A few days ago, Instagram announced that it’s going to be changing your feed from chronological order (with most recent posts showing up first) to a ranked algorithm that shows you “what you want to see most” instead of what was just recently published.
As expected, there was a huge public outcry. People are angry. They don’t like the change. They feel like they are losing control. They claim it’s all for the money. They can’t see anything good about this.
However, I think this is going to be a fantastic change. Before you start throwing your rotten tomatoes at me and commenting about how I am terribly wrong, let me explain why this is such a good thing and why you should be happy about it too!
Who is going to benefit from Instagram’s feed change?
The new algorithm is going to show people more of what they “want” to see. How does Instagram determine this?
It’s all about engagement.
How many people are engaging with your posts? How many comments and likes are you getting on your posts? How long are people looking at them? How deeply do people go back into your feed and comment on things? How often do people search for you by name, tag you, and otherwise engage with your account?
If you get more engagement on your posts on average than other people, then this change is going to benefit you.
You won’t only be shown to the people using Instagram right after you post. You’ll be shown to more of your audience regardless of whether they are using the app when you post or not.
Instagram estimates that only about 30% of your audience sees any given post. This change will allow you to be seen by a much higher rate of people if you’re publishing posts that they actually want to see and engage with.
This is a very good thing. This means that if you are posting stuff that people enjoy seeing and engaging with, you’re going to get more exposure and more followers.
Not only that, but it’s going to put pressure on people to post quality images that people really like to see and engage with, not just terrible photos that no one wants to like. As photographers this gives us a huge advantage. We know how to take stunning images that people are willing to pay for. Pair that with a strategy to get good engagement on these posts and this change is going to help you immensely.
Who is going to be hurt by this change?
If you post stuff to Instagram and hardly anyone comments or likes your stuff, you’re going to be hurt by this change.
Instead of getting upset that your mediocre posts are going to get even less traction, use this as an opportunity to re-evaluate what you’re doing and how to do it better.
If your marketing strategy using Instagram is to just throw something up there and hope works, it’s extremely unlikely that you are getting any results anyways. This is a great wake-up call to become more intentional, not just in your Instagram usage but in all your photography marketing efforts.
How to Get More Engagement on Instagram
Until this year, Instagram was just something I used personally within the quilting community for my own selfish enjoyment. I didn’t really care about growing an audience there until recently, and I didn’t use my account to promote The Modern Tog at all.
So I don’t have a massive audience like some people do. Just a few thousand people at the point of writing this blog post.
That being said, once I heard they were going to give you a way to easily switch between accounts without having to log out and log back in again, I decided it was time to start learning how to grow an audience and see what worked and what didn’t while using my personal account.
By being intentional about what I post since the start of this year, my engagement has increased significantly, and I’ve almost doubled my followers on my personal account in the last two months. Here’s a chart from SquareLovin that shows how successful it’s been for me (and March’s numbers are only low because it’s a partial month – the average likes per post is higher than in February.)
Here’s what has worked for me.
Be Strategic and Intentional
If you want to use Instagram for business and find clients that way, you need to post with your ideal client in mind.
What would they find interesting? What will make them engage?
If you can’t answer these questions, you are going to have a hard time growing an audience or finding clients in general. The better you can understand your ideal client, the easier it is to reach them and attract them.
Strengthen your Brand by Narrowing your Focus
If you’re sharing a mix of stuff your ideal clients care about and a mix of stuff that they don’t care about, they’ll be less likely to engage regularly with your account.
For example, when I’m looking for quilting inspiration, I would rather follow someone who only posts quilts than who posts a mix of quilts and family and whatever else they feel like sharing.
Or check out this account, @parisianfloors, which is only filled with photos of floors in Paris and has over 70,000 followers.
Narrow your focus on the type of images you share as well. Make sure the style and feel of your images is consistent from post to post.
Because Instagram now allows you to easily change between accounts in the app, it’s most effective to create and use separate accounts for the different things you want to share.
Select a few types of posts that you’re going to share, and rotate between them regularly.
Once you’ve narrowed down your focus and topic, select a few different types of posts that you can share within it.
Here’s a few examples:
- Current client photos
- Products and services from other business owners that you think your ideal client would love
- What to wear guides
- Your favorite locations to shoot
- The products you offer (bonus points if you show photos of them on your clients’ walls!)
- Behind the scenes photos
- Inspirational quotes
- Tips to help your ideal clients in other areas of their life (for example, if they have families, share tips about having happier families, or ideas for fun family activities).
- Ask questions that can be answered quickly with very little thought or effort, such as “Do you prefer the outfit on the left or right?” This is especially great for increasing engagement.
- Selfies with your clients
- If your personality is a big part of your brand, share parts of your life that are relevant to your ideal client. For example, if you are a wedding photographer and are already married, you could talk about the best parts of your marriage.
- Throwback posts to things in your past that are interesting to your ideal clients.
- “Tag a friend” posts. Share images that you know many people love, such as beloved local tourist attractions, and tell people to tag a friend who loves that thing as well.
- Feature your audience. Have your clients share their stories on Instagram using a unique hashtag that you monitor, and then feature your favorite stories on your account.
- Humor (these could be memes, quotes, images, really anything that will amuse your ideal client).
Pick 4-8 types of posts, and stick to posting a mix of those things. It’ll make it easier for you to plan out your posts, and your audience will know what kinds of things to expect from you.
Use Tags, Hashtags, and Geotags to Get More Exposure
Tags allow you to notify other users that they are being talked about on Instagram. For example, if you shared a tip you learned from this blog post on Instagram and wanted to credit me with it, you’d add @themoderntog in the description. This would notify me that you tagged me and allow me to join in on the conversation.
Tag your clients in photos and stories, tag other businesses you network with, and tag people in comments when your respond to them so they know you’re continuing the conversation.
Hashtags allow you to show up when people are looking for something specific. It’s a way to tell Instagram what your posts are about.
You can also use them as a part of your branding by creating a unique hashtag that isn’t used yet and post your own stuff to it, run contests using it, or encourage others to post to it to increase brand awareness.
I prefer to put a list of hashtags in the first comment instead of in the description, because then it doesn’t clutter things up visually too much.
Geotags allow people to see your photos based on the location you tag them with. It’s a great way to get people who are searching for wedding venues or nice places to take photos to find you.
Post Consistently, but Not Too Much.
Instagram seems to be more carefully curated than some sites, such as Facebook. People don’t want to see their feed flooded with 15 photos of your night out on the town.
Post 1-2 images per day, and only post the best of the best.
The nice thing about this is that you can spread out images from a single shoot over several days instead of posting them all at once, making it easier to find good content for your account.
If you really want to increase engagement, you need to have conversations with people and engage with their stuff so that they start doing the same thing back to you.
You are going to lose out on a lot of benefits if you only publish stuff to your account but never engage with other people. This is a social platform, and the more social you can be, the better it will be for your business.
This doesn’t have to suck up all your time. Set aside 5-10 minutes once or twice per day to browse around, have conversations, and engage with others. It’s not much time, but it makes a huge difference in the end.
Embed Instagram Posts in Your Blog
Instagram makes it easy to embed your posts on your blog, which can help you get engagement. Here’s an example of what it will look like. Go ahead and respond to it to experience how easy it is to engage with. Feel free to follow me while you’re at it. (Yes, that’s a shameless plug. But my goal is to create an account that you consider to be extremely helpful, so I think you’ll like it.)
Caution: This Mistake Will Leave You in a Very Bad Place…
Instagram is owned by Facebook. While I think the change to an algorithm based on engagement is a good thing for you right now, I do think that eventually they will make other changes that are going to make the effectiveness of Instagram decrease significantly.
Instagram is a business that exists to make money. They have investors that expect them to increase their profits over time, which means they will make decisions based on income and not on what you as a free user wants.
So don’t put all your marketing eggs into the Instagram basket.
I saw this with Facebook several years ago. Facebook pages used to be an extremely effective way to get free advertising, so many people invested huge amounts of time and money into growing their fan base.
Now, if they want their fans to see anything, they have to pay for ads. Only 1-2 people out of every 100 fans actually see their stuff if they don’t pay.
Instead, start building a following that can’t be taken away from you. I’d recommend using email marketing or SMS marketing to grow your audience. That way you won’t be in a world of hurt if Instagram changes their algorithm and your stuff is no longer seen.
Want to Learn More?
I just started an Instagram account for The Modern Tog where I plan to share photography business tips and have conversations. If you’re a professional photographer and want more clients, you should click here and follow me.
If you enjoy seeing quilts, you can follow my personal account by clicking here. But I mean it when I say it’s almost all quilts.
If you need more clients and want to find out how to get more ideal clients, click here to check out Marketog, a 6-week online course for photographers. It only opens a few times per year, but you can sign up to be notified next time it’s open.