We all know what hashtags (or in Instagram’s case, “tags”) do, right? They catalogue content and make it searchable by subject or theme. Easy.
Rather than using already-popular hashtags to have their content seen by a wide audience, some users on Instagram have been founding their own hashtags and in doing so, create a more sophisticated search tool for users targeting a specific theme inside another user’s social circle or following-base.
Huh? Let’s break that down.
Let’s say, for example, that I follow @fliickman on Instagram and see that he loves coffee. I’m inevitably going to roll my eyes, and think, “How original. Doesn’t everyone on Instagram love coffee?” I scroll down, and I see the following post:
Has he just invited me to share my photos of coffee with him using the #coffeefliicks hashtag? Yes, he certainly has.
Voila! I now have access to thematic content that is soley submitted by @fliickman and his social circle on Instagram, as they are the only ones who know about his unique hashtag.
Another example, by way of @philipandersonedsel, is #captionsbywriters:
In effect, @fliickman and @philipandersonedsel have created micro-communities of like-minded followers around a specific subject. Not all of their followers will want to see the full breadth of this content, but those that are interested in clicking through are able to easily peruse the content and submit their own, if they choose.
Both of these Instagrammers can now enjoy a space specifically for their followers to contribute relevant content. By tagging this content under a unique hashtag, users protect the new space they’ve created from being invaded by those outside the community. Someone would have to know or follow one of these mico-community founders in order to utilize their hashtag in post. And that’s the whole point.
By creating a micro-community hashtag, users are able to (1) elevate their own personal brand within a community and also (2) provide a space for a smaller, more intimate group of contributors to submit thematic content.
But then again, what prevents a user from seeing their friend submit a piece of uniquely-hashtagged content, clicking through, and joining the conversation by also hashtagging relevant content? Well, that’s the point of online communities: to attract interested users. Once a micro-community is infiltrated, it becomes a larger and larger community of users submitting content around a main theme or subject. The entire feed becomes a dynamic, photographic conversation of viewpoints and diverse experiences.
What does one do, then, with this beast of a community? You let it grow. The community becomes larger and larger, and then the original hashtag founder (if he/she has any sense) can host an “InstaMeetup” where these originally small, micro-communities become realized in a tangible way. The digital finally becomes personal, the online community transitions to an offline gathering.
A few others include #f52grams by @food52, #sweethappylife by @amyvirginia and #dailygreenmarket by @kevmasse. #gatheringslikethese by @zioandsons, #dailycortado by @aguynamedpatrick, #strideby by @jillshomer, #RainyDayCoffeeClub by @adamilenich.