How to Get Featured on Instagram's Explore Page

Grow your Instagram audience quickly

If you use Instagram, you're most likely familiar with the Explore page, sometimes called the Search and Explore tab. Having a photo or video featured on the Explore page can set off a viral effect with the potential to attract hundreds or even thousands of likes, comments, and followers in a very short period of time.

Here are some tips and tricks to getting your photo or video featured on Instagram's Explore page.

Instagram's Explore page is a descendant of its Popular page, which was introduced in the app's early days. Unlike today's Explore page, the Popular page didn't serve content tailored to a user's interests.

Explore Page Content

A man photographing Brooklyn Bridge using smartphone
Alexander Spatari / Getty Images

According to Instagram, photos and videos shown on the Explore page are tailored to individual users. You'll see posts by accounts you've interacted with in the past and posts similar to accounts you follow, along with general popular content on Instagram. What you see on the Explore Page can be very different from what someone else sees, as it will be a mix of personalization and overall popularity.

Instagram is constantly tweaking its algorithm for the content served up on the Explore page. It's not just about how many likes a photo or video gets, and a strategy that worked a few months ago may not work today.

Since Instagram's Explore page algorithm changes all the time, and users have no access to this information, building an Instagram presence is the only thing you can control. Doing this takes time, effort, and consistency.

Increase Your Chances of Appearing on the Explore Page

Posting quality photos worth sharing is obviously a factor in appearing on the Explore page. There are a few other things in your control:

Make Sure Your Profile Is Set to Public

If your Instagram profile is private, nothing you post will show up on the Explore page; your posts are protected from being seen by anyone who doesn't already follow you. To make your profile public, go to your profile, tap the menu icon in the top right corner, tap Settings>Privacy>Account Privacy, and then toggle off the Privacy button.

Make Sure Your Account Is Old Enough

Although this may not be a huge factor in determining photo popularity, chances are if your account is just a few weeks old, it won't be as eligible for an Explore page appearance even if it has tons of likes and followers. This sort of popularity doesn't happen naturally in such a short amount of time, and Instagram knows it.

Continuously Build Your Following of Active Users

While gaining followers is important, engagement is key. You want those followers to like and comment on your posts. Many users have tens of thousands of followers, but if only a few hundred people like and comment on posts, the account isn't seen as truly valuable. This is why buying followers is futile.

Encourage Followers to Interact With You

To encourage follower engagement, ask your followers to "double-tap" to like your photo, or ask them a question in the caption and instruct them to answer in the comments section. Another good technique is to tell followers to "tag a friend" in the comments to let them know about something. Getting more likes and comments by a wider network of Instagram users may improve your chances of being displayed on the Explore page.

Don't Overdo the Hashtags

Hashtags are a simple way to get quick exposure on Instagram, but using them can actually hinder your chances of making it to the Explore page. Use them sparingly and thoughtfully. They're great for some initial engagement, but the likes you get from including hashtags tend to be slightly robotic and not always genuine. Too many likes from users searching those hashtags may actually be a detriment.

Posting Time and Day of the Week Matters

You're not going to receive as much engagement when you're posting a photo at 3 a.m. To maximize the chances of your photo being seen, try posting at times of the day when you think people might be on their phones, such as lunchtime, after school or work, and early in the evenings.

Recent data says the best general time to post on Instagram is between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. EST., but since Instagram audiences vary, it's important to think about when your followers are active.

Post Selfies, Use Filters and Take Advantage of Photo/Video Trends

As mentioned previously, the most important thing you can do is regularly post photos that people will genuinely love to see. If you feel kind of lost, take a few days to study what comes up on the Explore page to get an idea. You'll often see lots of selfies, nature photos, and even Instagram videos posted there.

Master the Art of Timing

Finally, to get on the Explore page, figure out how to get lots of likes on your photo, from a combination of your followers and others, in a very short amount of time. Instagram looks only at what's recently trending, so the faster you gain likes and comments on a photo, the higher chance you have of making it to the Explore page

Consider the ratio between the number of people you're following and your followers. It may not officially be a factor, but it probably wouldn't look great to Instagram if you're following 100,000 people while you only have about 4,000 followers.