BCM302 Digital Artifact and Contextual Essay

Link to the final project: Chloe Marie Artistry’s Instagram

“With the Facebook ship all but sunk, businesses are now on the lookout for a platform where they can actually be seen and heard.”
(Ivan Adriel, 2015, p. 1)

For the past 3 years, I have been attempting to run a small photography business. In those 3 years, I have been struggling to engage with my potential clients over Facebook as the social media giant continuously makes my audience harder to reach through algorithm tweaks and paywalls. When I first started my business, a lot of my traffic was driven through Facebook; now, I’d be lucky to even get 10% of my audience viewing my content, let alone engaging with it.

I was faced with a problem: adapt to change, or fail.

I did not want to go down on that sinking Facebook ship – so I began looking for new ways to engage with an audience and be seen and heard. A few Google searches later netted me recommendations of turning to Instagram – article headlines all but screaming “if you have a small business, why don’t you have an Instagram?”. When my future Sister-In-Law told me she’d found her wedding photographer by searching the hashtags of her venue, the decision was made.

Among the different social media platforms, e.g. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, Instagram was found to be the most effective tool for reaching customers and marketing a business. Instagram was basically designed for mobile phones, and since smart‐ phones help to connect people to social media on the move, it makes it easier for a business to reach its customers wherever they are, which explains why more than 50 % of businesses use Instagram to market their products and services.” (Alkhowaiter, 2016, pg. 3)

Creating the account was simple – photography and imagery is very easy to look at. As it was what my business centered around, I had initially thought that the content would speak for itself. However, as with many other small business owners – I encountered a small problem. My work was not without strings attached – it was being used as a promotional tool and portfolio. Instead of my account saying “look at this lovely work I am doing” like it would if I had uploaded my nature and landscape images, it was actually saying “this is my portfolio and this is my work. Please hire me”.

One of the biggest issues that small businesses face when curating an Instagram account is creating content that doesn’t look like it’s primary purpose is to sell something. Australians in particular have a dislike for being marketed to – generally speaking, they know what they want and where to get it. With this in mind, it can be daunting to even begin thinking about putting business-specific content up publically, much less hold on to hope that people will see and interact with that content. While not quite as challenging for me, given my content matter, I still needed to develop methods to avoid broadcasting myself as “seller first, quality content later”.

“It is evident, that the beginning is always the most difficult. Most of the time is wasted on the development and promotion of your account and not to its maintenance.

The most common mistake of the entrepreneur is that he thinks his product or service is too boring to be in Instagram and so on. In order to maintain an interesting blog with a quality visual content, you do not have to be an expensive restaurant or an eminent boutique with a big budget. Instagram is a large living community uniting artists of all stripes, from housewives knitting caps to Channel and Bentley. Each account is unique, and the content is based on the specifics of the brand.” (Garifova, 2016, p. 6)

Initially, my project was going to be a bit of a ‘throw-away’ account as I was unsure whether or not I was allowed to experiment with my business social media due to commitments elsewhere. The premise was that I would test Instagram “hacks” and new methods of creating reach on a basic account, starting fresh, without any followers with content I already had an abundance of. I settled on flowers with pseudo-inspirational quotes and aimed to post daily. I would be testing all the methods, old and new, that were brought up in blogs, articles, and even clickbait sites.

However, I felt this, ultimately, was a waste of time for my final goal – to curate an Instagram for small business. The perfect way was just to jump straight into the deep end and test small business reach with a small business account – that way I would be able to use the ‘analytics’ tools and actually analyse what methods were effective for reach, and by the time I had it down to a science, I would have a content-filled and curated Instagram account full of images and ready to go.

Know your consumers. Get the key person that will enable you to connect more of the like minded consumers on Instagram. Being a new brand and starting with zero followers, you cannot randomly add followers therefore, you have to start slow and build your reputation from there. It might be hard to get your first 1000 followers therefore it is imperative for the business owners to be consistent and at the same time do their homework diligently in identifying the key Instagrammer that able to make his or her business known to the public” (Latiffa et al. 2015, p. 18)

The ‘other obligations’ that I thought were stopping me from using my business social media turned out to be nothing. I restarted with my blank, renamed personal account and next to no knowledge of how Instagram worked – other than needing to upload from a mobile phone and a small hashtag hack that was taught to me from a free social media business conference (which turned out to be one of those hour-long seminars where they then try to sell you a $1200 paid course at the end).

Throughout the course of learning the ins-and-outs of Instagram I changed my approach a few times. To begin with, I found that only being able to upload from mobile was a huge challenge for me, as all of my work was done on the computer and of very high quality and resolution. Transferring these images to my mobile would not only very quickly fill up my mobile space, but would also more than likely result in some sort of compression and drop in quality.

‘Vanilla’ Instagram does not allow desktop uploads, however there were some very dodgy-looking workarounds. I at first attempted the ‘hack’ where you could use Google Chrome’s ‘view page source’ feature, which included options to ‘change’ the device you were ‘viewing’ on, and swap to a mobile view; however this method no longer seems to work. I found a Google Chrome extension simply called “Instagram for Desktop”. While the information on how to use it was just as vague as the reviews, I gave it a try despite some hesitance.

It seemed to do essentially what I needed it to do, however the interface was very clunky. The basic premise of the extension seemed to be that it was running the Instagram app on an online ‘virtual machine’ using a smartphone’s OS. However, there are some tools in Instagram that only work when you tilt your device, and there was no option to do so with the extension, which was quite limiting to what I could accomplish. Regardless, with a bit of exploring and learning the difference between uploading to stories and uploading to my wall, I was able to begin producing content.

Instagram’s layout is very simple – a square grid based layout for the images, in rows of 3, which go down the page for however many uploads there are. With this in mind, I chose to curate my images in rows of 3, by subject and photoshoot. To ‘celebrate the launch’ of the Instagram I chose 6 cake-smash images that I thought were cute. I used simple hashtags identifying the subject, the colours, and the location, which were posted in the description of the image.

At the beginning of October I experienced an issue that would leave me unable to post on any social media for almost 2 weeks. After this event, I had the opportunity to curate a seminar for class and prepare an activity that would assist us with our projects. This is where the majority of my feedback came from.

The idea for my seminar would be an experiment on hashtags and human recognition. The activity was simple: display 4 images and ask the class to write down 10 hashtags they themselves would use on this image. The images were varied; a 1-year old in a high chair (used as one of the previous cake-smash images), a dramatic stormy weather shot of a couple after their wedding on a beach, a breastfeeding mum smiling at the camera, and a cosplay of Poison Ivy.

 

From looking over the results and data of this activity, I found two surprising results: firstly, there was a lot of overlap between common hashtags that I wouldn’t have expected to be used, and secondly, the use of instagram-unique hashtags. While the first was something I was hoping to see would happen (although not to such degree as it had occurred), the second finding actually opened up an entire avenue of possible reach that I previously had not considered.

Doing some more research into these insta-unique hashtags (such as #instababy, #instadaily, #instalove, to name a few) I was able to find some websites that had recommended, related, and trending tags associated with any keyword I entered. These then became a valuable tool in the next interation of the project – refining keyword and hashtag usage to build a relevant audience.

compare
My Instagram hashtags in my very first upload, included in the description, and the hashtags in the first upload following my curated seminar, now posted in the comments.

A new curatorial plan was created to work with this new keyword method. As a family-focussed and small wedding photographer, my product was selling keepsakes for your milestones. Milestones then became a key focus of what would follow – a journey through life, from baby, toddler, couples, maternity, and weddings. The Instagram would continue to follow that cycle of 3 images in a row and now had a direction to follow. The only thing left was to experiment with was placement of the hashtags – whether being in the comments or the description was far more effective.

Over the next two weeks I posted 3 images at once every few days, making sure to change up the placement of the Hashtags. I discovered that when I chose the right hashtags for the image, the best placement was indeed in the comments, as a lot of the more recent online articles had claimed. I was also at a loss for why some images that I deemed cute, funny or amusing were not getting as many likes as some I thought were boring, but had similar subject matter. After analysing these carefully I discovered that there seems to be a trend towards more positive and smiling imagery rather than quiter and tender moments. I also noticed a huge spike in likes for ‘decor’ images, particularly with the wedding photos I had uploaded.

The wedding and couple photos seemed to be the most popular by far, however I am yet to determine whether it is the quality of the content, the poor use of hashtags, the lack of audience early on, or if Instagram trends more towards couple and bridal photography. I also noticed a spike in follows immediately after uploading an image, mostly from other photographers or vendors that were related to the subject matter of what I had uploaded – for example, events coordinators and limo companies had even commented on a couple of the wedding photos in particular.

However, with the mass amount of followers, my follower count almost seemed stagnant at times. After a few days of not uploading an image, the count had dropped by almost the same amount it had risen. It seemed that one of my biggest challenges was retaining the audience as I had attracted quite a lot of follow-unfollow accounts. Other limitations included irregularity of uploading impacting on what I called the ‘absorption rate’ of the content – or rather, the amount of genuine interactions from genuine followers an image received.

Going forward, I feel there are some changes I can make to my approach. Scheduling regularly is one of the biggest personal challenges that I face, which can be overcome by sitting down at the beginning of the month, and picking my images to be uploaded every few days throughout the month so that they are set and ready to go. I have yet to experiment with an automatic scheduler – I am somewhat skeptical of how impersonal it feels, althought it will be an avenue worth exploring if only for a week.

 

An example of the folder layout and handpicked images.

Additionally, I would like to address the challenge of retaining follower count. I will be looking for vendors related to my most recent uploads to follow them and hopefully receive a follow back, and heavily promote my instagram cross-platform on Facebook through my business page.

Towards the end of the next six months, should I address these challenges successfully, I predict there will be a significant increase in the reach and follower count of the Instagram account, and with it, the amount of interactions with my images should also rise. My next goal is to reach the 500 follower milestone with an average of 80-100 interactions per post, and maintain that number for quite some time before moving on to the next milestone.

 

 

References:

Adams, D. J., 2018. “How To Be Seen On Instagram”. Gifts & Decorative Accessories, May 2018, Vol. 119 Issue 4, 41.

Adriel, Ivan, 2015. “The business benefits of Instagram”. Veterinary Ireland Journal, Feb 2015, Vol. 5 Issue 2, 93.

Feldman, Amy, 2018. “Dozens Of Brands Have Built Businesses On Facebook And Instagram. But It’s Getting A Lot Harder”. Forbes.com, 1/8/2018, 1.

Feldman, Loren, 2018. “Today’s Must-Reads For Entrepreneurs: Why Instagram Marketing Is Getting Harder”. Forbes.com, 1/8/2018, 1

Garifova, L.F. 2016, “REALIZATION OF SMALL BUSINESSES ECONOMIC INTERESTS ON INSTAGRAM”. Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research, vol. 17, pp. 133-139.

Matthew Kuofie, Kira Gholston, 2016. “Social Media for Marketing by Small Businesses”. Journal of Marketing and Management, 7(1), May 2016, 24-39.

Nur Ayuni Safira Safiee, Zulkifli Abd. Latiff, 2015. “New Business Set Up for Branding Strategies on Social Media – Instagram”. Procedia Computer Science, 72, 13-23.

Raymundo, Oscar, 2016. “Instagram will let you run a business profile if you have a Facebook Page”. PC World (08131384), 6/1/2016, 16.

Thayer, Katheryn, 2018. “Learn To Speak Instagram. It’s The Future For Small Retail Businesses”. Forbes.com, 5/8/2018, 11.

Virtanen, H., Björk, P., Sjöström, E., 2017. “Follow for follow: marketing of a start-up company on Instagram”. Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development. 2017, 24(3), 468-484.

Wassan, Alkhowaiter, 2016. “The Power of Instagram in Building Small Businesses”. Social Media: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 9844. Springer, Cham, I3E.

Peer Review – STAN Vodcast/Mediocre Movies

Original Concept

Riley’s original concept drew me in at first sight. In his original pitch he spoke of a video series on YouTube – the “Stan” vod-cast. The premise was that he would act as a pseudo “Entertainment Weekly” type channel, reviewing Stan shows, what was new to the platform, what was good to binge-watch, the upcoming releases, and any other Stan related news. I quite liked the format of the demo that was shown to us as a preview of things to come; the scene was set up like an access-Hollywood style interview with another presenter – a friend of his – and I was keen to follow the project!

The show was to be uploaded at least once per week, co-presented with one of Riley’s friends. My original feedback at the time of pitching was that the sound quality needed improving – my suggestion was to hire some equipment from the university, like a lavaliere microphone set, so that the production quality would seem a lot more professional. It seemed to be a lot of work to produce but if done regularly, the content would speak for itself. Riley’s style of reviewing and presenting was very well done.

Stan is a streaming platform similar to Netflix that is very under-utilized. Riley described the interface as ineffective for exploring content and finding new things to watch, which was the main driving factor for the vod-cast project. The aim was to bring information about content that was almost hidden due to the poor layout and search function and highlight it so people wouldn’t miss it. The main issues I predicted with this project were maintaining the schedule, improving the sound, and reach – to me it seemed unlikely that people would actively be searching for content about an under-utilized platform, much less by someone starting from scratch with next to no existing audience like a lot of YouTube reviewers have built.

 

Beta:

Unfortunately Riley wasn’t able to go ahead with the ‘Stan’ vod-cast due to scheduling conflicts between himself and his co-presenter. This presented hurdle number one in completing regular content on time. Hurdle number two was that video production took a lot of time and effort, and rather than continue stressing over starting a new project, he channeled that energy into improving an already existing project – Sad Cowboy productions.

Sad Cowboy is a collaborative effort with Riley and 3 others that aims to have 4 shows in production and utilizes multiple platforms for promotion. It involves regular posting on their social media accounts, WordPress, preparing the podcast shows, some audio engineering, making the titles, and curating the content on their accounts.

The 4 shows would be:

– Mediocre Movies – about finding the most perfectly ‘okay’ film;
– Fight Your Step-Dad – a shorter podcast where ‘controversial’ reddit questions would be answered
– Fantasy Law and Order – an ESPN-styled highlights program based on a Fantasy Football layout but adapted to the show Law and Order
– Bonanza City Report – based on an old show called “Kid Nation” where the presenters would play the part of jilted rejected participants who would critique the episodes.

Currently the only show with content is Mediocre Movies. It is uploaded regularly on the podcast platform Spreaker under a premium account which costs $189 a year. Additional platforms include iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, iHeart Radio and OzPodcasts. The premise was to find the world’s “okayest” film by reviewing films with Rotten Tomatoes scores between 35% and 65%. It was previously started last year, but production stopped and has now been rebooted.

The Facebook account
The WordPress account
The Spreaker account

Analysing the initial statistics from the beta presentation, the Mediocre Movies podcast has a very low reach. The episodes would be uploaded onto Spreaker, and then shared to Facebook with memes and other related content being used to promote the latest episode. Riley noted that the most effective content reach took place on Facebook.

 

Looking over the accounts myself I noticed some oddities and room for improvement. When looking over the Facebook I couldn’t help but notice the ratings and reviews: 3.3 out of 5 stars. I was curious as to why this could be and so read over the views. It seems that in keeping with the mediocre trend of their content, most of the reviews were centered on maintaining a mediocre score of the Facebook page. While this is amusing and on-point for the content, I am concerned that it may actually have a negative impact for those unfamiliar with the content and mistake it for the groups actual rating on what they produce.

It appears the method of uploading content to the Facebook page is to create a series of posts and the schedule these for release over the week following a new upload. The content mostly consists of memes relating to the topic of the week and there are 2-3 uploads per day. While this seems to be an effective way of ensuring there is consistent content on the Facebook page, it seems to be lacking in variety. I would suggest sharing content from a variety of other sources and pages that relate to the content in addition to just the memes as a greater variety of content will bring a greater variety of  audience members.

Additionally it seems the majority of those that have liked the pages appear to be friends and family of the four producers, resulting in the reach becoming somewhat stagnant as there are a lack of people who are actually engaging with the content. Promoting the Facebook pages on other platforms such as forums and reddit threads relating to the content would be beneficial. Mediocrity seems to have a cult following, much like terrible movies does, so there is definitely an audience out there, however because the current reach is so small for the associated social media of the podcast, it seems to be flying completely under the radar.

I would also suggest that for the WordPress website that the layout be changed to one that allows the preview paragraph of the blog post along with the featured image, so that people are able to get a small taste of what to expect in the full review, and are further enticed into clicking it.

After listening to the podcast itself – the content is rather engaging and quite fun to listen to on the side. The hosts are all rather opinionated and knowledgeable, the content and movies are well researched. The production quality is almost perfect, however much like I disliked the audio in the original Stan Vodcast project, I find that while the sound quality has vastly improved in the second iteration of the Mediocre Movies podcast, there is still room for improvement there.

I am unsure of the method of recording the podcasts, whether it takes place in person around one microphone, or if everyone is wired up to a separate headset in person, or if the recording takes place over a Skype call with everyone at home with their respective headsets. I believe streamlining the recording process and adding professional quality sound recording devices would be extremely beneficial to the production quality itself and would eliminate this issue entirely, allowing the focus to then fall on promoting the show itself.

I noticed that there were no followers on the Spreaker platform. I am unfamiliar with the platform itself – and this seems to be a possible contributing factor to the poor reach of the podcast – that people just do not know the platforms. This is a little concerning because it means there is perfectly good content sitting on a hidden platform, unpromoted, so people just do not have the ability to discover it.

In terms of growth and trajectory, if the current method is followed I believe that stat growth will come very slowly or remain stagnant. To combat this, my suggestions would be to engage in Twitter posting and cross-platform promotion; for example, posting a tweet on Twitter with carefully optimized hashtags relating to that content, which is then shared to Facebook as a post as well. This in conjunction with active participation in movie discussion forums (even those found on IMDB!), linking all social media accounts, and a greater variety of shared content would be very beneficial to reach and would attract a more likes to the pages and in turn, more listens for the podcast.

It also seems that Sad Cowboy productions has very high ambitions of running four projects at once. Given the history of Mediocre Movies falling off in the past and the production team already having one revival, I would recommend that the production team perhaps focus on the Mediocre Movies channel until methods of increasing reach, production quality, and streamlining the content generation process have improved. Once the team is confident in one series and once they feel they have the extra time to dedicate to these extra shows, expanding would be a great idea. For example, the company Rooster Teeth, now a multi-million dollar production company which boasts a seriously high volume and variety of content, started out with a small group of friends making low-quality shorts using a video game.

While I feel the start has been slow, it exhibits extreme of potential. If Riley and the co-presenters of Sad Cowboy Productions are able to continue with consistent production and improve promotion, this will be a very successful project.

Business Instagram Journey – WIP

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.

Insert Image Here

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.

Insert Images here


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.

Insert Content here

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.

Insert Content here

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.

Insert Content (Images) here

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:

Insert Content Here


Current Approach

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:

  1. Infants/babies
  2. Sitters/cakesmash
  3. Birthdays
  4. Families
  5. Couples
  6. Engagement
  7. Weddings

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.

Insert images of plans here.

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.

Insert images here.

 


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.

Insert stats here.

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.

Insert Content.


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.

Insert last of content here.