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Instagram recently upped their hashtag game by allowing users to follow Instagram hashtags the same way they follow accounts, which makes keeping up on your favorite topics much easier. If you have ever used hashtags on Twitter or Facebook, you are probably familiar with how they work. If not, let’s take a quick look at why hashtags are easy to use and how to use them.

To hashtag a word or phrase it is as simple as adding what was formerly popularly known as the pound sign, which looks like this: # in front of the word or phrase you want made searchable. So, for example, if you want people to follow the phrase I Love Cumberland County, you would write it #ILoveCumberlandCounty. It can then be easily clicked. However, be mindful that spacing and punctuation, like commas and apostrophes, will break the hashtag where they are placed in the phrase or word.

With Instagram’s new feature, users just need to either search for a topic they’re interested in or click on a hashtag already in any post. Once you have found a hashtag that you want to follow, open the hashtag page, and click the follow button. You will then start to see posts that use that hashtag. Of course, if it gets overwhelming you can always unfollow the hashtag.

What does this do for you, the consumer? And what about for brands and businesses? Well, for consumers it makes it a lot easier for you to find the topics you’re interested in, or to get inspired by finding products, recipes, hobbies, and ideas. Which makes this change a beneficial one for brands and businesses.

Businesses can use hashtags to create awareness of their current or new products or even upcoming events. Non-profits and charities can use a hashtag to help raise money for a cause by creating a custom hashtag, promoting the hashtag in their marketing collateral, and then using it in any related Instagram posts.

yoga-metricsIf a business doesn’t have a new product or brand, but still wants to engage with consumers and encourage discovery, using brand-related hashtags is an easy way to do so. For example, a yoga studio could use hashtags like #yoga, #downwardfacingdog, #yogalife, and other popular hashtags. A potential new customer might see the yoga studio’s post because of the hashtag and start to follow the account, thanks to Instagram’s new feature.

But for the consumer, it doesn’t stop just at finding new content, because this makes it easier for every day users, those who do not have a recognizable logo or advertising budget behind them, to get their content out in front of the masses. That adorable photo of your dog sleeping on the couch now has more of a chance to be seen by dog lovers everywhere when you use popular hashtags. Here is your chance to go viral!

how-to-hashtagWondering about what hashtags to use? Whether you are a business or just use Instagram for fun, you can check the popularity of a hashtag by typing it in the search box to see how many posts are using that same hashtag. Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post. That doesn’t mean that you should use all 30 (Ow, my eyes!) but according to social media pros, five to seven hashtags is an appropriate amount to use, without turning readers off from the post and encouraging engagement.

The new feature on Instagram is an exciting change for both consumers and businesses. Social media is about building relationship and by adding the ability to not only search but also follow hashtags, Instagram has made it easier for everyone to reach out and connect.