Tuesday 24th September, 2019
14 attendees joined us in-person at The Village, Docklands on Tuesday 24th September, 2019 for two jam-packed hours of Instagram hacks and insights designed specifically to help photographers boost their business.
AIPP Board member and digital marketing specialist, Felisha Mina, utilised her seven years of industry experience to help educate and share insight on using Instagram as a vehicle to generate bookings and increase the overall quality of leads.
Felisha joined the board after approaching the AIPP with a mission to educate members and the wider community on how to bridge the gap between the creative and analytical sides of digital marketing.
Given her experience both from the in-house/consulting/agency realm, and conversely on the front-facing content production side of things, Felisha brings a unique and thorough perspective to the digital marketing table and is going to be an wealth of knowledge for the AIPP member base.
She opened the session by asking attendees to share their key goals for the day. The first answer from the floor likely summed up it up for all:
I don’t really know what I’m doing … and how to make it useful for my business.
Off and Running
Felisha’s presentation was divided into two clear sections.
The first was predominantly theoretical and focused on the reasons Instagram is such a strong platform for photographers and visual professionals, what algorithms are and why they’re so critical for wide-spread content distribution, and page optimisation.
The second part had more a workshop-style edge to it centring around ‘cheating’ engagement, the ‘dirt’ on likes and followers, and general Instagram best practices including utilising automation processes.
Felisha highlighted the shift in Instagram user’s motivation from merely collecting followers and growing numbers, to utilising the platform specifically for business growth and building a brand.
A lot of its power, she said, comes from the fact it’s currently a free-to-use platform designed for visual content so we photographers are, by default, already halfway there.
[In digital marketing] the photo side of things is basically everything.– Felisha Mina
Finding your Algorithm
One of the key factors to understand when working to get the most from Instagram in a business sense is its ever-changing algorithms.
Algorithms are the factors that affect how your posts and content gets seen on top of an Instagram feed…The stuff that you see on your Instagram feed is not in chronological order.– Felisha Mina
What determines feed position and visibility is a combination of factors: relevance (how connected your page is to a particular topic or brand) and engagement/your use of the application.
“Instagram is a stalker. It knows how long you’re staying on your device. It knows of your engagement…[and it’s] going to boost how your photos and your content are going to be seen.”
“Every single engagement you have with another page, every single comment that you write on someone else’s feed, it’s all got to be geared to the kind of client that you want,” said Felisha.
Remaining key factors that affect the algorithm include timing and consistency of posts, and for how long your audience views your content.
Think of it as an ongoing relationship…If you’re doing really sporadic posts, it’s really hard for Instagram to realise you’re an active and engaged user .– Felisha Mina
Felisha recommends photographers keep their personal and professional pages separate so the Instagram algorithm won’t confuse the interests and motivations of each account.
Along the same lines, she suggests photographers apply different strategies for their Instagram and Facebook accounts and intentionally create or adapt platform-specific content according to the different motivation users have on each.
All in the Timing
In terms of ideal times to post, Felisha recommends using Google Analytics to view when people are most often visiting your website and using this as a guide as to when they’re most likely visiting your Instagram account (assuming the two are linked i.e. your link in bio leads to your website.)
Typically, well-performing times to consider are pre-dawn (5:00-6:00am), towards the end of standard business hours (4:30pm) and mid-evening (8:00-9:00pm.)
The longer viewers keep your content on screen, the better.
You can help this process along by employing a few basic techniques such as telling a story, using conversational long-form captions, evoking connection, employing text formatting, including calls to action (CTAs), and using detail to invite people into your world and behind the scenes.
Invite users to click the link in your bio, send you a direct message (aka ‘DM’), or leave a comment on your post to help boost your viewer duration and engagement.
The Anatomy of Your Page
Starting with your account biography, what Felisha calls your ‘booking-friendly bio,’ be clear and direct in explaining what you do and who you help.
This is not the place to be clever, vague or cute (unless or until you’re wildly famous.)
You have to spell it out for [users] because people who are shopping, they’re comparing your page against so many other profiles, so it needs to be black and white.– Felisha Mina
You can, however, be more personable and show-off your personality in your Instagram stories.
These are the single or series of 15-second videos you post that are available for users to see for the following 24 hours only. They do not appear in your feed.
Your feed is essentially your portfolio area. It’s the place you’ll show images that demonstrate your style and strengthen your overall visual brand and identity.
Felisha strongly recommends setting up your bio link to go straight to a separate landing or booking page specifically for Instagram users rather than to your home page or portfolio page etc.
This will help streamline and speed up your booking process.
Highlights and Stories, Oh My!
Instagram highlights are categories of chosen archived video stories that sit along the bottom of your account bio and act, in a way, like a mini website.
Felisha’s recommended highlight categories for photographers are: behind-the-scenes (aka ‘BTS’), reviews, featured in, tagged, and rates.
These help to introduce you to new visitors, give them quick and digestible insight into your services and products, and help provide social proof (whereby people are more likely to trust in and book your services as they see others doing the same.)
Felisha acknowledged many photographers don’t like to openly display their pricing information but pointed out that, as a consumer, it’s very helpful information.
When it comes to Instagram stories, keep in mind that videos are typically a better option ahead of still images or text, with the latter being far easier to quickly tap through or move on from.
Stories are typically more informal and fly-on-the-wall than the designed and curated content you’ll often see in feeds.
Felisha recommended to use stories in a more organic way; to create and share them as you go about your day or a shoot etc.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) refers to how searchable your content is online; how easily you can be found when users and buyers are looking for a service like yours.
Having the words ‘photographer’ or ‘photography’ in your Instagram bio will help you be found, along with clear descriptors around your style or niche e.g. weddings, families, commercial, pet, newborn etc.
Before posting images to your feed, it’s a great idea to utilise the ‘Write Alt Text’ feature under the advanced settings in order to inject your photos with even more SEO juice, and provide information for people using adaptive technologies such as screen readers.
Hash it Out
There are two main types of hashtags to utilise: generic trending ones that have more than a million uses, and search-friendly hashtags, which are more specific and often location relevant e.g. #perthphotographer #melbournestudio etc.
When entering hashtags for your posts, Instagram will show you how many times said hashtag has been used.
Hashtags are a really important part in how your content gets seen…You have 30 hashtags to use in any particular post.– Felisha Mina
For a cleaner aesthetic and arguably better user experience, Felisha suggests leaving your hashtags out of your caption and instead, adding them in separately as a comment.
Come on Combin
Felisha introduced the audience to powerful Instagram marketing desktop app, Combin, which enables users to search for specific hashtags and quickly engage with relevant accounts en masse using the ‘like’ and ‘comment’ features.
2019 AIPP Victorian Commercial Photographer of the Year, Sarah Jackson (of Sarah Louise Photography) volunteered to have Felisha demonstrate how Combin can be utilised and within minutes, the pair had liked and commented on some 40-odd relevant posts.
Combin offers a forever free plan (and ranges up to USD $30 p/month) but Felisha utilises the complimentary offer and is confident the same will be sufficient for most photographers.
When it comes to followers, the additional marketing benefits of the ‘swipe up’ stories feature triggered upon reaching the magic 10,000 people mark are certainly a strong lure, large follower numbers alone are otherwise not the aim of the game.
Just because you have a lot followers doesn’t mean they’re converting. You can have 500,000 followers and you won’t get a single photography booking. That’s not the goal. We want really active and engaged followers.– Felisha Mina
You Can’t Buy Your Friends, but You Can Buy Your Followers
Though it’s a seemingly easy and affordable option, Felisha warned of the ‘dangers’ of buying followers online using companies that appear after a quick Google search on the topic.
She did, however, suggest Australian company U-Gro for anyone wanting to accelerate their growth and invest in the Instagram platform at least for a short-term trial period, if not ongoing.
Competitions, Felisha said, are also an excellent way to get a quick and decent boost in genuine followers and engagement.
“You could promote a contest…Something like, ‘Win a photo shoot for your family.’ You present the price, you share with them the ways to win, and the terms and conditions,” Felisha said.
Best practice for competitions is to make your prizes tiered…because it’s tiered, people think they’ve got a better chance of winning.– Felisha Mina
Wrap it Up
Felisha finished with a collection of quick tips and reminders including adding a location to each of your posts, getting familiar with your analytics, inviting your audience over from other channels and platforms, leaving links in your bio, and keeping on top of reading and responding to your DMs.
It allows you to post directly from your desktop rather than uploading to the cloud and downloading onto your phone.
There’s a free version and an optional one-time USD $20 upgrade available.
And finally, Google reviews.
Felisha lead by example and implored the audience to always ask clients to leave a review on their Google business page (and set one up if they haven’t already. It’s free and significantly helps boost SEO.)
Questions from both the in-person and online audiences flowed in for Felisha and a post on the Vic AIPP Facebook page opened for the following 48 hours where anyone could ask follow-up questions.
Many thanks to Felisha for readily sharing her Instagram knowledge and hacks, and to those who attended both in-person on the day and via the livestream.
Feedback is most welcome and please get in touch if you’d like to see and hear more events like this one, or if you have suggestions of your own.
Thank you kindly.