Today, we’re going to talk about something a little different. This piece isn’t strictly event management focused – though the advice we’re offering is still inarguably valuable for the profession. We’re going to talk about Instagram.
As you’re no doubt aware, modern marketing is a chiefly visual business. Great copy is still important, of course, but great images are now more vital to a brand’s success than ever before. That’s why it’s not terribly surprising that Instagram has gained such a great deal of popularity in recent years – and that use of the platform by businesses has skyrocketed.
It sort of goes without saying that an understanding of Instagram thus goes a long way towards helping you better market your brand, regardless of industry.
Let’s assume you already have a basic understanding of the platform. You know how to use hashtags, you have a general concept of how the feed works, and you’re aware of the followers system. There’s just one function of the platform that still escapes you – the Popular Page, also known as “Search & Explore.”
Basically, this is the front page of Instagram. It’s where all the best content on the site goes; where all the most popular photos and videos end up. It sort of goes without saying that you want the stuff you create to be here. After all, Instagram now has over 300 million users – it’s huge.
So how does Search & Explore actually work? How can you ensure your brand’s content winds up being shared with Instagram’s wider audience, as opposed to your small circle of followers? Just what is it that makes Instagram decide something is ‘popular’?
“Formerly, you could hit the popular page with a certain type of image that got the right levels of engagement over the course of a certain timeframe,” writes Instagram expert Aaron Blevins.
“But Instagram’s seemingly figured out the reposting trick,” he continues. “And the popular page doesn’t act like it used to. It’s now more of an “explore” page that shows you photos it thinks you’d want to see from the pools of people you engage with the most and the photos they post or engage with.”
That sort of makes it sound like popularity on Instagram is now impossible, doesn’t it? It makes it seem like having your posts pop up in Search & Explore is little more than luck. Don’t worry – it’s not hopeless.
Far from it.
According to Blevin, one little trick you can use when reposting popular stuff is to modify your images a bit. Pinch in the photos to zoom around twenty to thirty percent, and apply a new filter or do something else to tweak the photos look. His belief is that in order to have something be flagged as popular (and not just a repost) an image you repost needs to be “at least 51% unique,” making Instagram recognize it as a new photo.
Of course, tricks and shortcuts aside, the best way to get your images onto Instagram’s Search & Explore is to just take awesome photos. Figure out what it is your target market enjoys – what sort of images do they typically love seeing? Focus on providing them with those types of photos.
Beyond that, you could always focus on one of Instagram’s most popular genres – food, celebrities, visually appealing portraits, travel shots, fashion, inspiring shots, or pet photos. Just make sure that the pictures you’re taking mesh with your brand to some extent. It’s no good getting popular with a bunch of puppy photos if you’re planning a tech event, after all.
I’d also advise you to pay attention to trending locations; a recently-launched feature of the platform. If you have the opportunity, try to tap into whatever happens to be trending at the time. It could very well pay off for you.
“Instagram is trying to make the Explore page live up to its name, by adding trending locations and hashtags,” explains Popular Science’s Dave Gershgorn. “The search feature has been expanded, so when you search “Grand Canyon,” you’re shown mix of popular tags and locations. Instagram will also curate “interesting accounts and places” and display them on the top of the Explore page. On Day 1 of the new update, they’ve featured “Towering Rocks” (photos from America’s various canyons) and “Extreme Athletes” (accounts of surfers and BMX bikers).”
Last but certainly not least, have a look at some of the most popular Instagram pages – such as Kim Kardashian West’s; and a recent photo posted by her sister. According to Business Insider, there’s a set of scientific reasons that photo became more popular than anything Kardashian West ever posted. You’d do well to understand them:
- Images that prominently feature someone’s face tend to draw people in; according a Georgia Tech Study, selfies get 38% more likes.
- Posting too much is just as bad as posting too little. The same study determined that posting too frequently “decreases likes two times faster than comments.”
- Captions consisting of emojis rather than words seem to do better, especially if they’re some of Instagram’s most frequently-used.
- Filters might have an adverse effect on popularity.
So, there you have it. Maybe this guide isn’t 100% guaranteed to get you on the popular page, but following the practices laid out here certainly can’t hurt, right?