The original idea
I had always wanted to create an instagram for my business, however as I am also doing NEIS – which has a Certificate IV in New Small Business – I was unsure if I was able to be actively working on my business ideas outside of that course in case it had any negative repercussions (ie, plagiarism).
I wanted to test out Instagram reach and methods for this so I could optimize it for my own business Instagram. So I instead began to think of Instagrams that could quickly and steadily put out content that I already have experience with. From my background as a photographer who started out with a lot of nature pictures, I decided that these would be easiest to share. I settled on flower photos, as I have a lot of them, and it would be consistent. Deciding to do one post per day in order to maintain consistency helped to cement the “One Flower Per Day” Instagram initiative, so I launched the Instagram page.
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I both liked and loathed the simplistic approach to this. I loved that I already had content readily available to post. However, I disliked the fact that the content was in no way related to my business at all. I almost felt like it was a waste of time, not being able to actively work on my business and just adding another thing to do to my ever-growing list of things to do.
I ended up asking my NEIS advisor if I was able to work on my business social media outside of the Cert IV requirements and was given the go ahead. After being too busy to post any content to the One Flower Per Day instagram, I gave up on it entirely and just swapped to my business Instagram.
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The New Idea
Deciding to work on my business instagram instead of a throwaway one was a huge motivator. This way I can begin to curate my own content in a way that actually benefits me (free advertising!) without having to pay someone to do it for me. It was always the intention to have an instagram for my business anyway, however I just kept pushing it to the back of the list of priorities. Using my business Instagram for this project ensured that I would finally get some content on there.
The cons for this, however, is that it was still very much in the experimental phase. My images had the chance of not being seen, my reach very low. I run the risk of using all my ‘good’ content early on without knowing whether or not it’ll actually be seen, and then all the images that I think were average at best would be going up when I had maximised my reach or actually figured out what I was doing. I decided in the end to go ahead with it anyway, because at the very least I would have SOME degree of content on the Instagram – which was better than none at all.
Analysing the New Idea
So first things first – I have no idea how to run an Instagram. I’d previously done a social media course, but I never really had anything to apply it to so the knowledge was mostly lost. That coupled with the constantly changing algorithms of Facebook and Instagram made it quite daunting when it actually came down to thinking about curating a successful account, because there wasn’t really a way to figure out whether a previously proven method was still successful without testing it.
I wanted to do this more than any other social media experiment, though, because of the changing nature of advertising on digital platforms. Facebook had completely nerfed all reach unless you wanted to pay out the nose for thousands of dollars. Digital platforms were overcrowded. And, let’s face it, I’m a broke uni student. The idea to swap almost all of my media to Instagram was born when I asked my soon-to-be-SIL, who was looking for a photographer for her own wedding, how she found the photographers she wanted to meet. Her reply sounded so simple – she’d simply searched the hashtags for the wedding venue they had booked. Clearly she wasn’t the only bride-to-be doing it this way, but she did lament that there wasn’t actually a lot of photographers using Instagram this way. It seemed that those that did were quite ahead in their marketing strategy – and hey, I’m up for any free advice.
Finding a Method.
So first of all, I needed to figure out which reach methods actually worked. Some sites say to put an assortment of hashtags in the description, others in the comments. The social media course I did a few years ago said to put 30 in the comments, delete it after half an hour, and add another 30, then delete that after another half an hour! The logic that followed that method is that after the first couple of hours your reach drops anyway, and doing it this way optimises your reach in that period. I remained skeptical, though, as I wanted my images to be found even after that period.
I came up with the idea that I didn’t want to just dump images out there and be done with it. I actually wanted to curate my content, go row-by-row instead of just image by image. That way, the account as a whole would like nice and organised, with the content clearly separated by shoot, so anyone scrolling through could easily find anything they were looking for. I figured that as a jack-of-all photographer, this would make things a lot neater so that the different jobs I do didn’t mix together and look like a big mess.
The First Approach.
When I started out, I figured that seeing as this was a “new” instagram, I’d go with some pictures of some toddlers and babies! I chose a set of 6 images – 3 from 2 different jobs. I figured, cute babies doing cakesmashes would get the ball rolling nicely. I would start off by approaching Instagram as the average user would: just a few hashtags in the description.
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It… didn’t go so well. There WAS engagement, but it was minimal and limited to just likes. For starters, I only used 4 hashtags for the first 3 images. I only used a few more than that for the rest. I also wasn’t aware that certain hashtags should be used for certain shots which were pretty much exclusive to Instagram, as well. I simply put up what I thought related to the image! Then I noticed that some images were getting double the likes than others. It seemed that the most successful images had the babies smiling in them. I didn’t realise this was why until much, much later. It had been troubling, to me, why the images I thought were cute and had a story to them were being largely ignored.
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I needed a new approach, and decided to work this into my curated seminar for class. I approached the seminar basically wanting to find out what people associated with certain images, to see the common thoughts and then apply that to the images I uploaded. I got a lot of valuable feedback – and this is where I learned of the instagram unique hashtags – such as #instababy, #instadaily, and #instalove. These were not words I ever would have thought of using.
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The activity I prepared was basic, and did not go as smoothly as I thought, but it was still extremely productive for me. The premise was that I would select 4 images for the class to view 1 at a time and give all the students a piece of paper to write 10 words they would use as hashtags for those images. I would then tally the common ones on the board. Of course, it ended up taking way longer than I thought it would. I ended up condensing the activity by ditching the tallying idea, and collecting the slips with the intention to look over them later, so that I could potentially make a spreadsheet. There was a lot of overlap of words that I wouldn’t have thought to include. These were the results:
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So I needed a new plan. I decided to keep the row of 3 approach, because even as there were very few images, it still looked exactly as anticipated.
I needed content. I needed time. I needed management.
I got to work on a plan; to do things cyclically. I was lucky enough that I had already started with babies – it would act as the stepping stone to the rest of my uploading method. I came up with the idea of “Milestones” – the cycle would start from infancy, then go older and include milestones of life up until it went back to the beginning. Weddings, engagements, birthdays, couples/valentines, cake smashes and sitter sessions, newborn lifestyle, family reunions, etc. Were all things I wanted to include on my instagram; however, I had done SOME cosplay shoots before, and decided to completely exclude these as they were no longer my target audience (families, couples, engaged couples).
I decided on points of emphasis, which would form the basis of the packages I wanted to sell most for my business – Weddings and engagements, cake smashes/sitters. I am still unsure if I want to continue down the cake smash and sitter path, but I figured I’d try it for a while and see how it goes.
I wanted a 30 day/monthly cycle of uploads 3 times a week. Uploading 3 images at once to maintain the row format meant I needed to be uploading 9 images a week for approximately 4 weeks. That was going to be 36 images a month!
I then needed to figure out the order of the cycle. I ended up with the following:
I dabbled with perhaps doing 1 post per day but scrapped that quickly as it messed up the look of the whole Instagram profile.
What followed was one mess of a day plan.
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There were a few changes I made to the schedule. Firstly, I found it challenging to stick to a schedule! I found I didn’t have the time, and while there *were* scheduling apps, I decided against them as for the purpose of experimenting I felt I needed to be in complete control.
During the course of the uploading, I changed methods of hashtagging quite a few times. I tried seeing the differences between hashtags in the comments only, in the description only, and in both. After choosing a month’s worth of content, I ended up leaving a few images out, and added a few different ones in that I felt suited the aesthetic better.
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Challenges and issues.
My biggest challenge was time and consistency. Unfortunately, around the time of deciding to change to my business instagram, I ended up hurting my back and I was unable to sit, stand or walk properly for about two weeks. I was on some very heavy painkillers which put me to sleep most of the time, and when I was awake, I was too drowsy to actively concentrate on anything.
Writing a list of what I needed to do helped me getting back on track, and making folders to put selected images into for the rest of the month ensured that the content was ready to go, all I had to do was have access to my computer. This ended up really helping in the end.
Another challenge was the growth! Or rather, the follow/unfollow epidemic that is hitting Instagram quite hard at the moment. I didn’t realise how bad the issue was and I’d heard other people mentioning it, but with a low follower count, it was really noticeable. I would be refreshing the Instagram every few hours after uploading a few images to see about 10 follows, and then come back online to check the next day to find that I had lost even more than that. I started out this journey on about 130~ followers, and only gained about 30, even though I’d had about 60 follow notifications.
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It wasn’t all bad.
After all, I DID increase in follow count. It wasn’t anywhere near as much as the notifications said I did due to the unfollows, but there was a net gain over the upload period.
Even though the interactivity was low, that too saw an increase from the first few uploads. The method of reach that I settled on was indeed putting the hashtags in the comments, and picking about 30 relevant hashtags to the image, the industry I was targeting, and a few that related to both.
I ended up searching websites for the trending hashtags of the day, and most of these websites allowed you to enter a keyword that would have the most popular hashtags that appeared alongside those keywords. This was VERY handy when uploading my wedding photos, which were among the most interacted with content I now have on the account.
Where To From Here.
I think if I continued with this plan, I would be able to tweak the keywords I used to be more effective and see reach increase. I would also continue to gain genuine followers over time, as well as interactions and likes on my posts. I figure, this would be a LOT better than insincere and fake follows. The more people who genuinely look at my content the better. The organic reach would probably increase, too.
I will be continuing the cyclic nature of the posts, however I do have a concern that I may run out of content sooner or later. This means I may have to mix new content with some older content and perhaps re-visit some photoshoots that I have already uploaded with different images from that shoot. I will continue my method of 30 hashtags in the comments, as that seems to be fine for now.
By the end of the next few months I am hoping I can double my follower count and interactions. My aim is to reach an average of 100 likes per photo upload before perhaps re-analyzing my approach, tweaking it further, and making more improvements.
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