500+ Million People Use Instagram Explore Each Month
As part of Instagram’s ongoing 2019 redesign, the platform has announced a series of updates for its important Explore discovery feature.
Instagram Explore drives 20% of Instagram usage, according to Mark Zuckerberg, and has 500 million people using monthly.
Therefore, for Instagram, it is a crucial lever for tweaking user behaviour and launching new features.
In April, for example, Instagram rolled out a significant algorithm update, tied to its community standards. Content now deemed “borderline” by Instagram’s AI will be removed from the Explore tab, along with hashtag pages.
For brands, and influencers alike, reduced Explore visibility severely hinders organic amplification efforts — something which Instagram is renowned for offering.
The newly redesigned Explore tab has a navigation bar featuring shortcuts to IGTV and Shopping, followed by topic channels tailored to your interests, such as Food, Art and Travel.
IGTV and Shop shortcuts are pinned to the front of the bar, making it easier for users to find products and videos from brands and creators. See image above.
Can Explore Save Insta’s IGTV Turkey?
Despite significant fanfare at launch, Instagram TV has been disappointing for brands, creators (Facebook is trying to rebrand influencers as creators) and users alike.
Much of the fault lies with a patchy launch strategy, not unlike when Facebook launched Stories.
Hubris was perhaps the root cause of both.
Ironically, Instagram *killed it* with the launch of its Stories, Snapchat clone, but shanked it with IGTV.
Whilst Facebook shanked it with its Stories launch but has done OK with Facebook Watch (which is similar-ish to IGTV).
For illustration, look at Netflix, video content King of Kings.
Instagram is perhaps Netflix’s key communication channel for reaching millennial audiences. However, since IGTV’s June 2018 launch it has posted 31 videos to IGTV.
Whereas to the main Instagram feed alone, not including Stories, Netflix posts circa 15 pieces each week.
Until Instagram can muster a greater critical mass for IGTV (which it may in time), it is difficult to justify the effort involved in creating content specifically for IGTV.
By all means, when creating video content cut an IGTV edit. Why not, it doesn’t take much more time?
But, is it worth developing content exclusively for IGTV, probably not at the moment.
That said, the latest Explore update could offer green shoots for marketers and influencers.
Instagram’s Expanded Explore Features
Since the end of 2018, Instagram has been shoehorning IGTV into every opening possible.
It actually has resided within Explore previously, however, not within the main navigation.
By tapping on IGTV, users now see the recently updated home for IGTV, where they can browse a personalised feed of recommended videos from brands and creators they follow or may want to follow.
Similarly, following on from Instagram’s big 2019 commerce push, by tapping on Shop, users will now have access to category filters in the navigation bar.
These filters let users browse specific types of products on Instagram, including Beauty, Clothing, Home Decor and more.
Alongside IGTV and Shopping, the redesigned Explore grid will now also feature Stories.
In the same way that Explore recommends posts based on topics users are interested in, the grid will now provide personalised Stories recommendations.
Instagram’s Big Moves On Visual Search
In effect, Instagram is creating a new kind of visual search engine with Explore.
Explore should continue to expand through 2019, eventually offering Search Engine Marketing (SEM) style ad opportunities in due course.
As a general rule of thumb, where there be Discovery there be ads.
Have you tried to compare accomodation options on Expedia in the past decade?
Already, savvy marketers work to try and hack the Explore tab, with varying levels of success. Much like we spawned Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) 15-20 years ago.
Facebook announced the launch of SEM style ads for Big Blue at the end of 2018, with SEM hopefully rolling out in Facebook Search and Marketplace later this year.
In reality, Instagram Explore is a far better home for SEM style ads than those mooted above.
With Instagram’s hockey-stick ad growth trajectory over the coming years, it will need to offer marketers more ad placements, before its maxes ad-loading in Feed & Stories.
In time, if Explore continues to mature, this may well end up one day as the most coveted ad placement within the Facebook ecosystem.
So watch this space.
The Explore redesign is rolling out in the coming weeks.