Instagram rolled out big changes to its U.S. users on June 23: a revamped explore page with relevant content and a robust, insta-taneous search feature that sorts photos by location for the first time. The full spectrum of changes in Instagram 7 present huge opportunities for exceptional pages to serve up photos with precision relevancy and for lesser-known accounts to leapfrog into reaching big-time audiences. The landscape has shifted, so savvy marketers and Instagrammers who understand the system’s new advantages can reap rewards by cutting through the noise of 70 million daily photos to acquire followers and achieve community-wide attention.
At first glance, some of the announced changes seem superficial. But Instagram is actually unveiling several new avenues that can be leveraged to rapidly gain attention and followers if users plan carefully and execute with precision. The most impactful changes are detailed below along with recommendations to shift the new rules in your favor.
Skip to the bottom for practical tips to take advantage of the new features. Apply them wisely.
New Explore Page Elevates Facebook, Friends and Quality
In previous versions, the explore tab acted as a swirling ocean of content. A teeming, untamable river coursed through the app’s center navigation. Occasionally, a user might dunk his/her head in for a breath of fresh content — but the unrelenting stream of impersonal, seemingly random photos didn’t invite repeat visits. Now, Instagrammers can streamline the process of finding new, attractive content via Instagram’s explore page, which offers smarter recommendations to follow new accounts based on posts and pages users and their friends already like. This means it’s easier for new Instagrammers to find popular accounts and seasoned veterans can see customized picks based on their tastes. Opening the tab, users now also find curated collections of photos around a theme and a stream of trending topics.
Less obviously, Facebook now contributes recommendations too. If a users “like” 7-Eleven’s Facebook Page, the company’s Instagram account is more likely to filter into the instagram explore’s tailored recommendations. With Facebook and Instagram talking to each other more these days, strategy for both social sites will need to work hand-in-hand — especially once the blue giant opens its targeting abilities to more Instagram marketers. But for now, the instagram explore feature is more personal, instant and accessible than ever.
Curated Collections Reward Underdogs with Great Photos
Glimmering islands. Extreme athletes. Towering rocks. Along the top of the new explore page, a series of curated collections highlights standout accounts and places that have been hand-picked by Instagram’s editorial team. As The Verge pointed out, the move to highlight the site’s best content strikes a similar chord to the VSCO Grid.
Showcasing striking photos could actually prove to be a huge boon to seldom recognized accounts with high-quality content that resonates with the community. Much like long-form blogging platform Medium, featured site-endorsed placements can open the door for underdogs with small followings to step into center stage by producing undeniably top-caliber work that wows the editorial gatekeepers. More than ever, Instagram is creating incentives to put quality first — even offering a helping hand to raise expectations across the board.
Power-packed Search Teleports Users Through Trending Tags + Locations
Previously, Instagram’s search turned up accounts and hashtags, but the new search places VIP importance on trending and real-time trends — even infringing on Twitter’s territory as a window into “What’s happening?” around the world. Combing through places, current trends, and accounts, the shift aims to catapult Instagram into the emerging category of “Teleportation” apps including Periscope and Be My Eyes.
Search in Instagram 7 attempts to elbow past functional to become helpful. At least, that’s how Instagram’s CEO Kevin Systrom envisions his service in a Wired interview, laying out his own use case for finding a quick brunch:
“The goal is to be really useful,” Systrom told me. When I pushed him to explain what he meant, he mentioned that last weekend, he’d decided to go for brunch. Yelp suggested a place close by, so he searched for it on Instagram and discovered that at that moment, there was a very long line. (When brunchers get bored waiting for their eggs, what do they do? Duh. Instagram pictures of themselves waiting.) He searched “brunch” on Instagram for other tasty alternatives and landed at a different place. “It was delicious,” he said.
Breakfast noshing aside, search meets location to tip the tables in favor of Instagrammers posting in the right place at notable events. Are you posting about the NBA Finals from court-side or your living room? Location has always mattered, but now the advantages to tagging hot locations during high-profile events are starkly obvious. Tacking on “Quicken Loans Arena” offers a shot at the location’s Top Posts (and the eyes of the world). Suddenly, leaving off the location can clip your post’s wings. (However, there is a trick to circumvent this and add a distant location — see the bottom section.)
From Snapchat stories to Twitter’s recently unveiled Project Lightning, social media platforms are tripping over themselves to become your go-to window into current happenings around the world. Trending tags throw Instagram’s hat into the ring too. From #messi to #biketoworkday, Instagrammers are now funneled effortlessly into popular topics and events. Don’t ignore the new posting possibilities: trending tags open up a whole community to topical conversations and individual man-on-the-street-style broadcasting previously falling to the likes of Twitter, Periscope and Snapchat. Providing a fresh perspective or contributing meaningfully to ongoing tides of chatter offers an invitation for a new breed of posts — not about your own activities, but about what everyone else is doing, saying and thinking.
Don’t React, Act — by Making These Changes
The Instagame has changed. So where to begin? Start with these practical nuggets to tweak your strategy and step boldly into the Brave New World of Instagram 7:
- Commit to elite-quality photos for a shot at a curated collection. Instagram’s editorial team could accept your photo into one of the app’s new most popular showcases — but it won’t happen unless your photo shines brighter than 99% of everyone else’s. Content has always reigned supreme in Instaland — now users simply have an opportunity to punch (or rather post) above their weight.
- Leverage Facebook Fan Pages to increase your Instagram following. Since Facebook now factors into Instagram’s recommendation engine, any effort expended on your Fan Pages reaps trickle-down results by attracting more Instafollowers. Doubly nice.
- Use real locations — and actually put in the legwork. When you post a photo with tagged “blue” location, you’ve just enabled users to find your post in search — and if it performs well enough there’s a Top Posts spot waiting. Don’t ignore the location tag — you probably can’t afford it. But if you must add in a location later…
- Hack your location with Koredoko. This is an iOS application to tack on any piece of location data to a photo in your camera roll. Did you take a photo with your DSLR and then hand it off to your phone? No sweat. Just select your photo in the app, drag it to any location in the world, and then save the new, geotagged photo to your camera roll. Instagram sees the planted geotag from Koredoku and magically grants you access to the coveted tags you need. Simply brilliant.
- Put your spin on trending tags to join the global conversation. Trending tags are an invitation to post about hot topics — why would you pass it up? Browse the tags early and often to see what others are talking about — then find a unique angle and don’t keep it to yourself.
- Get busy with Instragram’s “Lucky 7” upgrade today. With some practice and a habitual ear-to-the-ground, you can win big. Good luck, and good Instragramming.