Hashtags – the secret to success

red tree by Iva B.
This post is about photography, hashtags and what they can tell us about a road to success. Never would I guess that I would be writing here about hashtags, but one has to be ready to try out new things. However, I do not promise this to be a deep and profound experience of reading. Can profound and hashtags go together? Let’s see.

The story starts many years ago when my love of photography started to develop, but it is irrelevant to go as further back as that, it is enough to start with October last year when I opened an Instagram account. Part of capturing a good moment creatively is to have an eye for it, but with Instagram the joy and creativity is in editing. Instagram transforms your experience of playing with different effects while editing your favourite shots.

Many people have a huge number of followers on Instagram, and get lots of ‘likes’, namely they use it as a social site, but I didn’t. For over a year I did not focus on that aspect of the app. I left the social part of online interaction for Facebook, and Instagram became a way of developing my gift and interest in photography. As an amateur, yes, but that did not make the creative process any less exciting. In all honestly, I didn’t get many ‘likes’ on Instagram. I wasn’t really looking for them. It was enough for me that I liked what I saw there. I would get offline comments, through real-life interactions with people to whom I showed my account. The dose of encouragement, should I need it, was provided that way. For more social interaction around my photos I created a bridge between Instagram and Facebook. When I wanted my photos to be exposed to a bigger number of people I shared the photos on Facebook, which in turn produced ‘likes’ and comments.

Yet a few days ago that all changed. I discovered hashtags. What is a hashtag? Online dictionary says, “A hashtag is a word or an unspaced phrase prefixed with the hash character, #”. For example, #beautiful or #beautifulphotos are hashtags. I noticed them on the photos of people in my newsfeed. I must have seen them before, but I didn’t pay much attention. This time I said, “Oh, interesting. Let me try to add some of those to my photos”. Well, I did, and you know what happened? In just a few hours I had more than 200 ‘likes’, a few comments, and a few new people started to ‘follow’ me (which means they will see any photo I post in their newsfeed). On top of that, a page with the Irish theme on Instagram that shares other people’s photos (in order to give them wider exposure) shared one of my photos from the Japanese Gardens in Kildare and the photo got 84 ‘likes’ (!). I know some of you have hundreds of likes PER PHOTO, and thousands of ‘followers’, but to jump from the average of 0-3 ‘likes’ per photo to ’10, 14, or 21’ likes for some of the photos, and more than 100 ‘likes’ on my account per day – in a matter of hours – is huge for me. Do you know when is the last time that this happened? You’re guessing: Never. It blew me away. A simple change like adding a hashtag has produced incredible result.

Now, this brings me to the point of this post. What if a secret of hashtags can also be applied to other areas of life? That would mean that sometimes all we may need is a little change here and there – for the results to sky-rocket or at least to go beyond average, beyond the results we are presently experiencing in a certain area. In this sense a hashtag is a symbol for something little, simple, (easily) available, something that other people perhaps are already using that can create a pretty big shift in our reality, and at the same time something we are not yet aware of. In other areas of life it may involve us either being extra observant or reading a few books in a search of that something that ‘other people are doing, that I am presently not aware of’. It will involve growth. You never know, we might stumble upon surprising insights and results.

As I was typing this I have been checking my Instagram, which by the way you can see here: Iva Dublin. I added a few more hashtags and in the last few minutes alone I have a notification for 62 likes, and they keep coming. In many ways my Instagram hashtags are superficial, BUT they opened up my world, or rather the world of my photography by exposing it to many more people. And that in turn introduced me to other people’s photos too. The incredible beauty about art and creativity is that it can be expressed in a variety of ways. When we develop and share our creativity with others we don’t in any way ‘steal’ the same ability from them; there is plenty of it out there for all of us to explore it. So, here’s to the #hashtags – in all areas of life!

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 21st November 2014)
Photo by © Iva B. (#oneofthemostpopularoninstagram)