How to make posting Instagram hashtag clusters a breeze

If you want to expand your Instagram engagement, you have to use a lot of hashtags. Posting them can be a pain, but we show you a way to post an entire cluster with one tap.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

A few months ago, I did a one-week experimental push to increase Instagram engagement. While I had mixed results, I did learn a few things, which I documented in an article. I alluded to how I use a program, TextExpander, to make posting Instagram hashtags a breeze.

After a bunch of reader requests for more details, I figured I'd show you how it's done.

Let's recap some notes from that previous article, which you should definitely go read. You can grow your Instagram engagement with four best practices: Post regularly, post on a theme, post great content, and make smart use of hashtags.

As it turns out, the only way you're going to increase your followers without buying ads is by using hashtags. That's because Instagram doesn't allow users to share other users' posts, which limits discoverability. But, by including the right hashtags with your post, you can increase discoverability because people interested in the hashtag can find your content.

For example, my pup is a Yorkie poo (a yorkie/poodle mix). Naturally, I subscribe to the #yorkiepoo hashtag, because I need a daily dose of "squee" to relax me after tedious meetings and challenging projects. When I post a picture of my Pixel, I include the #yorkiepoo hashtag, as well as a library of additional, related hashtags.

That way, when others who love their Yorkie poos read #yorkiepoo, they might see a picture of Pixel and follow my Instagram account.

Quick note from the last article: That strategy actually backfires for me, because while I do occasionally share Pixel pics, the Yorkie fans who follow me tend to immediately stop following me when they get a feed with various workshop and 3D printing imagery (which is what I most often post).

My main posting themes are images from my various projects for ZDNet. I've set up two hashtag sets for those, one is workshop related and one is 3D-printing related.

You're allowed to post up to 30 hashtags with any given post, and this is something I take advantage of. To make the process of posting these easy, I use TextExpander.

TextExpander costs $40 per year, which is not inconsiderable for something that simply expands text. I first started using it heavily when working on my master's degree, because there were a lot of words and names I needed to insert in my thesis that were not easy to type reliably.

Must read

Since then, I moved into using it for my work with ZDNet, for regularly used product name expansions and snippets. For example, I use it to insert my social network footer at the bottom of my articles. I type 'zfooter' followed by a space, and the entire footer automatically fills in.

I also have a large library of word corrections. This is filled with common typing mistakes (for years, I'd write "seperately" instead of "separately," for example). Now, whenever I catch myself mistyping a word, I create a new expansion that auto-corrects. Yes, the spelling tools do the same thing, but rather than just flagging a misspelling, TextExpander retypes it correctly.

Beyond Mac and Windows, TextExpander has an iOS version implemented in a custom keyboard. This is what I use for my Instagram hashtags.

Some of you may insist that there's no reason to spend on TextExpander, because iOS has its own text expansion capability. It does, but iOS native text replacement is limited to 128 characters. That's not enough to take full advantage of 30 Instagram hashtags.

Setting up Snippet Keys

What's nice (and probably justifies the $40 subscription fee) is that TextExpander's expansions sync across platforms. So, any expansions you create on your Mac or PC will be available for use on iOS. That means you can type out the very fiddly hashtags with a real keyboard, and then use them as you're out and about via TextExpander.


You can customize your TextExpander experience here.

The magic sauce to all this is what TextExpander calls "Snippet Keys." When you're in the TextExpander app on your iPhone, hit the little gear icon. You'll see the Settings menu. Tap the little greater-than sign to the right of the Snippet Keys menu item.


Choose which snippets to insert with a single tap.

This will bring you to the Snippet Keys window. Here, you tap the little plus sign at the bottom of the screen. From there, you choose an existing snippet to be added to the Snippet Keys list.

For Instagram hashtags, you'll want to pre-create some snippets with your hashtag sets. As you can see here, I have three hashtag sets: One for workshop, one for 3D printing, and one for the puppy.

You'll see why this is so powerful in a minute.

Posting to Instagram

Now that we're done with setup, let's take a quick run through an Instagram post. In this first screen, I'm choosing a photo I wish to post. In this case, it's of me cutting a piece of pegboard for a project you'll get to see in a month or so. This photo is one of my teaser images, so followers can get a sneak peek of the projects I'm working on.


This is an example of a post targeted to a certain group of hashtags.

Next, I write a short description. Note that I don't put any hashtags here. From what I've read amongst those who obsess about Instagram optimization, it's best to put your hashtag cluster in a first comment.


I'm an Instagram poster of few words.

Once it posts, I go back into the post and hit the little comment icon. As you can see, the standard iPhone keyboard shows up. But if you hit the globe, things change from the standard keyboard shown on the left to the snippets keyboard shown on the right.


You can see how a simple tap can save a lot of time.

Now, all you have to do is hit one of the snippet keys, and your entire entire chosen hashtag cluster will be posted into your Instagram comment.


And there they are.

And that's all there is to it. If you want to use Instagram regularly or you have another use for expanding snippets, then the $40 per year fee for TextExpander is well worth it.

Do you have a great safe-for-work Instagram feed you'd like us to follow? Post it in the comments below, along with a short description of what you post about.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

Social media cannot be trusted without these features

Editorial standards