What Instagram’s algorithm means for photographers

 In Social Media

Instagram_Icon_LargeEarlier this week, Instagram announced it was following the like of its parent company, Facebook, in ditching the time-based feed. In its place will be an algorithm that Instagram describes as “ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most.”

Opinions aside, this means big things for photographers.

Instagram has more than 400 million monthly users. For photographers, it’s a great way to get our work (and personal photos) in front of other people.

With the change in Instagram’s algorithm, though, photographers have a bigger challenge in grabbing users’ attention and engagement.

Instagram has said that the photos that will be pushed into each user’s feed will be based on interests. What that means is that in order for users to see your photos, you need to encourage them to engage with them even more than ever before — through likes and comments.

Most experts think that while this was an inevitable change, it won’t reach the level of Facebook. Organic reach will still be there, which is good, but you will need to spend more time on the social network to increase your presence.

Regardless, it’s time to boost up your Instagram interaction now, while you still can. There’s a plethora of different ways to do this, but here’s how I market my Instagram. I’m by no means the most followed photographer out there, but since I started this experiment, my engagement has increased, as has the number of followers I have.

Use popular hashtags

One of the best ways to do this is to include hashtags on every post and to tag brands. Some of the most popular are #tbt (Throwback Thursday), #instadaily, #photooftheday and #instagood. There’s debate over the amount of hashtags you should have, but I strive for five to eight.

Take advantage of your caption space

This may seem straightforward, but use your photo captions to ask a question. It’ll drive up comments and hopefully likes as well.

Add a location

I was against this for privacy reasons for a while, but I’ve found that when I add a location to any post, it receives significantly more engagement. I don’t have to be specific — I can choose the neighborhood I’m in if I’m at a house. But adding a location means that when people search for photos in that location, they’ll see your photo, increasing your chance at having someone new see what you post.

Develop a style, and stick with it

Instagram filters are a necessary evil in today’s world. I’ve seen casual users go crazy over these, adding different filters to all their photos. What I’d recommend instead is to stay consistent to your style. If you want to reach potential customers and the rest of your followers, and boost engagement, having a consistent look and feel to all your photos will be worth your while.

Shoutout to your favorite brands

Say you’re a product photographer. If you really want to grab the interest of a brand that you really, really want to shoot for, tag them in a photo that features their product. Write a comment about the product in your photo.

Engage with other users

This is probably one of the most important things that anyone with an Instagram account needs to do regularly. It seems obvious, but to some, we feel like people should just like our photos and engage with us, without much work on our end. But it’s a two-way street. Follow the brands you like, and take advantage of the Suggested Users area of Instagram. Just don’t like their photos — users are more likely to follow you if you comment on one of their photos, even if it’s just a short few words praising them for what they posted.

The above recommendations have been tried and true for Instagram, and even with the changes in Instagram’s feed, these will continue to be important in order to reach your audience successfully.

Have you noticed a strategy that has worked for you on Instagram or other social networks? Comment below and let us know!

Next week I’ll be starting a two-part series on the other social networks photographers need to pay attention to — especially beyond the standard Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

And don’t forget to follow me — @bryanesler — on Instagram too!

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Showing 3 comments
  • Lauri

    Are you going to include Snapchat? It would be helpful to have some insights and how to use snapchat since it seems to be the ‘next big thing’ for photographers much to the dislike of many of us!! Thanks Bryan!!

    • Bryan Esler

      Sure will!

  • Chris Smith

    Hey! This was a lot of help! I should read my own site more often.

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