Instagram engagement got you down? You’re not alone. In fact, all Instagram and Facebook users across the US have been seeing a gradual decrease in organic engagement as a result of the 2020 Presidential Election. 

At the end of October, Instagram and Facebook publicly announced that they would be removing posts that violated community guidelines for voter interference policies and temporarily hiding the “Recent” tab for all hashtags to reduce the spread of harmful content and false information centered around the upcoming election. While Election Day has come and gone, all recent posts that populate under the “Recent” tab for their associated hashtags are still temporarily hidden, leaving engagement rates for all accounts on the decline. So what does this mean for those of us focused on organically growing our social media accounts?

How Does Hiding Recent Posts For All Hashtags Affect Engagement?

Hashtags are a great way to boost your organic engagement on Instagram. Picking the right hashtags can help get your posts in front of the right people, increase website traffic for brands, and nurture potential new customers for businesses. Using relevant and strategically targeted hashtags on your posts and stories is one of the best ways to get discovered by new audiences on Instagram who may be interested in your brand or content. Without the ability to use hashtags that help your content populate under the “Recent” tab this limits your ability to expand your reach, connect with your audience, increase overall engagement and attract genuine followers. 

These new, yet temporary, platform changes made to the hashtags feature have caused many micro-influencers, self-employed artists, small businesses, and charities who use instagram for business to feel the negative impact in their account engagement more heavily than others might. Many of those heavily impacted have taken to Twitter to directly address the limitations of hidden hashtags and express the importance of restoring their functionality to help their organic reach.

If you’re wondering if the limited hashtag functionality is the reason your engagement has been on the decline and low over the last month, check-in on your Instagram business profile’s posts and account insights. Account insights provide an in-depth overview of metrics such as impressions, reach, content interactions, followers, and most importantly- discovery. Discovery tells you how many people see your content and where they came across it. Users can be introduced to your content via the explore page, home page feed, direct profile and hashtags. If you notice a significant drop in discovery via hashtags, impressions and reach, it’s safe to say the hidden hashtag functionalities are negatively impacting your engagement. 

When Will Hashtags Go Back To Normal?

Unfortunately, despite user efforts to reach out and express the need to restore hashtags, Instagram and Facebook have been silent and there’s no chatter circulating on when we can expect to see hashtag functionality fully restored as well as the “Recent” tab being unrestricted. With no end in sight, many users have gathered on forums to seek help on updates. 

Some users are speculating that since change was done as a result of the 2020  presidential election, which has been extended due to mail-in votes and delayed official results, this update will continue until up to or close to the President-Elect’s inauguration day. Instagram and Facebook have pledged to crack down on the spread of misinformation and, since platform users can easily attach content to any hashtag, it’s easier to hide all hashtags until the election is over than to moderate millions of posts daily than risk inappropriate content from circulating on the platforms at this time.

Quick Tips To Improve Organic Engagement

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that hidden hashtags are temporary and seeing a decrease in engagement won’t last forever. Seeing your social growth plateau and engagement decrease can be disheartening, but don’t give up on your social strategy. Do your best to stay consistent to maintain an active and healthy online presence. The last thing you want to do when this is over is start from the ground up to build your engagement back up. Here are a few things you can do to maintain your engagement:

  • Use Instagram Stories daily
  • Post regularly and utilize peak posting times
  • Engage with other users and their content
  • Be genuine, intentional and authentic with your online interactions
  • Respond to comments and direct messages in a timely manner
  • Incorporate more video content (with Instagram Reels taking over, this is a huge engagement booster. Reels are giving more priority on the explore page allowing for brands to increase platform visibility)
  • Write engaging post captions that start conversations and encourage engagement in the comments
  • DON’T pay for shortcuts like bots that promote inauthentic behaviors that can get your account banned or permanently deleted

Unfortunately, algorithm updates and platform changes will always be outside of your control. Spend time focusing on what you can control when it comes to your social media strategy, making small changes and adjustments where you need to and be patient. 

Prioritize sticking to the basics as you navigate through this rough patch so you can set your account up for elevated success when things get back to normal. Remember, building engagement doesn’t happen overnight under normal circumstances, so set realistic expectations and don’t be too hard on yourself. Have fun with your social media, stay creative, and trust the process!