Instagram – it may seem like a simple social media app, but it’s so much more. It’s a discovery platform that provides those who use it correctly with an insurmountable reach.
To give you an idea of its reach, over 1 billion people in the world use Instagram. What’s more, 38% of those users check the application multiple times a day.
You might be thinking “great, a lot of people use Instagram… but it’s just for posting photos”. Well, my friend, Instagram is a very unique platform in terms of discoverability and shareability. If used correctly, it can have a huge impact on your business’ bottom line. And no, you don’t need to spend hours upon hours posting photos, you simply need a presence and a strategy.
An Instagram user can discover beautiful destinations or new products through photos of people they have absolutely no connection to. The Instagram Discover pages, hashtag pages, and location pages all provide unparalleled opportunities for discovery as users are able to view content from people and places that they have never heard of. To add to that, they can even engage with any other user or any other form of content.
The best part? Your business can be discovered by millions of people with a $0 advertising budget. How? By understanding and leveraging Instagram’s 3 main discoverability sections.
Instagram Marketing Strategy: The Discover Page
Let’s start with the Instagram Discover Page. This is a newsfeed personalized for every single user by Instagram’s algorithm.
As the name implies, it allows users to “discover” accounts, photos, and locations that are not within their circle. Instagram’s intelligent and sophisticated algorithm finds the type of content that a user likes, and provides the user with related content that they are likely to enjoy.
Take a step back and think about Instagram’s goal – to engage users and provide them with a great experience that ultimately keeps them on the platform longer. Why? Because Instagram makes money off of advertising. The longer a user stays on the platform, the more ads they will see, and the more $ Instagram can make.
Does that sound salesy? Sure… but that’s not how it comes across. Think of Instagram like that super charming, super smart and wise person you know that you just love to be around. They always know exactly what to say, and you just get lost in their eyes… That’s Instagram. This platform knows exactly how to serve people with what they want and keep them coming back for more.
Understanding how Instagram works will allow you to leverage the platform and gain exposure without spending a dollar on advertising!
Understanding the Instagram Algorithm
To do so, you need to understand the discover page and Instagram’s algorithm, which is personalized to every user.
Here’s an example: Sally loves to travel – she spends her time dreaming of new destinations and unique locations to travel to. She especially enjoys luxury hotels and healthy food, and her latest obsession is Morocco. Instagram keeps track of Sally’s interests, and it fills her Discover page with photos of luxurious hotels in Morocco, aesthetic photos of food in Morocco, and photos of Moroccan travel bloggers and tours.
The moment Sally begins to scroll through this discover page, Instagram begins to further refine the content it shows her, and it does so by sensing Sally’s attention. Did she look at a photo of a Moroccan pastry for .03 second more than normal? Instagram will now subtly show her a few more and continue to gauge her response in order to show her more of what she likes.
Why it matters…
Why does this matter to you? Because from a marketing standpoint, Instagram is amazing in its ability to show users the type of content that they truly want to see. Their goal is to keep users on the platform for as long as possible. Yours? To create content that Instagram will present to users.
What’s great is that Instagram will present your content at precisely the right time – when the user is most receptive, and that is HUGE.
Sure, advertising these days allows you to invest in ads and reach exactly who you want to reach, but leveraging the Instagram discover page is much more powerful.
Think about this – what do you enjoy more? Discovering an amazing place on your own, or seeing an advertisement about it? People love to feel like they are in control of their thoughts, actions, and discoveries… take advantage of that “spark” and let people discover you when it’s right for THEM.
Instagram Marketing Strategy: Hashtag Pages
No matter who you are or where you’re from, I’m sure you have seen a hashtag somewhere… but do you understand what it does? A hashtag is a way of categorizing or tagging content on the internet.
Anytime you post on Instagram, you can add a hashtag such as #thailand or #boutiquehotel. Doing so tags your photo with that hashtag and adds it to the hashtag page. This means that anyone who searches for #thailand will be able to find your photo. Let me emphasize that – anyone can find that photo. No other platform is this powerful in terms of shareability.
What makes Instagram hashtag pages even more powerful is that they are further refined by Instagram’s algorithm. When you explore a hashtag page, Instagram organizes the content in order to show you what you are most likely to enjoy (again because it wants you to spend more time on the app).
Let’s use Tom as an example this time. Tom is a 28-year-old traveler. He enjoys adventure travel and extreme sports. His drink of choice is a Corona with Lime and he has a sweet spot of golden retrievers. Instagram knows this, and so much more. Tom is planning a trip to Costa Rica, so he goes to the #costarica hashtag page to find some inspiration for his next trip. Instagram curates this hashtag page and shows photos of surfers, waves, coronas and the occasional golden retriever at the top of this page. It senses where Tom’s attention wanders to and begins to show him more of what he shows interest in as he scrolls down the page.
Remember Sally? Sally also decides to look at #costarica to find some inspiration, but Instagram knows her preferences and instead shows her colorful healthy breakfast spreads, cold pressed juices, and luxurious hotel photos tagged with #costarica.
Both Tom and Sally are finding exactly what they want on Instagram. Tom discovers a photo of the perfect wave, and Sally sees a photo of her favorite blogger enjoying the most beautiful breakfast while sitting in the jungle.
Tom clicks on that photo of the perfect wave and reads the caption that says that this wave is just a few steps away from a surf camp called Brisas. Intrigued, Tom clicks on the profile and finds that this hotel is located in Pavones and was rated the #1 surf camp in Costa Rica. He scrolls through the account’s photos and finds himself picturing himself waking up at the crack of dawn, grabbing his surfboard and catching the perfect wave, just like these photos on Instagram suggest.
Tom isn’t ready to book his vacation and has to get back to work so he closes the app… but Instagram remembers how much time he spent exploring this profile and then continues to show Tom this surf camps photos. Two months later, Tom lands on another photo and finally decides to click on the link on the account’s bio and books a week-long stay at this surf camp.
Sally goes down a similar, yet slightly different path… more on that in the next section!
Instagram Marketing Strategy: Location Pages
Instagram allows users to add a geographical location to every single post. Those posts are then categorized by location and presented in a few different ways, offering several opportunities.
First, Instagram has location pages. Any user can search for a location and see all of the photos that were posted at that location. Locations can range from specific, such as a particular spa in a hotel, to broad, such as an entire region or country.
Instagram also uses location tags to personalize your discover page – it can sense the locations that you are in or interested in, and it will show you posts that from that location that you are likely to enjoy.
Let’s talk about Sally again. Remember that blogger photo she saw? The one in the jungle with an amazing breakfast? That photo was tagged with the location “Maya Resort, Monteverde, Costa Rica”. That photo caught Sally’s attention, so she decides to click on the location tag to see more photos from that location.
She then sees all of the photos tagged with that location. She seems photos of the resort’s spa, she seems a photo someone posted of their colorful welcome drink garnished with a plumeria (which happens to be her favorite flower).
Sally keeps scrolling and sees a photo of the dinner that another user posted – it’s a fresh salad topped with grilled salmon – her favorite. She keeps scrolling and finds a photo of one of the room’s outdoor showers… She scrolls back up and clicks on the hashtag “story” page and she sees photos and videos that people who are staying at Maya Resort are posting. From her office, she’s able to see what’s on the breakfast buffet at Maya Resort that day, and she’s able to see that a cute little monkey is perked up in a tree just steps away from one of the resort’s rooms.
It’s all about experience…
Sally is able to experience what is happening at that resort in real-time. She experiences it, she feels like she’s there and she feels so much more connected to the experience this resort offers than she would if she simply found this resort on TripAdvisor. She doesn’t need to see reviews – she’s already convinced that she wants to go there!
Sally receives an important email from her boss and quickly closes Instagram and snaps back to reality. She forgets about Maya Resort, but Instagram doesn’t! Instagram’s algorithm realizes that this resort engaged her and kept her on the app for longer than usual, so it continues showing this resort within her discovery page during the coming weeks. It also shows her photos from that town in Costa Rica – Monteverde. Every once in a while, she will see a photo of the perfect smoothie bowl… she clicks on it to then find that this photo was tagged at a restaurant in Monteverde. She keeps seeing photos from this location and a few months later, she’s finally ready to book her stay. Sally looks up Maya Resort’s Instagram page, clicks on the link in their bio and books her stay directly on their site.
Did she visit TripAdvisor? Did she visit Booking.com? No. She booked direct. And that saved Maya Resort the hefty 15% commission that they would have paid to an online booking site.
Did I mention that the resort didn’t invest a single dollar in Instagram advertising? They leveraged organic, user-generated content to provide wanderlusting Sally with an experience of the resort. Sally was much more receptive and intrigued as she found real experiences posted by real guests, and Maya Resort didn’t have to spend hours upon hours taking photos for their account and posting every day, they simply had to make themselves discoverable.
And that, friends, is the power of Instagram’s discoverability. Are you ready to leverage it?