How Instagram's new search function will let you better plan your instas

The social media giant has revamped its 'explore' page to feature trending events and allow users to search for specific locations. 

(Instagram)
Instagram's new "explore" menu, which rolled out in the US on Tuesday, allows users to "see the world as it happens," said the company.

Planning your Instagrams just became a whole lot easier.

Since its inception nearly five years ago, the photo sharing app has been praised as a visual haven of inspiration; a hyper-accessible branding platform; and a living, breathing travel and lifestyle guide, helping to popularize seemingly everything from the “clean eating” movement to the “athleisure” trend to the ubiquitous hiking photos on your feeds every weekend.

Now, Instagram is introducing a revamped “explore” menu that features live, trending events, like music festivals or sports games.

Instead of having to scroll through galleries organized by hashtags – which aren’t always used in captions – someone looking for photos in a particular place can now search directly for geotagged photos, allowing users to easily filter based on location.

Until now, the search for quality content in specific locations was only taken on by particularly persistent Instagrammers or third-party search-engine companies like EyeIn. Companies like the Huffington Post and Rant Media have used these engines to source social media content for stories, reported Fast Company.

“Surprisingly for such a market-dominant platform – Instagram has 300 million monthly users as of late 2014 – Instagram and their corporate overseers at Facebook have been slow to capitalize on the site’s search functions,” wrote FC reporter Neal Ungerleider last week.

"I think what Instagram is saying is, 'we need to be able to do that for ourselves,'" says Neal Schaffer, co-founder of the Social Tools Summit. "At the end of the day, for Instagram to go to the next level, it needs to generate more advertising revenue and attract more advertisers."

Like Twitter, for example, "they could easily have sponsored categories and get advertisers," adds Mr. Schaffer. "I do believe we'll see some changes there." 

The new feature will come in handy for bloggers who rely on platforms like Instagram to forge a brand. "Anyone using Instagram to research their next vacation will be able to find a blogger's content more easily, which will encourage content makers such as myself to use the platform to share more travel tips and advice," says Sabina Trojanova, writer of girlvsglobe.com. "It would be very useful from a blogger's perspective, because it would allow us to more effectively work with event organizers to spread awareness among users in the area."

Instagram is also solidifying its position as a platform for tastemakers by introducing curated collections of crowd-sourced content. Currently, the collections feature feeds from travel photographers, basketball stars, and ordinary users who are deemed worthy of creating “top posts.”

The app still has personalized recommendations on its “discover people” function and “explore posts” section, based on posts you’ve previously liked or accounts with the same followers.

But the shift, which some are likening to Twitter’s content promotion approach, is unmistakable, making Instagram only the latest in an increasing number of social media networks syncing their feeds with real-time event streams and information.

Last year, Snapchat introduced the “Our Story” feature, which allows users from local communities to upload their submissions to a collective live stream, and in January, it rolled out “Discover,” which delivers photos and videos from media companies.

“Whether it’s behind the scenes at the NBA Finals, on the runway with the latest fashion trend at a favorite club with a local band, people are capturing moments large and small on Instagram,” the company wrote on its blog. “But, until now, there’s never been an easy way to find these moments.”

Currently, the feature is only available to users in the US. It will be introduced globally after some fine-tuning, said Instagram.

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