We talk about Facebook a lot, but really there’s no better place for a photographer to show their work, raise their profile, and keep their audience engaged than Instagram. For a lot of different reasons.
Today we’re going to break down some best practices for using Instagram. We’ll learn how to find more followers and to use the platform strategically to actually boost your business – not just gain far-flung followers who won’t translate into sales.
Starting your Instagram is as easy as downloading the app, registering your profile, and uploading a photo. Easy enough. But if you have a BUSINESS (and I know you do, you pro photographer!) you should consider converting your account to a business profile.
All you have to do is visit the options menu and hit "Switch To Business Profile." (Here's a walkthrough on how to make the switch.)
You'll get some immediate benefits from having a business account:
The data insights you get with a business account are pretty cool. You'll see a demographic breakdown of your followers, which can give you surface information on who's looking at your work and when.
The when part of this equation is very helpful. If you're only going to post a couple times a week, it's best to post when the most people are there to see.
By making small tweaks to your content and posting schedule, you can eventually see big gains in likes and engagement.
The most important thing about posting is to be consistent. Post daily if you can, or stick to three times a week. Whatever works for your schedule.
What matters most is that your followers can count on you to deliver content that they love consistently.
Then, you can look at your data to fine-tune precisely what days and times your audience is the most engaged. Looking into your insights will help guide you on when you should post, when your audience is active, and on what days get you the most attention.
It’s true that you want to take a strategic approach to your Instagram, but don't get stuck worrying about it too much. Insta is meant to be quick and off the cuff. If it takes hours to make a post, you’re doing it wrong.
That's because Instagram is not your portfolio, but it should work like a companion.
Your followers are not expecting only 100% portfolio-level-quality all day every day. In fact, it's better if your account seems casual – but intentional.
Post a mix of portfolio-quality photos, nice shots that won't exactly make it into your portfolio, experimental images, and behind the scenes & casual mobile pics.
Keep it on topic, but give that topic wiggle room. Probably 80% should be your main style. The other 20% is playtime.
But again, don’t get too mired in process or paralyzed by perfection. Obsessing over what pics are good enough, on target enough, perfectly balanced, and... on and on... will just suck the fun out of life.
Above all, have fun!
Your followers will like to know more about your cool photo – where was it taken? Did you use any new equipment? Why was the shoot memorable? Usually a quick sentence or two will do.
And don't worry about "SEOing" your descriptions. Insta uses hashtags to let people find images they like.
Instagram uses hashtags to help users find the images they want to see.
This means that unless you use hashtags on your posts, users who don't already follow you won't be able to find your cool photos.
On other platforms, the rule of thumb is to only use 1 or 2. "Less is more." But on Instagram, the rule is flipped. "More is more!"
You can include up to 30 hashtags per post. You probably shouldn't DROWN every post in hashtags, but do aim to include at least 10 or 15 at the end of your post.
Include a mix of "popular" and "less-popular" hashtags. When you start to type a #hashtag, Instagram will tell you how many posts are currently using that particular tag.
In this context, they are also your COMPETITION. For example:
Where you might drown in a sea of #art posts, you may rise to the top of a smaller tag. It's good to think strategically about your use of tags, and notice which work better over time.
INCLUDE AT LEAST ONE LOCATION-SPECIFIC HASHTAG! Remember: unless you can travel all over the world to shoot, the majority of your clients will be LOCAL. If you're looking for bookings, make sure the right customers can find you. (For example: brides searching #charlotteweddings.)
We'll finish our #hashtalk with one last word of caution... If you use a lot of really general tags like #art, #love, #happy (or even #photography), you could find that you're getting a lot of activity from spam bots. Which is not really going to help you get real human followers or sales.
Instagram is not only a place for your adoring fans to find you – it's also a place for you to build a network, see new work, and get inspired.
Following and engaging with other photographers (and fans of photographers!) is super helpful for figuring out what people are liking, responding to, and doing out there on that dangerous cutting edge.
When you can, grab a big old piece of that inspiration pie for yourself and try new methods, subjects or editing styles.
And you can take inspiration for your promotional strategy, too.
Know a photographer who is #KILLINGIT on insta? Take a look at the way they write their descriptions and the hashtags they use. New and trending tags pop up all the time, so be on the lookout – you could be making a bigger splash in a smaller bucket.
And when new features or tools come out (like STORIES or LIVE VIDEO just did recently), don't be afraid to give it a go and experiment. If you stay plugged into the shifting trends, you can uncover better tactics and new/more engaged followers who are hungry to know your business better.
Gaining followers is good, but so is following others. (This is the SOCIAL part of social media :)
Remember! To get friends, you have to make friends. So go ahead and follow some accounts that you really like. Photographers you admire and would like to know better. Influential photography fans and accounts that take submissions for contests.
Networking is an important part of your business, and by creating relationships you can open up new doors in your career.
And if someone leaves you a comment ... comment back!
Sure, it takes a minute. But your followers will super appreciate you taking the time to say "thank you" for their comment or to answer a quick question. The user you engaged with will likely stick around and come back more often. If they weren't following you before, it's likely that they will now.
People like knowing that there's a face behind a brand, that you're not a robot that spits out pictures. The more human you make yourself online, the more your followers will want to engage with your brand.
And if they're in your area looking for a photographer... you can be darn certain they'll remember you.