HOW TO USE THE HASHTAG
We've all seen the skit between Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon centering around the hashtag (If you haven't - click here) and we've all come back with the thought "Why would someone even use hashtags?". Yes. We get it. That was excessive, but that's the crazy part... hashtags aren't just for silly nonsense words that you throw up onto your post. Hashtags are a way that people can find you and a way of grouping and nicheing certain topics together. You can totally use them to your advantage.
I like to knit (obviously) so some of the hashtags that I really like searching on Instagram are #knitting #knitaddict and #knitting_inspiration. After entering them in my search box one at a time my feed will spit out a crap ton of photos that people have added those hashtags to, and guess what? They USUALLY have to do with knitting or that topic. Imagine hashtags like a filter where you can cast out a net and miss all the other subjects in your feed that you don't want to see and focus solely on one. Another example is interior design. I can literally search #interiordesign and it poops out posts geared towards interior design. Tada!
So how do you use it to benefit yourself? Start adding hashtags that are relevant to what your post is about. Keep in mind if you're a business to use hashtags that your clients and buyers would use and not yourself. If you sell knits and aren't targeting knitters (cause they can probably make something similar to your item and won't purchase) then it would be silly to use the hashtags as above - because the people searching those hashtags aren't the people who are going to buy. If you're looking to find out hashtags that suite your feed the best there's actually a really great way to search in Instagram. Type in the one hashtag you know of in the search bar. Once it loads you'll notice a whole bunch of other related hashtags in blue at the top of your screen. Go down the rabbit hole and see if some of those hashtags may be ones you want to use later on. Even better? Write them in the notes section of your phone and you can just copy and past them next time you need them.
THINGS NOT TO DO WHEN HASHTAGGING
One of the most annoying things I see is people piggy-backing off of other hashtags that their posts aren't relevant to. If I have a hashtag for a certain pattern I'm selling - take the #bumhugger as an example - don't use that hashtag on ANY of your posts unless you are literally knitting that pattern. Why? Because it clogs up my hashtag with posts that aren't applicable and don't make sense. It confuses anyone trying to find photos about that pattern. Same thing with something like the hashtag #weareknitters - if you aren't using their products or aren't knitting a kit of theirs don't use their hashtag because the people searching for that company and their products will only get confused when they see items that aren't from that business. Be kind to your fellow peeps. They will thank you for it.
Whatever you do try and use hashtags to your advantage. I've had them triple, if not quadruple the amount of likes and views on my posts. They seriously make a huge difference - so use em' or loose em!