Instagram Hashtag changes (March 2015)
Instagram Hashtag Search order change
Have you noticed that your Instagram Hashtags have (somewhat) stopped working? Are your photos not showing up at the top of the hashtag search? Don't panic.
Over the weekend Instagram has changed the how their hashtags work by altering the way they are archived & displayed in a hashtag search.
From now on, when you apply a hashtag to one of your images, Instagram will now order that image from the time that you posted the original image, not when you applied that hashtag. This means that you will no longer be able to add hashtags to your Instagrams after the fact and expect them to show up at the top of hashtag searches.
What this means for you
The change means that it will be very important that you include all the necessary hashtags at the time of posting an image. Be thoughtful and thorough - create hashtag lists if you have to. If you try and add hashtags or edit the caption of your image to include new hashtags, your image will most likely not show anywhere near the top of the hashtag search, as the half life for hashtags is very short lived. Doing so, will apply that hashtag to your image, but it will most likely sit dozens of pages down the hashtag search - no one will see it.
Why this change was necessary
Like I've previously stated in an earlier blog post, the Hashtag system is broken; at least for services as big and active as Instagram. They are not very efficient at doing their jobs (searching for images nor helping people in discovering your images). Also, with their recent editing feature of allowing users to edit their Instagram captions, Instagram has most certainly seen a huge increase in people adding (spamming) hashtags to all their images like crazy - old and new.
By changing the way hashtag searches display and archive images in relation to their hashtags, they have now made the recency of when the image was posted the emphasis over the time of when the hashtag was applied to it.
Although there are obvious pros and cons to this change, I do feel like they are overall positive. It means that spammers and people abusing hashtags will no longer be as effective in doing so. Instagrammers' will also have to be more thoughtful about what hashtags are important and specific to their images as you only really get one change at this (when you post the image).
Brands and popular accounts alike who use hashtags to run competitions will benefit the most from the change. No longer can people tag all their old photos and have them count as "entries" to these competitions. This will encourage / force Instagrammers to create new images and content for Instagram competitions if they want their images to appear anywhere near the top.
Instagram's Weekend Hashtag Project is a very good example of this. A specific condition of their competition is that the image or video must be captured and posted over each specific weekend and not before. Previously, what you'd see is people hashtagging all their old photos to try and enter them into the competition.
I guess the downside to the rule change, is that if you forget to add a hashtag, then you basically miss out. I often forget to add hashtags and have to do it after the fact. Lesson here: be more thoughtful at the time of posting to Instagram.
There is a saying among photographers that "you're only as good as your last photo". I think that instead of dwelling on old photos (and trying to revive them via adding hashtags to them) you should get out there and improve your photography / Instagram game by shooting more. This is the surest way to improve in photography.
I hope all this info helped!
*Disclaimer: I do not work for Instagram and am not affiliated with them in any way other than being an Instagram user. I am not responsible for the hashtag changes nor can I do anything about them. This blog post is simply a public service announcement. Don't get me wrong, I would love to work for them (if you're reading this Instagram!).