Instagram as a social network has always been a way to follow your friends and favorite personalities, but a new feature released today allows you to follow hashtags to see top posts and stories on your homepage.
In order to view certain hashtags in the past, you would have to use the search or explore tags, but now you’re able to follow your favorite #fashion and #makeup creators with ease, regardless of the creator. It’s an excellent way to keep track of topics that interest you, and it allows you to see the best content across multiple different fields without having to follow specific creators. Additionally, you’ll only see the stuff you’re interested in. That means you no longer have to wade through pictures of your favorite instagram model’s breakfast to get to the good stuff.
There’s concern about this feature’s potential for objectionable content or spam to be distributed through a popular hashtag’s feed, but it offers users a way to see the world of social media beyond their social circle. It’s now possible to dive into niche communities that you care about, adding to the endless scrolling experience of the instagram feed that we all know and love.
This is also a smart business decision for Instagram, as it opens up the potential for smarter ad targeting with this increased pool of data, allowing companies to place advertisements within a certain hashtag to reach their intended audience. However, the company has stated that this new feature doesn’t currently have that functionality. Here’s hoping that the advertising doesn’t become too intrusive.
While Instagram has been spot testing the feature since last month, hashtag following has released to all users starting today. Simply click the follow button on a hashtag reached through a search, or through clicking one of the tags on your favorite posts.
How Hashtag Following Works
Techcrunch asked Instagram how exactly it determines which posts will be shown to a follower of a hashtag, and apparently the app uses an algorithm to select the best content using factors such as recency and quality. This may help cut down on the spam concerns mentioned above, as (provided the algorithm works correctly) you’ll only see the best content from each hashtag you follow. Users can also downvote posts they’re not interested in, which will help the algorithm learn the best content to show Instagram’s users. This downvoting feature is in addition to an automated and manual system that flags inappropriate posts and blocks their authors.
Since Facebook acquired Instagram, the company has been working to apply their philosophy of connecting users around the world. The new implementation of Instagram’s hashtags functions similarly to Facebook’s groups, allowing users to explore the app outside of their social bubble. The ability to customize your experience is a welcome change, making it easier to fill your feed with what you want while weeding out the boring junk. We’ll have to see how well the algorithm works, as its ability to handle spam and select quality content will be the determining factor in whether or not this new feature is a success or a major misstep.