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How to Grow Your Followers and Generate Sizable Print Sales from Instagram

Written by Thomas C

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Posted on April 29 2019

How to Grow Your Followers and Generate Sizable Print Sales from Instagram 

Thomas from Alotech
Wildlife Photographer | Guide | Podcast Host for the PhotoCast | Founder of Alotech

Instagram is a vital tool for photographers that are simply looking to grow their viewership, or for those looking to develop relationships with potential customers. If you feel like Instagram is a challenge, and growing your audience continues to be a struggle, I am going to give you the framework I follow that has allowed me to generate sizable print sales, as well as guiding clients, from simply posting on Instagram consistently. The three categories that you should focus on for success are:  Content, Hashtags & Tagging, and Focusing on Business Account Metrics. This guide is not going to be a shortcut to 30,000 followers and will only work for you if you are willing to consistently put in a little effort each day.  

You can see my main Instagram @Outback_Photo_Adventures

Content

Content is king on Instagram. This whole guide is useless for you, a wildlife photographer, if you are not producing quality images. If you are trying to stand out with sub-par photos, there are simply too many posted each second, causing your photos to be buried. Even if you are taking good photos, they might not be optimized for Instagram.

On Instagram, the more frequently you post, the better your reach will be. I am not talking about posting multiple times throughout the day; I am talking about posting five to seven photos every week for one year to jumpstart your growth. With Instagram’s algorithm, the more times your followers like your photos, the higher the chance your photo will be in their feed when you post images each day.


Red FoxRed Fox Kit, USA | Canon 5DS R with Canon 600mm f/4 II + 1.4x III | 840mm, 1/1000 sec, f/5.6, ISO 320

I like to post one time a day, preferably from Monday through Friday, and the time depends on what location of people you are targeting. We will talk more about this later on. As soon as you post your photo, the first hour tells Instagram’s algorithm if your photo is good and should be shared, or if it is a dud. The good news is the algorithm does not care about how many followers you have if you have good engagement from your following.  If you have higher engagement, for example, (likes+comments)/total followers, then Instagram will put your photos on the explore page and in hashtags compared to an account with a large following and bad engagement. To drive quality engagement, you need to optimize your photos for Instagram.  

From my personal experience, baby animals, close-up interaction photos, headshots, and vivid images filled with color work the best. You have to remember that Instagram photos are tiny on the explore tab and if you shoot a lot of wide-framed photos of animals that are not vibrant, it is easy for a user to just keep scrolling by. You should not change the way you photograph or process for Instagram. Sometimes what I do is create two different crops: one for Instagram and one for selling prints in order to optimize my photo for the small phone screen. Vertical photos are the most effective on Instagram, followed by square and then horizontal.

Mountain Goat & Kid, USA | Canon 1DX Mark II with Canon 200mm f/2 | 200mm, 1/2000 sec, f/6.3, ISO 500

Stories are vital for improving your reach on Instagram. As previously mentioned, the more times people interact with your photos, the more likely the algorithm is to keep showing the person new photos you post. An easy way to boost engagement with your audience is through stories, and this simply tells Instagram that the person likes your content and is likely to interact with new photos posted.


Red FoxSandhill Crane, New Mexico | Canon 1DX Mark II with Canon 600mm f/4 IS II + 1.4x III | 840mm, 1/2000 sec, f/6.3, ISO 640

The photos you post should also be consistent with the kind of account you are creating. For wildlife photography, it is best to post only wildlife photos. If you are also into landscape, it is best to have a separate Instagram account for those photos. The best advice I received was pick a style and stick to it. Also, you should not be posting family photos if your goal is to grow a community. Let’s look at your followers’ perspective: they follow you for your wildlife images and all of a sudden their feed has random pictures of your family trip to Disney.

The people you follow and interact with are what Instagram uses to classify your account. If you are following all food photographers, Instagram will see your account and interest relating to food. It is best to only follow people in the genre you are after, such as wildlife photography. 

Hashtags & Tagging 

You are probably thinking, ok Thomas, I have some good photos, but I haven’t been getting any meaningful traction. Are you utilizing hashtags and tagging? Instagram has implemented the ability to follow hashtags, and this functionality has caused hashtags to help your reach even more.  For me, I have found that by following all the hashtags I post in, Instagram seems to boost my relevance in each hashtag.  


Red FoxManatee, FL | Canon 5DS R with Canon 16-35mm f/4 | 16mm, 1/160 sec, f/9, ISO 400

You can post 30 hashtags per image and I typically post 29; 20-29 hashtags are what typically works best for me. You should never post your hashtags in the comments section because Instagram will view this as spam, as well as not show your photo under the hashtag. Also, you should post relevant hashtags, and many times, this is a different group for each photo. Use location hashtags for where you took the photo and hashtags relating to that specific animal, say birds. 

When I use hashtags, I layer the popularity. I use hashtags starting with ~10k posts, some with ~100k posts, some with ~500k posts, and some with ~1m+ posts. What this does is it allows for your photo to be easily seen in the smaller hashtags and these new people will boost your photos engagement, pushing it into the next category of hashtags. Also, I like to use hub hashtags because hub features are really helpful for accounts with smaller followings.                                

Tagging hubs in your photos is another useful technique. Tagging hubs will increase your chance for a hub to repost your photo, as well as create more visibility with the hub’s followers as they look through tagged photos of the hub.

Focusing on Business Account Metrics  

Business accounts provide a detailed analysis of your following and when it is best to post. I recommend you use a business account because you are able to use information from it to see what days your followers are most active and the specific time you should post each photo. Also, having a business account is helpful because you are able to see engagement for each specific photo and how the post did and the sources where people find your photos.

If you have not started using Instagram and are starting with a big fat zero followers, remember we all started there. The best way to get followers early on is tagging photos and interacting with other accounts. What I did was scroll through photos with a certain hashtag and comment on photos I liked, and many times, these people would like my photos and follow me.

Instagram is a tool, and when used correctly, provides great results. Consistency is the key with social media, and just like anything else, the longer you do something, the better your results. Content is king, and coupled with correct hashtags and tagging, as well as using analytics on your audience, it will increase your chance of reaching more and more people. 


                


What's your thoughts on Instagram for wildlife photographers? Comment below to let me know!