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Over the last two years, Instagram has become one of the main marketing resources I use in my business and brand. It’s become the key way I attract and connect with my ideal clients, all while fostering a relationship with them.
I’ve watched my following grow from less than 2K to over 60K, and while I don’t focus on the numbers, it has become one of those subjects that people are just dying to know about.
I have always led with the idea of profitability trumping popularity and that there are no “secrets” to growing your following fast, but there are ways to use your account to help your clients find you and then know, like, and trust you.
Here are my best tips for you to implement today to see the same growth in your own photography business.
1. Don’t be a one hit wonder!
Photographers specifically fall into the trap of flooding their Instagram feeds with only their photography work. While Instagram serves as a great means of sharing your portfolio, your feed should tell a compelling story.
Instead of living safely behind your work, it’s important to share a taste of your personal life too. For people to fall in love with the art, they must first fall in love with the artist!
While it may be uncomfortable at first, your ideal clients need to connect with you as an artist before they trust you enough to hire you. This key tip will set you apart from others in your industry. You are so much more than your work, so choose some topics you are comfortable sharing with the world that are in line with your brand.
It's really easy to post our best photos of ourselves. The ones that are edited, the ones we look skinny in, the ones where we are made up, styled. In fact, those are the ones I like to hide behind… but not today, here's why. I haven't wore make up in a week (I don't even know where my pencil bag with make up is.) I don't own a hair dryer and by Friday my hair is 99% dry shampoo and on the verge of dreadlocks. I boycott bras (and real pants, too) and I fall prey to feeling not enough. I see you out there with the lipstick, the perfect outfits, the styled hair and suddenly my bare reality feels like it's lacking, like I'm not beautiful. But here's the thing, I am. My everyday doesn't look perfect but I get some awesome work done. My zits are on fleek, I probably have a chin hair (or two) and I'm learning to love the wrinkles that are forming from smiling too much. Those things don't define me, the way I am serving the world does. So tonight I am serving the unedited version of me, the one you would see at the gym or picking up take out, and the one that is enough and worthy, no filter necessary. Tag fellow girls who are serving the world with real joy, raw authenticity, and total keep it realness! ? I am enough, even in this mess and so are you. #realnotretouched
When you build your brand around YOU and not your work, it frees you up to transition your brand to new avenues and try new things because people love following YOU – not just your pretty pictures.
Jenna’s Bonus Tip: To accomplish this, I picked 6 facets or themes of my life and business that I wanted my followers to know more about and rotate through them.
This helps me to stay consistent in what I’m posting while not sharing from one category too much.
For me, the list includes anything from the following categories:
- Wedding photography
- My watercolor work
- Dog rescuing adventures
- My love for mission work
- My travels and fashion
- My marriage and home
I kid you not, it has snowed every year on my birthday for the last like ten years! I just pretend Mother Nature is partying and the flakes are confetti! This is how our backyard is celebrating! At least it was a pretty snowfall, but let's get back to spring, k? I'm ready for sunshine and green grass! #kutchercraftsman
2. Curate your images carefully!
You are a photographer, you love good photos, right? Me too! Resist the temptation to share every update you have and really take a second to think about the photo you are about to post (and save some memories for yourself!).
Just because it’s not posted on your social media feed does not mean it didn’t happen. Is the image cohesive with your brand? Is this something you would be proud to claim as your own? If it was floating around with no credit, could it be easily recognized as your work?
Jenna’s Bonus Tip: Don’t “live” post. I prefer to get the shot and put my phone away. That will give me time to edit the image, dream up the caption and strategize with how and when I will share it.
When you take away the pressure of live posting, it frees you up to plan out your content, get the image up to your brand standards, and spend a little time on telling a story through your words.
3. Build your Tribe!
Instagram is a handshake, not a sale pitch. Not only can it connect you with your dream clients, it can help you grow relationships in the industry. It’s so important to build a community (both on and off of the platform!).
While Instagram is a great marketing tool, this silly app has connected me with some of my dearest friends. Living in a tiny town of 12,000, Instagram helps me feel connected to others in the industry and creates a common link that might not exist without the sharing of our photos and lives.
Don’t think that using the heart-eyed emoji with no thoughtful response counts as building a community though. This app is amazing at connecting people, but let’s take the connection further and reach out outside of the app. Some of the most amazing people I’ve met online and then followed up with are now friends in real life.
Think of Instagram as an invitation to follow, join, and know you. When you ask people to join you in your journey and extend the invite to take relationships off of the app, it fosters relationships that can lead to friendships or clients.
4. Use your captions to tell a story!
Make sure you aren’t a worst offender here. Captions aren’t just a space to be filled, it’s a place to tell a story. Instead of just hoping people double tap because you put up a pretty photo, help further their experience (and extend an invitation) with a story about the frame.
How many times have you seen a beautiful photo with the caption “I loved this wedding! Go see more images on the blog!” Trust me, I know it can be hard to come up with the perfect caption to match that beautiful photo. But next time, try this: simply tell their story.
Why does the photo matter? What happened right before or after this photo? What stood out to you about your clients while working with them?
Invite your followers into the moment and this is when the magic happens and people begin to really connect with you and your work. Tell people why they should care about this image (and take a second to stop scrolling through their feed).
Today my heart is in another place, well another country. I woke up yearning to go back to the Dominican Republic, to be with the incredible people there. I ran water was I brushed my teeth and thought about the simple act of turning a faucet and knowing there is clean, safe water flowing. I'm putting this out there so I make it happen. My goal for 2016 is to partner with you to fund an entire water project with @healing_waters! I want to impact lives, a community with clean water partnered with health and hygiene, I want to take people from thirsting individuals to a thriving community. My birthday is tomorrow, would you join me in celebrating with gifting others with clean water? Together we can fund this project. I gifted myself the present of clean water for more today so we are already 25% to my goal! Join me by using the link in my profile, every dollar counts, I witnessed it in action. #jkcandhealingwaters #giveback #cleanwater
Using your captions can not only let people into the moment but it can also show your clients that you’re paying attention and that you will tell their story even better than they could.
5. Profitability trumps popularity!
Did you think this was going to be an article about how to quickly double your following? Wrong. We want to grow the right following – remember those ideal clients we talked about earlier?
In my business, I would much rather have a smaller following of devoted, obsessed followers over a giant follow of people who could care less.
It’s important to foster relationships and not turn your feed into one big sales pitch, but it’s critical to have a plan for how you will transition people from being followers to hiring you as clients.
The whole “know, like, trust” principle can be seen in action when you foster those relationships, engage with your followers, and invite them to feel like they “know” you.
Real Talk: It's April Fools Day and while it's hilarious to pull pranks, I would love to caution you in posting a fake pregnancy announcement. While it's all in good fun (and I promise I'm not mad if you did!) It can be hurtful to people who are yearning to be pregnant or those who recently lost a baby to miscarriage (us) or those struggling with infertility! I am truly and honestly joyful for people who are blessed to be expecting and pregnant, but if you pull any silly pranks today, I pray that you think twice about showing a sonogram or a positive pregnancy test. There are so many out there silently suffering, waiting for their turn make that exciting announcement and that little joke can silently hurt. The news that isn't commonly or publicly shared is the news of loss, of infertility, or in struggling to conceive. Just a fresh perspective on the first day of April. Get creative with your pranks today, okay? Now get on with your silly jokes, you fools! (And for those that have been continually praying for us and checking in, THANK YOU. It has been two weeks since we lost our baby and each day gets a little easier knowing and trusting that our Creator has bigger plans for us and that the little life we made has changed lives through our sharing! We have peace that only comes from Him and we are getting back to "us!" This photo was the day we found out we were pregnant in Hawaii and I wish I could feel that glow again… )
Instagram should never be your end game, it should be an invitation to encourage people to follow you on other platforms (like your blog, Facebook, or email list) to continue the relationship.
Instead of focusing on being profitable, focus on speaking directly to your ideal client and building a tribe of people who are devoted to you, excited with you, and who can’t stop talking about you and your work!
While there is such a focus on growing your following, I love to shift that focus on telling a story throughout your feed and making sure its a best seller.
Use your Instagram to help grow your business in an organic way and focus on sharing content that isn’t just pretty, it’s captivating.
Instagram has entirely transitioned the way I “advertise” and has opened some incredible doors both by means of new clients and friendships.
I’d love for you follow my journey in pretty square photos and say “hello!” Just pop over to my Instagram and let me know what resonated with you (or simply tell me what’s your favorite brand of yoga pants) and I’ll connect with you there!
If you want more help with Instagram, you can pick up Jenna’s free guide on her site here.