As a photographer, it feels like the only way to get your work out there these days is through Instagram. This is obviously not the only avenue, but Instagram can be an incredible tool to help get your work seen by people across the world, to create connections and to find paid work. With the help of the wonderful Natasha Reeve from Shout Social Media, we've compiled a list of the most effective ways to grow your following and get your work seen by the right people.
Above anything else, the content you are providing has to be top notch stuff. Not only that, but there has to be a theme of sorts. If you're a landscape photographer, but like to dabble in photos of your pets too, create a second account. Your audience is following you because they like your landscape photography. Be consistent with what you post.
That isn't to say you can't post more than one genre of photography, just be clear in your bio. For example, I've made it clear that I am a landscape and portrait photographer. I will only post landscapes and portraits (and the occasional plug for my website or a giveaway). Limiting yourself streamlines your content and makes it easier for users to navigate.
However, "It's not just about well shot images with gorgeous lighting", Natasha adds. "Your content needs to either educate or entertain your audience and if you can make them smile or shed a tear well that's just a bonus."
You might love or loath them, but hashtags really are the number one way to get your content seen. "Hashtags need to be as creative as your visuals and captions", says Natasha. "Look at the hashtags your audience, influencers and competitors use. Try to get into the mindset of what people would search for if they were trying to find you." It's important to use hashtags that don't have millions of hits, too. You don't want your photo getting lost in a sea of others. Use hashtags with 10-200k hits and you'll be more likely to be discovered.
"Also, try and mix it up. The dreaded Instagram algorithm will penalise you if you constantly use the same hashtags. Here are some examples to get you started: #justgoshoot #visualsofearth #photartist, #photographyislifee, #visualambassador"
Natasha says, "tagging other accounts in your posts gives the potential for them to re share your content, engage or follow you. When tagging another account in a post, use the caption AND the photo. That way you have a greater chance of being seen by the account you have tagged. Don't forget to tag in stories as well. The algorithm can reward you and push your content to a wider audience."
Not only that, but tagging accounts associated with the place you've shot in will increase the likelihood of your photo being seen by people who are interested. For example, I recently shot in Iceland, so when I posted photos to Instagram I would tag @exploreiceland @icelandair and @tourismiceland because these accounts are visited by people who WANT to see beautiful photos of Iceland.
It should be clear by now that tagging is your key to success! Using the geotag function allows people to find your content by place name, which is very helpful if you're a landscape photographer. Natasha adds, "make sure you tag posts and stories for maximum exposure. No geotag for your location? You can create one through Facebook's "Create the Location" setting."
This might sound obvious, but contact people. A great way to get your foot in the door as a portrait photographer, for example, is to contact Instagram models or influencers who would let you take their photo. They get new photos for their feed and you get exposure. It is very rare to see money being exchanged in these situations, but not uncommon. Just don't expect to be paid for your efforts; that isn't what collaboration is about.
Another avenue to take would be to contact local businesses and see if they need photos for their social media. Coffee shops and cafes are a great place to start, as they rely on social media to get people through the door. Not only will this boost both your social media following, but you'll also be making real life connections that could lead to more opportunities in the future.
Natasha says, "The clue is in the name "Social" media. Be social and chat to your audience, potential audience and like minded accounts. If you put in the time, you will get it back. A great way to grow your own engagement is to simply ask a question in your caption."
You're hoping people will engage with your content, so it's a good rule of thumb to engage back. Give and you shall receive! Like posts that are similar or relate to your own content, comment on posts, and like Natasha says, ask questions in your captions that get people interested. However, be genuine. We've all had bizarre comments from Instagram bots or accounts that just want you to look at their feed. It's sloppy, boring and for what? You're a real person who wants to make connections with other real people, so be real!
If you follow these steps, you'll see your follower count grow in no time. However, it's a lot of work. You won't get 10k followers over night or by accident. It's easy to get complacent and I notice when I don't take care of my feed, if I don't post as regularly, choose the wrong hashtags, or forget to engage with my audience as much, they loose interest in me.
I used to really worry about how many followers I had, as I related that to how successful I was and how good a photographer I was. But now, I know that just isn't true. Growing a following is helpful, but don't equate it to your worth. It's all about effort; put in the time on Instagram and you'll get rewarded.
Be sure to follow Natasha @shoutsocialmedia and get more in-depth advice from her at www.shoutsmm.co.uk