Take the Thinking  Out of Instagram Hashtags. 

There are plenty of reasons to use hashtags on social media.

By the way, when we talk about social media for artists we’re really talking about Instagram. And the one thing that we know about Instagram is that it’s far from being instant, it takes time. So why invest all that time, if you are not getting results? The first key to getting results and growing a following is by using hashtags effectively.

What is a hashtag?

A hashtag is a description or keyword with the “#” symbol in front of it.

This should be one word. If it is more than one word then take out the spaces between the words. If your description is portrait painter one hashtag would be #PortraitPainter. There are millions of hashtags. The search feature uses them to allow users to find you and also to serve your images to new people who follow or use the hashtag.



How do they work?

When somebody selects the little magnifying glass icon (lollipop) they can search for any term.
Hashtags work this way, they are like flags that the search feature uses to steer people towards your post. In other words without hashtags, how are people going to find you? Although you may have a good number of followers wouldn’t you prefer to have many more people discover your art and follow you?

If you are running a competition, a painting challenge, or even a social reform campaign you can create a unique hashtag. E.g., on Instagram, we used the hashtag #WIFyellow for our Mellow Yellow painting challenge on our @WorkshopsInFrance account. And we used #ArtWIF to showcase artwork that was done on one of our painting workshops or art retreats. 

By searching for this hashtag, e.g., #ArtWIF, we can locate artwork with that hashtag in order to find and promote these paintings on the Instagram account @ArtWorkshopsInFrance, created for a very important purpose – to promote the artwork of our attendees. So, if you painted a piece at our workshop or a painting that was inspired by our art retreat and typed the hashtag #ArtWif, we will find you!


Are hashtags important?

Simple answer, yes! In fact, they are vital!

Your post can be shown to as many as six times the users by using hashtags. If you want to remain hidden and not show off your art, then don’t use hashtags. 


How many should I use?

You can use as many as 30 hashtags. Although it is not always necessary to use 30.


Should I put them in the comments or in the post itself?

You can put them in the comments or in the post itself. Using 30 hashtags in a short post can look extremely spammy. Hashtags can also be put into the comments which is a more aesthetic strategy. A good compromise is to write your post and then add several blank lines before you add the hashtags.



Here’s a tip that not everybody knows. You may have noticed that Instagram removes blank lines automatically and runs all the sentences together. To work around this, leave no space between the last character of a sentence before entering a line-break. But there is an additional step required, you have to type something into that empty line or it will just disappear. We use a “period” symbol and it works well. But we make sure not to add a space after the period, or Instagram will start the next sentence right after the period.


Another TIP for Apple iPhone Users!

By the way, on an iPhone, it’s not that obvious where the return key is hidden on Instagram’s keyboard. You have to press the number key and then the return key will show up on the other side of the space bar.


Timing is Everything.

If you add hashtags to an image that you already posted, it may be harder to find over time. Hashtagged images will show up under the hashtag in the order the images were posted. That keeps the feed up-to-date.

Although, for a popular hashtag, there are two options under the hashtag search, Recent and Trending. You can find the most popular images under the Trending tab.



Where are the best hashtags found?

Although there are websites and apps for generating hashtags, we never use those.

Just start typing in a hashtag and Instagram will auto-populate hashtag suggestions and show you the number of times each is currently being used. To discover the best hashtags, you should take the viewpoint of an Instagram user and ask yourself, “What posts are they looking for in their feed?” Use the term that you think they are typing and make that into a hashtag.

Rock your hashtags

You can do this by piggy-backing trending hashtags. You can find trending hashtags by observing the number of times they are being used when you start to type them in. If you find a hashtag that’s being used millions of times then consider it not that effective as your post will show up only for a split second. Other posts using the same hashtag will be shown at the top of the feed. In other words, your post would become obsolete in the search or home feed very fast. So look for hashtags that have tens of thousands or less. But obviously, if there is a hashtag that only has 100 postings then it is not going to generate much interest. So the best strategy is to use a mix of hashtags with a mixed number of postings.


The best-kept secret of hashtags?

Follow the trends of the most popular users out there. Find very popular accounts similar to yours with a massive following and check out their hashtags. Try using the relevant hashtags and see if those boost your popularity. 

You can also use the names of large established accounts as hashtags. This does two things. It allows people searching for that large account to find you, and it also puts you in front of that account. An example of this would be the company name of the manufacturer that makes your paint that you were showing in your post, or the easel system you used, or the art supplier, or even the name of an art association or gallery. But keep it relevant. No one likes a spammer who is hi-jacking irrelevant hashtags.

In the case of animal-portrait artists, if they were painting a dog they could use #Crufts or #HumaneSociety #DogsOfInstagram as well as a hashtag for the breed of the dog. If painting wildlife, using #World_Wildlife would reach hundreds of thousands of followers and fans of the animal kingdom. For plein air painters, a hashtag of the location would be a wise one to add as well as the hashtags for any associations you belong to. Look for art challenges – if you are participating – add the hashtag!

And how about yourself? Is your name a hashtag? It should be. Mine is

We’ll show you in a future post how to check the analytics to see exactly which ones are working for you.

An awesome hack is in the “story”

An Instagram story is a short, 15-second video or still photograph that is shown at the top of your Instagram page and prioritized to show up on other pages. It only lasts for 24 hours. Using stories instead of, or in addition to posts is the most powerful tool from Instagram at this time. People will share stories, and stories are shown to many, many users, even more than posts. It can bring new people to your site and using the hashtag in your stories will elevate your post and it will be shown to many followers of the hashtag.

Don’t forget to follow @WorkshopsInFrance to see our challenges and @ArtWorkshopsInFrance to see art by our guests. We also invite you to follow our sister site, our latest passion project that we are hatching, @ArtyGoGo, for our arty merchandise.

 Blogger: Julie Snyder

Julie Snyder is a professional artist and also the programs director of Workshops In France.  A native of Scotland, she is a seasoned traveler who splits her time between California and France.  You can learn more about her role with Workshops in France here. And to see her artwork you can visit her website

Check out more blogs about art workshops, tips and hacks for artists traveling in France and Scotland.

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