New tools, old tricks. While platforms like Instagram have revolutionized the way brands interact with their fans, supporters, and customers, the audience-building basics that businesses and artists have used for years have remained intact. Here, a few simple tips to get you started or pull you out of an Instagram slump.
1. Network, network, network: What applies to the real world, applies to the digital world. Get your name out there by following other Instagram accounts you love, interacting with their posts, and becoming a 'regular' on your scene. A good way to find like-minded people is to follow the hashtag. Do a little research on what people in your field are using to tag their photos - #handmade, for example - and then use it to find new and interesting accounts. Warning: This is very addictive. I've fallen into many a hashtag rabbit hole, but I've also discovered some of my favorite accounts.
2. Know your aesthetic and stick with it: Maybe you love a good product glamour shot on a white background. Maybe black and white is your jam. Whatever it is, make sure most, if not all of your photos follow suit so that when a new user clicks on your profile, they immediately get a sense of your style. That's not to say you can't change - I personally find myself going slightly darker and moodier in colder months and a little brighter and crisper in the warmer ones - but do so in a meaningful way. Filter presets in apps like Pic Tap Go and VSCO are the perfect tool for this.
3. Work the room: You wouldn't throw a party and then hide in the corner, so don't forget to engage with your fans and followers. Respond to comments, answers their questions, and play the good host or hostess. The best way to build loyalty is to create a conversational atmosphere where everyone feels included and important.
4. Practice makes perfect: Even the best Instagrammer likely had a humble beginning, and if you scroll deep enough into their account, you'll probably find some less-than-awesome early posts. Like any skill, the first step is to start and the next step is to keep going. You'll eventually find your grove, your look, your favorite hashtags, the best light in your home, etc. And once that all clicks into place, you'll be in no short supply of amazing content.
5. Keep the art and business separate: This is a personal preference, and you'll probably find many who disagree, but I personally like to keep work and play separate. No, I don't mean you can't post images of your personal life on a business account (more on that in #10). What I mean is using your first comment (when you initially upload a photo) as a caption and your second comment (which you add after you post) as a place to put all the businessy hashtags. Feel free to include hashtags that are either humorous or part of a campaign in the initial comment/caption, but for the rest (#dogs #dogsofig #dogsofinstagram #ilovemymutt... you know the deal), let them get lost in the sea of comments to come from your fans.
6. Style your shots: Some people were born with a killer eye and can make even the most mundane scene look stunning. For the rest of us, there's styling. Obviously some photos cannot be styled (a landscape, for example), and a great candid or spur-of-the-moment shot here or there is always fun, but treat your business' Instagram photos like you would any professional shoot - for a lookbook, website, magazine, etc. Play with lighting, switch around accessories, try different settings and backdrops - the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
7. Snap away: No photographer gets the perfect shot the first time. Take as many as you need to get the right one, whether that means shooting from different angles, using different light, or even taking the same exact shot several times in a row. Once you've got plenty to chose from...
8. Edit your heart out: Sometimes you'll only have one that works, and other times you'll have several. As painful as it can be, don't waste too much time agonizing over the right shot if more than one works. Remember: your followers will only see what you post - they have no idea what didn't make the cut (and those extras could make for a great #onthecuttingroomfloor photo series down the road).
9. Keep it real: We may not always be conscious of it, but we can see through fake immediately. Before you started your business, you probably did plenty of soul-searching, and if you haven't, now is the perfect time. Create a visual mood board with images that speak to you, work on some free association, or ask your close friends and family for a few words that come to mind when they think of you and your art or business. Discover who you are, and run with it. Don't try to be something you're not - it will turn people off and leave you miserable. Authenticity is everything!
10. Show your human side: This is another slightly controversial point in the social media world, but I personally love seeing the human side of the artists, companies, and brands that I follow. While the majority of your images should be about who you are as a brand or maker, feel free to inject a bit of you into your feed from time-to-time... just make sure it's a good image that still fits your aesthetic. Show your followers a shot from your weekend hike, an adorable photo of your fur baby, or something that inspires you, even - or especially - if it has nothing to do with your line of work. Don't lose you in your business - after all, YOU are what makes your business special.