How To Avoid Blocked Hashtags On Instagram

Did you know that you aren’t allowed to use the hashtag #books on Instagram?
Until today, I certainly didn’t.


Instagram have been blocking some terms – mostly to do with sexism, sexual content, body shaming and bullying, or so I thought. It’s called a shadowban: posts using blocked tags are less visible than others, and repeated use can result in more definite blocking of posts or accounts.

Surely there’s nothing offensive about #books though? Yet it’s one of the hashtags that will cause your posts to drift into obscurity.

As an author, reader, book reviewer and all-round book nerd, that’s a trap I’ve fallen into more than once, but thankfully my love for tags like #bookstagram and #booklover has been saving my bookish hide more often than I ever realised.

I did find a rather extensive list of hashtags banned by Instagram, courtesy of the great people over at, but I don’t really want to go and consult another site and spend my valuable time reading through horrible words – and some of them are horrible – in order to find out if something relatively innocent is also blocked.

I’d rather be able to check quickly and easily inside the app itself. And that is quite do-able, even if you’re a novice.

Follow these handy and simple instructions to discover if a term you want to use is acceptable without consulting a long list somewhere that may even be out of date by now.

1. When you’re using the Instagram app, click on the search icon. It’s the one that looks like a magnifying glass.

2. Type in the hashtag you want to use. A list of possible tags will come up. So far, it looks like #books is okay.

3. Next, click on the Tags tab of the search window. #books is still there and still looks alright. However…

4. Tap on that tag in the list and scroll down, you will find only a few images, followed by a message that says the tag has been banned because reports have been made regarding inappropriate content.

If you go ahead and use the tag, nobody will see your tag because they can’t find posts using that tag, either. And your other tags might also end up being blocked. So might your account.

Nobody wants to end up there.

So, as authors and book lovers, we need to tag our posts differently so that other book lovers will find our posts.ScreenHunter_439 Mar. 13 19.13

When you click on a tag that is not blocked, you’ll see some further “related” tags that you could use in your posts. Notice, though, that this does not exist for #books.

I’ve slogged through a whole bunch of these “related tags” to find some great hashtags with good popularity that you can use safely – for now, anyway.

Try some of these great tags for your bookish posts:

If you’re posting images or reviews of books you’ve enjoyed, consider some of these:

My final piece of good news is that if you have been using a blocked hashtag, you can rescue your posts and make them fully visible again.

1. For each post, click on the three dots to the right of your username.

2. Choose edit from the menu.

3. Scroll to your hashtags and change or remove the banned one.

4. Click on ‘done’ and your post will be back to full visibility.


Handy hint: if you “like” your own post once you’ve changed it, your post will re-enter the general Instagram feed.
It’s a good idea to do this one or two posts at a time, not all at once, so you don’t flood your followers’ feeds.

How to Achieve A Visually Attractive Twitter Feed.

Just because you can use 280 characters, doesn’t mean you should.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a lot of people commenting on how they love the new 280 character limit for Twitter. I’ve also noticed a lot of people writing long tweets with no line breaks, and barely any space in them to take a breath.

My message here may be unpopular with those folks, but it must be said: just because you can use 280 characters, doesn’t mean you should.

Remember, people are basically lazy. They don’t want to have to work to figure out what you’re saying, and they don’t want to wade through thirteen hashtags to do so, either.

When it comes to writing tweets, I’ve always assumed that the rule of “less is more” applies. I want my message to be short, easily understood and digested, and easily acted upon.

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I’ve always tried to keep my tweets to well under the 140 characters, as short as 100 characters if possible. A short, effective message is more attractive to people than a slab of text.

As an author, I’ve heard more people than I care to try to count tell me that they don’t like reading. (I know, right? I don’t understand it either.) However, it’s something that I’ve taken to heart when writing anything promotional. Any ad, tweet, or invitation is completely ineffective if it puts people off before they even really look at it.

I always leave a line of space between my main message and my hashtags. It breaks up the tweet so it looks more accessible. I also think that it makes the hashtags a bit more obvious, given that some people might take notice of those before the actual message.

When it comes to hashtags, I wrote a few months back about ‘How To Avoid Hashtag Hell’ in social media. I advised then to use two well-chosen hashtags, and no more. Given the increased word limit, I’m about to start experimenting with using three to increase the discoverability of my tweets, but that would be my upper limit. This isn’t a rule, as such, but simply my desire to keep my tweets looking simple and attractive. I’m no expert in advertising or design, but I go by what I experience myself: when a message is easy on the eye, it’s going to get more attention.

On that same assumption, I always include an image. People are very visually oriented and will, more often than not, look at the picture before the text. I try to make the image relevant to the post, and will often superimpose text and web addresses on the image in a way that won’t detract from the visual effect I hope it will achieve. Where appropriate, I use logos that will build familiarity with my work. Otherwise, I use my own images or stock images that are copyright and royalty free, so that I’m not infringing on copyright, either. There are lots of places that offer them, but I find and to be excellent sources of quality images that are free for reuse for any purpose.

ScreenHunter_437 Feb. 20 21.33I use a link shortening service so that half the tweet isn’t taken up by an enormous web address or link. is free, so are many others. I use Buffer to schedule my tweets, and it shortens links automatically, so that’s a double win!

A further advantage of using Buffer is that it enables me to recycle my tweets so that I don’t have to spend hours each week coming up with new content. I regularly change the hashtags and messages on a reused tweet so that I’m not just giving people the same old thing time after time.

When it’s done a few rounds, I’ll rest a great tweet for a while, and pick it up again down the track if it’s still relevant. I save them in files in Evernote, so all I have to do when I come back is copy and paste it into a new message, attach the image, and off I go.

ScreenHunter_439 Feb. 20 21.33

Some of my tweets don’t have links. This is a deliberate decision on my part – sometimes I just want to offer a thought, a joke, or a compliment to my audience without asking them to do anything in return. That’s not a rule either – it’s just how I like to do things.

Finally, mix it up. If all you tweet is ads for your book or service, or quotations from your work in progress, it can get a little humdrum. I keep things varied by tweeting about great books, free reads, short reads, book reviews, magazines, great blog articles, and interesting tidbits of history, science and general interest far more than I tweet ads for my own books. My books are worthy of advertising and attention, and I would love to find more readers, but I don’t believe in shoving them in people’s faces at every opportunity, either.

I know all that seems like a lot of work, but being active on social media does take effort and thoughtfulness if you’re going to have something meaningful to offer.

Since I have been following these guidelines, I have had new followers every day. I started 2017 with just over 300, and now I have 3000 more than that. It’s slow growth, but it’s organic growth – my audience actually wants to be my audience! And that is worth far, far more than being able to fit a bunch of stuff in one tweet.

What’s on your list?

What’s on your list?

I’d love to hear your ideas!

Human Girl Person Silly Blond Making A Face Child
I just found that I have a follower on Twitter called “Buy Followers”.
I haven’t bought that one, or any other.

Which leads me to wonder… why would someone even bother?
In a world full of things I *would* buy if I had the cash, followers on social media isn’t going to be among them.
The top three things on my permanent list of things I’d like to buy are:

1. Another, longer trip to Canada.
2. Books. More books.
3. Another Labrador puppy.

What’s on your list?
I’d love to hear your ideas!

Making Your Facebook Pages Easy to Like.

I’ve heard a lot of complaints recently about Facebook removing the “Like Page” button from Facebook page links in comments and posts.

I absolutely agree – it’s a pain.
But I have found another way to share links and like/follow pages more conveniently than having to open every page and click on “like” or “follow”.

If you tag yourself or your page in an individual person’s post, people can hover over the tag and click on the “Like” button in the small window that pops up.

To tag your page, start typing its name. It should cause a small window to appear with your page name in it. Click on the correct option and your page will be tagged.

ScreenHunter_424 Jul. 03 11.33

Once tagged, your page name should appear highlighted. Then you can keep typing.

ScreenHunter_424 Jul. 03 11.34

By putting more than one link in your post, you’re saving a lot of work and tidying up those “like for like” threads that can have hundreds of comments in them.

ScreenHunter_424 Jul. 03 11.35

Keep in mind that this won’t work in groups or on pages, but it does work on individual people’s posts.

To tag your page in a group or page post, you need to do the same thing, but use your page @username instead.

ScreenHunter_424 Jul. 04 18.02

You can still use more than one tag in each post.

ScreenHunter_424 Jul. 04 18.03

Facebook Page Ratings and Reviews: The How and Why.

How did I not know that this existed?

How did I not know about this?

Even though I’ve been on Facebook for about a squillion years – I was an early adopter – I’ve only just discovered the feature called ‘Reviews’. It has been around for years, but I’ve never used it before.

Then again, I’ve not really had a page apart from my personal profile until late-ish last year when I emerged onto the world stage as a budding poet with many important things to say.

As an author, the way I’ve learned to use Facebook is entirely different than the “look at me” and “look at my selfie” way I used to drive the social media bus. These days, I don’t want people to look at me. I want them to look at my work, discover my books, and tell their friends about them, too. I want to be read, not noticed.

That’s where Facebook reviews and ratings come into the picture.

Facebook reviews and ratings help by leading potential customers to trust your brand or products.

According to Review Trackers,  71% of people say they “somewhat” or “completely” trust what they read on Facebook. At the same time, 66% of consumers regularly share feedback, thoughts and opinions on their purchases using social media.
In short – if someone likes your work enough to leave a review or rating, that’s going to be an encouragement to other people to try it for themselves.

Reviews can also help by increasing your engagement with your audience.
If a new visitor sees that you’ve responded positively to your previous visitors, that will also encourage them to trust you and your products. The more you engage with your audience, the more likely they are to become return customers.

How to add the Reviews tab to your page:

1. Navigate to your page
2. Click on ‘Settings’ at the top right-hand side.

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3. Click on ‘Edit page’.

4. Under Templates, scroll down to where it says ‘Add a Tab’.ScreenHunter_418 Apr. 24 19.12

ScreenHunter_419 Apr. 24 19.12
5. Click on ‘Add a tab’.

6. Click ‘Add Tab’ on ‘Reviews’, then on the ‘Close’ button.

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7. Rearrange your tabs by clicking on the icon that looks like three little lines next to the title of the tab and dragging up or down.

ScreenHunter_420 Apr. 24 19.13

I have rearranged the tabs so that the Reviews tab is at the top, immediately under ‘About’ and above ‘Likes’ so that it’s always in a prominent place and easily seen by visitors to my page.

When you’ve completed these steps, visitors to your page will be invited to leave a review.

There is one catch.
If someone leaves a negative review, you can’t delete it. Only the reviewer can delete a review.

You can, however, report it and have it removed if you can show that it is not a fair review.
Having a bunch of positive reviews and interactions on your page is your best resource in that situation.

If it turns out that you don’t like the Reviews feature, or if it’s not working for you, you can simply disable the reviews by removing the Review tab, following a similar process to that used to add the tab in the first place.

Leaving Reviews.

Leaving a review is easy. You choose how many stars out of five, and leave a short comment. The minimum length is 40 characters.  It can be as simple as “Your book covers are fantastic. I love the colours and design.” This would work perfectly well as a positive review.
This means that helping a small business or Indie author/musician/whatever  by leaving a positive review could take as little as 30 seconds out of your day.

If you’ve read the book, heard the song, received a beautiful hand-made card or eaten a delicious meal at a restaurant, leaving a review is a great way to acknowledge the work that went into bringing you pleasure.

My Commitment.

I’m going to spend some time over the next weeks leaving reviews and ratings for the Facebook pages for authors and books I’ve been reading and appreciating lately.

I’m going to make this an ongoing thing. In conjunction with the reviews I write and post on Amazon, Goodreads and my Book Squirrel blog, I’m going to make a point of leaving a review on the author’s and/or the book’s Facebook page.

The Challenge:

It would be fantastic if you would do that for the writers and other Indies you know, too.

Not only will that brighten a writer’s day, it just might help them sell a book or two.

The Basics: Why Spelling and Punctuation Matter.

Make sure you’re sending the message you actually want to send to your audience, every time.

For the first time in a long time, I’ve recently abandoned reading a book. I’m usually fairly persistent, but I couldn’t get past the second chapter. It’s so full of basic errors, I’d be giving any of my students who wrote it a D.  That book – any book – has no business being for sale on any platform, Indie or otherwise, until it has been properly edited and corrected.

If I had a dollar for every time I have face-palmed over glaring errors of spelling, word choice or punctuation in someone else’s social media posts, I would be considerably richer than I am today.

As people who promote ourselves as writers, it’s crucial that we don’t make those mistakes.

I’m not talking about the occasional typo, and I’m not talking about the type of formatting error that can happen to absolutely anyone when converting a book to eBook format. I’m talking about really basic errors – missing punctuation, terrible sentence structure, shocking spelling. Of course, not differentiating correctly between “your” and “you’re” is always going to frustrate people. There will always be people who put apostrophes where they don’t belong and omit them where they are needed. The same is true for commas.

It boils down to the issue of credibility. If I cannot correctly construct a sentence to encourage people to buy my book, what is going to make people believe I could possibly write a whole book? A writer should be able to communicate their ideas and messages clearly and effectively, without frustrating the reader or making their eyes bleed.

Quite honestly, if someone’s social media posts are full of errors, I’m not going to be buying their book. I’m not even going to put my hand up for a free copy. And it’s not going to change my mind if people laugh it off and say, “It’s just Facebook… relax!”

I may be called judgemental  or overly critical. That’s okay.
As a reader and a frequent buyer of books, I’m entitled to be.
As a writer, nothing less should be expected.

proofreadingIf we want people to believe that Indie books are just as good as traditionally published books, we have to make sure they are. We must edit, and have them edited, as professional authors. We must promote both ourselves and our books as engaging, intelligent, and literate.  The example we set on social media is part of that, because that’s where we hope to find readers.

Please, folks, for credibility’s sake – in the interests of your own integrity – proof-read all your posts. Make sure you’re sending the message you actually want to send to your audience, every time.

Great Hashtags for Indie Authors

Following my previous post about how to use hashtags effectively, I thought it might be helpful to provide you with a list of hashtags that work well for Indie authors.

Hashtag_exampleMy aim in this post is not to give you every hashtag that writers use, but to provide you with a functional list of the most common, and therefore the most valuable.



Hashtags for connecting with other authors:


  • #AmWriting
  • #AmEditing
  • #WordCount
  • #WriterWednesday (or #WW)
  • #WritersLife
  • #PoetTues
  • #IndieAuthors
  • #NaNoWriMo
  • #WritingPrompt
  • #Creativity
  • #WIP (work in progress)
  • #WritersBlock
  • #WritingTips
  • #WriteTip
  • #WritersTellMe
  • IndieAuthorsBeSeen

Hashtags for identifying and connecting with other bloggers: 

  • #blog
  • #blogger
  • #blogging
  • #bloggerswanted
  • #bloggersrequired

Hashtags for connecting by genre:


  • #Romancehashtags_o_2430667
  • #SciFi
  • #KidLit
  • #PNR  (Paranormal Romance)
  • #MGLit (Middle Grade Lit)
  •  #MemoirChat
  • #FlashFic
  • #Romance
  • #Horror
  • #FanFic
  • #YA
  • #History
  • #Poetry

Hashtags for connecting with publishing colleagues:

  • #GetPublished
  • #BookMarket
  • #BookMarketing
  • #PromoTip
  • #SelfPublishing
  • #SelfPub
  • #Publishing
  • #AskAgent
  • #AskAuthor
  • #AskEditor
  • #EBooks
  • #IndiePub (or #IndiePublishing)
  • #BookMarketing
  • #PubTip

Hashtags for connecting with readers:

  • #books
  • #bookworm
  • #FridayReads
  • #BookGiveaway
  • #MustRead
  • #ReadingList
  • #WorthReading
  • WhatToRead
  • #StoryFriday
  • #TeaserTues
  • #BookGiveaway
  • #free
  • #kindle
  • #nook
  • #iBooks
  • bookslover
  • bookspecials
  • bookpost
  • IndieBooks
  • IndieBooksBeSeen

Hashtags for Instagram only:

  • #writersofinstagram
  • #readersofinstagram
  • #poetsofinstagram
  • writerscommunity
  • #readers

Your own hashtag:

In addition to these, you can also make a hashtag for your own book or brand.

However, if you’re going to do this, make sure it’s unique to you or your book so that you don’t get lost in a haze of brand confusion.

You can see here that #jvlpo was good, but not good enough.

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However, #jvlpoet was completely unique to me. I did this same search on both Twitter and Google when deciding on my domain name,

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How To Avoid Hashtag Hell.

Many people still wonder how to use  #hashtags effectively.

Hashtags can be enormously helpful in getting your message or product seen by more people on social media.
However, if not used the right way, they can easily turn into a millstone around your social media neck.
Today I’m offering a few tips that I’ve picked up along the way, in the hope of clarifying when and how to use hashtags to your advantage.


  1. Keep it simple.
    Use up to four key hashtags ScreenHunter_416 Apr. 11 14.46per tweet.
    This way, your message is not overwhelmed by hashtags, and your tweet will look clean and uncluttered.
  2. Keep it relevant.
    Occasionally I might add another specific hashtag if my tweet is relevant to a specific event that is going on.

    For example, during Women’s History Month in March, I added either #CelebratingWomen or #WomensHistoryMonth to my tweets that were relevant – but not to all of them.

    Adding those tags to a post about spelling or writer’s block simply wouldn’t be appropriate, and would definitely look opportunistic rather than professional.

    Similarly, given that April is #NationalPoetryMonth, I’ve added that to my tweets inviting people to read my poetry on my blog, but not to the ones where I’m offering advice to authors learning to use social media.

  3. Keep it useful.

    Using hashtags that nobody is looking for is a waste of time and effort.

    Using the search bar near your profile menu and Tweet button, you can type in key words to see which hashtags are the most popular.

    ScreenHunter_413 Apr. 11 13.29

    The hashtags that come up will change as you keep typing – see from the illustration here the difference between typing ‘book’ and ‘bookw’.

    ScreenHunter_413 Apr. 11 13.30             ScreenHunter_415 Apr. 11 13.31

    This is a handy way to see what is most popular among the relevant terms that you could choose from.

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  1. Keep it organised.
    Comment on your image or video, give your website or link, then use hashtags. It keeps things tidy, easy to read, and attractive to the eye.

    It also means that even when the feed condenses your post, people see the most important things first – your content, your message, and your website.

  2. Keep it useful.
    You can use more hashtags on Instagram or Tumblr, as this helps new people find your content.  You can use up to ten, but no more. Nobody wants half their feed taken up by dozens of hashtags that look as though they were chosen by a rabid squirrel who just couldn’t stop.
    2017-04-11 13.50.18
    As you are typing on Instagram, using a hash symbol # will cause tags to come up in a list as you type. Instagram is handy in that it gives you feedback on how many times that tag has been used. Here, #poems is good, but #poetry is way better so that’s the one I chose to use.
  3. Keep it relevant.
    Don’t use the most popular hashtag of the hour if it’s not related to the content of your post. Use the tags that will find the best audience for your content: those most likely to be interested.
    2017-04-11 13.50.31
    Once again, Instagram’s numbers on how many times a tag has been used are really helpful here. It can help you choose between terms like “writer” and “writersofinstagram” to get greater reach for your post.
  4. What seems convenient isn’t always best. 

    It can be really tempting to send your post from Instagram to all your other social media accounts.  However, that’s not always the best thing to do.

    Don’t share directly from Instagram to Twitter unless you’re under that 140 character limit.
    A longer message will get cut off, leaving your tweet looking like you don’t know what you’re doing. Nobody wants that.

    Don’t share directly from Instagram to Facebook if you want your post to look professional. A bunch of hashtags look completely out of place on Facebook. They’re not really needed there at all.




Why You Should Always Have A Pinned Post.

Whether on Twitter or Facebook, or any other social media where you can pin a post, you should.

Frankly, I’m surprised
at how many people don’t.

Whether on Twitter or Facebook, or any ScreenHunter_411 Apr. 07 15.29
other social media where you can pin a
post, you should.  Frankly, I’m surprised
at how many people don’t.

Here’s why.

It is an immediate way for people to see what you’re about – your book, your favourite charity, an upcoming event, social justice issues, whatever it is. 

It also serves as an easy way for people to share your posts and get your message out to even more people. Some of those people will share your interest, and either share your post or follow you. Some will do both. 

In short, it’s a great way to get more attention with minimal effort. 

If you have a good number of new followers on a regular basis, you can change your pinned post each week or each month to give followers and “click-throughs” something new to share on your behalf. 

It’s also a great way to get feedback on the effectiveness of your post.

The stats at the bottom of a pinned tweet tell me how many replies, shares and likes that post has had. Clicking on the little graph icon at the far right gives you even more detail about how far your post has travelled.

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It can get you more followers and more shares. 

There’s another thing to consider, too. If people click through to your profile and all you have is shares or retweets, they can easily decide you don’t have original thoughts to share and lose interest. Given that they’ve been interested enough to click through to your profile, that’s probably a bunch of shares and prospective followers that you’ve missed out on. 

To pin a post is easy.

On both Twitter profiles and Facebook pages, each post has a little down arrow at the top right-hand side. Click that, and choose “pin etc”.

That will remain your pinned post, and always appear at the top of your profile, until you choose to pin something else there.