Hard to believe, but there is now something that I love even more than Twitter hash tags. After I sang my praises about them and even devoted a whole blog post to the usage of hash tags on Twitter, I have found something that I love even more: Instagram hash tags!
I admit it, I am head over heels for Instagram hash tags. I could (and actually have) spend hours jumping from one hash tag to the other on Instagram. But let’s back up for a second…
If you are not familiar with Instagram or have never used the service before, you need to get it. Since last December it has been my favorite iPhone app and I really don’t see it changing for me anytime soon. Over the past nine months I have posted 1,100 photos on the service, I seriously can’t get enough of it (search me @BrentReser). It is the Twitter of pictures, a way to express yourself in rich detail that 140 characters could never touch. Instagram is so amazing and revolutionary that Facebook bought it for $1 billion dollars. That is saying something. I could go on and on about how much I just love the whole concept and idea behind Instagram but I have actually already written a post on that subject too. Instead, I want to talk more about a specific feature of the app, hash tags.
Just like Twitter, you can use hash tags each time you post. They follow the same basic principle for both services…namely to put a subject or theme to the tweet or picture. So obviously if you took a picture of a cat, you would use the hash tag of #cat. This is at the very basic roots of hash tagging on Instagram. Just like Twitter, many people will abuse the hell out of hash tags and post twenty to thirty different ones per picture. Keep in mind, there is no character limit for Instagram captions so people can take the abuse up several notches. One girl I know can take a simple picture of herself and come up with twenty-five different hash tags to accompany it! Of course, using a great deal of hash tags is a great way to gain followers as the more HT’s you have, the greater the chance is that someone will find you.
But enough about the excessive use of hash tags, I want to talk more about the beauty of them, more about why I can spend so much time searching them. Instagram has over 50 million users. With this very large user base, millions and millions of pictures are posted to the service each day. When you have a picture pool this gigantic, you are going to have pretty much every single subject, activity, hobby, and concept covered. Softball fan? Search #softball and browse the ridiculous amounts of softball pictures that come up. Like koalas? Type in #koalas and prepare yourself to see pictures of koalas in all the zoos across the nation. Want to go to school at Notre Dame? Get an idea for campus life by searching #NotreDame.
The appeal of doing an Instagram hash tag search is that you will find real, personal, and creative pictures. You aren’t doing a Google images search where you will find a bunch of boring, commercialized photos of whatever subject you typed in. Instead, you will get pictures from around the world taken at the front lines by people just like yourself who used the exact same device as yourself to take the picture. Better yet? You can interact with the people who took the pictures. I say it freely, I have no problem asking a question or making a comment on someone’s picture that I find fascinating. I love the dialogue that ensues and the social networking that occurs. It is also a great way to gain followers and learn more about the world.
But what do I love to do the most when I search Instagram hash tags? Look up food! I like nothing more than to type in a certain food and see the different versions, creations, and presentations that are captured. Last week I searched #froyo and just went nuts looking at the crazy desserts that people have made across the nation. I thought I was a froyo pro but after searching on Instagram I learned that I am a mere amateur. With all the different filters that Instagram offers, capturing something like froyo is really art. Sorry if that sounds corny but it is true. I must have “liked” fifteen different pictures while going through the thousands that were pulled up as the result of my search. Here is another fun one…this past Sunday I ate at HuHot (a Mongolian grill). I searched #HuHot on Instagram and once again I was blown away by the plates that people had made for themselves at HuHots across the country. Even though by the time I looked at the pictures I had already finished my meal and was stuffed, I still appreciated the array of different plates that people were digging into at the time. Last night I bought popcorn at the movie theater and because I like popcorn you can probably guess….I looked up #popcorn. Again, the different variations of buttered popcorn, colored popcorn, candy popcorn, and even frosted popcorn just made me happy. Today I really went on a limb and searched #corndog….some real interesting pictures there!
We have dubbed #GoGriz as the official hash tag of Grizzly Athletics at work. I look the tag up daily to see the pictures our fans are submitting. They are so awesome and I have been able to connect with more people in the Missoula community because of it. If you are visiting a new city be sure to search the name of it. You will find great ideas on what to do and you will even get to know people who are currently tourists as well. This again provides a great opportunity to interact with people who are undergoing the same experience as you are and even offers chance to actually meet up with someone if you are daring enough. The possibilities are endless.
Instagram is building on what Twitter first created and, to use a cliché that I absolutely hate, is actually taking the concept of connecting strangers to a whole new level. Instagram is hip, it is trendy, and it is fun…but most importantly, it is useful. Start utilizing the hash tag feature and see how it really can add something to your life. Don’t Blink.