What is special about Instagram?

Instagram has the potential for much greater reach and engagement than other platforms used for photo-sharing such as Facebook, 500px and ViewBug.  Reach refers to the number of people who might see your image. Engagement refers to the number who like or comment on your image. There are claims that the average engagement on Instagram is 10 times that of Facebook and 84 times that of Twitter. Such figures have to be treated with care given differences in posting behaviour on different platforms.  However, various studies do show that engagement on Instagram is significantly higher. 

Instagram has over 700 million users with over 400 million active every day. It also has more than 8 million registered businesses using it.  Since Instagram is not based on groups or communities, any user could potentially see your post. This is what gives it a greater reach than social networks such as Facebook. To make the most of that potential, you do have to learn to use hashtags wisely, which is something I’ll write about in a future article.

Why are professional photographers on Instagram?

For professional photographers, it is not only the size of the reach that attracts them to Instagram but its openness. Connecting to like-minded photographers might be fun and informative, but it generally doesn’t bring in new business. Unlike many other photo-sharing platforms, Instagram is completely open and most of its users are not serious photographers.  So a professional photographer can create a following of thousands, many of whom might be potential customers.

Also, many agencies and businesses are now using Instagram as a way of finding images and photographers. Professionals can actively raise  their visibility by not only posting their images, but also by engaging in the posts of others. Nowadays, a post or comment on Instagram is more likely to get the attention of a business than writing them an email.

Why are hobby photographers on Instagram?

Since many professionals are now active on Instagram, it makes sense for hobby photographers to follow them there. So it is an ideal place to connect to like-minded photographers.  Since joining Instagram at the end of last year, I’ve re-connected with old friends and got to know a whole new set of photographers. I’ve also been lucky enough to attract the attention of some of my favourite professionals who have followed me back.

The best way to build up and keep followers is to post regularly – not too often and not too rarely. For photographers, posting daily or every two to three days seems to work best. If you are like me, this has the additional benefit of forcing you to regularly dip into your image archive to quickly select and process images for posting. I never seem to get the images from one trip culled and processed, before I’m off on my next trip. Now I’m going back through previous trips in a fairly random order, focussing on the best. It may be only one photo at a time, but it is progress.

I’m thankful that single image posts still dominate even though it is now possible to create a post with multiple images. I really believe that the discipline of posting one image a day is good for me and good for my followers.  Even on Facebook, you are likely to get much more engagement if you post a single image a day rather than a whole album at a time. It makes you more selective and it reduces the load on your friends.

What next?

I plan to write three more articles about Instagram for photographers. The first will be some tips about getting started, including information about image formats  and captions. Then I will write an article explaining the use of hashtags with tips on selecting the ones to use. My final article will be some tips on how to grow your followers.

Last but not least, you can follow me on Instagram at  moira_photography.

Moira