If you are a photographer and have been trying to get more followers on Instagram, you must have heard this advice at least a million times that you need to share your best work on this social network to grow your followers. Steve Martin, the actor, has famously said that they can’t ignore you if you are really good.
While this advice is great, it’s not practical. Even if your photographic skills are so good that you can make Mona Lisa look like a finger painting, you are less likely to be noticed on Instagram. Consider the fact that over 52 million pictures are shared on this network each day by over 500 million users.
Is Instagram right for photographers?
In the beginning, Instagram was seen as a place where people liked to share their basic moments of daily life. Once the network started growing in popularity, everyone from presidents to movie stars to others joined the website and the curation of posts started getting more traction. All the top names in the photography world including National Geographic photographers to Magnum photographers also joined the network.
While some argued that this meant death knell for this network, others saw it as an opportunity. Many photographers found it inspiring to become a member of a global social network where everyone speaks the visual language. Companies also found a new marketing channel for marketing their goods.
Some naysayers think that the mobile social network, Instagram, is a second-class social platform. They argue that no photographer would want to show their pictures on a tiny mobile screen. However, the fact remains that 80% of time in social media is spent on mobile devices. In simple terms, whether you a hobby photographer who wants to interact with other hobbyists or a professional photographer looking to market your business, you need to be near your audience and Instagram happens to be that place.
Instagram isn’t a bed of roses
While the advice given by Steve Martin about getting discovered is great, Instagram age is different and this advice no longer holds water. There are many photographers who have been unable to find an audience. Advice given by P.T. Barnum is more pertinent as he once said that nothing happens without promotion.
You need to be proactive on Instagram to build your following. Instagram does not have any share button like Facebook that helps others discover you. Also, the algorithm used by Instagram doesn’t put your pictures in front of new members. Most of the engagement for your feed is usually the result of your followers and not people who stumble onto your work.
Therefore, you need to get your work shared by other Instagram accounts in order for your work to reach new audiences. You can do this in two different ways. One of the ways is to ask other photographers to share your work. Another way is to get featured on hubs.
Leveraging hubs for gaining followers
Hubs may be defined as other Instagram accounts that feature the work of other people. They may also be defined as a variety show sharing the happenings around the Instagram world. Each hub works like a different channel. For instance, there are architecture helps, nature hubs, food photograph hubs and street photograph hubs among others. A business, a group of people or an individual may own a hub.
The photo you see below was featured by the FreedomThinkers hub and I took this photograph in Malaysia. Their website says that their mission is to inspire their visitors to travel the world. Since this aligns with my mission, I was more than happy to share my photograph on their account.
Some hubs are also run for the purpose of creating a community. Companies also back up a hub as a way to market their products or services. Overall, hubs are a great way to get new audience to see your work.
To allow hubs to share your work, you need to include the relevant hashtag in the caption of the photo. The relevant hashtags can be found in their account bio. If the owner of the hub likes your work, they may share it and also credit you by sharing your Instagram feed address and name. The exposure you get from the hub may drive traffic to your personal feed and that may get you more followers.
Tips to go viral on Instagram
The social network works like a news channel as once the story is broken by a channel, others also start reporting on it. A number of hubs also copy the feature photo from other hubs. Many accounts have gained massive amount of exposure to their work and you may too through the domino effect.
For instance, more than 20 hubs featured my Dark Towers photo. One of the hubs was the Game of Tones. I didn’t make any effort to get my photo featured on all the hubs but many hubs featured my photo after they saw it on another hub. All the hubs combined together had a follower count of over 1 million.
You are not going to get your picture featured on that many hubs each day but it’s common to have a few different hubs share your photo all at once.
- Tips to get exposure on Instagram
Whether you are a seasoned pro or a complete newbie or you have over 100,000 followers or have just a few followers, there is a hub for all types of photographers at all levels. Follow the below mentioned tips to get your work featured on these hubs.
- Know the Hubs
If you want to get your work featured on one of these hubs, you need to tag your photo as per the information given by each hub and/or put the hashtag in the caption. It is important that you don’t blindly tag a hub due to its popularity. You need to make sure that your photographs align with the quality and style of the job.
One of the best places to start is geography hub. You should begin by looking for the hubs focusing on a particular region such as your country, province, state, city or the place where you plan on travelling. One of the added benefits of local hubs is that you may also meet people in your area.
- Find hubs for different types of photography
You should also consider various hubs dedicated to different genres such as @urbanromantix or @nightphotography. Such niche hubs are great for finding other like-minded photographers.
- Small hubs at the beginning
It is recommended to start small in the beginning. If you are completely new to Instagram or photography, you should try small hubs. Ideally, you should try to aim hubs up to 10,000 followers at the start.
- Find brands
There are also a lot of business hubs on Instagram and some of the biggest hubs are owned by brands. For instance, there are 2 million followers of the magazine Travel + Leisure and it is known to regularly feature photographs from other feeds.
- The secret to get exposure on Instagram
This is the most important and final tip. If you have found the hub where you would like your work to be featured, you should follow that hub as well as the admin of that hub. Some hubs will also want you to follow the admin of hub to be featured. Admin of a hub also wants exposure like everyone else on the platform as they also want to increase the number of followers.
If you are unable to find the admin of the hub in the bio, take a close look at the last few photographs in the feed. You may find a note telling you the admin who selected the featured photo.
Once you have found the admin of the hub, you should visit the feed of the admin account, friend them as well as like a few of the photos and do not forget to comment on a few of their photographs. You need to make sure to write something to prove that you are a real human being and not a robot. In simple terms, you may not engage them with just a Great Shot comment or just thumbs up.
Also, don’t make the comments look like human spam and you should never asked the admin of the hub to view your feed. You should also never ask them to give feedback on your work and you should never ask them to feature your work.
If you are patient and genuinely interact with the work of the admin of a hub, it is likely that they will also visit your feed. If they like your work, it is possible that they might feature your work.
Overall, admin of a hub is like a gatekeeper and they act as editors of social network magazines. To get your work featured, you need to get your photos seen by them. You need to tell them who you are. The single most important thing for you to do to get featured is to connect with the admin of the hub other than creating amazing work.
Is it worth the effort?
You will still find people who think that social media is not a good use of time. While it’s true that you need to be out working instead of just staring at your phone but things are not as simple as they seem to be.
For instance, the Busan roof topping photograph was shared on 21 hubs and I got a few hundred followers from that photo but it doesn’t really matter. Life is not all about popularity. Whether you have 1 million followers or just 10 followers, the most important thing that matters to a photographer is to create.
However, it’s also true that the act of sharing also has a deep bond with the act of creation. If you love taking photographs and want to keep it for yourself, there is nothing wrong with it. However, if you want to share your passion with other people, it is a great way for you to let the world know.