Instagram Crash Course Part 1 – Hashtags demystified

A hashtag is a suggestive name for a collection, or an album where anyone can add one or more of their works just by using that hashtag in their description. Given this collaborative nature, no one “owns” a hashtag or has the ability to curate it.

However, some can brag that they created it. They started it. They were the ones to first use that hashtag. It’s quite a big deal, because if other people start using it, they therefore contribute to a collection you started. @howyouglow account pretends to be the creator of the hashtag with the same name – #howyouglow

There really isn’t any limit to hashtags ingeniousness; all that is required is to be used by many different users in a meaningful way.

– Events. Such as #monacogp or #burningman. Some techies even create a hashtag for their weddings, so everyone can add their pics to that album and browse them in real time, or later on.
– Submission to contests. You can’t add any description to your hashtag, so the contest must be announced somewhere else. #contactbmw‘s contest winner is this one
– Funky compositional themes: #iseefaces, #carcorners, #livefolk, #catsofinstagram, #selfie
– Photography-related: #bw, #isolatedonwhite, #50mm, #f1_4
– Communities: #igersbucharest, #igersfrance
– Different topics: #whileinbetween, #doordie, #visitcalabria

It’s got to a point where we can talk of a hashtag-slang.
#TBT means “throwback Thursday” and refers to you posting an older photo of yourself, on a Thursday.
#latergram – when that picture was taken some time ago, signaling your followers that’s from the past.
#feetfie is a selfie (author taking a picture of herself/himself) that only contains the feet
#nofilter is used to point out those are the actual colors, and no filter was applied.
#l4l, #f4f mean like for like, follow for follow – some dirty Ponzi schemes to get fake likes or followers

All trivial words are banned. Those collections can not be listed. However, users found some getaways. E.g. #naked and #nude are banned, #nudeart is OK (or not yet banned). Instagram does not allow explicit nudity, since they have no adult/child account distinction. This got a lot people and celebs pissed off; Scout Willis walked topless in New York to prove that social networks are more restrictive than the NY law (source). Most nude photographers get along by censoring their images, covering the spots.

Now you see, tags such as #the or #me don’t really make sense. They won’t bring you followers interested in your image – you’re just creating hashtag noise in your caption. Stick to meaningful tags.
You can add more hashtags later, but it’s pretty important to have them setup from the beginning. The post will soon be burried by newer posts.
All hashtags used by the author in the comments are automatically added to the post. If other users comment on your image using hashtags, the image is not added to those albums – only the author has that ability.

Another important aspect is that private accounts (the ones that chose to show their posts only to approved followers) don’t contribute to collections since their images are not public. Those accounts only expose posts to their closed circle of approved followers.

Hashtagging is the main tool to get noticed by other users of the Instagram community, others than your followers. They can make a good shot get noticed. A great shot without matching hashtags will not necessarily get traction if you don’t have many followers.