Instagram launched some time in 2010, I think.
It seems like it was almost an instant hit with a large number of people.
The app kind of helped turn regular people into better photographers. The app allowed people to add filters, but even more importantly I think the app gave people a way to get feedback on their photos and they could work on taking better photos as a way to get more engagement (likes and comments).
What’s always stood out to me, though, is how good some professional photographers are at using Instagram to show off their skill and market their services using Instagram.
It’s a natural fit obviously. That’s no surprise.
I’ve followed a few pro photogs over the years and I’ve tried to observe some of the really good things they do on Instagram.
Let’s look at some of those lessons that any business can apply to marketing their own brands on Instagram.
Lesson #1. Share A Lot Of Photos
Professional photographers are obviously involved in photography all the time. It’s their job. They do it ~8 hours a day. They have tons of photos to use on Instagram and they usually share more than the average person would.
But a general rule of thumb with any type of content is that more is better…at least in the sense that you get more opportunities to win over fans and to learn how to create better content that your audience wants to partake in.
Obviously 100 junk photos won’t do as well as one really awesome photo, but don’t discount the power of quantity.
You’ll often hear about viral pieces of content. But you don’t hear about the 100s of pieces it took to learn what might one day go viral.
Lesson #2. Use Real Cameras
It seems that many pros on Instagram will take photos with their professional cameras and then upload and share them on Instagram. With all the cloud sharing and such today it’s easy to upload on your computer or via your phone even if you’re using a nicer camera.
I know that smartphones can take some really great photos. And the pros do use photos with their phones, but it seems like they use their real cameras much more often when sharing their work on Instagram.
If you’re in business, don’t discount using a really nice camera instead of your phone. It can improve the blurriness, color and much more that will make your photos that much better.
Lesson #3. Remember To Use Real Hashtags
Funny hashtags have their place (#ittakesmetoomuchefforttofigureoutyourironichashtag). You can also try to create your own. That can take time, but it can very much be worth it.
Pros do some of the fun stuff and they create their own. They do, however, use real hashtags much more often and by that I mean they share hashtags that are popular especially with their target clients.
Let’s say you’re a wedding photographer in Wisconsin. You might use the #wedding tag and the #wisconsin tag and some that are similar to those to get the attention of the right people.
Check out some similar businesses to yours in your area and see what hashtags they’re using. Also see what tags your audience is using in their Instagram posts. That will clue you in on the ones you should be using most of the time.
Lesson #4. Mix Of Work & Fun Pics
The photographers I follow do share their work photos most often. They are promoting their work after all. For example, a wedding photographer will share pics from their recent wedding sessions. That makes sense.
But the pros also mix in some fun pics. They share pics that give insight into their life. They might share vacation pics and pics of their home improvements and things like that. Maybe just them enjoying a beer in a brewery that has some cool textures for the interior design.
A mix of both is good for any business and really on any social channel including Instagram. People like to see your work, but they also like to learn a little about who you are as a person or who the people are at your company.
Lesson #5. Partnership Shares
Pros are really good on Instagram with partnerships. Photogs work with photogs. They are still competitive at times, but they also work together and they’re really good at promoting each other. They know that when people see the value in photography that it helps all photographers. And many specialize in one form of photography or another and they refer each other if a client asks about something.
Any business can benefit from partnerships. What are the partnerships you could do on Instagram?
Breweries are good at doing it with food trucks. Hotels are good at doing it with bars and with their Chambers of Commerce. There are lots of opportunities.
Bonus Lesson: Hire Pros To Do The Job
The final lesson here is that sometimes it’s important to remember that you’re not a professional photographer. We’re all good at some things, but we’re just okay or really not good at many more things.
That’s totally fine. Continue taking photos if you enjoy it.
But if your photos are not really doing your business justice then it’s time to invest in someone that knows what they’re doing.
A good way to look at this would be a restaurant situation. It’s really challenging to photograph food and make it look amazing (even though many of us try to photograph our food).
Let’s say a restaurant costs a couple million dollars to launch from scratch. All that money goes into it, but the restaurant launches with photos that are just okay on their promotional items including a website.
That will turn people off.
It’s worth it to hire a pro instead of an intern or the employee on the team that likes taking photos in their spare time.
Instagram is a great place for making connections, growing an audience and promoting your business. But you have to have the right approach. It’s no surprise that professional photographers are good at using Instagram to promote themselves. Any business can take their lead when it comes to succeeding on the social channel.