“There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer” said Ansel Adams. He was not only a gifted photographer but also an amazing orator. Had he lived in the hyperconnected society of our current time, this quote would continue by noting the importance of creating a dialogue between these two people.
Social networks, such as Instagram, are not only a fantastic addition to your photography website, they are also an amazing opportunity to connect with your audience. Once perceived as unapproachable artists who sell their work in galleries, photographers now have it easier than ever to build and nurture these relationships. However, it is also harder than ever to keep up with the latest technology and social media platforms. But worry not, as we have put together a simple guide for you to know exactly what you should do to connect with your audience using Instagram Stories.
Instagram Stories are one of the platform’s latest, yet most popular features. You may know them as the little circles that have been showing up at the top of your feed. They allow users to upload photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours and do not appear as part of the main feed. Stories are a great support tool for your social media strategy. Why? Well, on top of helping you connect with your audience, using Instagram Stories can help improve your account’s exposure, as the new Instagram algorithm benefits users who explore new features.
The content you upload to your Instagram Stories can be seen by the same people who can see your feed, including those who don’t follow you, if your account is not private. Just like regular posts, Instagram Stories are discoverable by location and hashtags. In addition to classic photos, there are many other elements you can use in your Instagram Stories, including: text, emojis, stickers, polls, filters, video effects, and more.
Just figuratively speaking. You probably don’t want to have hundreds of people crashing your shooting, no matter how much that could help connect with your audience. Instagram Stories offer a unique opportunity to show behind the scenes footage. Whether you’re traveling, in the studio, or preparing your gear, sharing these moments with your followers will make them feel closer to your work.
Just like the nearly two-decade long How It’s Made, offering your followers a peek into the effort that goes into each image will get them hooked. At the same time, you can use this content to share your expertise and rise as a referent for those hungry for knowledge. This is one of the biggest opportunities of social media for photographers.
Wallpapers, tutorials, uncropped versions of your feed photos, processing tips, gear advice… the sky’s the limit! Well, technically 15” per post is the limit, but there are no barriers to the type of content you can share on Instagram Stories. They can even inspire great photography marketing ideas, as you can easily tag your business partners, advertise future events, introduce a contest, etc.
You can also use this space to not only connect with your audience, but also with other photographers. Share the work of photographers you admire and tag them to start building relationships with other talented artists. This will also benefit your followers, as they’ll get to grow their feed based on the advice of someone whose work they admire.
Unlike posts on your feed, Stories cannot receive comments. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use them to engage with your audience. In fact, quite the opposite. The tools that Instagram Stories offer to make up for the lack of comments actually drive much more engagement than the traditional system.
For example, polls are a simple and straightforward approach that require very little time and effort for both you and viewers. Because of this, nearly every person who sees that piece of content will be likely to participate. On the other hand, users who chose to respond to the Story via private message will actually be able to have a conversation with you, without sharing the space with hundreds of other comments.
As for what to ask your audience: literally anything (as long as it cannot be damaging for your brand). Should I add image number one or image number two to my store? Which destination should I travel to next? How do you like your coffee? Do you shoot with a camera or with your phone? And an infinite etc.
Your online presence should work as a well-oiled machine where each platform acts as a gear perfectly connected to the rest. In other words, you should be promoting your profiles across networks. It’s quite well known that not linking your social media profiles on your photography website is one of the most common portfolio mistakes. However, it may not be so obvious that you should be using these platforms to direct your audience to your site.
Here’s where Instagram Stories come in. Because this content automatically disappears after 24 hours, it is a great tool for self-promotion that doesn’t interfere with your feed’s content strategy. For example, you can use stories to encourage viewers to visit your site whenever you upload new content. Or announce that you’ve decided to sell your photos online. Accounts with over 10k followers have the option to add a swipe up feature on their stories to automatically redirect users to the desired page. For those who have not reached that milestone yet, temporarily changing the bio’s URL is the best option.
Not with selfies, but by offering them a look into your everyday life. The best way to connect with your audience is letting your audience connect with you. And to do so, you should be more than a small, rounded picture on their phone screens. Snap some shots of your city, your pet, your favorite coffee place. Take a video from the bus window, or as you wait at the traffic light.
If you don’t mind making a bit more effort, tell some stories about yourself. For example how you became a photographer, something that happened to you that day, or what your career dream is. This option is especially valuable when paired with a photography blog where you can go deeper into detail.
Instagram Stories automatically disappear after 24 hours, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. Following popular demand, Instagram decided to offer users the option to save this content with Story Highlights. After being saved, they appear in folders above users’ personal feeds, illustrated by a cover image and still separated from the traditional posts.
Story Highlights are a great way to keep on your profile the kind of content you want to offer your audience, even if it does not match the style or strategy of your feed. For example, you can save full-screen images aimed to be used as wallpapers. Or maybe you posted some less-professional shots of your latest trip. If you have a business, creating an FAQ folder might also be an interesting idea.
The first rule of Instagram Stories is: you will have fun with Instagram Stories. You should keep in mind that people will associate this content with your brand. So you might still want to keep some content in the shadows. But other than that, Instagram Stories is the place where you can joke and get personal with your audience. Add a funny gif on that behind the scenes shot. Complain about how hot it is (with the mandatory temperature sticker). Share pictures hanging out with your friends. Simply enjoy the ride.
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