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Located in Red Bluff, CA

530-206-6175

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Located in Red Bluff, CA

How to Search Photos on Instagram Using Hashtags

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​Instagram (IG) is the most popular photo-based app in the world and it's growing quickly.  With over a billion monthly users, the app has hundreds of millions of photos to view and millions more are being added daily.  With that many photos being uploaded every day, finding exactly what you're looking for is probably going to be difficult, right?  Not entirely.  Instagram, more than any other platform, has done a remarkable job of making it easy for users to find what they're looking for through hashtags.  What Instagram has done that other social media platforms failed to do is not only make efficient use of the hashtag a key component of the app but a component that people actually want to use.  

Imagine really enjoying photos on IG but needing to look through hundreds of millions of photos to view photos that you especially like.  If you viewed each photo on Instagram for one second before moving on to the next and kept doing this every second, it would take you over 3 years to look at all of the photos...that are posted in a single day!  That kind of search would be a frustrating and exhausting task that could lead to an emotional breakdown; or so we've heard.  The good people over at Instagram know that frustrated users become someone else's users and have embraced hashtags as a way to help us find what we're looking for; efficiently.  So, what are hashtags, where do they come from and how are they used?

#Hashtags - What Are They?

At its core, a hashtag, designated by the '#' symbol, is a way to group photos together or separate them from other photos.   Within the Instagram search box,  you can place the '#' followed by the word you're searching and get results that have been tagged with that hashtag.  For example, if you like horses, put #horses (pronounced: hashtag horses) into the search box and the results will produce tens-of-millions of photos.  If you like flowers, put #flowers into the search box and you'll be rewarded with over 150 million photos of flowers. You can do this for just about any subject and the app will display only photos that have been tagged with that hashtag.  

Where Do Hashtags Come From? 

When people upload a photo to Instagram they can attach hashtags to their photo to make it easier for people to find.  This way, not only will their photo appear in the home feed of their followers but it will also show up in searches that use one of the hashtags they attached when they posted the photo.   

Below is a photo that we posted through the IG account of our Northern California outdoor and entertainment website; norcalpulse.com  - Through that account, we often share photographs from local photographers and this is one we shared from one of our favorites, Sean Ryan.  Underneath the photo (left), you can see where a number of hashtags were placed.  When someone searches for one of those hashtags, they might see Sean's photo.  

In this case, one of the hashtags used when we posted Sean's photo was #siskiyoucounty - the county in which this shot was taken.  If you were to search #siskiyoucounty on Instagram, you would see Sean's photo surrounded by photos that were posted around the same time that also had #siskiyoucounty attached to them.   You can visit Sean's Instagram page by clicking HERE.

Sean's Photo with Hashtags
Sean's Photo within #siskiyoucounty

Using Hashtags 

(1) Click on the magnifying glass
(2) Enter your search term
(3) Search results appear

As you can see, the search process is pretty basic and easy.   In this case, #hiking was used to perform a search and the top groups of photos that contain #hiking show up on a list (pic 3);  #hiking, #hikingadventures, #hikingboots, etc.  You can then select which series of photos you'd like to view.  You might be thinking that using a generic term like #hiking would bring up quite a few photos to sort through and you'd be right.  There are currently over 47,000,000 photos on Instagram attached to #hiking.  

You may also notice the tabs just below #hiking in the search box (pic 3).  When you search a hashtag, what appears by default are the top groups that feature that particular hashtag.  Next to that is the tab, Accounts.  These are actual accounts that have the word hiking in their title and are not related to hashtags.  The next column is, Tags.  This is similar to Top but instead of the top groups using that hashtag, it shows you all of the groups.  Places will show you places that have the word hiking in the title.  Take a few minutes and familiarize yourself with these four tabs and how they work, they're really pretty easy to navigate.

Broad versus Narrow Searches 

The quantity of search results you get depends on the type of search terms you use.  For example, if you put #trucks into the search bar - Instagram will produce almost 5 million photos for you to browse.  If you were looking for Dodge trucks specifically, that would be quite a few to sort through.  However, use #dodgetrucks and it narrows your search down to about 115,000.  Using more defined hashtag search terms can help you more easily find what you're looking for but keep in mind that too-defined hashtag searches can eliminate some photos you might like to see.  

TIP:  Use a variety of hashtags when searching to find the ones that best represent the content you want to see.  

With that being said, one of Instagram's coolest somewhat-new features gives users the ability to follow hashtags.  

Following Hashtags on Instagram 

This is a wonderful feature.  It has introduced to us to so much fun content by a variety of talented people who share similar and not-so-similar interests.  Let's say for example that you love all things Sushi.  Sushi is delicious so a passion for it would make sense.  Not only can you search #sushi to view photos of sushi on Instagram, you can follow that hashtag as well.  

When you click on a hashtag group (like Sushi, Sashimi and California Roll in the photos below), you get some additional and often helpful information.  Right above the blue Follow button is the number of posts that have been made using that hashtag.  In this case, #sushi (24.9 million), #sashimi (3.6 million) and #californiaroll (206k).  Below the blue Follow button are Related hashtags which are some hashtags that Instagram thinks you will enjoy based on what you have selected.  

Below the Related hashtags are the words, TOP and RECENT.  When you search a hashtag, the photos display by TOP by default.  The RECENT button will display the photos in order of most recently posted first. 

Think of following a hashtag like just like following another friend. In this case, when you follow #sushi, photos of sushi that people have posted and attached with #sushi will appear in your feed as though a friend posted them. There won't be so many photos that your feed becomes overwhelmed with photos of sushi but you'll be introduced to some people who like sushi the way you do.  Not to mention, if you post a photo of Sushi and attach #sushi to it, your photo could be featured too. 

We like Sushi quite a bit but not enough to follow #sushi.  We do however like Napa Valley enough to want to see photos that have been attached with #napavalley or in this case #visitnapavalley.  This is what a post looks like when you follow a hashtag.  It's very unassuming and is just the type of photo that we want to see. 

Of all of the search features that Instagram offers, this is probably our favorite.  You really can pick your favorite, well, pretty much anything and have photos related to it delivered right to your feed.  


​The best way to learn how to use the Instagram search feature is to just give it a go.  You really can't mess anything up so have fun exploring your favorite photos from around your neighborhood or from around the world.  If you have questions, please leave a comment or give us a call; it would be great to hear from you.  530-206-6175

Have a wonderful day! 

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Friday, 03 April 2020