Changes to Instagram’s ‘Explore’ Should Have Retailers Looking Differently at the Platform July 22, 2015

Written by: Jake Schneider
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A few weeks ago, I wrote on our blog how Instagram’s new paid offerings (Carousel & Actionable Buttons) signaled a coming into the spotlight for the tiny image-based app with a massive audience. For retailers in particular, the new offerings allow brands the ability to engage audiences through aspirational and immersive content while driving to business objectives – something Instagram didn’t have the ability to do. While those offerings have yet to be released beyond Facebook’s Alpha Partners, your paid test strategy on these new offerings should already be taking shape so that once they are released through Facebook’s power editor, you are ready to go.

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Instagram’s present may be something equally – if not more – important for retailers looking to influence, be discovered, or get on-trend as users are spending more and more time in the platform (an average of 257 minutes per month).

A little more than a week after Instagram announced the future of their paid products, they made some pretty important yet misunderstood changes to their Explore functionalities that are available right now for users and brands.

It is easy to pass over the magnifying glass on your way to your content stream. Explore gives you a brand new way to shape content, understand, and ride trends while positioning your brand in visual conversations and important tent-pole events.

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The most noticeable difference within Explore is trending places. It sits in a box at the top of the screen and showcases the most relevant events (NBA Finals and Comic-Con) within your area (nightlife, festivals), or top content creators and relevant celebrities based on an aggregated topic just by scrolling to the right.

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This feature aligns real-time relevancy with tent-pole events for retail marketers looking to align with major events relevant to their industry. For example, a retailer showcasing their work on the red carpet at the Oscars can be found within these timely categories.

Instagram surfaces trending hashtags in the center of Explore, bringing the most popular topical tags to the forefront. We are urging our clients to give heavy consideration to not just creating their own trending tags but also analyzing tagging structures that help them enter conversations with current followers while also promoting discovery.

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Continuing with Instagram’s theme of positioning top creators as well as brands, and aligning them with the passions and tastes of users, the bottom third of Explore looks very familiar. Raising and suggesting creatively compelling posts, Instagram’s new user flow allows users to move easily from one photo to the next, but now without having to go back to the home Explore page between photos.

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Here are a few suggestions when considering your organic posting strategy on Instagram.

  • Know your audience (who are you trying to reach).
  • Plan your content with tent-poles in mind, and plan to participate with real-time content during events.
  • Monitor relevant and trending search tags to enter into conversations, don’t just create your own and hope others will follow.
  • Create premium content specific to Instagram that is visually compelling and tells a story.