You don’t need me to tell you that Instagram is huge – and I mean that literally. The image sharing site owned by Facebook is home to everyone who is anyone and hosts tens of billions images online.
The trouble is, with that kind of volume, it can be difficult to find what you’re looking for if you’re after something specific. For all you Instagram newbies out there, I’m going to discuss how to search in Instagram.
I’ll cover the basics of searching so that you can find what you’re looking for without having to dedicate your life to looking through the images on this very addictive social network.
Searching in Instagram
Instagram has a built-in search function. To search using this feature, just tap the magnifying glass icon on the app, or type your search term into the search box at the top of the screen on the desktop site. You’ll have the option to search based on people (i.e. search for their name), Tags (search for the hashtags assigned to images) and Places (search for place names). Just type in the name of the person, hashtag, or place you’re looking for and Instagram will do a search.
While not strictly search, you can find Instagram users by allowing the system to make suggestions. This is a good way to find random or related people to follow on Instagram.
- Navigate to Discover People which is off of the Profile page. Tap the menu icon in the top menu bar – it’s a little + symbol next to a picture of a person.
- Select Suggested users within the Discover People page.
- Scroll through until you find someone interesting, tap their profile link, then Follow.
How useful these suggested users will be depends on who you are friends with already and how much you have allowed Instagram to integrate into your life. The more friends or contacts you have, the more varied the suggested users will be. Some will be companies and others will be apparently random people, but many will be the usual friends of friends or people your friends follow.
Use an Instagram search website
The built-in tools are fine, but many people have found they need more precision in their searches. If neither of those two methods work for you, you could try a third party website that provides search for Instagram. If you have tried the browser version of Instagram, you will have noticed that it isn’t that great. The network does everything it can to get you using the mobile app and so their web page is clunky by design. Search on the website is woeful, which has opened up the market for third-party search solution websites.
Some are better than others but there are a couple that seem to work well. One is Websta, a website designed for social media marketers to perform analytics. As one way to use Instagram is to follow influencers, it provides a decent search function with which to find them.
Searching using hashtags
People tag images with #hashtags, just as they do on other social media websites. This is partially so that the poster can organize their own images, but mainly the function of the tags is so that everyone can search for targeted images. It’s a very clever crowdsourced way of being able to search for something quickly by using a form of keyword.
Hashtags work by prefixing something with ‘#’, which old-school programmers will recognize as being the symbol for “hash”. So for example, if I visit the Empire State Building and take a picture from the top, I might tag it with ‘#EmpireState’. This tells everyone the subject of the image and will enable the image to show up when anyone searches for the Empire State Building. You can add any hashtag to any image.
Spend five minutes searching hashtags and you will quickly see that people tag their images with all sorts of tags, some accurate and some not, just to get them seen. So while it is an effective way to organize and search for images, nobody has established the Hashtag Police to do quality control. So be careful what you search for!
Searching in Instagram isn’t exactly intuitive and is harder than it should be on the web. However, that hasn’t stopped the social network building a huge following of millions of people who take pictures of everything they see on their travels. If you have the patience, it is certainly a network worth your time.