Over the past 5 years, Instagram has blossomed into the premier, mainstream outlet for photographers, regardless of skill level. Boasting an active user base of 700 million and counting, Instagram’s popularity need not be discussed further—it’s truly a force majeure. And I’m no crowd scientist (which is a real occupation, by the way), but 700 million seems like a heck of a lot of people. So, how can a budding photographer garner eyeballs when there are so many things to look at?
In all honesty, there’s no one right answer. Depending on who you are or what you do, the recipe for success can vary. We’re just here to provide you with a few handy ingredients. Check out our 7 Instagram tips for getting more followers.
1. Manage your page as though it’s a gallery of your work
In other words, treat your profile like a digital portfolio. Of course, you’ll want to craft each picture with a degree of professionalism that, in turn, reflects your unique brand of photography. But also consider how each piece of your work complements the rest. Are they unified by a singular theme? Does it speak to the niche you’re aiming to serve?
Harlem-based rapper and fashion icon A$AP Rocky is acutely familiar with this school of thought.
Everything included on his largely NSFW Instagram page works in conjunction with both his personal brand and musical aesthetic. Now and again, he’ll upload a series of posts that aren’t meant to be consumed individually, but all together, as the viewer scrolls through his profile. First-time glancers might be taken aback by Mr. Rocky’s peculiar adaptation of the social media, but it’s definitely out-of-the-box, and that’s something any creative thinker can appreciate.
2. Synthesize your social media activity
For photographers, Instagram is far and away the easiest platform to cultivate a following. However, we humans are nomadic beings—we tend to settle in lands far and wide. Odds are, you maintain a presence on a number of different social media platforms. So, why not leverage all your online activity and funnel users to where it matters most?
Whether it’s your Twitter profile, Tumblr page or personal website, just include a link—wherever it makes sense—that directs traffic to the crème de la crème: your Instagram.
3. Hashtags that aren’t your typical hashtags
Suspending all judgment, hashtags are a criminally powerful tool for gaining additional exposure on The Gram. That is, when handled tastefully. Because overloading each caption with a smorgasbord of quasi-related hashtags is something akin to a cyber crime, (and your followers will hold you accountable). Here’s a great example of hashtag use, courtesy of visual artist August Wren.
Coming up with appropriate hashtag ideas is similar to doing keyword research for SEO. Take your time, figure out what’s most important, and try to refrain from being totally serious. For every hashtag, there’s a community of impassioned Instagrammers, congregating within the comment section, just waiting to swallow up whatever comes their way.
Which leads me to—
4. Engage your contemporaries through conversation
Think of IG as a vast network of fragmented communities, where everyone belongs to a clique, and said clique embodies a particular style, focus and/or theme. Unsure where you fit in? Do something of a mini-retrospective. Review your uploads through the lens of time. Try to, you know, determine the melody of your work’s soul.
Now, here’s the fun part: go out there and show your contemporaries some love. Don’t be afraid to start dishing out likes, comments or even a direct message. You’d be surprised—a few hat-tips can go a long way on there. However, engaging for the sake of engaging is a near-sighted effort. The only way to stimulate the vox populi, as they say, is through good old-fashioned, honest-to-goodness conversation.
Easier said than done, I know. But it’s a heck of a lot easier when you’ve actually got something valuable to say.
5. Capture the spirit of Hollywood and tell a story
Numerous studies have explored this notion: when information is presented through the principles of storytelling, people are much—MUCH—more receptive to what they’re absorbing. And yes, there is plenty of science to back it up.
If information is communicated by the simple regurgitation of facts, the only part of our brain that’s activated is the language processor. Yup, that neat little zone that interprets meaning from words. Pretty basic stuff, really. However, if the same facts are unpacked through a narrative, not only is our language processor working, but so is every other part of the brain that’s needed to experience the events of the story.
When you can relate to something, chances are, you’ll pay attention. That’s not to say that we’re innately selfish beings, but rather, that it’s easier to understand something through the power of imagination. If we can relate information to our personal experiences, then we envision ourselves in the very situation. And that, my friends, is how things resonate.
6. Try a themed account
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: becoming popular on Instagram with a themed account is a long, treacherous journey. Oftentimes, you’ll regret your decision, and feel as though you’ve wasted your time, energy and talent. That said, if you can navigate the rough patches and stay committed to your goal, in the long-run, your efforts will not go unnoticed.
Not to be accused of self-promotion, but I, for one am currently on that journey. Approximately 4 years ago, I made a completely arbitrary decision to dedicate my entire Instagram page to capturing one of the many things we cannot live sit without: chairs. My path to any kind of recognition has been fraught with its share of highs and lows. Save for milestone posts—like Chair 100, 200, or the upcoming 300 (stay tuned!)—the majority of my uploads don’t earn a great deal of attention. Another luminary of the themed approach is pastry chef-slash-graphic designer, Nick Makrides, who’s mastered the art of eye candy through The Scran Line.
Just like Nick Makrides, I’m in it till the cows come home, people. And word is spreading, albeit slowly, but spreading nonetheless. Heck, a few times a month, I’ll receive a direct message from a total stranger, complimenting my page and proclaiming to be a fan. And that’s all I ever wanted (and more).
7. Explore new mediums, like cinemagraphs
Despite its conception nearly 6 years ago (which is like a half-century in the digital era), cinemagraphs have yet to fully infiltrate the cultural zeitgeist. So, what better way to dazzle your followers and attract more interest than by getting started today and blazing the trail for future generations of photo artists?
There’s something magical about cinemagraphs. Almost hypnotic, really, because they seem to defy our very understanding of what constitutes an image. Every day, more and more brands are becoming aware of this, as they seek to diversify their media output through the hybrid medium.
Thanks to our handy software, Flixel Cinemagraph Pro for macOS and iOS, making cinemagraphs could not be easier. Seriously. We’ve created a tool that’s so intuitive, there’s hardly any learning curve. The user experience is designed to be as straightforward and uncomplicated as possible, so you, the artist, can focus on creating visually-striking, spell-casting cinemagraphs that will enchant your followers—and attract new ones—like never before.
Take these 7 Instagram tips and start getting noticed! Let us know in the comments if you liked this article, or if you have any other advice for Instagram creators.