What Instagram Explore is, why you need it, and how you can feature on it

We all know Instagram is a highly popular social network, in fact it’s clocked up an outstanding 800 million monthly users and an impressive loyal fan base of 500 million people who log into their accounts every day. What’s more, it’s the second most engaged network after Facebook, and Instagram users are sharing a whopping 80 million photos per day.

Engagement and reach statistics like these are a marketer’s dream, but how can you even start to ensure your business’ posts are what stands out on the busy and competitive platform?

What exactly is Instagram Explore?    

The Explore page is one of Instagram’s main tools and is a powerful feature that can help businesses gain a big amount of exposure with very little resources.

This area of the social platform is located just under the search bar and allows Instagram users to discover new posts and accounts they may like based on their previous Instagram activities. This means it will look different for every user, as it’s based on what posts you’ve liked, and the photos which have been liked by people whose content you’ve liked. Yes, this does sound a bit of a mouthful, but essentially Explore is like a mini network of users and accounts who are posting photos and content relevant to you.

The fact that when your followers like your post it will show in the Explore page of their followers is one of the greatest aspects of this feature. It’s a valuable way to boost your business’ success on the social platform, thanks to the increased exposure and greater opportunities to reach new customers.

Why you need to feature on Instagram Explore

We’ve touched upon some of the benefits already, but appearing on the Instagram Explore page can offer a host of benefits to small businesses, including:

  • Help to get more likes on posts
  • Builds brand awareness by showing your business to a whole new audience
  • Help acquire new customers
  • Because the algorithm is based on individual interest, you’ll be shown to a targeted audience, giving you more exposure to your target audience. 
  • It doesn’t cost any money

How to feature on Instagram Explore

The posts featured on the Explore page are automatically chosen based on data of who users are following and the type of content they’re engaging with. Although the algorithms will determine who sees what and when, there are a number of things you can do to help influence this. We’re going to run through some of these below.

Engage with accounts that have large followings

An effective way to feature on the Explore page is to get a relevant account that has a large following to like or comment on one of your posts.

For example, if you upload a photo that Visit Wales likes, that photo will then make an appearance on the Explore page of people who have liked or commented on Visit Wales’ posts. And, with over 75,000 followers this could potentially have a big impact on the number of users seeing and liking your content.

This ‘network effect’ is what makes content go viral, because the more comments and likes you get, the more the content will appear on the Explore page of their followers.

But how can you attract the attention of these big brands? A good method is to tag the company or people you’re talking about in a relevant post. Perhaps they’ve sent you a goodie bag or a gift, and you can take to Instagram to thank them. Even getting one like from an account with a substantial following can help you get increased exposure for your small business.

Think about your target market when creating content

We know that featuring on the Explore page rests on getting people to like your posts. One of the best ways to do this is to create great, engaging content that’s going to capture the attention of your target audience.

To help with this, spend some time ‘social listening’, so take a look at your customers and competitors on Instagram and see what their activities are, including what accounts they’re following, what photos they’re engaging with and whether they lean more towards liking or commenting on posts. When it comes to the competitors, see which of their posts are sparking the most engagement. Take what they’re doing well and use that to influence your Instagram strategy and equally take note of which of their posts aren’t working quite as well.

It is also very important to understand what your potential customers are interested in and engaging with. Why not follow them on Instagram, by clicking on the follow tab. You’ll be presented with all the images that the people you’re following have liked, giving you a great insight into the type of content they are engaging with.

Think about timing

Posts which receive a burst of likes quickly after they’ve been posted are more likely to perform better in the Instagram feed and Explore page. One of the best ways to make sure this happens is to think about when you’re posting your content and whether your target audience will be active at that time.

If you haven’t already, make sure your account is an Instagram business profile and head over to the analytics section where you can actually see the best times to post your content based on when your followers are active. Schedule your posts based on this to give them the best chance of getting some great engagement straight way.

Include a call-to-action

Don’t forget to prompt your followers to engage with your posts by using a call-to-action. After all, one of the best ways to appear in the Explore page is through other people’s comments, so try and end your captions with a question to encourage engagement.

You can also comment on other people’s relevant posts to build an Instagram community which will reward you with more than just likes. It will also help to increase your exposure even further as their followers see your comment and might decide to take a look at your account.

Make sure you’re still using hashtags

Hashtags are one of Instagram’s most famous features after all, so using them will ensure your posts get seen by anyone searching for that term or keyword. They can also help in your endeavour to feature on the Explore page of those people who are using and engaging with the same hashtags you’re using.

Remember to always keep your hashtags relevant to your content so that you’re targeting the right audience. Just because a hashtag is trending, you shouldn’t necessarily jump on it, especially if it’s not relevant to your business. It’s also best to avoid hashtags which are very vague. For example, #love may have 1.2 billion posts but it’s so vague that you’re unlikely to attract a valuable following from using it.

There are a number of tools, such as Hashtagify.me and apps, such as Focalmark, that can help you see which hashtags you should be using.

In summary, the more engagement you have on your Instagram posts, the more likely it is you’ll appear on the Explore page. So use this checklist every time you create a new Instagram post to increase your chances:

  1. Have you done your research, and is this post going to offer real value to your audience?
  2. Have you tagged other users in your post and is it appropriate?
  3. Is your content tailored to your target audience?
  4. Is this the best time to post?
  5. Have you included a call-to-action?
  6. Are you using the best hashtags and are they relevant?