And why you want to be there!

Way back in Instagram History, there was a “Popular” page, where the most popular posts on Instagram could be viewed and it was usually a mess of celebrities, cats, and memes, all posted by the same few enormous accounts. Years have past and the Instagram algorithm, an ever-evolving machine learning that analyzes each user’s Instagram behavior, has ushered in a new era of discovering new content and new users. Enter the Explore page.

Instagram’s algorithm knows exactly what you (will) like.

Instagram is paying attention to each of your engagements and it’s algorithm is constantly learning how to better deliver you content that is relevant to your interests. In case you’re curious what all they’re tracking, here’s a short list of what we know, as Instagram surely keeps plenty of their aces hidden:

  • Likes and comments on any piece media inside the platform.
  • How quickly you’re liking and commenting.
  • How unique your comments are.
  • How frequently you engage with certain accounts and certain subject-matter posts over others.
  • Clicks on ads.
  • Follows and unfollows, and how quickly this happens.
  • Post frequency and consistency.
  • Use of posting applications that are either push-notification oriented or publish automatically (which will get you shadow-banned, so be sure you’re not violating Instagram’s terms of service!)
  • How often you open the app and how long you stay in the app each time.
  • How long you spend looking at a photo or video.
  • Whose Instagram Stories you are watching and what subject matter you favor within Stories the most.
  • How frequently and consistently you use Instagram stories.
  • How frequently and consistently you interact with the comments on your post.

And so much more.

By tracking all of this information, Instagram gets to know what kind of user you are, what you like, and what you’d like to see more of. If you head over to your Explore page after you’ve liked a fair amount of similar-subject photos or followed a handful of similar accounts, you’ll see the page morph to include more of that subject-matter.

How does Instagram choose whose posts are featured on the Explore page?

I’d assert that the majority of posts on anyone’s Explore page are deemed “quality,” either by their subject matter (great photo, artwork, or video), or by the sheer engagement the post received (thousands of likes and follows). Sometimes, especially in niche markets, users with only a few thousand followers who are on a streak of consistently quality posting with high engagement will have posts hit the Explore page and see a surge.

What do these Explore page-featured accounts have in common?

Positive, consistent engagement, either in super high quantities or with large following accounts. When an account with thousands of followers engages with a smaller account, that recipient of that engagement will likely receive a boost from the Instagram algorithm. Why would the algorithm prioritize an account that has fans with a big following?

First and foremost, Instagram is built on trust.

When a user reaches a large following, deemably over 10k, with consistent engagement and growth within their community, the algorithm trusts that account more than those that are smaller. Trust is relative, as we’re talking about a machine, but that trust is a prioritization of that person’s content because it will most likely be genuine and quality.

There are exceptions, like the celebrity rag photos that receive thousands of likes because they’re perpetuating drama, but for the most part, the content creators who are consistently posting good work are being rewarded with more visibility and therefore, more opportunity for engagement and growth.

How to boost the algorithm’s trust in your content:

If you’re Instagram needs a little refresh or you’d like to kick your growth into high-gear, implement these five tips to see a surge in your engagement:

1. This should go without saying, but publish quality content. Quality content is clear, on-brand or within your established style, has a related caption, and is relevant to your followers. Remember, your following is your target market and your posts are the product they are consuming. Feed them well and they will return again and again.

2. Post when your followers are paying attention. My favorite app for determining when my followers are most active is Prime, available for iPhone and Android. The app analyzes when your followers are most active and engaged with your posts, so you can use this information to inform when you publish your content.

3.  Create content ahead of time and publishing with a scheduling app to remain consistent. UNUM is available for iPhone and Android and it’s my favorite (free!) app to pre-schedule and design my Instagram feed. I call it design because I can upload posts, add captions and hashtags, then arrange my pre-made posts into a grid pattern that looks the best. Then, I schedule each posts accordingly and publish them when I receive the push notification.

4. Use Instagram to its fullest:

  • Post frequently.
  • Engage with Instagram Stories and publish your own.
  • Comment back.
  • Use @mentions, #hashtags, geotags, and Insights.
  • Engage with posts in the hashtags you’re adding to your own posts.
  • Engage with the Explore page and follow new accounts you genuinely enjoy.

5.  Tag niche and subject-relevant accounts with large followings in your photos. Tread carefully when tagging large accounts in your photos, but do so when you’re in any way engaging with or paying homage to their brand. If a large account sees your tag and engages with your post (to show their appreciation for being in their community and because they like your work), you’ll not only receive a bump in trust from the algorithm, but you’ll appear in that account’s Activity Page. Followers of that account may be surfing their Activity page to see what new, great profiles they can discover.

Amelia Bartlett is a new knitter, long-time crocheter, and enthusiastic writer, entrepreneur, and photographer. You can follow her through her website, Instagram, and on Steemit, where she shares a variety of content on everything from woman-run business practices to hand-blended teas!

March 08, 2019 — Rob Colon

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