Social media discovery is mostly driven by ad dollars, but the Instagram Explore page remains one of the final frontiers for organic reach.
Behind the Explore feed, Instagram’s fine-tuned algorithm has gotten real good at recommending people with content they might be interested in.
For brands, the advantages of appearing in the Explore tab include potential spikes in reach, impressions and sales. It’s an opportunity to grow your audience and build community. Learn about the latest updates to the algorithm and the right way to land on the Explore page.
Read on for the full article, or check out the video below for the top tips.
Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps a fitness influencer used to grow from 0 to 600,000+ followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.
What is the Instagram Explore page?
The Instagram Explore page is a collection of public content, including photos, videos, Reels and Stories, tailored to each individual Instagram user.
Just like TikTok’s FYP, there is no single Explore page — the Instagram algorithm creates a different Explore page for each user.
According to the company, posts displayed are chosen based on things like the people you follow, photos and videos you like, and who you’re connected to on Instagram.
You don’t follow the people you see on the Explore page, which means it can be a great way to discover new posts, accounts, hashtags or products you might like.
The feed is always changing, too. The algorithm behind the Instagram Explore page uses machine learning to adapt and improve its content recommendations.
How to use the Instagram Explore page
The Instagram Explore page can be found by tapping the magnifying glass icon at the bottom of the app.
At the top of the Explore feed, users can search for accounts, keywords, hashtags and places.
Source: @VishalShahIs Twitter
The Explore page itself displays different categories ranging from a dedicated Reels feed to topics like music, sports, travel, beauty and food. When you search for something, the category options adjust to match your interests.
If you click on a photo in the Explore feed, it opens up a continuous scroll feed of content related to that photo. So, in a sense, the Explore page is a monster feed of portals to more feeds, each one more granular and focused than the last.
How does the Instagram Explore page algorithm work?
As we’ve mentioned, no two Instagram Explore pages are alike. That’s because the content someone sees when they open the Explore tab is personalized by Instagram’s Explore Feed Ranking System.
Known as the Instagram algorithm, the system uses machine learning to adjust what’s displayed based on various data sources and ranking signals.
Unlike the home feed, where people see posts from accounts they follow, Instagram engineers classify the Explore page as an “unconnected system.”
In this system, posts are chosen “based on a user’s activity across Instagram and are then ranked based on similar factors,” explains Amogh Mahapatra, one of the company’s machine learning researchers, in an Instagram blog post.
In other words, the selection of content on each Instagram user’s Explore page is based on:
- The accounts you already follow
- The content that people you follow like
- The types of posts you engage with often
- Posts with high engagement
Some steps have also been taken to address algorithmic bias, such as the introduction of Machine Learning Model Cards.
Does having an Instagram business account affect Explore page feed ranking?
Instagram’s ranking favors accounts people interact with the most, whether they’re Business, Creator, or personal accounts.
“Our aim is to enable businesses to develop more meaningful connections with their audience and get discovered by people who want to deepen their interests by branching out from the accounts they already follow,” reads the Instagram business website.
Why you want to appear on the Instagram Explore page
The number of Instagram users is expected to grow to 1.44 billion monthly active users in 2025. Even if each Explore page is unique, that’s a big potential audience for your content.
Benefits of appearing on the Explore page may include:
- Increased engagement. When your content makes it to the Explore page, it’s exposed to a wider audience than your followers. An engagement spike on that content usually follows.
- More followers. If your post is compelling enough, some of your new audience will check out your profile and decide to follow you. (Make sure they’re impressed by your amazing bio, highlight covers, etc.) Those new followers will also mean more engagement in the future.
- More conversions. Make sure you have the right call-to-action ready for all those fresh eyeballs. You may even see a sales boost driven by product tags and Instagram shopping tools.
Convinced? Let’s take a look at how to make it happen.
How to get on the Instagram Explore page: 10 tips
Follow these tips to start showing up on people’s Explore page in no time!
1. Get to know your target market
Your audience already follows you. So to land on the Instagram Explore page, take “know your audience” one step further. Get familiar with your Instagram demographics, identify the target audiences you’d like to reach in Explore and learn what content these users engage with most.
Your business account Explore feed is a good place to start. Delve into posts, categories, and niche feeds and note the tactics you might be able to emulate.
Some questions you might ask during this exercise include:
- What tone seems to resonate most with the audience?
- Is there a visual style that performs best?
- What type of content (Reels, carousels, static posts) earns the most engagement?
- What type of caption prompts the most responses?
2. Share engaging content
With a better grasp of what content your target market finds engaging, stir some Instagram engagement of your own. Apply your audience research to your brand’s social media content strategy.
Videos have a leg up over static visuals in the engagement department, as they autoplay in the Explore tab, and they’re often given more real estate in the feed.
But still visuals with product tags, carousel formats, or just stunning imagery can be engaging, too. Don’t overlook the power of compelling captions, either.
Follow the best practices for each format. Share high-quality visuals, hook viewers early, and offer something of value, from great storytelling to loyalty rewards.
Remember, engagement goes beyond likes and comments. So aim to create content that people will want to share and/or save as well.
3. Experiment with new formats
Look, it’s no secret that Instagram wants Reels to succeed. There’s a reason Reels crop up in both the Explore feed and its own dedicated tab. The tab is so central to the Instagram app’s user experience that the entire home page was completely rearranged to accommodate it.
Getting discovered in the Reels tab could mean getting discovered in the Explore tab, too. Just think twice before reposting that TikTok. Apparently, Instagram’s algorithm deprioritizes videos that feature the TikTok watermark.
The lesson here? When Instagram wants users to explore a new feature, they’ll reward early adopters with increased reach. Make sure you take advantage of that boost.
Test out different formats, like Reels or carousels, to see which verticals bring in more reach.
Just don’t get complacent: the platform is constantly tweaking which formats it prioritizes. (If you want to stay in the loop, we recommend bookmarking our Instagram updates feed.)
4. Cultivate an active community
One of the core purposes of Instagram’s Explore page is to connect people to communities on the platform. Community-building is central to Instagram’s success, so it should be a key pillar of your marketing plan.
The more active your brand community is on Instagram, the more likely Instagram will be to recommend it to “lookalike audiences” on the Explore page.
Give your audience ample opportunity to engage with your account. Start and participate in brand conversations in the comment section, DMs, and other active brand channels. Encourage your community to turn on notifications for your posts so they can get engaged early.
5. Post when your followers are online
Instagram’s algorithm prioritizes timeliness (a.k.a. recency), which means if your post is brand new, it will be shown to more of your followers. Earning high engagement with your own followers is the first step towards getting a spot on the Explore page.
Check out our analysis of the best time to post on Instagram for your industry, view your own analytics, or use Hootsuite’s post composer to figure out when your audience is online. Or head to Hootsuite Labs on YouTube for all of the above in a nutshell:
Pro tip: If your audience is online when you’re not, an Instagram scheduler is your best bet.
6. Use relevant tags
Geotags, account tags and hashtags are additional ways to extend the reach of your content within the Explore ecosystem.
Remember, people alo use the Instagram Explore page to search by hashtag and location. If a specific hashtag sparks someone’s interest, they can follow it as well. Choose strategic Instagram hashtags and geotags so that your content appears where people are looking for it.
Account tags provide another way to surface your posts to new audiences. Make sure to tag relevant accounts in your posts, whether it’s the company CEO, brand partners (including influencers), or the photographer or illustrator.
Share posts from your audience to build community and trigger more reach and engagement at the same time.
7. Pay attention to analytics
Take a look at what you’re doing that’s already resonating with your audience. You may find that they like your Reels more than your carousels or your jokes better than your inspirational quotes.
If you can get your audience tapping hearts and leaving comments consistently, their engagement will help propel you to the Explore page.
Check your analytics to see whether your biggest posts have already hit the Explore page. Tap the blue View Insights button below your precious post, and swipe up to check where all your impressions came from.
Pro tip: Hootsuite’s Post Performance tool can help you identify your top-performing posts and adjust your strategy accordingly.
8. Consider paid placement in Explore
If you’re open to backing your organic efforts with some ad dollars, consider an ad in the Explore feed.
These ads won’t land you directly in the Explore feed grid. Instead, they put you in the next best position: The scrollable feed of photos and videos that appears when someone clicks on a post in the grid.
Lest you think this is the easy way out, it’s not. If it’s going to make an impact, your Explore page ad has to be as compelling as the posts that surround it. Tall order, right?
For a complete rundown of how to nail ads on Instagram, we’ve got a guide.
9. Skip the shortcuts
Creating Instagram pods or buying followers may offer short-term gains, but these tricks usually don’t pay off in the long run.
“Instagram’s feed ranking is powered by machine learning, which is constantly adapting to new patterns in data. So it can recognize inauthentic activity and make adjustments,” explains Instagram’s @creators account. Instagram can suspend or even delete your account if they suspect any bot-like shenanigans.
Focus on creating engaging content and building a genuine brand community.
10. Follow the rules
This one may seem obvious, but it’s worth stating: Instagram won’t promote your content to new audiences if you break their community or recommendation guidelines.
You’re probably familiar with community guidelines already. They cover the basics, like only posting content you have the right to share, respecting the Instagram community, and following the law.
Instagram’s recommendation guidelines are a little stricter. Some content may be acceptable according to community guidelines, but that doesn’t mean it’s eligible for recommendation to new audiences.
There are five categories of content that violate these recommendation guidelines:
- Content that impedes Instagram’s ability to foster a safe community. Think anything that promotes self-harm, violence, or sexually suggestive content.
- Sensitive or low-quality content about health or finance. No miracle cures or “risk-free” investment opportunities.
- Content that users have broadly indicated they dislike. This one’s a little vaguer, but it covers things like clickbait, engagement bait, and spammy giveaways.
- Content that is associated with low-quality publishing. Unoriginal content or news content that misrepresents its source.
- False or misleading content. Anything containing claims that have been debunked by expert organizations, vaccine misinformation, or false documents.
If your account has violated these rules, your content is far less likely to hit the Explore page.
How to reset the Instagram Explore page if you don’t like what you’re seeing
Don’t like what you see on your Instagram Explore page? There are a few ways to reset your feed.
Here’s a quick fix: Pull down and refresh the feed. Place your thumb gently on the screen and slide it down until you see the circle spin below the categories.
For a more long-term fix, here’s how to teach the algorithm what you don’t want to see:
1. Tap the post you don’t like.
2. Tap the three dots above the post.
3. Select Not Interested.
The platform will avoid similar recommendations in the future.
Use Hootsuite to easily create and schedule Instagram posts, engage your audience, track competitors, and measure performance—all from one simple dashboard. Try it free today.
With files from Liz Stanton.
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