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Building a following on Instagram: a photographer’s playbook

Romain Ouzeau, CEO of Iconosquare shares how you can make the most of Instagram

Instagram is the natural platform for a photographer: it was one of the first social media networks to be designed from the very start to be just about photography, and has been growing impressively over the past year. Now, with more than 600 million users on the platform, the time is ripe to grow your audience and following these steps will give you a great head start.

Why Instagram?

Images are the heart and soul of Instagram, which makes it the ideal choice for photographers who want to showcase their work. Photographers on Instagram have a 600 million-strong audience of people who have already demonstrated their interest in photography just by being there. Other platforms like Facebook or Snapchat are experiencing strong growth, but just aren’t as focused around polished, professional photography.

For many people, Instagram is becoming the new portfolio. That’s not to say it’s replacing more traditional, permanent physical and online portfolios. Rather, it’s carved out a new niche for itself – it’s a photographer’s social portfolio. If someone’s thinking of hiring a photographer, the photographer’s Instagram feed is the natural place to start when looking for work samples. Instagram also does a great job of connecting you with happy former clients, who can act as great advocates and miniature case studies for your work.

Find your niche and stick with it

So how do you build a following on Instagram? There are several simple steps any photographer can take to boost their street cred on the platform. One of the most important steps initially is to find and settle on your specific niche.

The advantage of having a narrow niche, whether that’s a stylistic or topical one, is that the users who find your content will likely have a passionate interest in your topic and so enjoy more of your posts. This takes much of the work out of assembling an audience, as your chosen topics will do that for you.

Once you’ve selected your niche, whether that’s photography of a particular city, activity or theme, stick with it. For example, Sarah Hatton’s (@iso100_photography) speciality subject is the mountains of Australia. By focusing her profile on this topic area she was able to build up an audience more quickly, therefore appearing more popular and in-demand to potential clients (even if they’re not actually looking for Australia-themed photography).

Find the wow factor

Don’t be tempted to be lazy: only post your very best photos to Instagram. When you’re aiming to post regularly it can be all too easy to put up whatever’s available. However it’s vital to seriously consider every photo before you post it, weeding out uninspiring images that won’t bring you engaged followers and clients.

For example, Matt Scutt (@mattscutt) is a London-based photographer who brings his images alive with a wide array of beautiful colour and light effects. Laura Austin (@laura_austin) grabs attention in a different way, lighting up scenic shots with people who have a flair for carefree body language.

To hashtag, or not to hashtag?

In short, hashtag, but hashtag well. The most successful Instagrammers use hashtags to their best advantage, since they make your images more easily discoverable. Make sure your hashtags are relevant to your images and story, and never over-hashtag. Nothing annoys people more!

What does success look like?

It’s important to understand what metrics you should be looking at to gauge your success. Instagram Insights, a free tool, provides businesses with a few different metrics to help here:

  • Impressions (views) this week
  • Reach this week
  • Profile views this week
  • Clicks to website this week
  • Information on top posts
  • Information on followers
  • Analytics for Stories

These metrics are a great start to gaining an overview of what’s going on on your profile, but they’re not the end of the story. Paid tools, such as Iconosquare, can offer much more in-depth analytics such as follower growth, community geographic location and estimates on the best time to post. While it’s always best to start out with the free tools, if you’re seeing strong new business coming from Instagram it’s might be time to invest in your set up.

The beauty of social media marketing is that there’s no strictly right or wrong way to market yourself: you’re meant to be expressing yourself and your unique approach to your work. However, there are plenty of best-practices that help you make the most of your social presence. Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to social media fame in no time. If you want more tips on how to build a successful Instagram presence for your photography business visit our website and download our latest ebook.

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