The Definitive Guide To Instagram Etiquette

Instagram has come a long way since it broke onto the social media scene as the cool photo app with vintage-style filters.

Nowadays, Instagram is an incredibly robust platform that has given a voice to creative people and businesses alike.

Instagram has also helped shape important, strong communities like the one we nurture around @etsyhunter.

We started our Etsy Hunter Instagram with a single goal in mind: to create a community that would allow small businesses and independent makers to be seen by a larger audience.

To do this, we essentially handed over the account to the makers of the world and, in time, have managed to gather enough intelligence to understand what makes one small business succeed on Instagram and in the social realm.

So here we are: today we are sharing our top Instagram insights!


If you’re a crafter, a business owner or a handmade enthusiast who wants to take their passion to the next level, listen up: we’re spilling the beans on the Instagram business etiquette when it comes to commenting, tagging or mentioning people and all the way to proper use of hashtags.

Before we dive in, here’s a nugget to keep in mind: the only difference in the conversation you are having with a potential client, is that it is happening on a phone or a computer. The interaction is the same, only the medium changes.

With this in mind, let’s get straight to business:

Commenting On Instagram

Commenting on Instagram (or anywhere else on the web, really) follows the same principles as a real-life reply.

Just because we’re all typing from behind our screens doesn’t mean that the conversation looses its spark.

The-Definitive-Guide-To-Instagram-Etiquette-photo-via-unsplash-coffee-shopSay you’re a business owner (if you’re reading this, you might just be) and somebody comments on a photo of your product saying how much they love it.

What do you do?

You don’t leave them hanging, that’s what! Waste no time in replying back, thanking them and even taking the conversation further.

Think of it this way: it’s the same situation as having somebody walk straight into your store and complimenting the products on your shelves. Would you turn your back to them and proceed to completely ignore them? OF COURSE not! You’ll probably be all over them striking up a conversation.

Instagram is the same way and comments are its live-giving juice.

Wherever your Insta browsing takes you, keep in mind to always be genuine and reply to the comments left by others on your photos (maybe even return the favor with a comment on one of their photos).

As Instagram has gotten so huge lately, it might be tempting to get caught in a commenting frenzy and swipe from profile to profile, leaving quick comments in hope of reciprocation… there’s nothing more detrimental to your business than that!

Just like in real life, try to relate to the poster as much as possible. Read their full caption and respond in a thoughtful manner, even if that may take 10 extra seconds. This is the only way to build lasting relationships.

In time, a few nice words can turn a liker into a buyer or a commenter into a spokesperson for your business. No matter how you look at it, honest interaction is key – don’t overlook it!

Mentioning People On Instagram

And speaking of creating meaningful conversations, here’s your not-so-secret tool: the @ mention.

Mentioning people on Instagram is such a quick and easy way to grab their attention, to engage them and to interact with them.

The-Definitive-Guide-To-Instagram-Etiquette-photo-via-unsplash-instagram-photoA simple mention will help you create meaningful conversations, especially since Instagram doesn’t have a threaded commenting system. So keep in mind that it’s always a good idea to mention the username you’re responding to, in order to be super sure they see your reply.

You can also use mentions to tag other people in the comment section of the photo you’d like them to see, whether it’s on your profile or on someone else’s.

And finally, mentioning people on Instagram becomes super important if you’re reposting one of their photos. It’s good practice to give them a shoutout and show some appreciation for their photo. This way, you get their attention and they get extra exposure from to your followers. Win and win!

Fun fact? Instagram captions which mention another user handle get, on average, 50% more engagement than those which don’t. But this isn’t to say that you should go crazy with this – nobody likes spammers! Mention other user names only when it is relevant for your post and even then, make sure it’s authentic. In time, you’ll see yourself building social connections that last.

The reason why Instagram mentions are SO powerful is that they are rarer than likes – so they’re treated which much more attention. Every time you mention somebody, they’ll receive a notification in their activity feed letting them know that they’ve been mentioned.

Whichever way you look at it, mentions are a flattering way to interact with other Instagram users. It means that you give them your full attention in an otherwise overcrowded environment. Seize the opportunity and keep it meaningful and appropriate.

Tagging People On Instagram

Unlike mentions and comments, which are part of the written side of Instagram, tagging happens on Instagram’s no. 1 real estate: photos.

If you want to tag someone or something when uploading a new photo, tap on the specific area where you want their name to appear and enter the name or username. You can also perform this action retroactively, after the photo’s been uploaded, so don’t stress too much if you forgot to add the tags beforehand. (Go to the photo, tap the three menu dots, then tap edit and finally tap the tag symbol in the lower left corner.)

And now that you know how to do it what can you do with it?

The-Definitive-Guide-To-Instagram-Etiquette-photo-via-unsplash-person-browsing-phoneWell, the most common usage for tagging is when you want to acknowledge something or someone in your photo. It can be a friend, a customer, a follower… but it can also be a brand, a company or anything else. Yes, you can even tag yourself! Most frequently, tags are used to show where an item has been sourced from or to credit others who have contributed to the photo (photographers, friends etc.)

The BEST part about tagging? That the photos you tag will appear in the “Photos of You” section of the other users’ accounts, meaning a chance for more traffic to your profile and maybe even some new followers in the process.

You can also use tagging along with mentions to double the engagement and grow the exposure for your photo. This strategy will spark more interaction with your photo, as friends of friends will be more likely to see it, like it and even comment on it.

Keep in mind that this feature is very powerful and, as a consequence, should only be used sporadically: when it’s relevant, necessary and appropriate. Remember to keep the best interests of your business at heart when tagging other brands and only do so if it comes from a genuine place. Don’t tag just for the sake or tagging or in hopes of your photo going viral. It’ll show.

Giving Credit

Now that you know all there is to know about mentions and tags on Instagram, let’s see how to best apply them.

One situation you may find yourself in quite often (especially if you love posting inspiration pics) is giving credit to their original authors.

The-Definitive-Guide-To-Instagram-Etiquette-photo-via-unsplash-taking-photo-greenerySome Instagram accounts pick the easy way out and quote some general source, like Pinterest or Tumblr, for reposted photos… but that’s a big no-no. More often than not, there is a way to hunt down the original owner (follow the Instagram credit chain or, if all else fails, use Google Image Search). If you can’t find the original source, consider picking another photo to repost. It’ll show that your business is trustworthy and that it respects others’ intellectual property.

So, what do you do when you’ve found your source and you know who to credit?

Before tapping the “share” button, make sure you’ve mentioned them in the caption and/or tagged  them on the photo.

If you’re going just for the mention, do it in a visible spot and in the first few lines of your caption (that’s a place where everybody will see it). Don’t write a novel and just throw a quick mention at the end – nobody will see it there and it doesn’t give the owner the recognition they deserve. The only acceptable exception is when you’ve actually payed for the photoshoot and you briefly credit the photographer at the end of the caption.

And, if you’re going to give credit with both a mention and a tag (you nice person, you!) keep in mind that you may also have to actually encourage your followers to tap on the image for credits, especially if there are more than one. Discovering the tags actually requires a tap and not everybody catches on. :)

Reposting Images On Instagram

The-Definitive-Guide-To-Instagram-Etiquette-photoa-via-unsplash-cafe-shopLet’s just face it: nobody has fresh content on hand 24/7.

And when that happens, we all like to rely on external help.

After all, reposting images from other accounts, from people who inspire you or from your customers is a great way to build a cohesive Instagram feed.

However, there are a few rules you must abide to…

First off, as mentioned above, do take the time to find the original owner and ask for their permission to repost. This may need some extra effort – a good indicator is the graininess if the photo has been reposted waaay too many times. But if you’re in a hurry and don’t have the time to do it (or you’re pulling images from an account with followers in the millions, where it’s very likely that your request will get buried in the comments), you can take a simpler route. Credit the original source with tags and mentions as described above – everyone likes to have word of their account spread across the Insta-verse.

There’s just one top detail to keep in mind: ask before you change the look of the image in any way (filters, contrast, brightness, fade etc.) or better yet, just don’t do it. It’s always better to respect the aesthetic of the original poster – it shows consideration. If you think it won’t go with your feed, you can always just choose another image instead.

Pro Tip: If you’re a business and would like your clients to tag you in their product photos, just ask them to! Add a note with your social media details in the package and spell it out in your Etsy descriptions. And even in your Instagram bio! Customers tagging you in photos of their purchases means extra exposure and word-of-mouth recommendation. Capitalize on it!

Hashtag Uses

Using hashtags on Instagram is the easiest way to get discovered.

Think about it like one huge, giant party. Not using hashtags is like sitting all by yourself in the darkest corner of the room – nobody knows you’re there! So join the conversation with a few, well-chosen tags and watch your account grow.

Here are a few hashtag best practices…

First off, you can’t use more than 30 of them for one photo, or your caption won’t post.

30 is too large a number anyway – posting so many hashtags is an overkill. So settle on less. Anywhere from 4 to 20 hashtags will look good from a visual standpoint, while also allowing your post to get found. Score!

The-Definitive-Guide-To-Instagram-Etiquette-photo-via-unsplash-mobile-browsingIn order to make you caption appear super clean without affecting readability, post your hashtags  at the very end, underneath a row of separators like small dots or points. Remember: only the first three to fours lines of your caption will be visible in the home preview of your post.

The top tip for hashtags usage if you’re a business owner, though? Use branded hashtags to expand your reach. Something like #yourbusinessname will help you easily access content that is generated by your clients, while also helping you archive it.

How do you get the ball rolling? The same way as you encourage people to tag you: add a note with your social media details in the package and promote your hashtag in your Etsy descriptions and your Instagram bio.

Keep an eye on your branded hashtag as time goes by! Unlike tags or mentions, you won’t be notified when somebody uses it on their image.

And, as people add them, you can proceed to repost the images posted with that hashtag – you won’t have to ask for permission again because the fact that they have the hashtag already is a form of consent. Remember to give the original poster a quick shoutout, mention them in your caption or even tag them on the photo – they’ll feel flattered and you have new content for your feed. Plus, it shows that you brand is genuinely interested in listening to clients and interacting with them. Nothing more powerful to strengthen your social media bonds!




Phew! That’s a wrap! Hopefully you’ve picked up lots of cool facts for your social media strategy.

As always, you can find us over on Instagram as @estyhunter:


Come join our community! We can’t wait to connect with you and spread the word about handmade as far and wide as we can.

See you there!

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