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Twitter and Instagram Tips for Newbies; Hashtags Explained

As I learn about social media to help publicize my book, my brother (external link) sends this in about Twitter and Instagram:

Twitter and Instagram

Tom, hashtags are used to classify content on Instagram and Twitter for search purposes and to identify current trending topics.


Hashtags aren’t as important on Twitter anymore unless you’re tweeting along during a television show like the #SuperBowl or the #StateOfTheUnion, etc. or if you want to see what’s up with different current events and topics like #MeToo or #Fortnite or #BlackLivesMatter and so on. Also, with Twitter’s 280 character limit, hashtags count against the limit so it’s best to tweet with them sparingly. The only time I use hashtags on Twitter is when my tweet doesn’t have a keyword people would naturally use to find me. For example, if I tweet about an obscure federal grant management topic but the word “grant” or “funding” isn’t in the text, I’ll add #grants or #funding at the end. I think hashtags are more for Twitter, Inc.’s benefit than the users.

Twitter is more for real time (or semi-real time) interactions with people. You can search any keyword without using hashtags nowadays and Twitter will pull up every tweet using the term. Search for a topic of interest, look at all the tweets and jump into a conversation. Or, you can do like I do: use Twitter as a tool to push out information of interest to me, rarely interact with anyone and spend most time reading other people’s tweets for breaking news and current events. I still like tweeting just to keep my stuff out there in case anyone searches for it, but I rarely engage anyone in lengthy conversations because so many people are on tilt politically. Topics that should be apolitical often devolve into anti-republican or anti-democrat or anti-Trump rants and I don’t need that headache.


Hashtags are critical on Instagram. They’re the way people find your images. When you hashtag a photo with #Vegas or #RockClimbing or #Tacos or whatever, Instagram puts your photos together with all the other images using the same hashtags. When someone searches on #astronomy, they’ll see the most popular images with that hashtag (based on likes and interactions) and the most recently posted photos. You can use up to 30 hashtags per photo; I never use that many but it’s an option. Before I post a photo, I occasionally search for hashtags that might be relevant. At the bottom of the phone screen, there’s a magnifying glass search icon. Click on it and enter your keyword in the box at the top of the screen. Below the search box, you’ll see tabs for “Top,” “People,” “Tags” and “Places.” By clicking on Tags, Instagram will show you how many posts use the keyword you entered. I try to use hashtags that are in 50,000 or more posts just for the eyeballs. And sometimes I’ll use whatever hashtags pop into my head regardless of how popular (or unpopular) they might be. There’s no right or wrong way to use them. The key is to always use at least a handful so your images get on Instagram’s radar.

If you post the image of the Gremlin, for example, your post might read something like this:

Spotted this beauty during a recent research trip for my book. #Gremlin #classiccars #authorlife #writerslife #roadtrip #Arizona #TomFarley

Another example using the image of your paperwork:

Finally getting my research notes and paperwork organized. #authorlife #writerslife #writing #freelancewriting #books #organization #rockhound #TomFarley

Once you get a few Instagram posts under your belt, you’ll have a much better idea how it works.

Also, animals are huge on Instagram. You’ll get a bunch of views by posting pictures of Fremont and using hashtags like #cats #catsofinstagram #officecat and so on. You’ll see a ton of options if you play around with the search tool.

One thing I forgot to mention is a lot of people are having success on Instagram with long-form (multi-paragraph) posts. If you have a lot to say about a picture or a topic, it’s okay to go long. Instagram doesn’t insert paragraph breaks using the return key, though, so you need to break them up manually with a random character like this:

Paragraph one blah blah blah.

Paragraph two blah blah blah.

Paragraph three blah blah blah.

#hashtag #hashtag #hashtag

By thomasfarley01

Business writer and graphic arts gadfly.

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