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“Photographers have a huge advantage on Instagram. You already have the most important thing for great Instagram content: awesome photos!”
~Sue B. Zimmerman
Last week I got to interview Sue B Zimmerman (@theinstagramexpert) after listening to her on a webinar put on by productivity guru Steve Dotto (@dottotech). Their discussion made me rethink how much attention I pay to my Instagram account.
In case you’ve lived under a rock for the past 5 years, Instagram is an online mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service and, as a visual content creator, it’s basically made for photographers. If you’re not utilizing it, well, let’s just say your missing out on a large market segment. I wrote about the importance of Instagram in getting hired last December on Strictly Business: Why a Strong Brand Online is Worth More Than Your Skill Set.
Within 5 years of its launch Instagram celebrated 400 million users, placing it in the top 5 US Social Media networks; that is a little misleading, since it’s owned by Facebook. Since Instagram does only one thing, it’s simple to use – but that simplicity can be difficult to use well.
Sue talked to me about the 5 mistakes you can’t afford to make on Instagram:
Mistake #1: Setting your Instagram account to private ensures that no one, but your followers can see what you post.
I made this mistake when I started. Social Media is social so don’t keep your account to yourself.
Sue does recommend that you keep your account set to private, until you write your bio (see mistake #3), post a minimum of 9 fantastic images and/or videos (see mistake #4) and come up with a strong Call to Action (see mistake #5). Once you’ve populated your profile – open your Instagram (IG) to the world! Interact with people, reply to tags, @mentions and shares.
Mistake #2: Using the generic Instagram avatar, will make sure that everyone knows you’re an IG newbie.
Ah, the profile picture. Mistake number 2 is uploading one that has nothing to do with your business. The only way you can do worse is by not uploading anything. Then you get this beauty:
Sue says you should put your smiling face on your account. People want to know who you are (and that they’re following the right instagram account). Make it specific to your brand – it can be your logo, but I agree with Sue, I like to have my face up there. The same goes for your IG your username in your brand. Make it the same as your twitter handle (mine is @photosbydepuhl) or your brand name or your own name. The good news is you can change the username on Instagram.
Mistake #3: Leaving your bio blank. Or writing a bad one.
Your bio, is the first thing people see on Instagram, so make it easy and tell them something about yourself. Don’t leave it blank or write something completely irrelevant. (You should set your account to private, until you have a strong bio written.)
True, it’s not easy to write an effective bio in 150 characters. Keep it short, sweet and to the point. Don’t forget you need to include your call to action in here as well (more about that in Mistake #5). This bio is the first impression your making on IG. Make it count.
Mistake #4: Posting photos of everything. Or posting underexposed, blurry, badly composed photos.
The Instagram feed for your business should be just that: photos and videos about your business (not breakfast – unless you’re a food photographer; not cats – unless you’re a pet photographer; not cute kids – unless [say it with me] you create portraits of kids). If you want to post those images, create a personal Instagram account.
Keep your account focused. Sue says that you should show only the images and posts that build your brand. When someone clicks on your IG feed, your brand should be immediately clear. Remember you can post videos on Instagram, as long as they are under 15 seconds long, like this one:
Wanna get a sneak peek of what I shot in New York and Miami over the last few days? Check out our celebration of 25 years of making world-class artists and designers in one of the best #PublicSchools in @miamischools! #DASH consistently produces Top Talent in #architecture #IndustrialDesign #fashion #film and #graphicdesign @dashschool
Include finished photos and behind the scene shots, Sue says it’s important to humanize your IG account.
Mistake #5: Not writing a strong Call to Action for your link. Not including a link at all is the only way you can make this mistake worse. You get one link on Instagram and one link only. It’s in your bio, so choose it wisely. Once you’ve decided what your want to feature – your website, your blog, your newsletter, Twitter or LinkedIn accounts – don’t just say “Click here.” instead include a strong Call to Action. Read my blog. Join my mailing list. Watch my video. Make that sole, lonely link that IG gives you count! The one saving grace is that this link – like your username – can be changed.