Do an Instagram Search for Tags and Users

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Get Started with Instagram Search

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Photo © Getty Images

Instagram is a great way to connect and share quick photos on the go with close friends and family, but if you want to find specific photos or users, you need to learn how to use Instagram's search function.

Firstly, Instagam search can only currently be accessed through its mobile apps. Instagram has official mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone.

Although you can access your own feed and profile from a computer, Instagram search hasn't yet been launched on the web. (There are however some third-party tools available, like Nitrogram and Statigram, that let you search Instagram via web.)

Open up the Instagram app on your mobile device and sign in to get started with using Instagram search.

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Tap the Explore (Star) Icon on the Bottom Menu

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Screenshot of Instagram for iOS

Instagram search is located on the Explore tab within the app, which can be accessed by tapping the icon on the bottom menu that looks like a star. It should be the second icon from the left, between the home feed and the camera tabs.

You should see a search box at the very top that says "Search users and hashtags." Tap the search to bring up your mobile device's keyboard.

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Tap 'Hashtags' to Search for Posts Tagged with a Specific Word/Phrase

Screenshot of Instagram for iOS

Once you've tapped the Instagram search box, you'll be able to type in your search. You should notice two different button at the top: Users and Hashtags.

If you want to look for photos or videos of a specific theme, you should tap Hashtags. For example, you could search cats to find photos or videos of cats.

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Tap the Hashtag Result to View TaggedPhotos and Videos Posted in Real Time

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Screenshot of Instagram for iOS

Instagram will display a list of hashtags related to your search. Sometimes, You'll just get one result., like we did here with #cats. Other times, Instagram will show you several other related hashtags with the word or phrase included in your search.

Tap the hashtag that you'd like to look at, and Instagram will show you a grid of photos and videos being tagged and posted by Instagram users in real time. Hashtag results with the most posts are always shown at the very top.

You don't necessarily need to type the '#' before your search term when you search for hashtags, but you can if you want. Searching with or without the '#' actually doesn't make a difference in the results you get.

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Tap 'Users' to Search for Usernames

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Screenshot of Instagram for iOS

You can also use Instagram search to find specific users by instead tapping the Users button at the top of the search box, instead of Hashtags.

If you know a friend's username, you'll get the best results by searching for that exact username in Instagram search. You can also search for their first and last name, but keep in mind that lots of other results may pop up if your friend's name is a popular one. 

As an example, if we wanted to determine whether Beyoncé was on Instagram, we would simply type "beyonce" under Users and hit search.

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Tap the User Result to View Their Instagram Profile

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Screenshot of Instagram for iOS

For users in Instagram search, the most relevant and/or popular users are displayed at the very top, along with their name and profile photo. You can tap any user result to view their profile.

Instagram basically determines relevancy by looking at your search and seeing how it matches up best to the username and first/last name of other Instagram users. Number of followers may also play an important role in how users show up in search, making it easier to find popular brands and celebrities through Instagram search.

In our example, we searched for Beyoncé, which Instagram had no problem to find list and list as the first result. Beneath Beyoncé as the first result, a number of popular fan-related accounts are listed, some with over 200,000 followers -- suggesting that Instagram probably does indeed list accounts with the most followers higher in search results.

For ideas on what kinds of things to search for on Instagram, check out our list of some of the most popular hashtags that are used on Instagram, or find out how to get your photo or video featured on the Explore tab (also known as the Popular page).