Table of contents
  1. 1. What is Instagram follow hashtags feature?
  2. 2. Hashtag types on Instagram
  3. 3. Advantages
  4. 4. Disadvantages
  5. 5. How to choose your brand hashtag

What is Instagram follow hashtags feature?

In December 2017 Instagram launched the new "follow hashtags feature", promising users that “Now it’s even easier to stay connected with the interests, hobbies, passions, and communities that you care about.” The new feature offers a new way for users to find content, as well as a way for brands and campaigns to find new audiences. With the follow hashtags feature, Instagram now allows marketers to follow not only accounts but hashtags as well. 

The main takeaway is that the new feature makes the use of hashtags more relevant to Instagram users. But what does that mean for your brand’s hashtag use? Just like any other great idea, the new feature brings many advantages and a few hidden pitfalls.

 

Hashtag types on Instagram

From influencer marketing's point of view, there are three different types of hashtags: Branded hashtags, community hashtags, and trending hashtags

Branded hashtags

Any hashtag that refers to your brand. This can be a unique hashtag you use throughout your entire social media strategy (e.g. #Adidas) or a specific campaign hashtag (e.g. #NationalFriedChickenDay).

Community hashtags

In general, these hashtags are content-related and used by people who share a common interest. Well-known community hashtags include such as #ootd (outfit of the day) or #traveller. Marketers can further subdivide these hashtags into location hashtags (quite useful for local business owners) or product hashtags.

When choosing product hashtags, consider what’s unique about the good or service you offer to find an appropriate hashtag (e.g. #vegan). Using these hashtags makes it easier for your target audiences to find you.

Trending hashtags

They refer to a more specific topic that has gone viral through a content piece on social media or an inspiring campaign. These hashtags usually last only for a few weeks. Recent trending hashtags are #timesup and #metoo.

 

Advantages

Be discovered in the community

One major benefit of the new feature is that it makes it easier for users to find what they are interested in — including your brand or campaign. Instagram still uses hashtags to show your posting on Instagram search but also to rank your posting on the explore page. If users are interested in a specific hashtag you use, your posting is likely to be shown on their explore page.

Instagram is highly interested in showing us what Instagram thinks we want to see, and the new feature improves their ability to do so. At its core, following hashtags is a new way for Instagram to offer users content they might like, which in turn offers brands a way to connect with more users.

Engage with your target audience

Following hashtags also allows users to engage with your content in a new way. Now, users can view, share, and comment on your brand-related content by following the brand or a campaign hashtag even if they don’t follow your brand’s account. If the content associated with the hashtag users are interested in is skyrocketing in popularity, it might be a new opportunity to attract new followers to your Instagram account. Additionally, this feature lets you see what hashtags your followings follow. So you can actually check what hashtags your current audience is interested in.  

Side note: Marketers can track hashtags with the monitoring feature of an influencer marketing platform. Whether you research branded, campaign, trending or community hashtags, you can sort them by newest posts, highest media value, most followers or most likes. 

InfluencerDB Monitoring Feature

Expand the audience reach

This new feature improves your ability to reach an audience beyond your own followers. This also comes in handy when using influencers for your marketing strategy. Users who follow campaign hashtags will be exposed to several influencer postings as long as these influencers use the hashtag. So even if users follow just one of the influencers your brand is cooperating with, they’ll be shown other sponsored postings related to your brand as well. 

Users will also be able to see how popular your product is if your customers use the hashtag as well. Your hashtag followers will be exposed to the content your fans share. The new feature makes savvy use of your brand hashtags even more important.

 

Disadvantages

While the new feature has many upsides, you’ll need to watch out for some pitfalls as you integrate it into your brand strategy. Being found through hashtags more easily makes it attractive for unauthentic channels to abuse trending hashtags to appear in multiple feeds.

Of course, Instagram was aware of this issue while testing their new feature, and their algorithm helps to counteract it. To ensure that you’ll be exposed to the content you’re interested in, you can mark an irrelevant or offensive posting with “Don’t Show For This Hashtag”. In this way, the algorithm learns what content a user is interested in and what he or she isn’t. So people following the same hashtag might be exposed to the different content.

 

How to choose your brand hashtag

Finding a hashtag for your brand might seem easy but it can actually be quite tricky as the importance of a good hashtag is often underestimated. Considering the criteria used by the Instagram algorithm to rank content, your brand hashtag should be somehow related to a trending topic (to be easy to find and to appear in top posts).

On the other hand, it should be unique and used consistently on your social media sites. You do not need to include your company’s name but you might want to consider doing so if your brand is smaller and still needs to make its mark against its competitors.