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Community + Hashtags

In this lesson I talk about the importance of Community and Hashtags when you are building your Instagram audience. Images are important but without taking time to connect with people and tag your images, so that new people can see them you won't go far however wonderful your images are.

Community

Images are important on Instagram but so is community. Instagram is a social network. It can be easy to forget this and think of it as a marketing platform. Try to think of it as a large, beautiful, online networking event that you can pop into each day.

Posting great images and then running off to hide won’t grow your following very quickly!

Set aside some time each day (it can just be 5-10 minutes) to leave comments on images that you like, to find some new people to follow and like a bunch of images too. Reply to comments left on your images. I know that can take time and sometimes we don’t have time but try your best. It will not be time wasted.

Choose a time to post when you know that you can follow it up with 5-20 minutes (if you only have 5 that is fine but if you can spend 10-20 minutes that will help your engagement even more) of commenting, liking, finding new people to follow in the explore page and hashtags.

Read people's captions and make thoughtful comments when you can.

All of this will help you to connect with your audience and build it. Remember that some people you engage with might not need or want what you are selling/writing but they might know someone who would be interested. Or they might not be interested right now but they might be in the future. This is really important to remember. Do not be disheartened if it feels like you are spending time on social media and nothing is happening. It takes time to develop but if you are not there at all then people can't get to know you.

Hashtags

FINDING HASHTAGS

Hashtags are a really important part of Instagram. They help people to find images that they like and new people to follow. There are millions of images on Instagram. Lots and lots of them won’t appeal to you but if you search in certain hashtags then you will find images you like.

If you think of Instagram as a big networking party then hashtags are like the rooms. You need to go into the rooms to meet new people and catch up with friends. There will be some rooms that you love and some that you don't. It's really important that you find the ones that you do like, so that you can connect with your tribe and not get stuck in a room where you feel a little bit lost!

If you use a hashtag you want to be able to quickly find another image in that hashtag that you like. If you are scrolling for ages before you find something that inspires you then perhaps you are posting the wrong place.

There are hashtags for pretty much everything, so it’s really a matter of searching for the ones that suit you. It can take time but it’s definitely time well spent.

One way to find them is to see which ones people you admire are using. Take some notes, save them on your phone. Keep researching.

You can also use the Makelight Hashtag Tool. We are developing this all the time, so don't forget to use it often. It will all help to develop it into something bigger and better for you! See Stef's lesson about hashtags for more about this tool.

USING HASHTAGS

I used to recommend posting your hashtags in the first comment and not in the caption when you first post the image. However, Stef has done some research on this while he has been building our Hashtag Tool and if you are using big hashtags you need to put them in the caption as so many people are also posting images into these hashtags at the same time and your image won't be ranked as high in the hashtag algorithms if you put them in the comment.

I now sometimes put them in the caption and sometimes in the first caption.

You can use up to 30 hashtags per post. I don't think I've ever used 30 but with the algorithm changes I have been aware that it is increasingly important to use more. Since I made this video we've been doing a lot of work in looking at how people are using hashtags now and it seems that people are using a lot more hashtags.

I would aim to use 11 or more if you can.

If you forget to add a hashtag when you post, don’t worry because you can always add it in later, although the algorithms that work for the hashtag galleries don't rank images as highly if the hashtag isn't added at the time of posting.

HASHTAG SIZE

If you have a look through the Hashtag Library, you can get a measure for how busy a hashtag is, as well as roughly how often you can expect to see a new image being posted. We've included that because when you're considering using a hashtag it's worth thinking about how "busy" it is. Too busy and your image will quickly disappear from view. Too quiet and it's likely that nobody's really paying a great deal of attention to it.

Brand new hashtags can be really good for finding new people - have a look at the total number of posts and also how busy it is. A hashtag with just a few hundred or low thousands of images, plus an image every hour could be the start of something new and interesting.

While you're looking around the Hashtag Library, press the heart button to gather hashtags to save for later.

Please feel free to share ones that you like on the Facebook Group. Perhaps we could all challenge ourselves to find a new one to share with everyone?

When you have found a hashtag that you like and posted an image for it, make sure you take time to look for some images that you like in that hashtag group. Like some, perhaps follow a new person, leave some comments.

VARIETY

It is really important to regularly change the hashtags you are using and not just simple post the same bundle onto every post. It is so easy to do I know. We are all under time pressures and sometimes it just feels like yet another thing to do. I try to set some time aside each month to make some fresh bundles of hashtags. I save them in the notes on my phone and then I have them ready to use when I need them.

If you review your bundles once a month then you know that you are changing it up enough without it having to be something you think about every day. If you find new ones as you go then simply add them to one or more of your bundles.

Your bundles don't have to be completely new hashtags every time, you can definitely carry some over to the next month and return to old ones too but just keep it updated and fresh. Think back to the party rooms idea. You don't want to be stuck in the same room all night!

HASHTAG CHALLENGES AND PROJECTS

In addition to hashtags that are used all the time there are some that are for particular days. For example for the past three years I have been running #floralfridaycomeptition where people all over the world post a floral image on a Friday. The following week I feature my favourite 4 images in a grid with links to the people. This really helps people gain new followers.

There are lots more of these. Here is a little selection. 

#inspiredbynature_ #midweekcakelove #freeupmyinsta #inspiredbypetals


YOUR OWN HASHTAG

As well as using other people’s hashtags it can be nice to make your own. For example I have #makelightstudio #makelighthome and #thequinskislibrary. This is a nice way to group your images together and for people to look back at older images you’ve posted.

Or you could make a hashtag and invite other people to join in with you. A lovely way to build your community. But wait until you are feeling happy with your Instagram stream. You want your hashtag to bring you new followers, so it’s important to make sure you are ready for them!

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