The last month of 2017 has proven to be a big one for Instagram: not only is there speculation that the company will be producing a new app, Direct, but there have also been multiple updates to make your experience more interesting and interactive. This latest update is no exception, and it's one of the biggest changes we've seen in the past few weeks. If you've ever wondered why you can't follow hashtags on Instagram, that's about to change — the app's latest update allows users to follow hashtags, and it's certainly going to change the way your feed looks.
Once you install the update on your phone, you'll be able to follow hashtags to keep up with your top interests. If you install the update and find you still can't follow hashtags, worry not — major updates like this sometimes take a while to reach every user, so it may still be rolling out. If you don't have it by Wednesday, you can try deleting the Instagram app and then redownloading it, or contacting Instagram support — but it's fairly likely you'll find it in your app very soon!
So, how does this update work? It's simple. When you visit a hashtag page, you'll see a "follow" button at the top, which you'll be able to tap if you want to be kept up-to-date on the things you enjoy looking at the most. At first thought, this might sound like a bit of a mess, since popular hashtags have millions of photos in them, with new ones popping up every second. But don't worry about your feed being infiltrated by random photos — once you follow a hashtag, only the top photos in the hashtag will pop up on your feed (this probably means the photos with the most likes and engagement) to start with. It shouldn't take over the photos your friends and family members post, and like anything else on your Instagram feed, will show up based on your level of engagement.
Following a hashtag also allows you to keep an eye on it through Instagram Stories as well. Whenever a hashtag is used in a Story, it goes into one large Story for that hashtag. Once the hashtag is followed, its Story will appear in your Instagram Stories tray.
Why is this change necessary? It's just another way for Instagram to be more of an online community, rather than a private app to share photos with just your friends. A representative from Instagram has stated, "Community has been a core value at Instagram from the start, and at the heart of every community is a shared interest."
As with any other big update on the app, this one will probably come along with a healthy dose of skepticism from users. This update, though, is actually very fun and useful. Not only will it keep you on top of the topics you care about the most, but it will also introduce you to new users and content you may not have seen without this feature. If you love fashion, following the #ootd hashtag can serve up all different kinds of outfit inspiration you would have normally missed out. If you're really into the #foodie community on Instagram, be prepared for new recipes and dishes. Following a hashtag is a fun and easy way to see more on your own feed, without having to search.
Another benefit to this update? It could increase engagement on your Instagram page as well. If you have a public profile and you take advantage of hashtags, there's a chance your photo could show up in the feeds of people who wouldn't normally look at your profile, meaning you could be gaining more likes and maybe even more followers. And let's be honest here, who doesn't want that?
Also, if you're not a fan of hashtags, or don't know what to follow, there's good news: you don't have to participate in this new update at all. While the option will be there once you update the app, it's not a feature you have to use.
So, if you're ready to explore more photos, learn more about your favorite topics, and potentially increase your chance of becoming Instagram famous, start following some hashtags — and using them in your own photos. I don't know about you, but my feed is about to get a whole lot more crowded.