Up until now, hashtags had two functions: to get your post discovered or to find content worth interacting with. Now there is a new way to interact with hashtags. Instagram recently launched the ability to follow hashtags.
The problem Instagram hopes to solve with the introduction of following hashtags is the active work you need today to discover content. For users to build a quality feed, it takes a lot of work exploring multiple Instagram tags to find the best users to follow.
Now it’s about finding the right tags and rely on Instagram’s algorithms to get you the best content. Similiar to Spotify’s recommendation engine, you can tell Instagram what more to show you by liking and commenting on the posts you enjoy, and what to show less of by clicking on the menu on the top right of the post, and select see fewer posts like this.
As a consultancy that focuses on social media marketing, we were keen on how this feature will impact businesses and Instagram users in the future. So here are our five predictions on the marketing impacts of following hashtags.
1. Slight Drop in Following Numbers for the Average Instagram User
There’s not a lot of data on the web on Instagram followings, but a study was conducted in 2014 by Mike Byrne on 21,239 Instagram users at opticalcortex.com. The study showed that on average, an Instagram user has about 822 followings and 843 followers.
We expect a gradual decline to about 10%-15% with the introduction of Instagram tags. We don’t think there will be a dramatic shift in user behavior because following popular users will still the best bet to get quality content.
Because there is no control on who can post on hashtags, the content for popular hashtags are lower in quality and bloated with spam. We should see the following count decrease dramatically when Instagram users adopted the mindset that the recommendation engine is good enough to weed out crap from their feed. Till then, users will continue to find quality accounts to follow, and following hashtags will be used as a discovery tool.
2. Hashtag is a better way to connect with your community
Instagram Hashtags encourages engagement because it allows your followers to share relevant content back whereas posting on your profile is pushing content down to your community.
The simple way to describe it is that Instagram hashtags are for community engagement, and posts serve the purpose for marketing. We predict brands will invest even more time in building unique hashtags that can connect back to their brand values and passions in 2018.
3. It’s going to be harder to “hack” new followers
One of the best ways of gaining new followers today is by joining an elite boost engagement group. These engagement groups have two primary functions: find trending tags that are easy to rank on, and boosting the engagement numbers of each others content. By hacking away at Instagram’s algorithms, these members can gain astonishing growth in short periods of time by just appearing on the top nine squares of a particular tag.
We believe abusing Instagram algorithms to gain followers will get harder with the new functionality of following tags because there will be a decrease in users actively searching for content in tags to engage with.
Similiar to how users find followers today, we believe users only search for hashtags with the intention to follow. Therefore, we predict that Instagram users will spend less time scrolling through hashtags, and more on their feeds.
How will your marketing strategies change with this new feature? Let us know down in the comments.