How I use Hashtags

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Improving reach with hashtag use

When I wrote my post about what not to do to get your posts seen, most questions I got asked were about hashtags, so I thought I would write a post on how I use them.  This isn’t a how to do it; I sometimes don’t do it right, but here is how I feel about hashtags.

  • I think of hashtags like filing cabinets; each hashtag a file that I am putting a picture in. With each picture I get the opportunity to put it in 30 files. The more files I put it in the more likelihood people will see, the fewer files in that cabinet the more likely people are to see it . So I use near to 30 hashtags in all my posts and I generally use a mixture of small, medium and large hashtags, meaning I put ones that have less than 10,000, between 10,000-100,000, over 100,000, you get the idea. The more pictures in that hashtag the less likely your picture is to be seen, so I always only use a few large ones.

  • I always make sure my hashtags are relevant and fit with the picture; there is no point just adding a picture to any hashtag because it is popular. People go in hashtags to look for a particular style of photo and if your picture doesn’t fit that style or theme people won’t click, so you have essentially wasted a hashtag and also run the risk of Instagram thinking you are spamming a hashtag because your picture is not relevant.

So with these two things in mind, how do you choose your hashtags? There is no cheat sheet; it takes time, a lot of searching and a way for you to organise the hashtags you like. I just have them in the notes on my phone, saved under certain headings.

So here is how I choose them. I ask myself these questions.

  • What is in the picture?

The algorithm, believe it or not, can “read” an image and it compares that to what you have written and the hashtags. When all three match you will have more success.  So literally this means using hashtags that name what is in the picture. Not just using #book because seriously there are millions in the hashtags, but what kind of book, what colour is it, what else is in the picture - tea, coffee flowers? But get specific; pink rose is probably better than just rose, for example. Name as many things as you can using the smaller hashtags.

  • Mood of the photo

I don’t see many Bookstagrammers doing this and I think this is why a lot of my photos have a large reach; these hashtags reach out into the wider community. Is the photo moody, happy, wintery? You get the idea, tag by mood is a great piece of advice and I stick to it all the time. These take some searching and again you are looking for the smaller to medium ones depending on your number of followers.

  • What community do I want this picture to reach?

Essentially who do I want to see this picture? Is it Bookstagrammers, is it writers, fashion bloggers? Who knows but use a few tags that are community-based, again finding the smaller ones. Bookstagram for example is a huge hashtag, so you may do better finding a smaller version.

  • Who do I want to see this picture?

If it’s the author, tag them and use a hashtag, same with the publisher or the company whose clothes you are wearing.  This is a great way to get noticed by them and I have certainly been offered products by doing this.

  1. Finally, put in any hashtag that you use or is yours, like my #booksforclothes.

So that is how I use hashtags. Yes it might seem complicated and yes it might be a long process, but you know the types of photos you create, so when you have them you can just rotate and swap and change but remember, a new hashtag reaches you out to a new audience.

Now go play and let me know if you find any good ones.

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