Instagram announced some new features for Stories last week, but now they are rolling out support for following hashtags. If you can’t remember, their most recent update is the ability to archive your Stories and save them to your phone. Which, I’m still not convinced that this is actually useful. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. The ability to follow hashtags has been coming to accounts over the last day or so. I myself got a notification about this, but I ignored it (which is what I normally do). But now I’m here to tell you about it. What does it do? It allows a user to follow a specific topic or person that they might have interest in. Which is actually clever, in my opinion.
When a user decides to follow a specific hashtag, Instagram will use their algorithm to find some highlights that feature that hashtag. For example, if you’re obsessed with fitness, you could follow the #fitness tag, and you’ll see top posts from it. These posts will be intermixed within your existing feed. To follow a hashtag, simply search for a topic and then choose the “follow” button at the top of the app. Some are making the argument that this is too bold as it allows random accounts to be intermixed within your feed. But I don’t think that’s an issue. I mean, that’s what Instagram is about, isn’t it? Following people. There’s a lot of people out there who just want more and more followers. And if they didn’t, they would keep their accounts private.
Where it can get shady though, is when people take advantage of the hashtag. What do I mean? Well, instead of having an account about fitness, your account is primarily about selling watches. But you still use the #fitness, so people get posts in their feed that aren’t accurate. Instagram has plans to try to prevent the misuse of hashtags. But, it’s certainly not a perfect system.
The fundamental tension there is, you build a product with a surface that gets popular, it’s a high target for spam,” says Mike Krieger, Instagram co-founder. “We will look at signals on both the posting side and the consumption side. Since we know the tap-through rate, the follow-through rate, the scroll-through rate, we can start saying, ‘this was a bad insertion,’ and down-ranking it.”
This feature is now available to all users. Instagram has been rolling it out over the last couple of days. Is this something that you think you will use? I’ve been in the mood for some new healthy recipes to add to my repertoire, so I think I would use this feature in that kind of scenario. But I think the possibilities are endless. What it’s going to do is introduce you to new users and new accounts. How is that a bad thing? Or how is this different than searching for a hashtag? I find the search function doesn’t always give me what I’m looking for. And maybe that’s because of this reason where people are misusing the hashtag. I actually like this feature. Which is unusual for me, so I am going to start using it. Rather than ignoring the popup on my app.