How to get on the Popular Page on Instagram – 5 Tested Strategies

Last Updated: July 1, 2020

Social media guru Justin Matthews shares his tried & tested strategies for how to get on the Popular Page on Instagram with your image posts.

how to get on the popular page on instagram
Image Source: Pexels

To discuss how to get on the Popular Page on Instagram, I’m going to talk you through the various strands of what I believe happened when I managed to get the photo below, and a number of other posts, onto the platform’s Popular Page.

The picture below got an extremely high number of Likes within 5 minutes, then hit the Popular Page, and the rest is history.

The big question is… why, and how?


how to get on the popular page on instagram

Image Source:


This photo received, 2,320 Likes and 63 comments. How did I do this? Well, I use many tools to view when my users are online and the best time to post. Did you know, for example, that for some profiles, posting at 8am instead of 8.30am could make the difference in 300 people seeing the post, or 3,000?

I’ve hit the Popular Page a number of times, and it’s not really a secret to me. And the number of questions that I receive about how to get on the popular page on Instagram is a sign of how popular Instagram has become.

Here’s the thing, though. Most new sign-ups to Instagram believe that hitting the Popular Page will answer all their prayers. Think again. From four of the times I have hit the popular page—with 8,000, 5,800, 4,200 and 2,800 Likes—I gained a total of 1,000 Followers!

I’ve spent hours drilling down into the 4 times I hit the Popular Page, and looking at the number of Followers I had at the time, and how many more Followed as a result. The first time, I had maybe 500 Followers, and was following 200. I got 2,800 Likes. The second time, I had more than 2,000 Followers, and was following 2,000. So if it’s not based on Likes or on specific posting times, what is the answer?



5 Points for Strategising How to Get on the Popular Page on Instagram

If you can understand how a photo makes the Popular Page, then you can begin to plan a strategy that will help you get there more consistently. Here are the 5 main points that I have always borne in mind from studying the examples of posts that I managed to get on the Popular Page.


1. Instagram is Code

Instagram’s Popular Page is determined by computers executing code. Therefore, it can be reverse-engineered, given enough information. It all comes down to math. Your photo must receive a large number of Likes within a small window of time. Based on my experience, the time window is between 10 and 20 minutes. So the number of Likes received quickly is a primary factor.


2. The Likes-to-Followers Equation

However, some people require only 30 Likes in 20 minutes, while others need 500 or more. It would seem that the necessary number of Likes is a direct correlation to the number of Followers you have. Likes divided by Followers would give you a percentage of Likes to Followers, which you need to achieve to make the Popular Page. This percentage used to be roughly 10%, but that has changed.

If you have few Followers, you need fewer Likes. If you have a large number of Followers, you need a large number of Likes. The specific percentage you need to achieve is relative to the number of followers you have. Higher percentages are required for those who have few followers, and lower percentages are required for those who have more followers.


3. Hashtags may hurt, not help…

Likes received from non-followers via the use of #hashtags do not have as much weight on the formula. Suppose Joe, who has 200 Followers, posts a cloud image and he uses the hashtag #cloud, which has almost 2m images posted to it.

Let’s say Joe receives 40 Likes, all from non-followers who are viewing the pics in #sunset. He only got about 10 Likes from his followers during the same period of time, to give a total of 50 likes in 20 minutes. That would normally pop the photo to the Popular Page. However, as only 10 of his 200 Followers liked the image, I believe he will probably not make the Popular Page.

Alternatively, if he got 45 likes from his Followers, I think there would be no question that he’d make the Popular Page, as this would give him a Likes to Followers percentage of 22.5%.

Perhaps for every hashtag you add to your photo, Instagram increments the number of Likes you must receive. If so, the overuse of hashtags is likely hurting your chances of getting to the Popular Page. I think you should keep it to 5, and that you should only ever use relevant hashtags.

If you’re posting to some of those community hashtags such as #JJ or #all_shots, I strongly recommend going into those communities and liking a bunch of posts. This will help to support your own post, as you bring attention to your feed within that community hashtag.


4. Likes from Popular Users Really Help

Google is the search engine that has the most relevant searches, above all other search engines? That’s because Google uses the best algorithms. If you want better search ranking on Google, one of the best ways to do it is to be linked to from other highly ranked pages.

In the photo below, you will see that this article as originally posted is ranked number 5 out of 261m results.




If you are in the top 10 in Google search rank, on the first page of Google search results, this is not unlike getting to the Popular Page on Instagram. I’ve accomplished this as well, many times. Getting linked to by other ‘heavy hitters’ is a proven strategy to surface good content.

The Instagram team is smart, and I’m pretty sure they’ve heard of Google. Therefore, there may well be a significant amount of weight assigned to receiving Likes from people with a large following. How would that work? Simply put, if your image is Liked only by 100 people who have fewer than 100 followers, that might not mean as much as receiving 100 likes all from people who have more than 5,000 followers.


5. You’re Competing Against 100M People at Different Times

When you post a new image, you’re in with everyone else, at the same time, all competing for the limited number of spots on the Popular Page rotation. Time is a crucial factor. You could, on one day, post an image and get on the Popular Page with only 75 Likes. But on the next day, you may post another image and don’t make it even after receiving 125 Likes within the same time frame.

On the second day, you were competing against different people, who were receiving Likes at a different rate. In general, this won’t affect you all that much, because the sample size is so large that, mostly, you’ll be competing for Likes against the same general counts.

These factors have a greater impact on smaller control groups. but not with a pool of more than 30m users. However, this is precisely why you must be aware of the time of day when you post. Even more importantly, don’t spam your Followers with a bunch of images all at once, or you’ll be competing against yourself for a coveted Popular Page spot!


How to Get on the Popular Page on Instagram – Concluding Thoughts

So, what have we learned here. One, that the  formula is always changing, and two, that you are competing against a pool for other photos for limited spots on the Popular Page. I have one last theory to share with you.

When I was running a hedge fund, managing $64m, my specific job was to develop automated strategies for determining the most profitable scenarios. So I created competing strategies. For the one that produced the most revenue, I would always design a fresh strategy to compete against it. So think of yourself as operating uniquely, and not operating to the same formulae as other people. You could be in one of many control groups in a champion or challenger scenario.

So, to wrap up my thoughts on how to get on the Popular Page on Instagram, here is a checklist.

1. You need a certain number of likes within 10-20 minutes.

2. Hashtags may help a little, but they don’t help a lot

3. Likes from people with large numbers of Followers have more impact than Likes from those with small Followings.

4. You’re competing against 25m-30m people at any time for a limited number of spots on the Popular Page.

5. There may be control groups with competing formulas, which differ from one user to the next.


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