The Beginner’s Guide to Instagram: Are You Ready?

A hashtag is the pound sign. The sharp note in musical notation. A tic tac toe board. This: #

When it comes to social media, the hashtag is used to draw attention, to organize, and to promote.

Hashtags got their start on Twitter as a way of making it easier for people to find, follow, and contribute to a conversation. Archeologists have unearthed this early tweet, and believe it to be the first time the hashtag was used for this purpose.

If you’re a social media novice, hashtags — those short links preceded by the pound sign (#) — may seem confusing and unnecessary. But they are integral to the way we communicate online, and it’s important to know how to use

An Instagram hashtag ties the conversations of different users into one stream, just like on Twitter and Facebook. If Instagram users who aren’t otherwise connected to one another talk about the same topic using a specific hashtag, their posts will appear in the same stream.

Here’s what a hashtag stream on Instagram looks like — again, using #MotivationMonday as an example:

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Notice the user interface on Instagram’s hashtag stream is much simpler than those on Twitter and Facebook. There are three things you can do from this page: Scroll through related hashtags, look at the Top Posts, and browse Recent Posts.

  • Related Hashtags: All related hashtags (like #dontquit, #getmotivated, etc. in this case), which users can scroll through sideways.
  • Top Posts: The nine posts using that hashtag that have seen the most engagement — which usually means tweets from influential people or brands that have a lot of followers. This is limited to nine posts.
  • Most Recent: A live stream of Instagram posts from everyone posting that hashtag.

How to Use Hashtags on Instagram

Want to get involved in the conversation, or even start your own? Using a hashtag on Instagram is as simple as publishing an Instagram post from a public account that includes the hashtag, like this: As long as your account is public, anyone who does a search for that hashtag may find your Instagram post.

When you write a new post and start typing in a hashtag using the # symbol, Instagram will actually suggest hashtags to you based on their popularity. Check out the suggestions I got when I typed in the incomplete hashtag, #Motivation:

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How to Find Hashtags on Instagram

If you already know the hashtag you want to search for, the only way to search for a hashtag on Instagram on your mobile device is through a simple search. You can do a simple search by clicking the magnifying glass at the bottom of your screen, which brings you to the “Explore” tab. From there, type the hashtag name into the search box at the top of your screen, and toggle your results by “Tags”:

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If you’re searching for popular hashtags from scratch, the best place to look is in Instagram’s “Explore” tab. Here, you’ll find popular posts liked by people whose posts you’ve Liked or posts that are Liked by a large number of people in the Instagram community.

Go to the “Explore” tab by clicking that magnifying glass at the bottom of your screen. Check out posts there to browse trending hashtags by scrolling down.