Instagram is testing out ways to make hashtags more valuable by adjusting how top posts are ranked on hashtag pages.
Now, more recent and timely content will be surfaced in the section that curates top hashtags.
Previously, recent content was separated out into its own tab. That meant the “Top” section could’ve included content published weeks or months ago.
Instagram is removing the “Recent” tab as users can now find newer content in the “Top” tab. The “Reels” tab will remain unchanged.
The company hopes these changes will make hashtags more valuable to users, which is presumably determined by a measurable increase to engagement levels.
As we’ll get into later, studies show Instagram hashtags don’t have a significant impact on engagement. Will changing how top posts are ranked drive more people to engage with the content?
First, let’s take a closer look at how hashtag pages are changing.
Instagram Surfacing More Recent Content In Hashtag Pages
In an announcement from Instagram’s communications team, the company explains what’s changing and why:
“We’re trying out some new things to make hashtags as valuable as possible for people. A few weeks ago, we rolled out Destinations which helps connect people to more information around social causes, and now, we’re going to try something new.
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.“
Instagram shares an example of what the new hashtag pages look like.
As you can see, they look exactly the same minus the “Recent” tab.
The streamlined hashtag pages are designed to help users find popular content that’s also timely.
With the old design you could see quality content that may or may not be out of date, or recent content that may or may not be quality.
Now you’ll find recent, quality content when searching for a hashtag.
Time will tell if this test produces the results Instagram is looking for.
Currently, there’s not a strong case for using hashtags on Instagram based on the value they provide.
Perhaps Instagram is taking note of studies like the one highlighted in the section below.
Study Finds Instagram Hashtags Don’t Increase Post Engagement
Socialinsider analyzed over 75 million Instagram posts published over the past year to determine the relationship between hashtags and views.
The study concludes there’s no significant increase to average engagement rate associated with hashtag use.
“… the number of hashtags a post has doesn’t really influence post distribution, which we calculated as the average engagement rate by impressions.
The data shows no significant differences in the average engagement rate by impressions of the Instagram posts analyzed, regardless of how many hashtags those posts have.“
That’s more or less what head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, would tell you himself if you asked him about hashtags.
In fact, he answered one such question last month in an Instagram story, saying “not really” when asked if hashtags help views.
Due to the temporary nature of stories the recording is no longer available, but social media pundit Matt Navarra captured a screenshot:
— Matt Navarra (@MattNavarra) March 17, 2022
What are hashtags on Instagram for?
The purpose of hashtags on Instagram is to categorize content. There’s never been any claims from the company about hashtags increasing post distribution.
However, it looks like Instagram wants that to change.
If you stopped using hashtags on Instagram because they didn’t provide any noticeable benefits, now may be time to revisit your use of them.
Source: @InstagramComms on Twitter
Featured Image: Bibit Unggul/Shutterstock