If you’re conducting any kind of marketing initiatives on Instagram, no matter what your final objectives are, you need followers! Yes, yes, it’s no surprise that followers are the Holy Grail of this visual platform. Without them, no Story matters and no hashtag is useful. Thus, no matter in what filters they dream of, Instagramers always turn back to this cornerstone question: how do I get more followers?

And Instagram is fast in coming up with answers. Or at least with new tools. Or at least new updates to older tools. And that’s exactly the case with the Instagram Explore Page. Initially introduced in 2012, the Instagram Explore Page has been a playground for change. Is Instagram trying to confuse us with changes so that we don’t catch on how the Explore’s algorithm works? Let’s not be paranoid. Instead, let’s be proactive and dig into the ins and outs of the Instagram Explore Page and see how we can get features on it and…yes, you guessed!…gain more followers and exposure and fame and conquer Instagram!

Okay, enough with the joking around, let’s get back to the hack.

Understand how Instagram selects content for the Explore Page

While Instagram revealed no specific details regarding the Explore’s algorithm, what we do know is that all the content shown here is tailor-made to the behavior of each Instagramer. That means that my Explore Page will look totally different from yours. And it’s only natural. We interact with different users, we follow different pages, we like different types of content and, in general, we do everything differently. Thus, the Explore Page is a reflection of who we are, so to speak. That’s exactly why Wired called it “the most honest place on the internet”.

But wait just a second. It’s not that straightforward. To make it to the Explore Page, a post also needs to score big in the popularity polls. And it’s not just about the number of likes a photo or video gets. Actually, nobody knows for sure what other indicators are taken into account, since Instagram constantly tweaks and updates the formula. A skeptic, no doubt, would have no trouble explaining that Instagram is trying to dazzle and confuse us. However, we like to look at this as a creativity incentive and focus on what we know instead of what we don’t. What does that mean? Read on!

Analyze the content you get on your Explore Page

There’s no better way to gain a practical insight into how the Explore Page works than to have a closer look at what content is being shown on your own. Take this as a fun home project and a chance to do some reverse engineering.

Step 1: Open your Explore page and select the first ten posts.

Step 2: Separate them into interests’ categories. While you’re at it, look at how many likes they have and how many interactions.

Step 3: Note down the hashtags they used and try to grasp the tone of voice in the captions.

Done? Great! Now think about your last interactions on Instagram and put that in the bigger scheme of the people you follow and engage with. Can you find any connections between the content displayed on the Explore Page and your user behavior on Instagram? We bet you can.

Equipped with these new found insights, it’s time to turn your attention outside your Instagram. Which brings us to…

Get to know your target audience like the back of your hand

This piece of advice, again?! Oh, yes! And we’ll keep on giving it until our fingers grow tired of typing. This is the most vital action you need to take in order to build a successful marketing strategy.

But here’s the thing: we’re not talking only about knowing your target’s demographics or general interests. No, no, no. That’s for rookies! And you know what rookies get? Well, they don’t get on the Explore Page, that’s for sure! When we say “know thy audience”, we’re talking about knowing what type of content the people in your target audience like, post and comment upon; what hashtags they use; who they follow; how they speak; between what hours they’re active; and every other insight you can extract from what you observe on their profiles and within your Instagram Insights.

While knowing your audience is essential for all your marketing efforts, it is even more so when it comes to the Instagram Explore Page. Remember, this is the page that’s created after the resemblance of each user. It’s tailor-made and custom served. So, once you have a well-rounded image of your average follower you’ll be one step closer to creating content that will take you on the Explore Page and beyond, to new followers.

Schedule your Instagram posts for the right time

The Instagram Explore Page is picky. It doesn’t only require loads of engagement on a post to consider it worthy of appearing among its other selections, but it also takes into account when the engagement happens! Photos or videos that get more interactions right after they have been posted have better chances of making it to the Explore Page.

So you might be wondering: “Which are the right times for me to post?”. The answers are rooted in the knowledge you have about your followers and in your Instagram Insights. The behavior of your followers will give you a head-start for experimenting with different times. Test until you nail the sweet spots!

These times might be quite different, depending on your niche and target. Some might even be quite inconvenient if your target is located, let’s say, in another time zone. But that’s not a problem since you can easily schedule posts in advance with Preppr. So, note down the hours and start scheduling for more chances to make it to the Explore Page!

Oh, and posting at the right times will not only get you on the Explore Page, but they will ensure even more engagement once you’re there! Exponential powers, my dears!

Create action-oriented posts and captions

So you have a clear idea of who your followers are and you’ve figured out the times when you should post. Now, it’s time to actually post! And, to increase your chances for engagement, a call-to-action is mandatory. Remember, what you need in order to be featured on the Explore Page is loads of engagement!

CTAs are a great way to interact with your followers head-on by asking questions, posing challenges, opening debates, encourage activities through a contest and…well, the sky’s the limit.  The rule of thumb here is to always keep things interesting and relevant, following the rules of Instagram. Whatever you do, don’t beg for likes and comments. Always, always aim for meaningful and useful content! And if you’re out of inspiration, you can always find out how to write scroll-stopping Instagram copy with us. 

Get your hashtag and location game on!

To reach more potential followers and increase your chances of post engagement in order to make it to the Explore Page and reach even more potential followers (it’s a funny circle, right?) hashtags and location tags are our digital weapons of choice.

This way, your content will become discoverable by more than just your existing followers. Create a mix of branded hashtags with unbranded ones for the best results and make sure you don’t overdo it! Actually, to make sure you’re using hashtags as their maximum potential, we encourage you to read our special piece about the latest hashtag tactics that work best in 2018.

Adding a tag location to your post will ensure a more precise targeting and again, increase the chances for engagement.

Have well-known influencers interact with your posts

Not all interactions are created equally! Some matter more than others and having a big brand or influencer interact with your post will get you more attention than having a regular user do so. Don’t get us wrong, both are important. But having key-influencers create engagement on your profile will get you a long way. And will even land you a spot on the Explore Page.

To get influencers to interact with you, there are no cutting corners. Like every other relationship, this too is created gradually (all spam forms are discouraged!). Follow their profiles, like their posts and comment on them (relevant comments only!), engage in meaningful DM with them and play nice (while keeping your edge!).

See you on the Explore Page!

Ready to put in practice all this theory? Let’s do it! And let’s see each other on the Explore Page! For a little more help, don’t forget to check out Preppr!

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Feature Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

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