Professional photographer Mark Meyer has over 21,000 followers on Instagram. As an early adopter of Instagram, he’s learned the ways to leverage it but he’s quick to caution that it’s harder to get your voice heard these days. Meyer says “focusing on pushing up the numbers will cause you to spin your wheels. It’s really easy to get caught up in that”. He’s found his most valuable exchanges have come when he is being authentic.
Mark has spent the last nine years living in Alaska. He ventured into Instagram via Twitter when he tracked posts that had originated from Instagram. He quickly learned that developing a niche on Instagram is just another way of reinforcing your professional brand. “I started out publishing pictures of my meals and my dog just like everyone else, but quickly realized that people have to know what to count on you for.” Otherwise, you just end up with a bunch of followers you don’t know and you probably don’t want to know and who can’t help you with your business” says Meyer.
Meyer didn’t really pay attention to the number of followers he had in the beginning. “With Instagram it’s a bit hard to get traction because there is no retweet or share function. The only people that see what you post are your followers unless you find a way to get it in front of a different audience ” says Meyer. He was fortunate to have done a travel piece for the New York Times and they posted several of his photos and each one linked to his Instagram account. This also happened with a project he did for Travel and Leisure. “I’m really working on trying to follow more interesting people. I follow anyone who’s local. After that it’s pretty much only industry people” says Meyer.
In Meyer’s case, he’s defined his niche as outdoor Alaska and travel. He now publishes about twice a week and a bit more frequently when he’s traveling on assignment. This is a niche that he is interested in publishing on and observing. Since social media is a two-way street, it’s important to be both a spectator and contributor when developing your brand.
Assigning hashtags to your image is important because they define the searchable terms for that image. For an outdoor photographer, tagging location would be important but probably very crowded. You would also benefit from tagging your image with something more refined. For example, at the writing of this article, if you conduct a search on Instagram for #alaska you’ll get 3,656,629 results. But #travelalaska has “only” 28,197 results. Given that competition is lower, it is more likely that you would get listed as one of the top nine images on the #travelalaska results page and remain there for a longer period of time. Search page results are ever-influenced by the Instagram algorithm. While we don’t know exactly what goes into that algorithm, it’s safe to say that the number of likes and followers that a poster has would definitely play a role.
Meyer also suggests that you look for organizations like Conde Nast Traveler who manage #condenasttraveller. “By using their hashtag you are essentially giving them permission to use your image and encouraging them to re-post your stuff. It’s a little like a slot machine” says Meyer. That has occasionally worked for him but there are a lot of people who know this trick too.
Meyer says he uses his various social media channels this way:
- Facebook Business Page – doesn’t really post to it anymore because Facebook has made it necessary to pay-to-play
- Facebook Personal – keeps for friends, family and old school mates
- Twitter – follows everyone he finds interesting, especially photo editors, but tweets infrequently. Mostly he listens
- LinkedIn – good way to keep track of his professional network although he uses a custom build contact management system to help with this too
Mark’s Instagram Tips
Mark Meyer Instagram Tips include:
- Pick a niche that you can legitimately post something on daily. Try to make it broad enough to keep things interesting for you.
- Pick hashtags that match your niche but are more narrowly defined so you have a better chance of showing up at the top of the list for that hashtag.
- Don’t be tempted by the robots that follow you with the goal of you following back. It comes across as very inauthentic.
- Comment on images where you can add value – be authentic. If there’s something meaningful you can say about an image, then comment. Don’t take it too personally if they don’t follow you back.
- Spend time finding people that you can follow and enjoy.
- Research photo editors. Follow them, watch, listen, and engage in a meaningful way.
Value of ASMP Membership
“ASMP is the one place that photographers can get some traction and a larger voice on national issues like copyright reform. Find a Photographer is also important to me. There’s no where else we can direct our resources to affect that stuff” says Meyer.
This article is part of a series featuring ASMP members who are doing cool things and have something to share. Mark Meyer is based in Anchorage, Alaska. Media and images ©Mark Meyer Photography. Search for other articles in this series by using search term “Like a Pro” on the ASMP site.