When I started posting photos of toy dinosaurs on Instagram I was alone. I searched through any hashtag I could think of to try and find anyone doing what I was doing. The big toy photography group pages we’re filled with Stormtroopers, Super Heroes and Lego, but no other prehistoric creatures. I would get comments like “Original idea!” which was nice to hear, but reinforced how out on my own I was. Or so I thought.
Then, one afternoon I found a funny Jurassic Park-themed image from an English dude named Grant (@afrovenator2) who was an even bigger dinosaur enthusiast than me. In fact, he’s studying to become a real-life paleontologist! (Dr. Grant!) we started commenting on each other’s photos, discussing ideas that we’d like to see and soon enough, we we’re the premier dinosaur photographers on IG.
After a few months, we had collected a small group of other dinosaur photographers and decided that we should start an official hashtag. The main reason was to help keep everyone’s photos under one searchable label, making it much easier to find and see everyone’s pictures. But what to call it?
I remember communications with Grant about what to call it. We kept thinking it needed to have the word ‘Dino’ in there and ‘Toy’ would be good too, but what else? I asked my brother, “what do you call a group of dinosaur fans?” He quickly replied, “dorks.” (walked into that one) Later, through the powers of a thesaurus, the term squad was landed on and #toydinosquad was born.
In the two years since, every dinosaur-related image I post has been tagged, as well as retroactively tagging the photos that predated it. I also regularly come across toy dinosaur photographers from around the world and always invite them to join our merry band of dorks. And I’m happy to report that many of them have. Additionally, due to the enormous influx of Jurassic World toys flooding the market, I’ve seen the usage spike considerably in recent months… Helping us hit our 7,000th tag last month. From two, to a handfull to now dozens of photographers, all using the same tag to find and share with each other.
As we draw closer to the 10k milestone and the inevitable coinciding mega-dino contest, I look back at our little idea of using a hashtag to help people find each other with quite a sense of pride. It seems so simple and obvious now, but back then it was a revelation. If you find yourself just a little curious about the magical world of toy dinosaurs, search through the tag sometime. You’ll see a diverse community of creative artists from around the Earth who all share a love of photographing their prehistoric toys. And, of course, if you’re thinking about posting a toy dinosaur photo of your own, feel free to tag #toydinosquad.
Also important to mention; In addition to the hashtag, we’ve started an official ToyDinoSquard account and a popular monthly raptor-themed event that happens on the 22nd. Both of these subjects will be covered in greater detail in future posts.
Jon Aiken (@dinoczars)