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Following Instagram Hashtags – A new opportunity for brands

Instagram is no longer just for following people or business pages, last week the social media platform added a new feature that will open up new marketing opportunities for brands and advertisers alike, the ability to follow hashtags.

“When you find a hashtag you like, open the hashtag page and tap on the follow button. You’ll begin seeing top posts from that hashtag in your feed and some of the latest stories in your stories bar. You can always unfollow a hashtag at any time,” according to an Instagram blog post announcing the news.

The new feature allows users to search for individual hashtags in the same way you can follow a friend or particular page. By searching for different hashtag topics you are interested in and selecting follow, Instagram will determine which posts to show in your stream depending on the relevancy and quality of the posts. This opens up more options for advertising as brands can utilise hashtags that are popular and increase their organic reach to audiences, meaning they can stay on top of trending hashtags and conversations. For example, if Kmart shares a post of some of their new Lego® play sets and uses the hashtag, #Starwars, any users who are following this hashtag may see the product.

This new engagement feature gives brands more ways to reach audiences who are yet to, or choose not to, follow their official Instagram channel. However, advertisers will need to ensure they don’t over-use the hashtag feature or use it in ways that audiences may not like, as Instagram has also built in the feature of users being able to mark posts in their feed as not relevant to them. This algorithm means that brands can shut themselves out altogether from audiences viewing their posts, as Instagram will be less likely to show posts that have a high rate of being marked not relevant.

In order to make sure inappropriate posts and spam are clamped down on, Instagram will use automated and manual processes to flag this type of content and block the accounts and authors behind them. A huge chunk of their community operations team will be closely analysing user and automated reports of content review. The company says that over the past few months they have been making working to improve how they source and rank hashtag content to ensure what’s shown on hashtag pages is safe, and uses large teams to analyse hashtag trends.

Instagram’s hashtag follow feature is another expression of Facebook’s new overarching mission to “bring the world closer together.” Like Facebook’s Groups, being able to follow hashtags lets users explore outside of their own social circles, as well as making it possible for users to do more within the app, and not need to search elsewhere.

The updated feature will mean brands will need to re-think their strategy behind their hashtag use as well as keeping an eye on popular hashtags for their target audiences.