Instagram has totally changed the community experience on social media.
While it had been testing the feature these past few weeks, as of December 12, 2017, all users can now follow hashtags on the social platform.
You are no longer restricted to networking with individual people. You can now straightaway be part of a whole community.
It's quite simple actually.
Earlier, when you searched for a specific hashtag, you'd see the the top posts and the recent posts tagged with the hashtag, in the search results. Now when you search for a hashtag, you also get to see a 'Follow' button underneath.
I've been obsessing over duster coats of late, so I hit up the hashtag for ideas.
I liked the results it threw up, so I decided to go hit 'Follow'. (Did you notice the 'Related' hashtags row right under? Pretty neat, I'd say.)
Now, when I go to my profile and click on the 'Following' list, this is what I get to see - all the hashtags I've followed compiled under a section separate from 'People'.
Now as I scroll through my news feed, I get to see posts tagged under the hashtags I'm following.
If you're an online seller, you should be rejoicing.
Hashtags on Instagram have always been the most effective mode to discover and get discovered. This just makes it a whole lot easier. If you're using the right hashtags for your posts, you'll be hitting your target audience right where the spotlight is at its brightest. And if they are following a hashtag relevant to your products, you know that you'll be discovered easily through this upgrade.
I followed #dustercoat because I'm currently interested in buying and styling duster coats. Effectively, if the relevant sellers are tagging their posts with it, I'll be getting to see them directly on my feed.
This way, sellers are conveniently within the buyer's reach.
In turn, if you, as a seller, are trying to find your target audience, this new feature will help you similarly. If you are selling paintbrushes, you can search and follow the relevant hashtags, and interact with artists using the hashtags, who will in all probability need to buy paintbrushes.
It makes discoverability much easier for both sellers and customers.
Hashtags on Instagram have always been a hotbed of spammy content. This means, now that hashtags can be followed by users, the popular ones will be overrun with irrelevant posts.
To make sure your post isn't penalized by Instagram (remember the shadowban and the bot-takedown?), keep your hashtags relevant to your posts. You can use OrangeTwig's hashtag research tool in the InstaSuccess Toolkit to find the appropriate hashtags.
Right now, Instagram's algorithm is keeping a track of the engagement percentage of posts (ie, the number of likes and comments it has garnered). So, when you follow a hashtag, you will be shown posts under it that Instagram thinks you'll be most interested in.
If you don't like a post you are seeing, you can find a list of options that pop up when you click on a button right above the post and choose what you want to do.
Your actions will indicate to Instagram where your interest lies and voila! Your feed will be tailored specifically around that!
Instagram is looking to expand its community-building experience and this new hashtag upgrade is a step towards exploring that further.
In the meantime, look up those hashtags that your potential customers are using and put them on your following list. Your Instagram business experience is pretty much about to change. In a good way.