How to Use the Instagram Hashtag #Update to Your Advantage

Instagram now allows users to follow hashtags, and brands are delivering trendy hashtags directly to their follower’s feeds. Are you going to join the movement?

Before this month, there were two ways to use hashtags on Instagram. The first was to search for a specific tag on Instagram (#anthropologie, #BYU, etc) and see what people were saying about those topics. The second was to click a hashtag used on someone’s post and other posts with the same tag. Hashtags weren’t being properly utilized for the uniting force they could be, and so, Instagram made a change.

Thanks to the new update, users can now choose to see pictures with the hashtags they’re interested in directly on their feed. It’s like following a specific account dedicated to your favorite things.

For example, if you’re a big foodie, following the hashtag #onthetable could give you some great dinner inspiration. Or, if you’re all about basketball, following the hashtag for your favorite NBA team could brighten up your feed. People are also using hashtags to spread awareness (1.6 million pictures using #womensmarch), get a glimpse at some of their favorite places (13 million pictures using #manhattan), or just make a trendy hashtag for their group of friends.

But, as a PR professional, I’m sure you’re asking, “How can I use this for my brand?” Fortunately, the answer is “Any way you want!” But we’ll give you a few examples of how businesses are using it now.

SuperMoon Bakehouse in New York City isn’t known for its pastries, though we’ve heard those are tasty. The shop itself is a treat, attracting locals, tourists, bloggers, and families alike with its glass symmetry, colorful desserts, and tightly packed rows of iridescent boxes that create the perfect photo backdrop. Their fancy boxes with rainbow sheen read, “#ChewYorkCity” and“#BiteMeNYC” on the sides, giving their consumers a clear call to action: post a picture and use our hashtags. 

Herschel Supply Co., a brand dedicated to backpacks and travel totes, began using #welltraveled as part of a campaign they ran. They updated their Instagram weekly with photos of their duffels in action all over the world using their signature tag. The people of Instagram loved it, and everyone started using their hashtag, and there are now more than 1.5 million photos with #welltraveled as a descriptor. Talk about some amazing social media marketing!

The use of hashtags promoted a feeling of community around a brand and its products. But the brand had to do the work first. How will you help your consumers use and follow your hashtag? Will you print it on a box like SuperMoon Bakery, or use it regularly on your feed like Herschel, or make t-shirts with it, or post a picture of a giant cake with your hashtag written on it in neon frosting? No matter what you do, make a big, bold statement with it. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your consumers to follow your hashtag.

According to Matthew Ogle, the creative brain behind this change on Instagram, “Hashtags are our atomic unit for interest on Instagram.” Ogle used to work for Spotify, where he curated the Discovery Weekly playlist. He introduced an algorithm on Spotify that put personalized music for each individual listener (which there are over 140 million of) in a playlist for them each week. Ogle has taken that innovative energy and brought it into this new Instagram update.

So, go brainstorm a creative way to use the atomic unit for interest on the ‘gram! There’s no time like the present to create your brand’s key hashtag and start promoting it. Your followers are waiting for the community you’re about to build for them, thanks to Instagram’s new follow feature for the hashtag.

Written by Regan Crandall

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