One of the more powerful tools for engagement that Instagram gives us is photo tags, or the ability to tag our Instagram images with the names of other Instagram users. The person (or brand) you’ve tagged is notified, and then it’s likely to generate likes and comments from them, increasing your relevance to each other in the Instagram algorithm, and reinforcing your relationship.
But like all powerful tools, this one can be abused. And you may be the one abusing it!
Don’t be that guy. Here’s how NOT to use Instagram photo tags:
Tagging people not in the photo
It’s really not a good idea to tag someone as being in a photo when they’re not, unless you think they would understand and agree with the tag. If, say, you photograph a gift basket that several people contributed to, and you tag all the contributors, that’s reasonable. But if you take a photo of your office, and tag a bunch of potential patients in the hopes that they’ll come in, that’s just weird. It signals that you don’t know how to be social or use Instagram.
Tagging people you don’t know as a means of introducing yourself
Tagging is sort of like saying “We’re besties!” So it feels presumptuous when someone you don’t know tags you (especially if you aren’t actually in the photo). Start more politely with a like and comment on one of their Instagram posts instead. Then if you work up to actually being in the same room and taking a photo together, you can tag that.
Tagging people but having no other interaction with them
This is one of the more naked grabs for attention, and it absolutely does not work. If you post an image and tag a bunch of influential accounts just to yank their eyeballs over to you, how will they feel about it? Used, probably. And how will they feel about you? That you’re an opportunist who doesn’t care about them. Not a good start to any relationship.
This is a case where a hashtag would be a better choice than a photo tag. Many Instagram users, especially brands, have official hashtags they encourage you to use. For instance, I tell people to tag their photos with #thesocialeye if they want me to feature them. See if your potential tag-ee has a hashtag, and if you’re not sure if you should use it, ask them via DM.
Tagging too many people in a day
Instagram limits tags to 20 per image. But if you’ve gone really crazy with tags, at a certain point it will not let you tag anyone else for a few days. And “Instagram jail” can sometimes mean not being able to do anything on Instagram for a while. That’s a pretty good reason to chill on the tagging.
Tagging people as an insult
Even if you’re kidding, don’t do this. There’s a fine line between comedy and abuse, and Instagram takes a hard line against the latter.
Photo tags: Remember the goal
Now you might be saying…
But know this. Incorrect use of photo tags can actually lead to the opposite of what you want on Instagram. You want people to trust, identify with, and vote for you and your business with their dollars. Treat their photo tag with respect, and you’ll be on the road to getting that. Treat it with disrespect, and they’ll be much more likely to unfollow you, block you, or even report you to Instagram for abuse or spam.
Want to know what Instagram says about tags? We got you.
Need more advice about social media? Contact us.
Peggy is the founder of The Social Eye, a social media agency for optical businesses. She led social media efforts at ZEISS Vision US for 4 years, and prior to that created digital marketing for the tech and music industries. She has far too many pairs of eyeglasses, but can always find room for one more.