Oh, this is going to annoy some Instagram users real good.
Today, Instagram has announced that it’s launched ‘a small test’ which will see the ‘Recent’ tab removed from hashtag search results, in favor of more recent posts and Reels being displayed in the main display.
As explained by Instagram:
“We’re trying out some new things to make hashtags as valuable as possible for people. For a small group, we’re testing more recent and timely content in ‘Top’ and ‘Reels’ tabs in hashtags, and removing the ‘Recent’ tab. We want to see if this helps people connect with more interesting and relevant content on hashtags, while also keeping them across what’s current.”
Honestly, I would love to see the data on how many people use the ‘Recent’ tab at present, because I would bet that a significant amount of searches in the app, hashtag or not, are actually people looking for the latest info on a topic, and the ‘Recent’ sorting option is the key surface for that.
Given this, is removing it a good option?
As Instagram notes, it wants to make hashtags ‘as valuable as possible’, while Instagram also points to its recent update to help connect people to more information around social causes linked to hashtags, as a guide note for its future direction here.
As you can see in this example, now, when you search for a hashtag related to a specific cause, Instagram will present you with an additional pop-up which highlights the different ways that users can support that initiative.
Apparently, Instagram wants to make this type of addition a bigger element, and maybe, by putting more focus on the top posts in each hashtag search, that will help it better highlight the most valuable content for each user, while also giving it more chance to limit the spread of potentially harmful movements or trendjackers looking to capitalize on a given interest.
Instagram has actually done this before. In the lead-up to the 2020 US Election, Instagram removed the ‘Recent’ tab for hashtag searches, in order to “reduce the real-time spread of potentially harmful content that could pop up around the election”.
The change was essentially designed to give Instagram’s moderators an assist - by stopping the flow of hashtagged posts via 'Recent', that meant that users were only able to see the 'Top' listing, which is based on engagement and relevance. The ‘Top’ posts are therefore more likely to have been vetted, at least somewhat, as opposed to being a flow of real-time updates.
So, really, this is about stopping ‘growth hackers’ from tapping into in-app trends with irrelevant, and potentially harmful updates. Which could work, I guess – though it is also interesting to note that Instagram chief Adam Mosseri recently noted that hashtags on IG don’t really help views.
It seems that this is probably not true for trending movements, especially via the ‘Recent’ tab, and with this change, Instagram’s moving to further de-emphasize the value of hashtags as a reach tool, which then puts more focus on users adding the most relevant hashtags, and creating the best content for each topic, in order to maximize their reach, at least via this element.
In other words, Instagram is moving to reduce the incentive for using irrelevant hashtags, and while the removal of the ‘Recent’ tab in some contexts will be annoying, it does mean that creators will need to put more focus on the most relevant tags, which could lead to a better user experience overall.
So, there’s likely less point to latching on to the most used hashtags in the hopes of getting more reach. Research your tags, find the most relevant ones for each post, and attach them to connect with the right audience.