How to Get Your Brand on Instagram’s Explore Page

By Dara Fontein

In 1989, a fitness instructor wore a beer company’s t-shirt to a local football game and scored some time on the company’s sponsored jumbotron. After the game, the beer company received so many inquiries about the jumbotron star that they hired her as a spokesmodel. Pamela Anderson had been discovered.

Getting discovered can either be the result of being in the right place at the right time à la Pamela Anderson, or putting in the work until you’re a household name. Rising from obscurity to notoriety is the ultimate goal for many businesses, but it’s something that usually takes a lot more than just plain luck. Instagram’s Search and Explore page is a true testament to this.

Landing your branded content on the Instagram Explore tab is a goal for many, but figuring out how to do this can be a struggle. To help you out, we put together the following guide—no jumbotrons involved.

What is the Explore tab?

If you find yourself baffled by what the Explore tab is, or how content is chosen for the page, you’re definitely not alone. Up until 2012 this area of Instagram was called the “Popular” page and featured the most liked content on the network.

While the page kept this function for some time after revamping it as “Explore,” in 2014, it evolved to become tailored for each user. As an Instagram spokesperson told Mashable at the time of this change “We’ll show you a variety of content that people you follow have liked, as well as content that is trending in the Instagram community.”

To access the goldmine of content that is the Explore tab, open up Instagram and click on the magnifying glass icon in between the home and camera icons. Explore is connected to Instagram’s search function, and, as Instagram explains, it is here where “you can find photos and videos that you might like from accounts you don’t yet follow. You may also see curated topics we think the Instagram community will enjoy.”

Images and videos appear in Explore automatically based on things such as who a user is following or the posts they like. As of June 2016, Instagram started rolling out the “Picked for You” channels within Explore, which features images and videos grouped by users’ interests. Video channels are also shown here, “which can include posts from a mixture of hand-picked and automatically sourced accounts based on topics” Instagram thinks the user will enjoy.

Now that you have a better understanding of what Instagram’s Explore is all about, you probably want to know how to get your business’ content to appear there. The next section will guide you through this process and give you some actionable tips you can put to work straight away.

How to get your content on the Instagram Explore page

Know your audience

You wouldn’t try and sell a briefcase to a baby (unless it’s this CEO baby), and tailoring your message to your Instagram audience is just as important. To get started with your Explore page audience strategy, think about the following questions:

  • What kinds of people do you want to see your content?
  • What kinds of things interest them?
  • What are their own Instagram accounts like?
  • Who do they follow?

Think about whose Instagram Explore page you’d most like to appear on. What kinds of things would this person like? A great idea is to create a persona for this individual and use this as a guide to help you tailor your content. If you need help with this, our post How to create audience personas comes in handy.

Once you have an idea of who your desired audience is, you can find and get to know this target audience through some carefully crafted social media listening.

Listen closely

Social media listening can make the difference between your content being ignored or shared. You need to pay attention to your audience and the content they are engaging with in order to tailor your strategy to them. In looking at what your audience is liking and interacting with, you can recognize themes in the content that interests them.

If you want to simplify the process, you can use a tool like Geopiq for Instagram which helps you “monitor posts on Instagram by location, hashtag, or username, or combine your search terms for powerful targeting.” For example, you can see what kinds of posts are popular in your geographic location, and then create similar content (with your brand’s own twist, of course), or engage with this content to attract the attention of your target audience as well as the Instagram account it was posted from.

As you are most likely following accounts relevant to your industry and business—as well as your customers—taking a look at your own Explore page will give you insight into what your community is interested in. Some general tips for using this information to get yourself on your audience’s Explore pages, include:

  • “Listen” to the general feel of your own Explore page. What are some themes that emerge here? What is the dominant aesthetic? What are those in your community liking? These are all things to keep in mind.
  • Use the Search feature to see what kind of content is popular in your geographic location. Click on ‘Places’ and then the most accurate geographic tag and note the content genres here.
  • Check out your ‘Following’ feed (found by clicking on the heart icon at the bottom of the Instagram app and then selecting ‘Following’ at the top) and see what content the users you are following are liking, and the kinds of accounts they are liking content from.

Use Hashtags

While hashtags seem to be the cilantro of social media—people either love them or hate them—they are essential for marketers. Hashtags are the number one way you make your content discoverable and keep your Instagram images from getting lost in the flood of content. They allow the content you worked so tirelessly on to be found by those searching. Hashtags essentially help your target audience come to you, making your job way easier.

Through having your target audience liking and engaging with your Instagram content, you raise your chances of appearing in the Explore pages of other relevant users. However, it’s important that you know the right and wrong way of using hashtags on Instagram and ensure your best chance of success. Our post The do’s and don’ts of how to use hashtags advises that brands:

  • Do be specific when using hashtags
  • Do cater hashtags to the social network you’re using. For Instagram, focus on a “description of the photo and the tools used to take it than on a broader story or theme.”
  • Do come up with relevant, unbranded hashtags
  • Don’t go too long or too clever
  • Don’t have more hashtags than words
  • Don’t hashtag everything

Hashtags are like a magic wand—they hold great power but have the potential to be used for good or evil. Keep the above guidelines in mind when crafting your hashtag strategy and you should find yourself in some valuable Explore tabs in no time.

Getting discovered on Instagram is a goal of many brands and businesses, and in following hashtag best practices, participating in social media listening, and knowing your audience, you have the key ingredients for Explore page success.

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