Serious about building your brand on Instagram? Then you need to know (and capitalize) on one of the latest features on Instagram, the Explore page. Having your account featured on it hugely increases your reach, following, and engagement. It’s the stuff of your wildest Instagram dreams.
The Instagram Explore page is all about discovery. It helps users to find content that is exciting, engaging, and relevant to their interests. It works on an algorithmic basis by looking at users’ interests, the content they’ve previously engaged with, and several other methods (see below). It then presents a scrollable content feed that they would usually not see without following.
There is no fixed Explore page. Every single version is unique and curated for each user. This is personalization at its best.
To access the Explore page hit the magnifying glass at the bottom of the app. From there, you’ll be presented with a search bar. You can enter keywords to find posts, accounts, and hashtags using this search bar. The crowning element is the ability to filter down into niches based on your original search. Let’s say you search for “cooking,” you’ll be presented with options such as “bbq cooking,” “outdoor cooking,” “cooking techniques,” and more to choose from.
There’s also the topic explorer, including a variety of channels such as IGTV, Shop, Food, Art, Travel, and many, many more. The topic explorer and the search bar don’t just include posts; they also have stories. That means that users can scroll through stories of accounts that they don’t follow yet.
This is a brilliant feature for users and helps curate content of specific interest to them. It’s even better for brand and business owners who want to try and get their content in front of users. Firstly, users may stumble upon you using the feature. Secondly, by using it yourself, you can easily find top-quality content that your audience is already engaging with and use as inspiration for your own.
Yes, there are benefits for the user, but for this section, we will focus on the benefits of the Instagram Explore page for businesses and brands.
If you’re able to get featured on it, three things will likely happen in succession. And they’re all great.
First, you’ll get more followers, then more engagement, leading to more sales. It’s all good news, frankly.
Algorithms are fickle beasts, or rather the companies that own them are. What works one week won’t work another. Algorithms are changing all of the time. The best we can do is try and look into patterns of posts that regularly feature on the Explore page and judge what the criteria are from there.
There are rumors that elements such as how recently the post was posted and user vs. account location are part of the algorithm but without definitive proof. They certainly could be, and it’d match how the Facebook algorithm works, but it’s not concrete. There are, however, some features of posts that we know influence the algorithm:
This is arguably the strongest indicator of whether a post will get selected for the feed. There’s little that the business can do. It’s not a matter of getting likes and follows on your account. It’s more to do with the posts a user has liked and the accounts they follow already. If they’ve liked the content and followed accounts similar to yours, there’s a strong likelihood that your content will be selected.
Video content is king, and the Explore page is no different. Include video in your post or story, and it’s more likely to rank. Instagram hasn’t forgotten its roots, though, and a mediocre video won’t automatically outrank a high-quality static image. If you’re looking for engagement, video is the way forward, mainly because videos autoplay when scrolling the Explore page.
If you’re adding overlays to stories, be careful not to include too much text, this is seen as a negative impact and could reduce your chances of featuring. That said, using graphics, stickers, and other elements can increase the chances of featuring.
It’s time to get technical. Every audience is different and has a different peak time to the next. Some topics will see maximum engagement first thing in the morning, others during the day, and many later in the evening. Thankfully this isn’t a shot in the dark or a guessing game. Leverage the insights tool to see when your audience is online. Then make use of a post scheduler to post content right when they’re on the app.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone running a social media account, but you have to know your audience. Get into their heads, understand what they like and create content that matches. Keep asking yourself questions and return to the answers regularly. What content does your audience engage with more? Photos or videos? Are they into humorous content? Should you be creating carousels? Stories? Keep on top of this to keep your content relevant.
Create your brand, stick to it, and ensure it’s the same across the different media of Instagram content. Using a specific color or font? Make sure that’s the same for stories for static and video posts. You’ve spent time creating the perfect aesthetic, don’t do yourself a disservice by dropping it. If you’ve got a specific style for your typical posts, mirror this in your stories. It can be jarring or confusing for followers if you’re a different brand or person in both.
These two simple additions to your post can get you some of the greatest reach and open up your account to thousands of potential followers who haven’t found your account yet. There’s definitely a balance between using hashtags because you genuinely want to reach your audience and looking like you’re spamming them desperately, trying to reach anyone with their phone in their hand. Be relaxed about their use but analytical in selection. Test which ones get you the best engagement and make a note to use them again in the future.
There are some seriously big-time influencers on Instagram now. Those with millions and millions of followers are far more likely to be featured on the Explore page. Working with them allows you to harness their reach. Be aware that most of them will expect something in return (products or payment), but it can be a rocket booster to your account.
As we’ve said above, video content outperforms all other media and will continue to do so for some time. IGTV is another way of leveraging that option. When it comes to the Explore page, it’s particularly effective because it has its own topic bar at the top and is always pinned for the user.
The same is said for shopping posts. Believe it or not, some people head to Instagram for their shopping needs. The topic is right there for them on the Explore page, and it’s another entry point for your posts to it.
An interesting nuance of the algorithm is that when you tag a brand account in a post (let’s say you’re tagging Nike in a picture of your shoes), it implies a partnership or relationship between the two accounts. This means that your post can turn up on the Explore page of people searching for the brand. It gives a massive potential reach and could hugely increase your follower count.
Don’t sleep on the opportunities that the Instagram Explore page can offer you. Who would turn down the chance for more followers, engagement, and sales? It’s there and waiting. Make sure that it’s part of your Instagram strategy going forward.
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