Instagram will make you seriously want to up your hashtag game.
Starting immediately, the company said Tuesday, you can follow hashtags on the social photo app in the same way you follow individual accounts. This means any image marked with a hashtag that you follow can show up in your Instagram feed.
Hashtags have always been used on Instagram to tag photos according to their theme, location or content. Previously, this meant that you could tap on or search for hashtags to discover more pictures you might like, but it has involved the kind of manual labor that many Instagram users are just not there for. Who wants to search for hashtags when you can just succumb to the soothing motion of the endless scroll?
Being able to follow hashtags makes them much more relevant and useful since you will no longer have to manually check hashtags every time you want to see what's new. It also might make you more likely to tack them on to the end of your own posts.
Until now, hashtags were always a kind of take-it-or-leave-it addition to posts. They might help your photos get more eyeballs, but it was a high-effort, low-reward exercise that made you look a bit try-hard (I should know).
But now, Instagram is providing real incentive to adorn your filtered photos with hashtags.
This is especially true if you are trying to expand your Instagram following or increase engagement. Tagging your photos with popular hashtags could result in them showing up automatically in the feeds of those who don't already follow you, meaning that more people can exposed to your brilliance.
There is a catch: Instagram's algorithm means it's unlikely that every tagged post will show up in someone's feed -- only the most popular and relevant ones will have that honor. There will likely be some trial-and-error while people try to figure out how to take advantage of this new chance to get their images seen.
Some extremely popular hashtags get flooded with photos minute-to-minute, so you may be better off choosing hashtags with a smaller, more focused audience and making sure any you use are tailored specifically to your photos.
Likewise, super-popular hashtags may not be desirable to follow since they could end up being spammed by people trying to take advantage of high follower numbers. It may instead be more desirable to seek out smaller communities of photographers more aligned with your interests.
Instagram promises that there will be more of these types of changes to come. "Following hashtags is just the beginning of how we're giving you the tools to discover and be inspired by our community," the company said in a blog post.
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