Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Secret Sauce behind Instagram’s Explore Tab

We all know Instagram is a huge timesucker. We’ve all been there, lost in the constant visual simulation (from visuals to videos) endlessly offered by Instagram, obsessed about the perfect photo and doing whatever it takes to nab that perfect shot to post onto the ‘gram (be careful, okay? Death by selfie is a real thing), or constantly checking your ‘gram to see how many likes/views you’ve gotten for that perfectly smashed avo on that sourdough toast, consumed at the latest, hottest brunch spot in NYC (though no one could tell that you endured a 2-hr wait, and probably paid an obscene amount for it.)

As for me, I find myself repeatedly falling down into the deep, dark rabbit hole that is the world of Explore tab. That’s the magnifying glass tab on your app, which Instagram describes “Explore” tab as a place “where people go to discover new accounts to follow and content to enjoy. It’s a great surface to highlight all amazing stories that people are creating.”

This fascinating article from Fast Company delves deep into how the Explore tab really works, the fascinating algorithms that power the tab belie the ambitions of Instagram’s programmers, coders and engineers – that is, to make Explore such a useful recommendation engine, that users would have no qualms about using it, over and over again.

You could see how this augurs well for Instagram – it is a powerful tool in personalizing recommendations, and obviously, if brands find themselves on users’ Explore tab, brands can generate a higher level of intent and interest from users than before. But this isn’t easy; one of the challenges Instagram is trying to overcome within the tab is to strike a balance between personalization and serendipity. That is probably why Instagram hasn’t monetize this yet, as I believe they are finding a way to fine tune the platform- such that both recommendations and advertisements co-exist side by side, without users being turn off by the experience. That said, it is only a matter of time before ads start creeping onto this surface.

In the meantime, brand marketers can read about how to land their brands on to the Explore tab (FOR FREE!), from this article by Hootsuite.

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