Instagram for Photographers: How to Grow Followers and Engagement

Ever wonder how you can get more followers on Instagram? Increasing traction and interaction on Instagram is something that even professional photographers struggle with. However, there are a few social media tricks that can set you down the right path. These are a few simple tips that helped me double my followers in just a few months. I’ve also begun seeing a dramatic increase in the amount of likes I get on each photo I post. Whether you’re just starting out with Instagram or you’ve been on it for a while without much success, read on for a few tactics to help you grow your following and audience.

1. Use popular hashtags

The key to getting more followers on Instagram is to give your posts maximum visibility. This is achieved by adding hashtags, which is a keyword or phrase preceded by a number sign. Hashtags are the key for getting discovered on this platform. Users can click on a hashtag and see all posts that have the same hashtag attached to them. Thus, sing the right hashtags can expose your images to a larger audience. Without hashtags, your posts will only be seen by your followers.

Note that Instagram allows a maximum of 30 hashtags per post. Studies show that the best performing posts tend to have an average of 11 hashtags.

How to Find Relevant Instagram Hashtags

When adding hashtags, don’t just choose words and phrases at random. Do some research to study and utilize the hashtags that have the most images associated with them. There are two simple ways to do this:

a) Start entering in a hashtag into a post and notice that Instagram starts to suggest hashtags, along with a number indicating how many other images are associated with the hashtag.

Best Instagram hashtags

b) Use Websta to research trending hashtags in a hot category, or enter your own keyword ideas into search to find relevant hashtag suggestions. Notice that many of the top 100 Instagram hashtags are pretty basic words or phrases that have hundreds or millions of other posts within them. This means that these photos are getting high visibility.

2. Cross-post Instagram photos to other social networks.

Instagram has made it incredibly easy to simultaneously publish new posts to other social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr at the click of a button. This makes posting the same content across all social networks much faster, but with a couple of catches.

First of all, if you take hashtags into account and stuff them all into your Instagram post, these same hashtags will show up on other platforms too, which appears messy and just plain ugly.

Twitter hashtags

Luckily, there is a workaround. When adding a new post to Instagram that you plan to cross post to another platform, caption it with little or no hashtags and hit publish. Then, go back into that published Instagram post and add your hashtags as a comment. This keeps your hashtags contained to Instagram.

Best Instagram hashtags

3. Connect with Tumblr and IFTTT for image embed cross posting to Twitter

Another problem with cross posting has to do with image formatting on Twitter. Notice in one of the examples above that when we cross post from Instagram to Twitter, we not only get ugly hashtags, but the Instagram photos show up as a hyperlink. This isn’t a major problem, but studies show that Twitter posts perform much better when images are embedded. One of the ways to address this problem is a workaround that uses two other platforms: IFTTT and Tumblr. The full steps are listed here. It does require a little extra legwork to set your accounts up, but once all of that is done, you’ll have both a Tumblr account to auto-post to, and your images that are cross-posted between Instagram and Twitter will be beautifully embedded like so:

Twitter embedded instagram image

4. Promote and share Instagram images from other users.

Pop quiz: are you allowed to repost the Instagram images of other users on your own account? Here’s what Instagram’s community guidelines, say:

“Share only photos and videos that you’ve taken or have the right to share.
As always, you own the content you post on Instagram. Remember to post authentic content, and don’t post anything you’ve copied or collected from the Internet that you don’t have the right to post.”

At face value, that looks like a no. But consider the feeds of popular news outlets and blogs such as National Geographic and Us Weekly. Pretty much their entire feeds are made up of exclusively of reposting other people’s images.

Instagram follower growth

Obviously, there’s some loophole here. It ultimately boils down to photo rights and permissions. Under this interpretation, you can indeed post images on your account that were not authored by you as long as you have permission from the Instagram user (done by messaging or emailing them to have it in writing), and give them proper attribution or photo credit.

Why post images that aren’t your own? To share quality content from your community and to foster relationships with other Instagram users. After all, this same functionality exists on other social networks such as Share buttons on Facebook, Retweet buttons on Twitter, and Reblog buttons on Tumblr. Instagram doesn’t have native sharing buttons on its app, but there are other third-party apps such as Repost that will repost other users’ Instagram photos for you, with automatic attribution.

5. Up your smartphone photography game

Are you avoiding posting on Instagram because you think your cell phone takes terrible photos? If so, there’s some great camera technology out there that can help. Let’s start with how to enhance your camera phone photos. There are tons of smartphone camera lens options out there that attach to your phone and allow you to take telephoto zoom and even wide angle and macro shots.

Smartphone Camera Telephoto Lens

Having too much fun with my new camera phone lens.

Another way to enhance smartphone photography is to shoot photos with cameras with built-in Wi-Fi technology. This allows for quick transfer of images directly to your phone. All three of the main cameras I use are Wi-Fi enabled and have definitely helped me step up my Instagram game. These cameras are the Canon 6D DSLR, Sony a6300 mirrorless camera, and Olympus Tough TG-4 waterproof point and shoot camera.

6. Above all, use Instagram as you would any other social network

Ultimately, the best way to get the most out of Instagram is to treat it as you should any other social network. Aim to post a new image daily, and engage with followers as much as possible. Respond to every comment you receive, even if it’s a simple “thank you!” and answer every question asked. Likewise, be sure to comment on any photos that catch your eye and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most users will respond to you as they understand that engagement is the main secret to building a solid social networking community. Be patient and don’t resort to shady tactics like trying to buy followers.

Quick tip: It can be a pain to browse and comment on Instagram using your cell phone, so one of the easiest ways to manage your account on your desktop is to use Iconosquare. It’s a web-based tool, meaning it’s not available as an app, but it’s a great platform for quickly engaging with and managing Instagram content en masse, and it provides analytics too so you can see how your posts are performing.

Over To You

Do you have any tips or tricks for growing your Instagram account? Let me know in the comments below!

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By | 2017-02-11T15:58:54+00:00 December 18th, 2016|2 Comments

About the Author:

Suzi Pratt is an event, food, and concert photographer based in Seattle. She started Intrepid Freelancer to inspire and teach others how to start a photography business. View her at photography portfolio, and subscribe to herYouTube channel.
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