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How to curate a successful Instagram account

Like anything worthwhile, making Instagram a successful part of your business requires a good work ethic, scheduled time for research and studying the marketplace as well as the patience to evolve your progress over time. The good news is that when done well, Instagram gets you noticed and even hired. If your 2020 goal is to build a successful Instagram account, here are a few helpful tips to get you on your way.

Instagram is not your website.

In a sea of posts, too many “portfolio” images won’t feel authentic. Instagram shouldn’t look like a copy of your site. Also, don’t think too hard about what your IG followers do for a living. It will change how you shoot. Don’t give them what you think they need, speak directly to your followers about what drives you to create. Don’t just show your followers what’s around you, show them how you SEE the world around you. Be experimental. Instagram is the perfect place to try out something a little outside of your comfort zone and get real-time feedback.

Here’s a little sampler of Sarah Palmer, @heysp for you to enjoy. Right away you feel like you get her work and where it’s going.

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Be consistent. Be your brand. Instagram is a hungry beast.

To bring your account to life, you need to feed it often. It’s important to own that content too. Think about what makes you special and unlike others, then do it over and over and over again. In IG, predictability isn’t a dirty word. Is your work about the weird and conceptual? Then figure out a way to stamp every post with a little of you. Own being a storyteller. Capture the visceral experience wherever you go. Be the bold color that gives your work legs. Reveal who you are and what you are like to work with.

Check out Theron Humphrey, @thiswildidea to see how an account can feel organic, reveal a little of yourself and be consistent.

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Make yourself found.

There’s a funny joke about being a parishioner, God, and a lottery ticket. I think we all know it, but here’s the punchline anyway. To win the lottery, you need to buy a ticket. Hashtags are like breadcrumbs. If you want to be known as being a food photographer in Dallas, you have to mark your image with that hashtag. Hashtag your image with a hashtag for your business name, your industry, your location, your specialty… the trending hashtags are useful but talk about being a small fish in a big pond. Be strategic and use your hashtags to build roads back to you.

Asa Sjostrom, @asasjostromphotography uses hashtags to share awards, the project, her location, the subject and the kind of photography she does.

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Tell your story.

Remember the old days, when a picture was worth a thousand words? Well on Instagram, it’s important to also include words with that picture. Make time to get your story out. It’s worth it. Most followers will take the time to read it. Be sincere. Be vulnerable. Be passionate. Be funny. Be you. The intriguing copy will build an audience of dedicated fans for your work. Find your words. Focus on the feeling of being there. Make your IG more of a visual diary. Pull the viewer into your vision. Place them beside you on your adventure. Like great design, words can elevate your image. The best-case scenario, they help you emotionally connect with them.

Chris Burkard, @chrisburkard is the photographer to check out when you’re looking for great storytelling in the copy. He continually captivates his audience through his images and his words.

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Your bio is important.

Think of your Instagram bio as your elevator pitch, though it has to be written in the language of IG. Yes, I know. It’s more writing. When someone stumbles onto your post (*cough, cough* hashtag), they will most likely go to your bio next to see who you are. Instagram gives you a small space, to sum up, who you are and what you do. It’s another place to live your brand. Paint a picture by the words you choose. This isn’t about traditional sentence writing. It’s probably more like a Haiku poem.

I can’t help but see a person rather than just a name for Victoria Siemer, @witchoria after reading her bio.

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I know. You want more. A blog post is supposed to be a teaser. Download our Instagram Pocket guide for more useful advice.

Karen D'Silva

Karen D'Silva is one of today's most influential creatives in the commercial photography community. She founded Karen DSilva Creative Services, a trend, marketing and research company designed to help photographers understand the marketplace, find where their images fit, and profile and market to clients who share the same photographic vision. She is also currently a Creative Consultant at Agency Access.

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