Hashbag Wants to Help You Navigate the Instagram Flea Market

Move over eBay! Some people are promoting more than just their lives on the photo-sharing site. Brian Ries reports on Hashbag, the new site that helps navigate the growing marketplace of buyers and sellers.

10.18.13 9:45 AM ET

Instagram claims that an average of 55 million photos are shared through their app each day.

These are snapshots of breakfasts, espressos, puppies, dresses, shoes, first dances, selfies, and sunsets. The average user shares these photos hoping, at most, for some positive feedback from their friends and followers.

But it’s not all for show. A Brooklyn-based website designer recently discovered that a percentage of the items in these pictures are for sale—or #forsale, in Instagram parlance. Two million a year, it turns out. And so on Thursday Mike Bodge, 31, launched a website that allows the community of makers and sellers on Instagram to more easily connect.

Enter Hashbag, a curator of Instagram’s secret marketplace of things.

“I noticed that a lot of people and companies were posting things for sale on Instagram, so I did a quick search of things marked “#forsale,” says Bodge, who previously ran a design agency before striking out on his own. “When I looked at how they were selling, it was kind of a wild west. Some people would say ‘text me’ or email me, or hit me up on WhatsApp, etc.” Bodge wanted to find a way to make buying all that stuff easier.

That stuff runs the gamut of just about everything under the sun. A recent search of hashtags on Hashbag revealed users selling a set of used golf clubs, an iPhone, multiple pairs of Levi’s, a 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee, a 6-month old pit bull, Nike Lebron X PS Elite sneakers, a $2,500 Rolex watch, and a ridiculous-looking Elmo costume.

The vast majority of items for sale are vanilla, but a few social media-savvy users are selling illicit goods like marijuana, guns, and a form of “moonrock” MDMA.

But Hashbag is not aspiring to be an illicit marketplace like the recently shuttered Silk Road. Bodge’s site uses Instagram’s API, so anything on Hashbag is subject to Instagram’s Terms of Use and filter system (“You can’t post #boobs or whatever,” Bodge explains).

Instagram did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

This all means the marketplace is in control of the users. It’s up to them what they sell and buy.

Bodge hopes to make money off of those transactions, but only if they happen on his platform. “I’m charging people $.99 a sale, flat price,” he says. But that’s only for Hashbag members. “If someone has tagged something #forsale and they aren’t a member of the site, it just directs a user over to that person’s Instagram photo,” the designer explains, where the transaction then takes place in the comments.

“It’s really the best of both worlds,” Bodge explains. “People already have their followers, so if I post a chair I’m selling, all of my Instagram friends see it and trust me.”