Did You Even Know About Instagram’s New Explore Algorithm?

Instagram has quickly become a game changer for small businesses active in the social media sphere. From posting product shots to little slices of your company’s culture (something we do from time to time), it’s perhaps the best media to get a quick point across to a captive audience.

It’s also the fastest growing social media. But did you know that Instagram recently — and silently — changed an algorithm within their service that makes it an even more viable social media for your business?

Enter the Explore Tab

The Explore tab is where you can search for a user or hashtag. It’s also where the algorithmic change I just spoke of took place. A few months ago Instagram changed the photos they serve you, as a user, when you first click over to this tab. For me personally, this section — formerly called the “Popular” tab — went from photos of One Direction and bodybuilders (two things I couldn’t care less about) to photos from friends of friends that posted stuff I’m actually interested in.

Instagram's Explore Tab


This algorithmic shift happened seemingly overnight, without any hoopla. Then again, just the other day the photos served in the Explore tab switched to infinite scroll, allowing you to look through content without having to refresh the tab. Hello time-suck. Sure this Explore tab downside can result in a time-wasting blackhole that gets you looking at photos of acquaintances’ puppies for minutes on end. The upside? For brands and businesses on Instagram, it allows people to stumble upon content, ultimately getting folks engaged with your content who otherwise might not have been.

Stephen Tive Pirrie backs this up in his excellent post on Medium: “If a friend likes a post from a brand, the new Explore algorithm means there’s now a chance you’ll see it. The previous philosophy of “the best of Instagram” meant that brands rarely made it onto the Explore tab because whilst a GoPro photo may get 200k likes, there are more Russian models, nail polish artists and South East Asian boy bands and with higher followers. […] Now, your brand can have 20 followers and still gain ‘viral’ reach.” 

Use it to Your Advantage

The new Explore feature is incentive for your business to post even more to Instagram. It allows your content to be more discoverable than ever, helps your potential for interested and captivated audience to see your content, and lets folks seemingly recommend you without blatantly doing so. People are also given two reasons why they see your content in the Explore tab, so they’re never baffled. “Popular in your country” or “based on people you follow” will show up, cluing people in.

People you follow on Instagram


According to Instagram, “The Explore tab shows you photos and videos that you might like. We’re always working to update the types of posts you see in Explore to better tailor it to you. For example, we may show you photos and videos liked by people whose posts you’ve liked and/or posts that are liked by a large number of people in the Instagram community.”

While our CEO has said the value of a tweet can be around 20 bucks, one could reason that an Instagram photo is valued higher because it can also be shared on Facebook and Twitter and even be embedded on the web, giving the piece of content even longer legs. What more incentive do you need to get ‘gramming?

PRO TIP: Join in on hot topics on Instagram and better your chances of appearing in the Explore tab of other ‘grammers by checking out their blog and create content to add to/continue the conversation. For example, Instagram’s Weekend Hashtag Project is a good way to get featured both on their blog and in Explore, because let’s be honest, social media managers don’t take breaks, even on the weekend.

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