In December, Instagram introduced the ability for users to follow hashtags. Posts will be featured based on recency and relevance. As with any social media feature, there is fear that users will misuse and abuse the ability to follow hashtags.
Currently, Instagram doesn’t allow sponsored or featured hashtags. Those will probably come at a later date. Facebook may be holding off on introducing sponsored hashtags to Instagram because of the potential for abuse, which we’ve seen on other social media platforms. Hashtags are prone to being hijacked for unrelated topics by people with malicious intent or who want to capitalize on a hashtags success without providing relevant posts. Obviously, companies don’t want that to happen to any hashtag they sponsor.
In what may be a test to prevent this type of misappropriation, Instagram is trying out a “Don’t Show for This Hashtag” option, so that users can report posts and Stories that are inappropriate for a hashtag they are following.
How do I follow a hashtag?
When a user follows a particular hashtag, Instagram will curate a selection of posts featuring that hashtag. These posts will appear beside the posts and Stories users are already accustomed to seeing in their feed.
As the social platform curates posts to be featured in a hashtag’s feed or Story, it will respect a user’s privacy settings. If a user has their account set so only friends can see their posts, Instagram won’t feature that post in other users’ feeds. However, users who have their account set to public won’t be notified when their post is featured in a hashtags feed.
Does this matter?
Instagram’s decision to let users follow hashtags is unlikely to be a game changer. Twitter users have been able to follow hashtags for years, but not many take advantage of that feature. However, Twitter and Instagram are fundamentally different. Instagram users may find the ability to follow hashtags is a welcome addition or they may see it as simply an attempt to turns their feeds into an ersatz Pinterest board.