtag etiquette that needs to be observed and adhered to. Not that everyone does this...

Now, if you've read any of my posts about Twitter, you probably know how I feel about hashtags. I don't like them. Period.

Granted, I understand the value of using them in Twitter chats or for certain branding purposes. And I'm ok with those. It's the people who hashtag every keyword in their posts that drive me crazy. And if you read any of my tweets, I very rarely use hashtags.

So imagine my excitement when I joined Instagram and saw the rampant display of hashtags on many images.

I vowed to be different. I wouldn't slap my photo descriptions full of hashtags.

But over time and with experimentation, I learned I had to take advantage of the dreaded hashtag. While I'm no expert yet, I think I've figured out a pretty good recipe for how to successfully use hashtags on Instagram.

I think that every photo should have at least some sort of description. What is the photo? What does it mean to your audience?  And if you want people to find your photos, every photo and every description should include at least a couple hashtags.

Hashtags are how people find your photos. Sure, your current followers will see your images but if you want to gain more followers, you need to appeal to more people. And the quickest, easiest way to do this is to throw in a couple hashtags that will appear in searches.

Obviously, some hashtags are more common than others. Tagging #sunset will probably get more views than tagging #funeral. I'm not going to go into an extensive list here of what the most common hashtags are on Instagram. You can do a quick Google search and find multiple sites that give you those lists. But you should be aware of what some of these words are and think about how you can incorporate them into your photos.

That being said, here are some of my tips for hashtag etiquette on Instagram.

Use Relevant Keyword Hashtags

If your photo description includes some popular keywords throw a # in front of those words. Incorporate the hashtag into your regular description. You can also add a few more hashtags after the description that relate to the content of your photo.

For example, you may write something like this: Walking around the #park today, we spotted these #beautiful #flowers! #spring #bloom #tulips

Don't Use Too Many Hashtags

You can see from the example I just gave you, that I listed 6 hashtags. I recommend using 5-7 per photo. There may be certain photos where you can easily justify using 10 hashtags, but you should not be using 20 or more hashtags per image. This is cumbersome, distracting, and what many describe as annoying.

Use Industry Related Hashtags

Find common keyword terms for your industry and incorporate them into your posts to bring more targeted traffic to your photos. Or if you're at an event or location that is designated by a hashtag (something like #smmw13), then add this to your photos so that event coordinators and other attendees can find your photos.

Keep Your Audience In Mind

Just like with every other social media site, the most important thing to remember is your audience. Your posts should be tailored to them. Your photos are a reflection of you and your brand, but the goal is to appeal to your audience. So select hashtags that resonate with them and incorporate these into your posts.

Don't Hijack Hashtags

One of my greatest pet peeves on Instagram are people who tag photos with completely irrelevant hashtags. I'm talking about people who take a photo of their lunch and then include 20 popular tags just to gain views. They'll include tags like: sunset, love, fashion, fun, sky, cute, etc. Really? Tell me how your sandwich represents any of these descriptions.

Leave these popular tags for related photos. If you want people looking for sunsets to find you - then take photos of sunsets!

Hijacking can also be extended to trending topics. If there's something current in the news or media, don't use these tags just to rank on the searches. Unless your photo is related to the latest hurricane, don't tag the hurricane name in your photos.

These tactics may get you more views up front but most people won't actually like or comment on your photo. And they most likely will not follow you.

Hopefully, this information will help you organize your photos and descriptions. If you have any other tips for using hashtags well, please share your thoughts in the comments below. We are all still learning from each other!

Did you find this helpful? Please share:
    1. Thanks Tabitha! Yes, #tagforlikes #follow4follow #teamfollowback, etc. They’re all the same thing and I don’t really think they actually work for anyone.

    1. Thanks Tabitha! Yes, #tagforlikes #follow4follow #teamfollowback, etc. They’re all the same thing and I don’t really think they actually work for anyone.

  1. Not just in the Twitter and Instagram that we can use #hashtag now, but also in facebook recently. Many of my friends fond of using it and it really annoys me for they use it like a spam.

  2. Not just in the Twitter and Instagram that we can use #hashtag now, but also in facebook recently. Many of my friends fond of using it and it really annoys me for they use it like a spam.

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