How to Get Your IG stories into the Explore Tab

If you are a brand playing a strong game on Instagram, you will want to continue reading this article.

The Explore tab on Instagram is every user’s glimpse at the open world of content by people we haven’t yet Followed. Over the years, this section of the app has improved to include IGTV and Shop content as well.

Up until recently, Stories was the last piece of the Explore puzzle which the company says will be rolling to all in the coming months.

Ever since it was introduced a couple years back, Stories has been steadily outgrowing the views of Posts and IGTV combined[1]. Perhaps it’s due to the ‘temporariness’ that encourages people to be candid and casual with their content. Or perhaps it’s the absence of Likes that get people to really appreciate the content.

Brands have been trying to make it into the Stories realm, but only few can find their spot. This means there’s a lot of space left open for brands who can find their way into their audience’s daily consumption.

Not all Story contents are treated equal though, since the Explore tab can only contain so many suggestions at a given time. So we scoured the Internet to find tips on how to increase the chance of your Stories appearing, and here’s what we found:

Interests Extracted from Posts

From Hashtags to similar interests, Instagram extracts common keywords from your Posts and also similar Followers in order to show your Stories to other people they think could benefit from your content.

These interactions also include engagements on your platform including Likes and Comments. Based on how people react to your posts, Instagram will feed your Stories to similar Followers.

This means that in order to perform well in Stories, you need to have a strong game in Posts as well. It includes posting content consistent to your brand’s image and also using relevant hashtags. The better your Posts do at attracting Followers with similar interest, the higher chances your Stories will appear in their Explore tab.

This also means that if your Posts and Stories do not carry the same relevance, both will have a lower chance of appearing on the Explore tab.

Videos over Photos

Instagram says videos are more important than photos, and this includes Stories as well. But building videos for Stories isn’t the same as any other platform.

For starters, it’s the only format that still only works well on vertical 9:16 ratio (IGTV has also succumbed to horizontal video formats[2]), and each clip only runs 15 seconds long. To make matters worse, most people do not watch Stories with the sound on. So how do we create videos based on these restrictions?

Here is where brands should learn from Snapchat.

Even before the rest of the world knows about the Stories format, brands like National Geographic, Wired, Looper and The Economist have been perfecting it on Snapchat.

Posting photos and simple Boomerang videos probably wouldn’t get your brand’s Stories onto the Explore tab. So your marketing team will need to do some research and development on this area.

Text Still an Issue

Further elaborating on the topic of Videos performing better than Photos, there are also many brands that still post images with a tonne of words.

Rest assured, you are wasting your time with these formats if your brand is still laying words on images. You are better off creating short clips, perhaps animated, and attaching brief captions below like subtitles to your voice-over. Most consumers may not listen to your posts at first, but once they figure out the value eventually they will.

Similarly, brands like Looper, CNBC News, Watch Mojo and National Geographic nail the Stories format really well with a good balance of video and texts.

User Generated Content Rocks

As users, we love ‘chatting’ with our friends by bouncing tagged Stories around for everyone to see. We will repost a Story that a friend tagged us with, along with a response, and have them go around.

Brands that use User-Generated Content can gain some solid traction on the Explore tab as well. Start by running a campaign that asks users to tag your brand. Then repost their Stories on a series to generate some buzz.

Reposts Don’t Get Aired

There was a time when the best performing Instagram account were just reposting each other’s videos and gaining organic traction. Those days are gone.

In the spirit of promoting original content, Instagram will demote Stories content that are shared from somewhere else.

It is important to create your own content based on your marketing campaigns and initiatives, but focused on giving your audience value instead of selling to them.

AI Detection of Content You Interact With

Although still quite ineffective, Instagram has an AI[3] that visually detects Stories content and match them with the kind of content users interact with a lot.

This AI will match the frames of every video with a collection of known inventory, then categorize them accordingly. The more it performs this task, the better it will become at identifying categories.

Eventually the machine will be able to know if what you are posting and what you say you are posting is aligned.

Getting into the Game Early

It is still early stages in the Stories game which makes it an incredibly worthwhile venture.

At the moment it may seem an expensive investment to hire a special team just for Instagram Stories, but this format will grow on other social networks.

This means eventually one content format can mostly be used on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and any other future platforms as well. But when we need to begin making the mistakes and becoming good at it, is now.


[1] “• Instagram Stories daily active users 2019 | Statistic – Statista.” https://www.statista.com/statistics/730315/instagram-stories-dau/. Accessed 25 Jun. 2019.

[2] “Instagram will now support landscape video on IGTV – The Verge.” 23 May. 2019, https://www.theverge.com/2019/5/23/18637105/instagram-igtv-vertical-landscape-video-upload-support. Accessed 25 Jun. 2019.

[3] “Introducing MetaEyes: Image recognition & analysis for Instagram.” 23 May. 2017, https://towardsdatascience.com/introducing-metaeyes-image-recognition-analysis-for-instagram-bb8e82555737. Accessed 25 Jun. 2019.

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