When building a brand on the Instagram platform, the main objective for most (if not all) users is to have their content seen on the app, and consistently so.
With Instagram hosting over 1 billion monthly active users – 500 million of which are on the app every day – this has become an increasingly tough gig for many; though it’s remained as crucial as ever.
Without the exposure, your content deserves, you’re leaving your profile in constant obscurity – and how, then, are you meant to build a loyal customer following?
High visibility on the platform can be chalked up to a number of factors, one of the most fundamental ones being high engagement. This means a garnering a ton of likes, comments, and reach on your content, successfully getting them to trend on Instagram.
How trending on Instagram works
Trending on Instagram can happen in one of two main ways: trending on a specific hashtag page, or trending on one’s Explore page.
When trending under a certain hashtag, your post has managed to accumulate an impressive number of views, likes, and comments (thus, high engagement) – helping it stand out among the rest as quality Instagram content. The Instagram algorithm will recognize this and acknowledge your post by adding it to the “Top” content tab of the hashtag page.
Trending on one’s Explore page, however, works a little differently.
This section on the app is a different experience for each user, as Instagram curates a gallery specifically modeled after your interests and past user behaviors. Therefore, if you’re someone who enjoys sifting through pop-culture-related content on the platform, your Explore tab will likely display posts related to movies, television shows, and celebrity culture.
High engagement is thus not the only factor at work here (though it is, still, a pretty important element) – as much of the content you see on “Explore” is directly catered to what you like consuming as a user.
So, how do you trend on Instagram?
Now that you know how trending on Instagram works, how do you actually get your post to trend?
As mentioned, with the influx of daily content by the millions, it isn’t going to be the easiest task; and one method may not always work with each repeated attempt.
I’ve laid out 10 of the most popular methods to get yourself trending, and with enough persistence, hard work, and luck – you may just find yourself embracing new likes, followers, and comments by the hundreds.
1. Use the right hashtags
One of the bare basics of trending on Instagram is to use the right hashtags for your post.
This requires a solid understanding of your community on the platform, and the types of specific hashtag phrases and terms they commonly use.
It’s easy to use general hashtags when labeling your posts – for example, travel Instagrammers are likely to use common tags such as “#travel” and “#wanderlust” – but it also helps to familiarize yourself with any niche-specific hashtags.
These community-exclusive tags can help you target your desired audience more effectively; at the same time, they’re bound to have less competition than that of general, common-word hashtags.
It’s also common Instagram knowledge that hashtags are a crucial ingredient to gaining more engagement on the app. Statistics show that posts with at least one hashtag receive 12.6% more engagement (on average) than that of posts with none.
Another study notes that those who sport nine to 12 hashtags in the caption are bound to receive the highest engagement; though experimenting with this number can help you determine what works best for you.
By racking up the engagement with hashtags and getting seen by more users in your industry, you’ll hopefully find yourself trending on Instagram in no time.
2. Tag locations and other users
Another effective way of getting your content seen is by tagging your photo or video location, allowing audiences within that area to find your post more easily.
Anyone who’s looking for content specific to a certain country, city, or region are likely to stumble upon your post on the app’s “Places” section. Attract enough engagement, and you may even find yourself under the “Top” content tab of that particular location.
Tagging other accounts on your posts are also a clever way of getting noticed; though approach this method with caution: spamming other users with tag notifications on your content can easily come off as annoying, especially if they aren’t a “feature” Instagram that invites such activity in the first place.
For best practice, you’re better off doing this sparingly (though “featured content” Instagram profiles may be an exception), and only when your content is completely relevant to the user.
When done right, you may just get the attention of a higher-profile Instagram account. In a best-case scenario, they might just re-share your content on their own profile for an even wider audience reach. Say hello to more likes, comments, and love for your Instagram!
3. Create contents that stand out
This sounds like obvious advice, but it’s absolutely fundamental when attempting to trend on Instagram.
Viral content achieves its status by being different, attention-grabbing, and uniquely entertaining for viewers. While it isn’t always easy coming up with a new viral hit, it’s best to strive for quality, exceptional content on the regular.
Think out-of-the-box and brainstorm ideas to set yourself apart from the over-saturated barrage of content.
Memes are a popular go-to because of this. If you’ve got a joke that’s entertaining enough, you may just gain a lot of traction from hundreds (or thousands!) of amused viewers – assuming it hasn’t been done before.
Alternatively, you could just come up with a cool concept for a photo or video. The now Instagram-famous couple, Murad Osmann and Natalia Zakharova, made waves on the Internet with their iconic #FollowMeToo photo series.
The project featured the two at several travel destinations, with photos captured from Osmann’s point of view as Zakharova takes his hand, leading him into the scene. It’s a clever and creative way of showcasing beautiful worldly landscapes, taken from the romantic angle of a couple on vacation.
Because of this unique idea, Osmann’s content was quick to trend on Instagram, gaining him his now incredibly high follower count of over four million followers.
4. Host an Instagram contest
As previously mentioned, hashtag trending on Instagram works when a post achieves enough likes, comments, and reach for the platform to recognize it as “quality content”.
One of the most effective ways of gaining traction on the post is to host an Instagram contest. Not only does this create an opportunity for high post and profile engagement, but it also allows you to further connect and show appreciation for your followers.
A popular form of Instagram contests is a giveaway, where users are encouraged to not only like a post uploaded by the brand (usually one that advertises the contest) but also to tag a friend or leave a comment.
These giveaways play out like a raffle draw, and anyone who participates is incentivized with a prize or free product.
With the spur of activity on these types of posts, engagement will undoubtedly shoot up – and before you know it, you’re trending under your included hashtags (and may even end up on someone’s Explore page!)
5. Know the best times to post
If you’ve got a business profile and are looking to trend on Instagram, it’s time to take advantage of your Instagram Insights.
This section of the app tells you all you need to know about your highest-performing posts, weekly and daily reach, and your audience’s engagement data.
The latter can be found under the “Audience” tab, where Instagram stores information on those who view your profile – including top-performing countries, most engaged age ranges, and percentage of men and women who interact with your posts, and the specific days and times your followers are most active.
Use these “most active times” as a guide for when to post on Instagram. The high number of activity is determined by the blue color of the bars – the darker the hue, the higher level of activity. Tap on these bars to show the exact number of followers active at that certain day or time.
6. Join an engagement pod
Though a bit of a trickier strategy, joining an engagement pod can do wonders for your post reach, and may just be your quick pass to go trending on Instagram.
With enough engagement, these posts could end up on the “Top” trending tabs of hashtag pages, or the Explore pages of other users. Engagement could take the form of likes, comments, or both – depending on the guidelines set by the group.
Engagement pods (or engagement groups) are exclusive chat groups comprised of Instagram users within a specific niche.
Members of these groups are dedicated to engaging with each other’s posts from the moment they’re uploaded – helping these users gain quick, easy traction on the platform, and thus signaling the algorithm to rank these posts as quality content.
Since most engagement pods are kept on the down-low – and often, the more “quality” ones are limited to a small number of members – it may prove difficult to find one initially.
One common method is to ask around on the Instagram app itself, direct messaging active users of a particular community; or trawling through the subreddit “r/IGPods” for any engagement groups advertising new member spots.
7. Know what your audience likes
Trending on a hashtag page is simple – rack up enough likes and comments, and your post will be deemed as “popular”, thus getting itself on the “Top” section of content.
However, trending on Instagram’s Explore page is a bit more complex, as the content featured on this section revolves around what a certain user likes, and the types of content they’ve interacted with in the past.
To increase your chances of landing on a potential follower’s “Explore” page, it’s recommended that you look through the types of content trending in a particular niche and take note of what themes, designs, and concepts are popular among them. Then, apply this information to your future Instagram posts.
For example, the “Explore” page of a beauty fanatic may be filled with photos and videos of cosmetics, beauty tutorials, and close-ups of makeup art.
Users who wish to cater to this type of audience may model their uploads after these kinds of posts. Makeup artist Keziah Joy Saunders, for example, frequently uploads close-up photos of her makeup artistry; and since her images are of stunning quality and exhibit the kind of content format audiences love seeing, they gain thousands of likes and tons of active commenters.
8. Make use of Instagram videos
Lastly, never underestimate the power of Instagram videos.
Because of their auto-play feature, videos are likely to gain more engagement than photos on hashtag pages and one’s Explore feed. As we all know, more engagement leads to a greater likelihood of trending on Instagram.
To create captivating videos, it’s best to keep things dynamic and visually-pleasing. Like with standard image posts, creativity is still key – be sure to come up with ideas or concepts that are not only entertaining but stand out from the rest!
It also helps to give your viewer something of value. For example, plenty of food-related Instagram accounts upload time-lapse video tutorials on how to cook certain recipes, as with the video below from Instagram user, “pan_to_plate”.
Users are often drawn to share such handy information with others, tagging other people in the comments as a result.
Strike the right balance between entertaining and informative, and you might just gain enough traction to get your content trending.
Get Trending On Instagram Today!
Getting under that Instagram spotlight can do wonders for your profile engagement, helping build on your brand interest and audience base. It helps to have a sound grasp of the Instagram algorithm, hashtag optimization, and the types of media your followers are most likely to enjoy.
By keeping these factors in mind, and striving for exceptional creativity, you’ll be well on your way to creating stand-out, viral content in no time.