Guest post from Featured Pro Bryce Lafoon of Bryce Lafoon Photography:
So you want to be “Insta-famous?” Have you ever heard the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for?” Read on to find out how this applies to my personal experience, and how it could apply to you, too.
My name is Bryce Lafoon. I am a wedding photographer from southeastern North Carolina. I started my personal account, @lightshifter, about 5 years ago. Today, my followers have grown to nearly 310K. Here are some of the steps I took to get there:
Engage with intention.
I have found that the best way to gain new followers and interactions is to ENGAGE, ENGAGE, and ENGAGE some more. One thing that has been beneficial for me is to provide as much value to your Instagram account as possible. Having a great photo is one thing, but valuable content with a great photo is even better. My favorite Instagram accounts offer helpful tips, words of wisdom, and inspiring people just being themselves.
It’s important to me to get to know the people I follow and to learn more about their lives. Anyone can “like” someone’s photo but truly the best way to engage and to get to know someone is by leaving a meaningful comment. On average, I comment on up to 50 photos a day in addition to “liking” the majority of photos in my feed. I search for hashtags that interest me and then I go through and “like” the photos in each thread.
For example, I’m really into music festivals. So I search hashtags for Coachella, Moogfest, Iceland Airwaves, Austin City Limits and South by Southwest. Others who have posted using the hashtag will more than likely click on your name and begin to follow your account after you “like” their photo. As a wedding photographer, I also search hashtags pertaining to my local wedding market and engage with other vendors in the industry.
I know what you’re thinking: “liking” and commenting on photos takes a lot of time. I admit that it does take time and commitment, but I have found the key to accomplish this is by safely multitasking. I work on my account (by “liking” photos and making comments) while I’m at the gym or while I’m walking my dogs.
You will find that your significant other will not appreciate your eyes on your phone at all hours, so using your time wisely during the day allows for quality Instagram-free time with your family. And, of course, this should be a given, but I will say it just in case you might be guilty: Please never, ever work on your account while you’re driving.
2. Seek out opportunities to be re-posted.
Another way that can greatly increase your number of followers is to have an account with a bigger following to re-post one of your photos. I have been lucky to have this happen to me a few times. With one of these larger account shares, I gained almost 50K followers. This is where the saying, “be careful what you wish for” comes into play.
I now have a huge following of teenagers from a country that doesn’t speak my language. Re-posts are most helpful when coming from accounts that have an audience that you actually want to have. As a wedding photographer, shares from wedding magazine accounts or major wedding blogs are definitely more ideal for my account.
3. Explore the newest features.
With one of the recent app updates, you now have the ability to go LIVE. This is a great opportunity to get your audience engaged with and interested in both your account and your life.
Another new feature that allows for excellent account engagement is to form Instagram Pods with others on the online messenger. When a member of the pod makes a post to his/her account, he/she goes to the pod and types something like “NEW POST.” The others in the group see it and know to comment on the post with some encouragement or give feedback on the image. I have found this to be a great way to attract new followers, as well as to help develop friendships with other users. The pods are also great way to learn from each other and to help one another grow.
4. Post regularly.
To gain the most followers and keep your audience engaged, I have found that you should make at least 1 post per day. It’s also a really good idea to vary the time of day that you make your posts in order to reach different audiences. Many folks check their account and make posts at times that are convenient for them during the day, and this time may fall around the same time every day. So, it’s important to not get into the routine of being online at the same time all the time.
Also, it’s probably not a great idea to post too many photos in a short period of time, unless you want to annoy your audience! Thankfully, you now have the ability to post a series of photos in one post which is a great way to tell a story with images.
With the right plan in place, you can absolutely grow your Instagram following beyond your wildest dreams. Don’t be afraid to comment on other accounts. Give words of encouragement and truly engage with your audience. I have met some wonderful friends through Instagram, and many of these friendships started with small lines of encouragement.
To prove my points and to share with you an easy example of how this really does work, I started a new Instagram business page for my brand, Bryce Lafoon Photography. @brycelafoonphotography. I did not want to get a “false” head start by alerting my followers of my new page, since I have quite a large Instagram following on my personal page. In other words, I wanted to start a new Instagram page from the ground up.
After just one week, I had close to 500 followers. I believe this was all achieved by sharing really valuable content, engaging with other accounts, exploring hashtags, and using Instagram pods.
Overall, my goal is to have the best audience that I can, made up of folks who are generally interested in my work. Having a lot of followers doesn’t mean anything unless your followers engage with your account.
At the end of the day, it’s not necessarily about the numbers (although I must admit that I am really proud to have all of my followers), but it’s more about the quality of your interactions and the positive feelings that you are able to take away from this incredible social network.
Have a question about using Instagram to grow your photography business? Post your inquiry for Bryce in the comments below!