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As anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes on the internet knows, hashtags are everywhere. Hashtags help to group content together and make things easier to find on most social networking platforms. Picking the right hashtags is just as important as writing the perfect caption, or framing the perfect picture, for any serious social media user. Instagram recognized the importance of hashtags and took things up a notch. The photo sharing app just announced that users can now follow hashtags the same way they follow individual accounts.
Here's how it works - by following hashtags Instagram's algorithms will select posts with the hashtags you follow and insert them into your feed. The more you interact with posts (by liking or commenting), the more the algorithm learns which posts you like to see. It is yet another way Instagram seeks to curate user experiences while also supporting the many niche communities that have found a home on the platform.
As Dan Toffey, the head of Instagram's Community Lab, said to The Verge:
Our hope is that through thoughtful categorization and cataloging of [niche] communities, when combined with things like hashtags, we can improve discovery, and make it easier for you to find what you’re looking for, or what you didn’t know you were looking for.
Personalizing user experiences is always a good idea. This latest move is likely to be a huge hit for Instagram fans and will entice casual users to spend more time on the app, which is exactly what Instagram is aiming for. The more time users spend on Instagram, the better it is for creators. Following hashtags gives users another way to discover creators within their specific interests and communities with less effort, and gives creators more exposure to the right audiences. Long story short: this is a win for both sides, as Toffey highlighted:
When a follow happens on the platform, two things are happening: the follower is getting a more diverse experience, and the creator has a new fan who is discovering what they have to offer
This move comes on the heels of a series of other big reveals from Instagram. The company has already announced changes to its Stories feature and a new standalone messaging app which directly threatens rival Snapchat.