Instagram stated yesterday that it had begun a brief test in which it will delete the Recent tab from hashtag search results in favor of more recent posts and Reels being presented in the main display. Instagram says that it wants to make hashtags as valuable as possible, and it cites its recent update to help people find more information on social causes tied to hashtags as a model for its future path.
The first screenshot has a 'Recent' tab in the middle of 'Top' and 'Reels,' while in the second one, it's completely gone.
As you can see in this example, Instagram will now display an additional pop-up when you search for a hashtag related to a specific cause, highlighting how users can support that project. Instagram appears to want to make this type of addition a more significant part of the platform, and perhaps by focusing more on the top posts in each hashtag search, it will be able better to highlight the most valuable content for each user while also limiting the spread of potentially harmful movements or trendjackers looking to cash in on a trend.
According to 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 the '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 had done this before, wherein they eliminated the 'Recent' tab for hashtag searches in the run-up to the 2020 US election to prevent the real-time distribution of potentially damaging information that could show up around the election. By blocking the flow of hashtag posts via Recent, users could only see the Top ranking, which is based on engagement and relevance, which was essentially geared to help Instagram's moderators. The 'Top' posts were likely to have been verified, at least in part, rather than being a stream of real-time changes.
So, in essence, this is about preventing growth hackers from exploiting in-app trends with possibly destructive updates. This could work – though it's worth noting that Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri recently stated that hashtags on Instagram don't improve views. This appears to be the case for trending movements, mainly via the 'Recent' tab, and with this change, Instagram is moving further to de-emphasize the value of hashtags as a reach tool, focusing instead on users adding the most relevant hashtags and creating the best content for each topic to maximize their reach, at least via this element.
In other words, Instagram is taking steps to reduce the incentive for users to use irrelevant hashtags, and while the removal of the 'Recent' tab in some cases will be inconvenient, it does mean that creators will have to focus more on the most relevant tags, which could result in a better overall user experience. As a result, clinging to the most popular hashtags to gain more exposure is unlikely to be fruitful. To connect with the correct audience, research your tags, locate the most relevant ones for each post, and attach them.