Photo: Leila Peterson / @dearleila
Influential Instagram users have found that the social photo site can grown from just a hobby to a lucrative endeavour, if you’re good at it.Brands are taking notice of Instagrammers with significant followings and have reached out for them to do professional work. Some get invites to awesome events, others paid photo gigs, and others have been flown around the world.
The key to getting these gigs, however, is getting noticed. Business Insider talked to some of the most sought-after Instagram users about their tips for increasing their followings. (A big following not only gives advertisers the opportunity to reach a wider demographic, but it also indicates that you do good work that people actually want to see).
Here are the tricks of the trade:
– Get on early:
OK, unless you have a time machine, it’s impossible to go back to October of 2010 and get an Instagram account, but it’s important to note that most of the non-celebrity users who have 100K plus followers that we talked to started Instagram weeks or months after it went public. After Instagram became available on Android and Facebook bought the company for $1 billion, things have gotten harder for people whose last name isn’t Kardashian. “Pre-Android all of my photos would go on the most popular page and after Android it’s almost impossible,” Jonathan Naffarete told us. So advice for next time: If you notice an interesting, new social-sharing site, don’t wait for it to get cool—start early.
– Take good photos:
This should really go without saying. If you aren’t sharing interesting art, then why would anyone want to look at it? “Just be yourself,” Leila Peterson told us. “People are drawn to personal experiences that they can relate to. I believe it’s more than just one photo, it’s about a series of photos that give glimpses into people’s everyday lives in real-time.”
– Create a niche:
It’s great to have a “thing.” Bex Finch, who has over 154,000 followers, created the #fromwhereistand, hashtag, which encourages users to chronicle their lives from the perspective of looking down out their shoes. “I took an idea and while it’s not entirely unique and new, to take pictures of your feet different places, the double entendre also drew people,” Finch said. “It’s about being clever and being creative.”
– Update frequently, but don’t go overboard!
“Just post your best pictures and try to to it regularly,” Mike Kus told us. “I try and post one per day. I don’t always manage this but it’s just personal guide to keep me motivated.” Popular Instagrammers have noticed that if they go a few days without posting, they’ll get messages from followers asking if they’re OK. At the same time, don’t go overboard. “Don’t post 10 pictures in 15 minutes,” Anthony Dannielle advises. It’s annoying.
– Don’t ask people to follow you.
“That’s the most annoying thing,” Finch said. Instead it’s better to interact with other users by commenting on their photos and sharing. If they like your stuff, chances are they’ll share you back. The key is to catch the eye of someone with a big following because you’re good, not because you’re obnoxious.
– Be a part of a community.
“It’s really good to network with other photogs and people who you respect,” Theo Sickels said. “People will notice you if you are commenting.” At the same time, you can join up with Instagram groups in your area, like Instagram Los Angeles or InstagramNYC, which has hosted Instawalks, Instagram gallery shows, and other networking events.
– Don’t wait for the brands to come to you.
Brian DiFeo, who has done numerous gigs for advertisers and has even been flown to Abu Dhabi to cover a sailing race, got his start by reaching out to the Newport Folk Festival. “I emailed with the social media people that did the festival hoping to get backstage passes in exchange for creating an instagram account,” DiFeo said. In exchange, the festival could take advantage of his 5,000 to 10,000 followers at the time. He now has 120K.
– Use hashtags. Seriously.
“I would say most important thing is the proper use of hashtags,” Nafarrete said. “Right now i work on campaigns and am trying to find Instagram influencers, and it’s hard to find who lives in a geo-tag location. Hashtag fitness and music and stuff like that so brands can target you.” Also, as Finch said, “no one looks at the popular page—it’s all about hashtag campaigns.”
– Branding: A good handle never hurt anyone.
Liz Eswein takes absolutely beautiful photos of New York. Her handle is also @newyorkcity (which was available when she created her account early on). That certainly didn’t hurt getting 286,000 followers and counting.
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