Instagram Growth: 5 Tips for Better Engagement Numbers with Vanessa Joy
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It’s no secret that Instagram is now the biggest social media platform out there, having wrestled that top spot from Facebook—which, coincidentally, bought Instagram. Hey, if you can’t beat them, buy them!
Depending on your genre of photography, you may not feel that your audience is on Instagram, and that’s ok. Regardless of which platform your audience uses, eventually they’ll migrate to Instagram, especially as that platform’s core demographic ages and older social media users start dipping their toes in different waters.
Success with social media depends on your presence there. People decide whether or not to use your photographic services based on what you’re doing on social media. Do I have statistics to confirm that? Not exactly. But I’ve observed that failing photography businesses often have a subpar social media presence. Look for yourself.
Check out my Instagram profile at www.instagram.com/vanessajoy. Sixteen thousand followers isn’t bad, and I have an average engagement rate for that following number. According to Gary Vaynerchuk’s digital media powerhouse VaynerMedia, I’m doing quite well, above average.
I’ll let you in on some of my secrets.
Tip 1: Photo Tags
The number-one thing you want to do is increase the visibility of your posts. One of the easiest ways to do this is to tag other accounts in the photo accompanying your post. It’s best to tag people and companies that actually have something to do with the picture. If I post a wedding photo, I’ll tag wedding vendors as well as big brand-name clothing and shoe lines that are featured. They appreciate the cross-promotion of the tag, plus a name-drop in the description.
Another plus is that bigger brands and blogs will see your photo because you tagged them, and will feature you on their account. I’ve started seeing accounts actually request to be tagged in exchange for consideration of reposting or publishing a photographer’s work, with credit. Anytime you can get your work featured on another account in front of someone else’s hard-earned audience, it’s a win.
Tip 2: Hashtags
This is an oldie but a goodie. Hashtags are still relevant and should be used on every post. You’re allowed up to 30 hashtags per image, and you need to use them wisely. While it may seem like a great idea to tag #fashionphotography in your image, you and 10 million other people had the same idea.
A successful hashtag is one that gets noticed. When you use a hashtag like #wedding, you’re just throwing your image into a garbage can full of a billion other images. Use hashtags that give your picture a longer shelf life than 1/250th of a second. Your exposure shouldn’t match your shutter speed.
Tip 3: Description Tags
These are not to be confused with photo tags. These are the @ tags you write in the description or comment field of a photo. In a way, it’s like notifying an account that you’ve mentioned them in a post. This is a great way to credit other people in the photo, and also a way to ask for interaction.
Sometimes when I use @ tags in my description, I tag people I think will find the photo interesting in hopes that they engage with it by liking or commenting on the photo. Any engagement is good because it boosts the algorithm on your post to your audience. Engagement is public, and other people can see that your post is being engaged with through top posts on hashtags, as well as the Discover and Following tabs. Again, be choosy. Trying to get @JimmyChoo’s attention might not work out when there are a million other people doing the same thing.
Tip 4: Interaction
As with all social media, it can’t always be about you. It has to be social, which means it needs to be about other people too. Everyone wants their ego stroked. No one wants to feel like they’re just being spammed for their engagement. Interact genuinely with other people.
Don’t copy and paste comments, especially emojis, onto as many pictures as you can. For one, Instagram will catch on to this and block you from using the feature—or, worse, disable your account. Secondly, people smell fishy a smile away. Be fresh in your comments and make sure they actually have something to do with the picture you’re commenting on.
Keep your target audience in mind. If you’re a newborn photographer, there’s no point interacting with a mom who has teenagers. Find new moms (using hashtags) and interact with them. A good way to make sure your interactions are noticed by the account holder is to like and follow five photos and comment on one photo, all within a minute or so. This way you’ll pop up on their feed and they’ll hopefully check out your profile.
Don’t do too much more than this, or you’ll just look like an Insta-stalker.
Tip 5: “Cheating”
There are plenty of ways to “cheat” Instagram growth. Some are completely unethical, others are borderline and some are legit. As social media continues to become more relevant to business, there will be services like Social Growth Factory and Social Envy popping up to help you outsource your social media presence.
I love outsourcing, but with social media, it needs to be done correctly, or the only genuineness you’ll claim is looking like a genuine idiot. Buying followers, for one, is a no-no. Not only will you end up with a ton of followers who aren’t your target market (marketing dollars gone down the drain), but your engagement won’t match up with your follower numbers.
Whenever I see someone with 20K-plus followers but only around 40 likes per post, I know they’ve paid for followers. That’s just plain dumb. The same goes for buying likes. It just won’t bring more business through the door.
There is so much more to this topic, and it’s constantly changing. I go more in depth in my webinar, here: http://bit.ly/2vJtQBy.
Instagram growth takes time and effort. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the interaction you want right away. Lay the foundation by posting and interacting consistently. Keep it up, and over time you will see a difference in your numbers.