The Problem With Instagram’s New Hashtag Follow Feature

In mid-December, Instagram announced that users could now follow hashtags. I’m sure many, like me, thought this to be a great idea—an excellent way to find new accounts and meet new people who share the same interests as you, or post the content you like to see.

Following a hashtag mirrors the way you follow any ordinary account. From Instagram: 

Following a hashtag is just like following a friend. To get started, search for a topic you’re interested in or tap on a hashtag from any post. You’ll see relevant hashtags displayed in your search results along with related accounts. When you find a hashtag you like, open the hashtag page and tap on the follow button. You’ll begin seeing top posts from that hashtag in your feed and some of the latest stories in your stories bar. You can always unfollow a hashtag at any time.

So, I did. I selected a few topics I thought I’d like to see more of: #JCKMagazine (to see what people had to say about us, obviously), #jewelryporn, and—though I could pick one of the hipper ones, I’m just going to go for it—#disneyworld. And so we were off.

The posts related to JCK magazine were straightforward enough: We’re not competing with the numbers of say, #selfie, or #vacationlife. No major problems there.

It was with the hashtags that fall under a larger umbrella that I began to get frustrated. Take #jewelryporn, for example. At best, I wanted to see and discover new-to-me jewelers and find new accounts to follow or, perhaps, even write about. And sure, that’s happened—I’ve learned of some pretty cool brands and industry users (and even just good old jewelry lovers) whose posts I now enjoy. 

However—this is where it gets annoying. Because, as you are probably aware, people abuse the fudge out of hashtags. A photo of a dog wearing absolutely no jewelry, whatsoever? Not in the market for it.

I was bombarded with outfit layout photos. If you’re putting together a layout featuring a dress, some killer shoes, a purse, and maybe—maybe—a teeny tiny pendant, does that warrant the #jewelryporn hashtag? No, no it does not. I commend your artful arranging skills, but this isn’t what I’m looking for. #ootd? Totally. #fashion? Sure. But not the jewelry-centric stuff I had hoped to see.

Does this look like jewelry to you? (via @ladysparklejewels)

The same goes for my beloved #disneyworld: A tattoo of Belle from Beauty and the Beast is not the Most Magical Place on Earth, sorry. 

Instagram is learning, and I understand that. And so, I select the “don’t show for this hashtag” option that the platform provides, in hopes that, eventually, some sort of algorithm smarter than I am will take notice of what really fits and what doesn’t—but that isn’t entirely likely. 

Disney? Yes. Disney World? Not even a little bit. (via @upondisney)

Which really brings me to the point of this (slightly rant-inflected) article: Don’t abuse your hashtags. This is a great function that Instagram has put on the table, but I don’t think it’s going to work the way it’s supposed to if things aren’t being labeled properly.

Don’t include #gemstones if you’re posting a solid gold bracelet. If you’re sharing your brand new collection hot off the soldering iron, do use each and every tag under the sun that makes sense for you—#jewelrydesigner, #jewelryporn, #handmadejewelry—whatever is true, make it known.

But for the love of all that is magical, do not use the #disneyworld hashtag unless you’re posting something from, or very closely related to, the parks (the princess in me is begging you!). 

Overall, I haven’t quite figured out if I’m enjoying the new hashtag option yet, though I do very much appreciate having the choice. It has also made me reconsider the tags I use to make sure that they really, really belong there in the first place—and having to check yourself is a good thing.

Only time will tell how much users love or loathe the feature (because let’s be honest, people aren’t going to stop hashtagging everything) but in the meantime, as a jeweler who may be promoting a business, it’s your timely opportunity to get smart about those photo captions.