Instagram, the reigning champion among social media platforms, seems to have hit another home run. To expand the scope of its usage in becoming a forum for exploring interests, Instagram now lets users follow hashtags just like they follow normal accounts. When you search for a hashtag to see posts which use it, you will also see a follow option at the top. This will add a selection of top posts that have the hashtag so that you can view content that adheres to your interest without having to manually search for it every time.
This is undoubtedly one of the most crucial updates Instagram has rolled out since its inception. Instead of scrolling endlessly through the explore feed or racking their brains to think of interesting hashtags to search, users will slowly be able to build a profile which delivers curated content right to their main feed. This is a part of the ‘Community’ image that Instagram has been focused on right since the start. This is evident in their statement in the official blog post, “Now it’s even easier to stay connected with the interests, hobbies, passions and communities you care about.” The platform portrays itself as a medium for connecting with people who have the same interests as you.
What is nice to see is that Instagram thought this feature through before releasing it. Hashtags may often mean multiple things. Forbes illustrates this well with the example of #goat which can refer to the animal or to the acronym meaning ‘Greatest of all time’. To counter this problem, users have been given the ability to inform Instagram about their preferences. If a hashtag you follow presents you with a type of post you don’t want to see, you can tap on the three-dots icon above the picture and select “Don’t Show for this Hashtag” from the menu. Over time, this will train your feed so that you are seeing only what you are interested in.
For influencers and companies on Instagram, this update has wider implications. Influencers can reach a large set of non-followers who would not have otherwise come across their content. It allows companies the opportunity to use hashtags effectively so that they can reach out to specific sets of people who are interested in their product/service and content. How hashtags are used on the platform may change radically.
It is worth noting that hashtags that a user follows will not be private. For those with public accounts, anybody will be able to view it inside the ‘Following’ list. Only followers of users with private accounts will be able to see their preferences.
There is no telling what Instagram is cooking up for the next few months. In the official blog post released by the company, it hinted that there is much more to come- “Following hashtags is just the beginning of how we’re giving you the tools to discover and be inspired by our community.” We, for one, can’t wait for the next tool.