Pick a Theme – and Stick with It!
Starting an Instagram account dedicated to your art is both exciting and overwhelming. A big part of being a photographer is wanting to document the world around you. Sometimes this manifests itself in a specific interest, and other times you’ll find yourself whipping out your camera whenever the opportunity arises.
Unfortunately, Instagram accounts with sporadic content tend to attract less attention than those with a focus. Instagrammers love to follow accounts that cater to their specific interests but as backwards as it may sound, they might not follow an account that deals with all of those interests at once.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule; if you’d like for your Instagram profile to reflect your love for food, travel, and nature all at once, then by all means curate your content accordingly. Undoubtedly there is an audience out there for you.
The key, however, to growing and keeping that audience is to have as little deviation as possible from those specific themes. In this way, users are able to build a steadfast community around the content they produce. Having dedicated content and a loyal core community increases your chances of being randomly discovered by users with similar interests to your followers.
If you find yourself conflicted about what topic you most want to cover, there’s nothing wrong with having multiple Instagram accounts, however it may be overwhelming to manage and promote more than one account before you have one established following.
Use Hashtags Dynamically
Hashtags are the stage that Instagram stands on. They’ve been implemented from the very beginning of the app’s life and were crucial to the fame of early Instagrammers. Today they are one of the features that’s remained consistent with Instagram’s current design, and are still an extremely necessary component to building any amount of fame on the platform.
Use Some Popular Hashtags
As a general rule of thumb, popular hashtags are usually the most obvious ones that spring to mind, but if you’re not sure, Webstagram can help you search for the most popular tags relating to your content. It’s worth it to throw some of these popular hashtags into your 30 hashtag limit, but it’s equally important not to overdo it.
Chances are, if you deal with a popular topic (like landscape photography) #landscape will (and does) get thousands of posts, and thousands of views, per day. That’s a lot of potential views, but also a lot of potential competition. With only a handful of followers, your lakeside sunset will probably be buried amongst thousands of other #landscapes, so while having these hashtags under your post might be valuable, you shouldn’t come to depend on them as the sole source of your exposure.
Throw in Some of the Unpopular Ones Too!
Lesser known hashtags can actually be a great source of exposure. Hashtags with a photo count of between 1,000 to even 500,000 posts have just the right amount of traffic to introduce your pictures to a broader audience, without being drowned out by the overwhelming amount of competition out there.
Finding these hashtags is also relatively simple. Your best bet is to type in a popular hashtag and scroll down the suggested list until you find a similar hashtag with a photo count that hasn’t broken past 500,000 yet.
Curate Your Content
Curating your content on Instagram has never been easier, especially with Instagram’s current capability to archive posts. “Curating,” can mean different things to different people, but for the sake of Instagram exposure, two definite things you should keep in mind are your best performing photos and your account’s first impression.
For insights into your best performing photos, you can switch to Instagram’s business profile feature under the “Account,” section of Instagram’s options menu.
With a business account, you can get information on the performance of your posts, and information on your audience’s behavior.
While you might have a particular affinity for one of your photos, archiving or deleting low performing pictures means your account will be comprised of pictures your target audience gravitates toward. It can also give your account a more aesthetically pleasing appearance and help you understand what your audience appreciates about your work.
You also want to leave a positive impression on first time visitors. Apps like Preview can help you envision what your Instagram will look like to account visitors. When planning your feed layout, take into consideration the themes, colors, and patterns that are achievable through your layout. Aesthetically pleasing accounts have a better chance of grabbing and holding the attention of first time visitors, and earning you new followers.
Have a Consistent Posting Schedule
In a 2017 study conducted by Tailwind, 100,000 posts from over a three month period were analyzed to discover the trend in post consistency. Tailwind concluded that daily posting increased audience engagement rates.
Considering Instagram’s current algorithm, this makes sense. If you’re out of the loop, Instagram no longer displays photos by post time, and has instead opted to use an algorithm that attempts to appeal to users based on account activity. The more users there are interacting with your account, the more likely you are to show up in their feeds. This meaning posting daily is imperative to your success.
You might also want to take into account at what times your posts are most likely to succeed. While there have been multiple studies and claims that attempt to discover Instagram’s sweet-spot hour of the day, the answer seems to be in flux. You will want to conduct your own personal research into what times your photos generally receive the most attention.
If putting together a high quality, standout post every single day of your year seems like too much work, that’s probably because it is. When it comes to social media, it’s all about working smarter and not harder. Rather than making one post with multiple images from your most recent shoot, spread them out over a few days or save some good shots to use in throwback posts later on, generating renewed interest in the collection. You can schedule your posts in advance directly from Instagram now, although many still prefer the interface of services like Hootsuite, which also offers the ability to coordinate your posts with your other social media accounts. More about that in a moment. Be sure to throw in a few spontaneous posts to avoid seeming too “bot-like” and keep your push notifications on so that you can respond in a timely fashion when followers interact with your scheduled posts.
Define Your Brand
Brands aren’t just for big businesses. Smaller, local businesses and independent creators can also brand themselves and their work on Instagram. Some of the best ways to do so include geo tagging your location and creating your own unique hashtag.
Geotags, which can be added through the “location” option when posting a photo, function similarly to hashtags in that any user searching that specific geotag has a chance of stumbling across your account. If you work as a freelancer or a business, geotags can advertise you to users looking for local talent. Creating your own hashtag is the Instagram version of a business slogan or motto, and sharing it across social media can make your account easily recognizable.
Geotags and brand hashtags are surprisingly effective for boosting your reputation. They work especially well if you’ve already made a bit of a name for yourself, but even if you don’t run an official business this tip can still work for your personal brand.
Interact with Other Accounts
Instagram is a social media platform and as such, user interaction is key. Your audience isn’t just there to shower you in likes! Engaging with your audience can not only manipulate the Instagram algorithm to work in your favor, but give your audience a favorable view of you.
One of the best ways to facilitate interaction with your audience is to add engaging descriptions to your posts. Asking questions and implementing other effective calls to action prompts users to interact with your post, and you in turn can like and respond to comments. An audience that appreciates and trusts you is more likely to respond to your content on a personal level, which will inspire them to recommend you to friends, boosting your account’s popularity across the board.
Following and interacting with other accounts, especially accounts similar to yours, can also gain you views and followers. This means commenting on others’ posts and being an active member of the Instagram community. Accounts can and do recognize consistent followers, and you open up the possibility of gaining a sincere follow-for-follow by genuinely interacting with accounts you are interested in. It’s important to make your Instagram interactions as meaningful as possible. Instagrammers will notice if you are engaging with them in a formulaic or impersonal way and will have no incentive to seek you out in the future. If, on the other hand, your interactions are sincere and thoughtful, users will look forward to engaging with your account. If you play your cards right, they will develop a camaraderie not only with you, but with your other followers. (This is how fandoms are born!)
The goal here is to be a living, breathing part of Instagram’s environment. Making a name for yourself isn’t just limited to your posts. Any form of recognition requires you to respect and appreciate both your audience and your peers.
Share Your Posts Across Social Media
This one’s relatively straightforward. Sharing your posts across your social media platforms is a great way to put your name out there. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr all have vastly differing ways of advertising your pages, links, and posts.
Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr give you the option to share others’ posts through shares, retweets, reblogs, and similar functions. This means followers can share posts to their friends, who will hopefully share with their friends, and so on. This broadens your potential audience considerably and takes your exposure outside of Instagram. Remember Hootsuite? This service (and a handful of similar ones, all with their own sets of pros and cons) can help you coordinate your posts to maintain continuity across your online presence while still using each social media platform to its best advantage.
In its early days, many social media users may have failed to see the potential of an Instagram account on top of their existing social media presences. In the years since, it has become abundantly clear that Instagram is more than just a pretty face in the social media platform lineup. With a slew of options available to users looking to grow a following, the greatest challenge is learning how to work Instagram’s unique features and algorithms to your advantage.