SAN FRANCISCO: Instagram, the image-sharing platform owned by Facebook, has rolled out a new feature that lets users follow hashtags in the same way they follow friends.

According to a company blog post, all that users have to do is search for a topic they’re interested in or tap on a hashtag from any post.

By tapping follow, users will then start to see top posts from that hashtag appearing in their feed along with selected stories in their Stories bar.

Instagram said the new feature would make it even easier for users to stay connected with the interests, hobbies and communities they care about.

It would mean, for example, that users planning a wedding would no longer have to keep typing “wedding” into their search bar to discover the latest trends.

“Every day, millions of people share photos and videos and tag them with relevant hashtags,” the blog post read. “To make these posts even more discoverable, we’re introducing hashtags you can follow.”

Although Instagram currently has no plans to open up the hashtag-following tool to advertisers, Marketing Land noted that the initiative “could pave a new path for ad targeting and delivery on Instagram”.

For example, the company could give brands the option of targeting ads to people who follow a particular hashtag or encourage brands to create their own sponsored hashtags.

Another monetisation option could involve letting brands have access to data about how users follow their chosen hashtags, or Instagram could promote the hashtag as a paid placement in hashtag-related search results.

Marketing Land also raised concerns about potential misappropriation of the system by bad actors, although Instagram explained in its blog post that users will be able to set their accounts to private, so that the hashtags they choose to follow are only visible to their own followers.

According to TechCrunch, which approached Instagram about its security arrangements, an algorithm will weed out spam and objectionable content and hundreds of people from its community operations team will support the vetting.

Sourced from Instagram, Marketing Land, TechCrunch; additional content by WARC staff