A Richard Photo Lab guest blog by Instagram Manager Angela Shae.
Long gone are the days when people browsed blogs, checked in to see if you’ve uploaded fresh content to your website, and followed a link with more than a couple clicks. Instagram has quickly become the #1 social media platform, not just for businesses but for consumers. With the ever-changing algorithms, it’s important to stay up to date and relevant to capture the attention of your ideal client.
Angela Shae here today, an Instagram Manager for creatives and photographers. I am excited to talk about five common mistakes photographers make on Instagram and share some helpful tips to improve your IG strategy (or help create one!).
Not posting consistently
This one seems a little obvious, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to regularly show up on Instagram and connect with your followers and other creatives. There’s a couple reasons why this is so important. First reason is the algorithm. The less frequently you post, the less you engage with your followers, the more Instagram thinks that you don’t have quality content and therefore starts showing it to less of your followers. Posting good content regularly let’s the algorithm know that you’re a quality account. It’s already hard enough to get in front of your followers, since Instagram only shows your posts to a small percentage of those following your account—by not posting frequently and consistently, you’re hurting your chances even more.
Second reason is you want to stay fresh on people’s minds. Don’t worry about over-posting—chances are that they don’t see all your posts, so you want to make sure that you’re showing up regularly for the posts that do make it to their screen.
I’ve used the term “consistently” a few times, but what does that exactly mean? Every day? Twice a day? Twice a week? Do what you can for now, and build up to more later. Have a pattern. For example: if you’re posting every other day, don’t all of the sudden switch to once a week, you’ll notice a drop in follower growth and engagement. You don’t necessarily need to post every day or five times a week to have good engagement, you just need to have a consistent pattern. This is a great reason to have an Instagram manager come on board and help with making sure that quality content gets prepped, scheduled, and posted regularly. This will save you lots of time (and sanity!) and give you back time to focus on what you do best—creating beautiful content.
Not responding to comments and DMs fast enough
Once again, everything comes down to the algorithm. Instagram is now able to figure out who your friends and family are on Instagram simply from your activity on the platform. The accounts you interact with regularly with direct messages and comments (and who interact with you as well) establishh a close relationship. You’ll see those accounts show up at the top of your feed, beginning of your stories, and so on.
One mistake that’s very common is not responding to comments and DMs fast enough. Instagram only gives your post a little bit of time before it decides whether the content you posted is "important" or if it should be hidden. Therefore, the faster you respond to comments, the higher the chances that your post will be shown to more people. Even if the comment doesn’t need a personalized response, it’s best to comment with at least an emoji to show Instagram that there’s activity on your post. That sounds like a full time job, doesn't it?!
Not utilizing Stories to show off specific sessions/weddings
Instagram users are busy, usually on the go (on a mobile device), and oftentimes also lazy. Very few people are excited to hop through hoops to arrive at a link that they may or may not have time to look at. Directing people to “link in bio” isn’t as effective as most would hope.“To see my new blog post from this epic wedding, go to my profile, and click on link and you’ll get to my photos that may or may not take forever to load on your phone as you scroll.” Too many clicks. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
In my humble opinion, the best way to show off a full shoot is to utilize Instagram Stories like you would a blog post. Create 20-30 pages of your favorite photos from a session or a wedding that your followers can click through. Don't overdo it by posting 20 pages each day, but once a week or so will give your followers great insight into what you’ve been working on and a chance for you to show off your favorite captures. Putting your photos into IG stories will also give your followers a quick way to revisit the full set of your images later without needing to find the link to get back to the blog. Your favorite IG stories can also be saved into Highlights and display a perfectly curated set of photos for potential clients.
Don’t get me wrong, we all love the "Swipe Up" feature, as well. That’s great to add into any story to direct followers to your site— but many accounts don't have that option yet.
Forgetting that the feed is your portfolio
When a bride finds you through a hashtag and goes to your feed, what does she see? What’s the first impression? How does it make her feel? Within the last few years, blogging has become almost obsolete for wedding photographers, and the Instagram feed has quickly replaced portfolios. When a potential client arrives at your page, you have only a few seconds to capture their attention, get them to hit the “Follow” button, and introduce your style of photography. Are you light & airy or dark & moody? Do you like adventurous elopements? Do you shoot film? This is your portfolio.
You must be careful about making sure that each image can play well with the others surrounding them on the layout, even when the entire layout shifts. Every photo you post must be quality content that’s on brand and that will serve as the first impression for a potential client. Does this idea overwhelm you? There’s a handful of planning and scheduling apps out there that can help preview your layout, so you can see how the images all play together in the feed.
This is yet another great reason to have an Instagram manager—someone who can spend time searching your galleries for the perfect photos to fill the gaps. Your Instagram feed is oftentimes the very first impression/interaction your client will have with your brand. Blow them away with the perfectly curated portfolio!
Overlooking hashtags and forgetting to tag vendors
While Instagram is a great place to showcase your recent work, it’s also an incredible tool for connecting with industry creatives, vendors, and potential clients. All creatives associated with the wedding would love beautiful photos from the event and are anxious to share content with their followers. Sometimes waiting for the full gallery from the photographer can take months and everyone misses out on the opportunity to thrive off that immediate wedding high—when friends/family are stalking the wedding hashtag and looking for content to share from that day.
This may seems like common sense, but gathering vendor handles beforehand is important and can make a world of a difference, especially if you post same-day or the morning after. A good rule to practice is to reach out to the bride a week or so before the wedding and ask for a list of vendors and their Instagram handles if possible—if not, ask for their website and from there, it’s usually pretty easy to track them down. Have that list of Instagram handles ready before the wedding day, so that if you end up posting previews or IG stories, you can easily add all the tags. Everyone involved will get notifications, they’ll re-share, and create a buzz around your account. This will make the algorithm prioritize your content over other posts. It will also potentially expose you to new audiences that follow the different vendors or the couple you photographed.
Hashtags are also important. Instagram allows 30 hashtags, so use all 30 of them! I recommend hiding most of them in the first comment to keep your caption clutter-free. However, you want to create different “bundles” of hashtags and not use the same 30 for every single photo you post. Make sure hashtags are relevant to the content posted and are not too generic (which would bury your photo among millions, so don’t use #photographer). I suggest making custom “bundles” of hashtags for each specific wedding. Repeating some of them is totally okay (#filmweddingphotographer) but adding in others that are specific to the location and feel of the wedding is ideal. This allows your photos to be discovered by a broader audience.
So there you have it. A few simple suggestions to make the most of your Instagram portfolio. Show up consistently, build relationships with your followers and share quality content. If that sounds a bit overwhelming and like a lot of work (which it is!), maybe the best solution for you is to outsource an Instagram manager. I would love to be a part of your team to grow your account, reach more people, and consistently be present on the platform. I’m passionate about giving creatives some of their time back to focus on their art and spend more time with the people they love. Let’s chat!