Not sure how long this portion of my site will last, but I'm going to give it a try. These will be basically be the 'show notes' from my Instagram Live interviews. Here are a few topics discussed regarding the Instagram algorithm, using Instagram for booking clients, leveraging the various features on Instagram, and personal opinions on Instagram in general. Huge thanks to Brianna Broyles for going live with me. Don't miss the rapid fire questions I hit her with at the end.
PS, check how excited I am. Literally can feel myself blabbing and not breathing in this screenshot.
1. YOUR SELF-WORTH ISN'T DEFINED BY YOUR FOLLOWER COUNT
I want to start with this because it's one of the most common dilemmas I see people facing with Instagram. "How do I gain more followers?", "How do I get more likes?", etc. etc. It is not all about followers and likes. I repeat, it's not all about followers and likes. Those should be the outcome of doing the following things well. PLEASE don't use those numbers to calculate self-worth, or to determine the quality of the art that you are producing. I suggest looking at Instagram for it's original intentions of being a social network to showcase your art and connect with other people. The more I step away and focus on that, the more fun I'm able to have on the platform, and the less I use it to define me as a person. You need to be who you are and share that on social, not be what will get you the most likes or followers.
2. THE ALGORITHM ISN'T HERE TO HURT YOU
I will try to write this without immediately dating this article, but I believe the algorithm is here to stay. It's a way for Instagram to show you content it believes you will enjoy seeing and keep you on the app for longer, in turn allowing you to see more ads. I imagine they will create a chronological feed option at some point. It looks like they're taking steps in that direction according to this article. No matter what happens to the feed, make sure you utilize any and all features to your advantage. Stories, highlights, live, posts, etc. Use everything you can that Instagram allows for free. But remember it's free. Instagram doesn't owe you anything. If they destroy business's organic reach in order for you to have to spend money to get views, than that's their decision. They are trying to run a profitable business, just like you. When people ask you to shoot for free and you complain, it's the same thing. The ol' desire to gain followers 'bait and switch' is exactly what happened to Facebook. They got everyone excited on building huge followings, then eventually made people pay to speak to them. I wouldn't expect anything different from Instagram, especially since it's owned by Facebook. Again, I'll reiterate, don't let metrics decide worth. Connecting with the right people is the true key for success. If you can meet a few amazing brides, some fellow creatives in your industry, make some new friendships, all off a free app, that seems like a pretty good win to me.
3. SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO SPEND MONEY TO MAKE MONEY
Yeah, yeah, yeah, metrics don't matter, says the guy with thousands of followers. First off, let me say, those followers came after years and years of putting out consistent quality work and being true to my passion of photography. The followers were a result of that. BUT, if you are looking to reach more new people through Instagram, I'd suggest advertising. Facebook has an incredible ad platform, strong enough to get Trump elected, but that's a separate article... First step for advertising on the platform, or for considering advertising, would be to set up the Facebook pixel on your portfolio site. Have no idea what I'm talking about? Google it, or watch Facebook's videos, they show you how to use it. Ultimately what the pixel allows you to do is retarget the people who have visited your site and you can create lookalike audiences of those people. How many times have you been on a site, got distracted, and then left without purchasing anything? All the time? Same. That happens for your brides too, retargeting potential customers is an awesome way to get started. Another good way is create an audience of recently engaged brides in your area. All that is possible through audience targeting.
4. UTILIZE ALL OF INSTAGRAM'S FEATURES
If you're only posting on your feed once a day and that's it, you're missing 90% of the power of Instagram. Make sure you use highlights, stories, live, everything to your benefit. A few ideas for each:
I'd suggest having a mix of the work you want to shoot more of, i.e., I want to shoot more weddings, so I show engagement shoots and weddings. The age old saying of "shoot what you show" still holds true. Make sure you are showcasing the majority of the work as stuff you want to be hired to create more of. I'd also sprinkle in some of your personality through captions and "about me" style posts every once in a while. At least one photo in your last 9 posts should be a photo of you, giving some more insight about who you are. If I'm hiring you, I want to know you first. Jenna Kutcher has a theory on the rule of 5. Pick 5 things about you, for example: I love wine, my family, surfing, shooting weddings, etc. Take those 5 things and just rotate through those over and over again, so anyone who starts following you, starts to know you for those things. Whenever anyone who follows her eats mac and cheese they think of her. Not a bad idea, especially with how much mac and cheese I eat. Also make your caption say something. Don't just say "Such a beautiful day", or "Take me back!" on your throwback post from your last trip. Give me some meat. Tell me what you were doing, what the photo says to you, or say something completely unrelated to the photo. Anything that will allow for someone to actually engage with your post. Jenna Kutcher recommends creating a call-to-action on every post. Such as "double tap if you love mac and cheese" or "tell me where you wish you were at right now". Those are great, but I would make sure they feel like you and flow with your caption. Lastly, make sure to geotag your caption. I've booked weddings from being featured in the top 9 off geotags. Simple enough.
These could be behind the scene videos from your shoots. Take little video snippets of your couple or of you shooting as the photoshoot happens. That way when you post the photo later on your feed, people who saw the creation of it on your story will be more invested and inclined to like or comment. I struggle sometimes with coming up with stories. I love Gary Vee's philosophy of document vs. create. If you just focus on documenting what you are already doing, that will be interesting to a lot of your following. I also like to use the stories feature to share multiple photos from a photoshoot as I blog it. So I'll pick 8-10 of my favorite photos from the shoot that look good in vertical portrait mode and share those. I recently started adding little captions to them and giving a bit more detail to the photo whether that be a funny story or little comments. I've gotten a great response on those. You can see my latest one under my profile highlights titled 'RECENT'. Make sure you crop the photos 1080x1920 prior to posting. This way Instagram won't resize them and compromise the quality. Also, think about what way you are most comfortable telling stories. There are two easy options that stand out to me. Are you a forward-facing cam type person who can comfortably talk into the camera? Yep, me neither. I prefer using photos and words to tell my stories. Especially since I suck at video and I hate staring at myself talking. Either way, pick your strength and go all in.
Well, if you're reading this, you probably saw my live video interviews. I'd suggest going live with anything interesting you can. Whether that be taking someone live behind the scenes of your shoot, or you do a live topic discussion, or a live Q&A. Just make sure you have something captivating to show for a few minutes. It's hard to keep people's attentions for long, so hype that live up prior and let them know what you're going to be discussing. That way when the little live notification pops up, they're ready and excited. Also, don't forget to save the live after you finish so people can watch it later for 24 hours.
Imagine your highlights as an Instagram version of your website. You could have a highlight that's an 'about me', your recent work, pricing, contact info, etc. I haven't seen many people get more creative than that. But it's a good easy way to add more depth to your profile page.
Make sure you add some key information in your bio, where you're located, or available to shoot, your contact info, a bit about who you are, and a link to your website. I'd also highly recommend using linktree or something similar, I made my mobile landing page in Squarespace. This allows different people to easily navigate your site before jumping straight in, you can see mine here (obviously best viewed on mobile...)
5. DON'T FORGET TO CONNECT
One thing I love to preach and I learned as I first started my photography business, was the idea of 'Community Over Competition'. We are all in this together. Use social media to connect with brides, connect with new friends, connect with other photographers. Be yourself, and have fun. If you can do all that, I promise Instagram will be a lot less stressful and a whole lot more fun. If you put out quality work and truly connect with people, more followers will come. Trust me.
I'd love if you'd share this with someone who needs to read this. Also, if you feel so inclined, leave a comment below on what you wish my next topic would be. I'm always looking for more things to speak on.
RAPID FIRE INTERVIEW WITH BRIANNA BROYLES
How do you get featured?
BB: You need to find feature Instagram accounts that fit the photo's look you are posting. Hashtag and tag them. If you have a relationship with them, DM them the photo.
Best way to get more followers?
BB: Consistency, show your face, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
Favorite person on Instagram?
BB: Lauren Scotti, and everyone in my local Rising Tide Society group
One thing holding you back from being better on Instagram?
BB: Too much time on it, too consumed with it. Not able to explore more.
Worst thing about Instagram?
BB: Comparison, and how easy it comes.
Best thing about Instagram?
BB: Getting to meet people
How do you edit your photos on Instagram?
BB: Love E-series, M5, but it's a little too muted, I tend to desaturate, warm up the temperature, increase contrast, and sharpen. Always sharpen!
If you could change one thing about Instagram or the people on it, what would it be?
BB: Be able to create events or bigger groups of people.
You reach 10K followers (shoutout Henry) what’s the first thing you do?
BB: Swipe up then thank everyone.