“Dear God, please get my next video on the Explore page” – Anonymous instagram Influencer
Have you ever wished your next post would go viral?
You’re not alone.
Millions of Instagram marketers pray for a feature on the front page of Instagram, but more often than not, the Explore page remains but a dream.
Let me let you in on a little secret…
If you want your post to appear on the Instagram Explore page, you’ve got to think differently. You can’t just post and pray. If you want to get on the Explore page, you’re going to have to do something to stand out and GO VIRAL…and the best way to do that begins with a proper strategy.
You’ll also need to understand what’s behind the curtain over at Instagram HQ. The gears of the machine. I’m talking about the top-secret Instagram Explore Page ALGORITHM.
In this article, we’ll tell you about all that good stuff. The nitty-gritty. That’s because we have years of hands-on experience with this kind of thing.
That’s because at Jumper Media, we help over 3000 brands stand out on Instagram, and many of them consistently hit Explore. And I’m not talking consistently like it happens once a month…I’m talking these guys hit it a few times a week. We’ve tried all sorts of ways to game the Explore Page algorithm and get our clients’ posts trending, and today we’re going to share with you what we learned.
We believe that with the right strategy, and enough chutzpah, almost anyone can get on the IG Explore page. Here’s how:
What is the Instagram Explore Page?
Instagram’s Explore page evolved from the Popular or Discovery page, which displayed the most-liked content at the time of your visit. The issue with the popular page was that it failed to cater to specific users’ interests.
Now, with the Explore page, the content presented is different for each user.
Instagram’s Explore page comprises posts liked by people whose posts you’ve liked, posts from accounts similar to those that you follow, and posts with high engagement. In this way, Explore selects posts to show you, without being hemmed in by who you follow and what you claim to like.
By monitoring how you interact with Instagram, it is able to utilize its algorithm to select content that syncs up with how you use the app. This is exactly why Wired calls the Explore page “the most honest place on the Internet.”
This change is good news for business owners with interactive Instagram audiences (and vice versa: good news for users when businesses like their photos), as there is a chance that your post will reach previously unconnected, yet interested, users.
The Explore page also allows you to find Stories from accounts Instagram thinks you’ll find interesting; location stories from areas near you; and top live videos. Additionally, this is where you will find Picked for You videos, which were introduced in June last year, and the events video channel, which shows user-generated videos for top events, such as concerts and sporting events.
You can’t get this level of real-time curation anywhere else!
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Why You Should Get on Instagram’s Explore Page
If you are a brand or business, you should be strategically aiming for the Explore page for the same reasons you are using any aspect of Instagram.
In addition to garnering more likes, getting on the Explore page will also help a business’s bottom line by building brand awareness, selling products, and acquiring new customers. This is possible because the Explore page offers the chance for exposure to a new audience, which is targeted—not random.
The best part is that unlike using Instagram ads to increase reach and engagement, taking advantage of the Instagram Explore pages is absolutely free.
Instagram is always adding new features to the Explore section to make it more engaging for their users (recently they added Location Stories to Explore) so learning how to get on the Explore page now will pay dividends in the future.
How to Get on the Instagram Explore Page — 8 Medium Difficulty Ways to Get Your Next Post on Explore
Though how the new algorithm for the Explore page really works is a carefully guarded secret, Instagram has said that the content that appears on the page is based on how you use the app and how you interact with content.
It’s important to understand that the mighty algorithm is selecting posts automatically for the Explore page (and really everywhere). So in order to game this automatic-selection, you’ve got to think of it like beating the computer.
Instagram’s algorithm for determining what goes on a person’s personal Explore page is similar to how they figure out what to show in a person’s news feed. The main difference between the two is that the Explore page includes content from people that you’re not following.
Regarding the order of content on your feed, Instagram says this:
The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post. As we begin, we’re focusing on optimizing the order — all the posts will still be there, just in a different order.
With more than 95 million photos shared on Instagram per day, Instagram has a vast data set to draw from when establishing behavioral patterns. This has led the company to become a master in understanding how users engage with content, which is represented through the selection of posts displayed on the Explore page.
To get on Instagram’s Explore page you’re going to want to do the following 8 things, really really well.
1. Know your audience
Instagram puts content on the Explore page that they think people will be most likely to interact with, and they determine this in all kinds of really advanced ways.
Relevancy is the basis behind all algorithm-based social media feeds. Social platforms want to show you the content that you’re likely to be the most interested in, and that you will engage with. Instagram’s quote on the subject (above) reinforces this.
It’s also no secret that Facebook has access to a lot of data about people and the content shared on its platform. They’re also constantly working to bring the platform to new users, especially in terms of accessibility.
For example, they developed cutting-edge photo recognition software over 10 months to assist blind users. This tool automatically adds contextual alt text to every image upload. It seems fair to extrapolate that Instagram makes use of the software developed by their parent company, and this data can help with general content tagging.
If you prefer certain content types, Instagram knows this on a very deep level.
For example, Instagram knows that I like food videos, so in the Videos You Might Like section they show me awesome vids like this one from @chewyorkcity.
So if you run a restaurant page or a foodie page, you would want to copy the types of content that appear on your own Explore page.
The first step in ending up on the Instagram Explore page is to identify your target audience. By creating an audience persona, you know whose Explore page you want to appear on. With that in mind, you should begin to create content based on what members of the audience persona are interested in interacting with. You can do that by using social listening tactics and available data from Instagram Analytics.
If you’re still not sure about your audience, these questions can help to define them more specifically:
- Who is your target audience?
- What kind of things interest them?
- Who do they follow?
- What do they post?
To effectively social listen, start by checking which posts appear in your own Explore page. Search around. These can help you to establish what kind of posts your community likes, as well as prevailing themes and dominant aesthetics.
If you’re a local business, you can use the Search or Places feature to look for the type of content being posted, as well as nearby users and influencers. You can even search the Explore page now. By establishing who the influencers are for your target market, you can them reach out to them to strike up a deal to get them to feature your product on their account.
Bonus: Instagram recently released topical channels for the explore page. Take a look at which channels pop up on your IG, then cater your content to similar topics.
2. Use Popular Instagram Hashtags and Location Tags to Get Discovered
One way of the simplest ways to amass Instagram likes is to use hashtags, which make content discoverable by more than just your existing followers. Brands with at least one hashtag have up to 12.6% more engagement than those without.
However, you don’t want to rely solely on slightly limited brand hashtags. Incorporate the use of unbranded hashtags to ensure that your posts reach new audiences.
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Spring is just around the corner 🙌🏻 Lighten up your bronde with a face frame this coming season ❤️ by Peter Thomsen using @lorealpro #Bronde #peterthomsen_ #chelseahaircutters #blonde #balayage #behindthechair #blend #maneaddicts #texture #layers #chinbangs #modernsalon #instahair #instacolor #hairstyles #hairstylist #freshhair #lorealpro #lorealprofessionnel #hair #haircut #hairstyling #hairinspo #❤️ @tori_cullen
Though hashtags are powerful in helping users to discover your content, they should be used judiciously to prevent your posts coming across as overly promotional.
Though the maximum number of hashtags allowed in a post hashtags to is 30, general advice has been that the optimum number of hashtags is 11. However, last fall, TrackMaven found that nine hashtags are the optimal number for increasing engagement. Run the numbers with your own tests and analytics to determine the ideal number for your audience.
When you feature a brand, such as for clothing, gear, or a restaurant, you can tag them in the post so that when they like your photo, it will be discoverable to their audience. Even better for you is when they see that they’ve been tagged and decided to repost your photo, which can bring new users to your site.
You can also tag locations in your post to better target your audience, and to make them discoverable to nearby users and those searching the specific location.
3. Interact with Your Instagram Followers
To increase the chances of your content being discovered through the Instagram Explore page, it’s necessary to do everything in your power to increase engagement with your audience.
In addition to giving you further reach on Instagram, it also helps to build loyalty, as users tend to respond positively when they feel that your valuable time and effort was taken to personally engage them.
The most obvious way to boost engagement is by liking and commenting on your followers’ posts or replying to their comments on your posts. Comments tend to be perceived as more real interactions than likes.
So, when possible, you should reach out to users with comments, rather than simply liking their posts. The more specific a comment is about a post, the more likely it is to promote the user to continue to interact with you and your page.
4. Use Captions to Encourage Action
Don’t underestimate the power of your captions to encourage specific actions on your Instagram posts.
A compelling call-to-action (CTA) in your caption is a surefire way to encourage followers to engage with your content. This can be done by asking them questions, adding branded hashtags, and advertising a sale.
Many popular Instagram accounts find success by sharing funny or interesting photos, and engaging people with a “Double tap if you agree” call-to-action at the end of their caption.
Not only do CTAs promote Instagram interactions—they can also help you to convert your followers into paying clients.
See how IG influencer @matthew_pichardo asks a question in the caption of this photo to encourage his followers to leave a comment…
5. Schedule Content for the Most Optimal Times
Though the quality of your content is a huge factor when assessing engagement, several studies have found that what time you post also plays a role in how well your content performs.
If you’re signed up for an Instagram Business Account, you can check out Analytics data for when followers interact with your posts, which is the best way to assess optimal times for your audience. However, this is only helpful if you have a large enough data set to work with.
If you don’t, check out some of these studies for the best times to post on Instagram, as well as the optimal number of posts to upload per day. As always, test your guesses to see how the best practices really apply to your business.
6. Get Big Brands/Influencers to Interact With Your Posts
Sure, you could just tag brands and influencers in your posts, but it may just end up coming across as spammy. Once tagged as a spammer, you’ll have a hard time making truly good connections with these same entities in the future.
A better approach is to start with a long-term goal of building relationships with key influencers in your industry. A less jargon-filled way of saying this is to make friends with people who have influence. A couple of quick hits for getting started:
- Follow them (without the expectation that they’ll follow you back)
- Reach out via DM introducing yourself
- Sending a post via DM or email that you’d like them to check out, with a reason why it would be relevant/worth their time
An example of this in action would be if Jumper Media made an Instagram post about an article we wrote, like Denver’s 25 Most Popular Restaurants on Instagram. We could send this post to the restaurants that were featured in the article, asking them to comment on it or like it. We could also invite influencers to submit their own opinions as to the best restaurants in the area.
Even just tagging a relevant influencer can encourage them to like or comment on your posts…you just have to make sure that your post is extremely relevant to them.
For example in this recent IG post of mine, I tagged winemaker @rajatparr and he ended up commenting on my photo at his winery!
7. Encourage Followers to Turn on Post Notifications
Besides aiming for a high quantity of engagement actions, it’s just as important for these activities to happen in a timely manner.
Another intricacy of the new non-chronological Instagram algorithm is that it matters how quickly a post accumulates likes and comments.
Instagram posts of quickly attracting a large number of likes and comments have a significantly higher chance of making it on Instagram’s Explore page. One tactic for encouraging fans to act in kind is to ask them to turn on post notifications. Almost immediately after the new algorithm came into play, many influencers and brands created a post dedicated to telling fans how to stay in-the-know for every post.
Even though the algorithm changed happened a while ago, it’s not too late to ask fans to turn on post notifications.
Gary V. shares an interesting tactic worth adapting for your own purposes. After encouraging people to turn on post notifications, he let fans know that there would be a giveaway exclusively for people that comment within the first 60 seconds and called this the #60secondclub.
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You're gonna want to turn it on and join the #60secclub ( which means u have to post a comment on my latest insta post within and minute and use hashtag #60secclub ) because tonight it early toMorrow I will be giving. Away a trip to NYC to meet me for 30 min face to face … who's ready??? #entrepreneurlife
8. Encourage Followers to Engage With Your Posts in Atypical Ways
Likes and comments are the most common forms of engagement, but there are still other types of Instagram engagement that can help a post make it’s way to the Explore Page:
- Saving posts
- Sharing posts via direct message
In order to encourage these types of engagement, consider holding a contest that incorporates these activities in order to be entered. For the best chance of making it on the Explore page, encourage contest participants to use multiple forms of engagement for entry, for example, liking, commenting, and saving the post.
To get people to share your post via direct message, it’s important to create content that naturally encourages sharing. For example, you might create a quote image post saying something like, “I love when the coffee kicks in and you realize what an adorable badass you are going to be today.” Then, in the post’s caption, encourage people to direct message it to an Insta-pal who loves coffee.
How to Know if You’re on the Explore Page
In the words of Pusha T, “if you know, you know.”
That might seem like a cop-out answer, but let me explain…
Take a look at your Instagram feed. Browse through your last 30ish posts. What’s the range of likes that you usually get? What’s the minimum? What’s the max?
You don’t have to bust out excel for this, but what would you say your average is?
Say you average 400 likes per photo. If you’re like most people, the likes on each individual photo vary quite a bit. Your really good photos might get double the amount of likes. Your weak photos might only get 120 or 150 likes. Your best photo of the past 6 months? It might have gotten 1000.
So that’s the typical range of posts that don’t hit explore. If your post gets more than 3x your average, then you might have made explore or at least trended on a hashtag or two for a few hours.
Any more than that and you know what? Congrats. You hit the explore page.
Pro-tip #1 – another way you can tell is by looking at commenters. If you start getting lots of comments from people who don’t follow you, guess what?
The Easiest Way Get on Instagram’s Explore Page Right Now
The above eight ways to get trending on Explore, all work, and we definitely recommend doing all of them.
But sometimes if you look closely at what’s going on with the Instagram app, you can figure out something that no one else notices.
What we’ve noticed lately is that Instagram is showing Location Stories at the top of the explore page. So one really easy way to get on the IG Explore page is to get featured on the Location Story of a large city in your area, like San Diego. You don’t even have to tag the city itself, you can also just tag a location within the city.
For example, these girls just tagged their sorority house at San Diego State, and next thing you know they were featured on the San Diego Instagram Story:
Fortunately, this is pretty easy to do. All you have to do is tag a location in your Story, and make sure that your photo/video is extremely engaging. If you don’t have lots of followers, then try using the other engagement hacks above (like encouraging people to comment on your story). This is probably the absolute easiest way to get on IG’s Explore page right now.
Getting on the Instagram Explore Page is Pretty Hard — But I Believe in You, Kid!
There are over 1 Billion Instagram users now. Let that sink in. 1 Billion Users. That’s a lot of eyeballs, a huge audience. Whatever it is your trying to promote, the Explore page can probably help you.
The Instagram Explore page isn’t rocket science: it’s a mix of good content and timing.
However, by having a clear vision of your target market, selecting appropriate hashtags, engaging followers, and optimizing your content by releasing it at the right time, it’s possible to bolster your base and your bottom line—without having to pay for Instagram Ads.