12 Secrets to Going Viral on Instagram and Driving Insane Traffic

going viral on Instagram
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Instagram is one the largest social media marketing platforms around. The picture-centric platform has over 800 million monthly active users, and over 500 million daily active users. Instagram doesn’t slouch when it comes to drawing traffic.

It’s no wonder that 70 percent of brands across a wide range of sectors use Instagram to foster engagement and create new leads. The potential for reaching customers is just too huge to ignore.

Going viral on Instagram means gathering countless followers who then turn into more followers, who then turn into leads, and then into conversions…following the pattern? A viral post is undoubtedly one of the best ways to turn social media into a goldmine.

So how does one start going viral on Instagram? It’s hard work. But with the right insider knowledge, your business can hit the Instagram jackpot.

What Does Going Viral on Instagram Mean, Exactly?

You probably know the basic answer to this question, but do you know the ins and outs of what going viral on Instagram really means? Essentially, there are several ways to “go viral” on Instagram. Depending on what you’re aiming for, your strategy should vary.

Instagram Posts and the Timeline

Instagram posts appear on the timeline. You’re probably rolling your eyes at how simple we’re starting but stay with us. When your company posts, everyone following your brand sees that post.

What’s more, after recent algorithm updates your posts can now appear on the feeds’ of people who’ve followed something “related” to your business. This amounts to free advertising and is excellent news for Instagram marketing efforts.

The algorithm updates also changed the way Instagram decides what posts appear on customers’ feeds. The new update ranks how posts appear based on:

  • Engagement
  • Relationships
  • Timeliness
  • DM Shares
  • Profile Searches
  • Duration
  • Relevancy

Getting your posts on users’ timelines means hitting each of these metrics, and hitting them hard. You’ll need to optimize for each to get your content in front of as many eyes as possible.

But more about that later…

Instagram Explore

Instagram explore is an extension of the “random” feed posts that customers see. Essentially, it’s the “discover” section where people can see both users they’ve liked and users liked by others whose posts they’ve liked.

Confused? Let’s use a real-world example. If a consumer likes your content, anyone who’s liked that consumer’s posts will see your content in the explore section. So, if someone likes your post, your content is then in front of everyone who’s liked their posts.

That’s an enormous amount of eyes and can help your posts go viral on Instagram. Though you’ll need to get some people liking your posts before the explore page takes off.

Instagram Stories

Instagram stories are the picture sharing company’s response to Snapchat, and they’ve quickly taken off. Stories are quick video content that your business can share with its followers or anyone who profile searches your company.

People can also search stories by location or hashtag. While a story could go viral, they’re more of a way to promote your brand and push people into following your feed content. The more people following your feed, the better chance of going viral on Instagram.

12 Tips for Going Viral on Instagram

Now that we have the basics down, it’s time to talk about actually going viral on Instagram. This means getting your content on the timeline, and gathering those likes and followers. We’ll break down your overall strategy in twelve easy to understand steps…

Post During Peak Hours

Instagram users are like any other user; they’re on the platform during peak hours or hours when people aren’t at work or in school. Though this isn’t as easy to exploit as you’d think. Take into account the different time zones, and it’s not easy to always avoid work hours.

Though accounting for all variables, the highest engagement happens at 2 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET. The worst engagement happens at 9 a.m and 6 p.m. ET. Why those numbers represent the best and worst times isn’t entirely clear, but according to the metrics, those are the best targets.

It used to create a problem for social media managers. How do you post when no one’s working? Luckily, Instagram recently added scheduled posts to its business platform.

Utilize Hashtags

Hashtags let users know what “category” your post falls under. Each post should include a hashtag to increase your visibility. When users search the hashtag, they’ll see your posts. It works something like this.

You tag your post with a hashtag popular with your audience. Instagram’s analytics platform can help identify those tags. People seeing other posts with that hashtag click the tag and then can see your posts.

The more engaging a post (comments, shares, likes, etc.), the higher it’ll rank for your tag. Hashtag pages are static, which means ranking high gets your content in front of every user who searches the hashtag.

Pretty simple, right? You can take this idea even further. Use that same hashtag research to target an audience. Start commenting and liking posts with that hashtag to engage new audiences and spread brand awareness.

Target Comments and Shares

Instagram uses comments and shares to gauge your content’s engagement. The more people comment on your post the more engaging it’s deemed. And there’s no trick or special way to get comments.

Post interesting content with targeted hashtags to get the most eyes. People like discussing things online, and will likely comment on their own. The more comments, the higher up on peoples’ Instagram feed your content appears (going viral!)

We suggest pushing out content that’s:

  • Provocative – but not too controversial
  • Contest Content – comment to win
  • Funny

Shares on Instagram are a little trickier. Instagram doesn’t have a repost feature, which means sharing happens through direct messages or over other social media platforms.

DM shares are harder to crack. People need to enjoy your post enough that they direct message it to others. While possible, we prefer to focus on other social media platform. The share to Facebook option, for instance, potentially puts your content in front of 2.2 billion people.

Explore for Exposure

We’ve already touched on how the explore section works, but now it’s time to dig into how explore can help with going viral on Instagram. Random content means random, right? Not quite.

Explore shows content from brands’ users have liked and also brands that their friends have liked. It also shows randomly generated videos based on their interests. However, that content doesn’t appear in random order.

Like the feed, explore bases the order of content on what has the most engagement. We can think about it chronologically using hashtags and the feed.

Hashtags get your content in front of people to like and comment. Those likes and comments help your brand break into the explore section, where users actively search for new things. From here, people can follow your brand and see your content on the timeline or share it with friends.

If your post goes viral in the explore section you’ve hit the jackpot. The extra exposure gets you comments, views, and likes that push your page even higher on the explore page.

As more people like your post, more peoples’ friends see your content in explore. From there they can follow your brand on their feed. The more followers you have the higher your content appears on the explore page.

Photos Engage More Than Videos

Now that we have the basics down to going viral on Instagram it’s time to talk about what specific things can launch your posts into the heights of the explore section. First thing’s first; focus on photos!

Instagram photos generate 36 percent more engagement than videos. While we don’t have an exact reason for the discrepancy, it’s probably due to short attention spans. People simply “don’t have” the time to watch videos.

Start posting photos that relate to your brand. People love transparency and like to know the morals of their favorite companies. Which leads us to…

Be Authentic

Post authentic content. Your audience wants to connect with your brand on a personal level. Things like behind-the-scenes photos and employee posts keep your company “human.”

More than ever younger generations are demanding their brands stay consistent with their own moral beliefs. Don’t get too political and alienate consumers, but there’s nothing wrong with supporting something innocuous, like the environment.

Know Your Target Audience

Realistically, your target audience follows your brand. They’ll be some outliers, but those are bonus followers. The majority of your engagement comes from those you’re building relationships with.

Those relationships become the foundation of your viral strategy. They’ll consistently like and comment on your posts, exposing your content to more people checking out explore. Keep churning out content that engages your target audience.


Instagram, more so than any other social media platform, is home to the influencer phenomenon. Influencers are people with huge followings in your niche. Companies hire them to share their brand on social media.

Influencer posts often go viral on Instagram. In fact, utilizing influencers is probably one of the easiest means of going viral on Instagram.

It’s simple enough to follow. Influencers share your brand with their loyal following, who then sees your company as “worthy” or worth their time. The followers follow you, which boosts your explore engagement and popularity.

Quality (But Also Quantity)

Content strategy across any platform is similar. Luckily, Instagram agrees and ranks content based on similar factors to everyone else; including relevancy, timeliness, and longevity (duration).

Focus on creating posts that deal with something currently happening at your company, or in the world. Keep them relevant to your target audience, and make sure they aren’t too focused on a specific point in time.

And you’re done! Timely content tells Instagram (and your followers) that it’s worth liking. Relevancy indicates you’re posting helpful things, and longevity shows Instagram you care about helping consumers.

Combine all three and you have the recipe for appearing higher in the explore section.

Captions Matter

Photo (and video) captions tell users the intent of your post, but can also do so much more. In this case, we’re using captions as a call to action. Whatever “action” you want a user to take, tell them through the caption.

It’s a great way to increase how many comments (engagement!) your posts get. Tell users to comment on your posts. Chances are, they’ll gladly listen.

Give Them Something to Talk About

Content that has a chance of going viral on Instagram is content that interests people. It’s timely, relevant, engaging, and gives people something to talk about. As we mentioned above, the more interesting the content the more likely people will comment.

Try to vary your posts. Funny content works, as does emotion provoking content. It all depends on your target audience and brand message. Captions can kick off the conversation in the comments, which then increases your visibility.


Last but not least, going viral on Instagram takes effort. None of the above comes easily. It takes long hours honing your content, gathering comments, researching hashtags, etc. to consistently get high exposure on the explore section.

Yes, sometimes companies hit it big with one viral post, but sustained success means putting in the hours and doing the research. Building relationships, engaging your audience with timely, relevant, and long last content; gathering shares and comments.

The more you do to make your content attractive to users, the better your visibility on explore and the higher chance of your posts going viral on Instagram. The more viral posts, the more brand followers, and the more visibility.

Starting Your Instagram Marketing Campaign

Getting your own Instagram marketing campaign started takes time, money, and effort. You’ll need an in-house team of marketing experts, at the least, to create and execute a strong strategy.

However, if you’re looking for a faster way start going viral on Instagram, you’re in luck. Outsourcing your Instagram marketing saves all of the time and money that make the idea difficult in the first place.

If you’re thinking about targeting Instagram as your next marketing move (and you should) or just improving the Instagram marketing you already have, get in contact with us.

Our experts can help get you on the road to Instagram success! Let us help your company start going viral on Instagram.