With the new year came yet another Instagram algorithm update, and along with it, the ability to not only follow users, but to follow hashtags. Tagged content then shows up in your newsfeed, just like a user post. Clicking into the hashtag reveals posts prioritized on quality, recency and engagement. This new feature has benefits for content creators both as a means for account growth, but also as a research tool.
We spoke to the experts in our PR Couture Council and have outlined five ways you can take immediate advantage of this feature to help with prospective client research, influencer tracking, creating a cohesive feed and more.
1. Follow Brand Hashtags
Much like a Google Alert, your first step is to follow branded hashtags as well as those of key competitors and any other brands you regularly look to for inspiration. Not only can you keep tabs on how the brand is using the hashtag, but you get an easy way to analyze how audiences are implementing brand hashtags in their own content. Because the saved hashtag algorithm shows the most recent and popular posts, social media teams can easily find pieces of user-generated content to post on brand channels and include in client reporting, as well as track overall hashtag use. This strategy has worked well for boutique agency EightSixtySouth. CEO Kelly Howard explains that they’ve “just started following the hashtag of our roster of brands, like the more than 35,o00 results for #vodaswim aka client Voda Swim. Using saved hashtags in this way helps us to find photography featuring the brands which we can then repost,” noting that this also opens up opportunities to better identify brand enthusiasts outside of direct influencer outreach.
2. Follow specific color/style hashtags
For PR agencies looking to curate a lovely, on-brand feed, relying solely on original or client content is difficult to implement. In order to have easy access to photos in your brand colors, simply follow that specific color, or a community hashtag (#ihavethisthingwithplants), that often surfaces the style and color of imagery you’re looking for. At PR Couture, we are only a little embarrassed to admit following #millennialpink.
3. Follow misspelled hashtags
Speaking of Millennial Pink, one way to find undiscovered, though often great, content, is to follow common misspellings anything you’re interested in following (#prcoture happens more often than you’d think).
4. Follow industry hashtags
It’s difficult to keep up on industry trends and news. Follow hashtags for industry organizations (like #PRSA or #colorcomm), as well as the names of trade publications, conferences and self-identifiers (#prgirl) to keep up with events, trade tools and business advice. If something pops up that is not relevant to your interests (a spammy account for example) use the new “Don’t Show for This Hashtag” option to mark the content not interesting or not relevant. We follow #fashionpr and #beautypr to find like-minded accounts and often, to discover our own reposted, non-attributed content!
Industry hashtags are also a powerful prospective client discovery tool. As Allyson Conklin, Founder & Principal of Allyson Conklin Public Relations explains, “This might be giving away one of our biggest business development secrets (#worthit), but we utilize industry hashtags on the regular when searching for prospective clients. Using hashtags like #indiebeauty, #greenbeauty or #crueltyfree have helped us unearth unrepresented beauty brands that we wouldn’t have found otherwise.”
5. Follow location hashtags
When putting together an influencer list for a hyperlocal event, seeking locations for a photoshoot or finding out the best Instagrammable coffee shops for an upcoming trip to a new city, follow the names of cities and neighborhoods for great insight into different places. For Liz Anthony, Founder of Mariposa Communications, following location hashtags is part of the process when planning influencer activities. She shares, “We have found great influencers to work with when we follow specific location hashtags for coffee shops, restaurants or exercise studios we know align with the brands for which we are handling the influencer campaign.”
Following hashtags is a new, critical piece of taking full advantage of Instagram for content creation, inspiration and client tracking. As one last tip, consider how participating in a trending community hashtag might boost account discovery by new audiences, as well as the fact that individuals may be viewing your content in this way, without pressing the almighty follow button. Pay attention to your business account insights to find out just how many people are discovering your content through hashtags alone.