Business + Marketing

Focusing on Engagement Over “Vanity Numbers” on Instagram

May 22, 2019

By Elena S Blair

© Bre Thurston

Photographer Elena S Blair (at right).

In the modern days of social media marketing, it is easy to get caught up in the numbers. When we see influential photographers on Instagram with huge followings, it can be discouraging. I hear new photographers say things like, “What’s the point? I only have 50 followers.” Well, I am here to tell you that you don’t need a huge following to use Instagram effectively. Whether you have 50 or 50,000 followers, you can absolutely bring in high-quality clients to your business with Instagram and grow your following along the way.

The key is to forget about those vanity numbers and focus on engaging those who already follow you.

I like to think of Instagram as a store front. It is a place for potential and current clients to come and see what you have to offer, but it’s also where they can see who you are as a business owner, as a human, as a brand.

Imagine, for a moment, that you owned a clothing boutique. The store has been empty all day, but suddenly, two customers walk in. You introduce yourself, show them around and ask how you can assist them. You show them styles that go great together. You really serve them and infuse your personality into their experience.

Now, imagine those two people walking in and instead of giving them a personal experience, you run outside and yell, “Come in, come in! I have the best clothing in town!” As you do, you completely ignore those two customers who have already said to themselves, “Yes, I want to see what this person has to offer.”

In the first scenario, you are likely to make a sale. What’s more, those customers are probably going tell their friends about you and your store because you served them so well. In the second scenario, you are not likely to make a sale; you didn’t leave a positive, personal impression.

If you concentrate on really engaging and serving your current followers, you will be prioritized by Instagram’s algorithm, bumping you up on relevant hashtags and bringing you more genuine followers.

There are a few ways you can easily encourage engagement so that your followers are liking, commenting and sharing your posts.

Get Personal

Our Instagram feeds are full of beautiful photos, and they quickly blend together. We are craving authenticity and connection. The best way to do this is to share a photo of yourself every once in a while. You have to show your face to the world, even though I know you prefer to be on the other side of the lens. Introduce your following to the person behind the squares. Tell them a little about yourself and why you are a photographer. I promise you, these types of posts get significantly more engagement than a standard share of your work.

Give Prompts

We are more likely to take action when we are asked to. This can be done simply by saying something like “double tap if you think this baby is adorable.” You could also ask a question in your post, like, “What are three things you like to do as a family?”

Direct Followers to Your Content

Tell people to see a new post you made via the link in bio or to check out an Instagram Story you just put up. I like to make a quick video for a Story, or even just share a post there, to bring more attention to my feed. Some users only use Stories, so this channel is very valuable for engagement.

Focusing on meaningful engagement is going to bring you high-quality, interactive followers who are truly invested in your brand—they will turn into paying clients over time.

Elena S Blair is an award-winning family and newborn photographer based in Seattle. She is also an educator who co-owns both Blair & Thurston Retreats and Lady Boss Workshops. She last wrote about tips to posing families naturally for portrait sessions.


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