One of the fastest ways to broaden your following on Instagram is to be featured on their Popular page. This is something most users want to attain, but nobody knows how the Popular feed makes its selections. For one thing, you may have noticed that featured photos have vast differences in the number of likes, so there may not be a fixed requirement.
There's actually a secret to how the Popular feed operates - but Instagram isn't offering any conclusive explanations. However, after days of observation and investigation, I've come up with a few theories.
By the way, this isn't a list of tips; I'm simply sharing how I believe the Popular feed works. These principles could then help you come up with a plan of action.
Before I proceed, consider this: The huge amounts of photos posted on Instagram aren't evaluated by humans who pick out which ones are good. The images are sorted by a program. Now, what does this tell us? With a bit of math and logic, there's a way to figure out how it works. I'll skip all the technical jargon and just present the useful details.
Theories About Getting On the Popular Page
- The number of likes required relates to the number of followers.
The number of likes a photo receives is definitely a significant factor. Many users already know that you need to get a large number of likes within a narrow time frame. This time frame changes every now and then, so stay observant.
You may wonder why some images are featured after getting 500 likes, while others need only 50. As it happens, the amount of likes required depends on how many followers you have - having more followers requires more likes. But before you Google for the formula to calculate exactly how many likes you need, let me just tell you not to bother. The formula isn't constant, so there isn't a single specific one.
The bottom line is that the number of likes required is proportional to the number of followers, so don't fret if you have a small following. Just be sure to post likable photos.
- Thousands compete for limited slots.
In seeking a spot on the Popular feed, you're virtually contending with a lot of other people. Every time you post, innumerable users are doing the same thing. And you should be careful not to post several images at once, or you'll end up competing against yourself.
Let's say your image got to the Popular page yesterday, with 120 likes in 10 minutes. Today, you your new photo may not qualify despite 175 likes in fewer minutes. It's because there was a whole new set of users who accumulated likes at a different rate.
- It helps to get likes from popular users.
I'm basing this theory on how Google operates: for a website to be featured on the first page of search results, it needs to rank within the top 10. A main factor in ranking is the influence of popular users. For example, a page's ranking significantly increases when a top blogger links to it.
Applying this to Instagram, you have to catch the attention of users who have a large number of followers. It matters more to receive one "like" from a user with over 5000 followers than a hundred likes from people who have none.
- Non-followers' likes won't matter much.
People who don't follow you can like your photo through hashtags, but that doesn't necessarily increase popularity. 300 likes from non-followers is not a guarantee for a spot on the Popular feed.
- Hash-tag overuse could be harmful.
Someone can receive 500 likes in 10 minutes but still not make it to the Popular page, while someone else with only 75 gets featured. Baffling, right? But take a look at their hash tags.
For every hash-tag you place, there could be a certain number of likes you need to obtain. An image with a dozen hash tags needs a whole lot of likes, but one without any hashtags can make it to the Popular page if all followers like it. I'm not saying you shouldn't use hashtags; I'm merely proposing that too many could be detrimental. It's a good idea to limit them, and use only the relevant ones.
- The formula changes.
Lastly, the formula for getting to the Popular feed apparently changes constantly. If a certain number of likes are required within 20 minutes today, it may take 40 minutes next week. Of course, Instagram needs to keep it secret.
Also, as Instagram constantly updates the formula, it's likely that new methods are tested on users. It's possible for several methods to be tested at the same time, thus the differing standards.