With half a billion users actively on Instagram, there is a lot of potential in drawing attention to your brand and creating an audience through the use of visual content production. If you are heavily reliant on imagery as a means of marketing and you aren’t already on-board with Instagram, it’s time to get going. If you aren’t using a whole lot of imagery (or any at all), now is the time to start. According to eMarketer, the number of companies predicted to be using Instagram next year will double, and surpass Twitter as an active means of social media marketing. This means visual content marketing is going to see a massive jump in the marketing landscape as brands start to drive engagement to their Instagram accounts.
As somebody who is currently in the process of building his own personal brand, Instagram is my go-to outlet for content posting and user engagement as it makes the most sense for what I do. I’ve combined my passion for exotic automobiles with my natural talents in design and aesthetic to produce automotive photography, which is what my Instagram account currently displays.
After about four months of posting my photos, I’ve noticed a steady increase in my following and engagement. Nothing substantial, but I do have the attention of a couple of Ferrari dealers, major car events like Cars & Coffee, professional car racers, small automotive businesses, and a few automotive photographers with 10,000+ followers. I’m now working on engaging with these accounts even more and driving an audience to my page.
What matters is that it’s only been four months and I’m already on the radar of some big accounts. There are a few reasons why I believe this has happened and why I have hope that Instagram will be my bread-and-butter during the journey of establishing myself as an automotive photographer, car enthusiast and graphic designer. These are the same reasons your business or personal brand can build a following and create a community to derive engagement from. A lot of these reasons can also be found on Sprout Social’s article, “11 Ways To Jumpstart Your Instagram Branding.”
1. Post Quality Visual Content
Instagram is heavily visual. Just like Twitter’s trademark is the 140-character text blurb, Instagram is the image+caption social media medium. The spearhead of Instagram is the image, so it matters a lot more that you are using quality photos and designs that really catch someone’s eye and draws them to your content. You don’t have to be a professional photographer to get some good images, but ensuring that what you’re posting is aesthetically engaging will help a ton with getting noticed.
For my photos, I take my images with a DSLR and then bring them into Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop for enhancement. While there is a lot of possibilities with this combination, you really only need a phone with a good camera and Instagram’s photo editing capabilities. There are plenty of good-looking pages out there that were built straight from a phone. Just ensure that when you are shooting and editing your photos that they look like some thought was put into it. Simply taking a candid photo and slapping a filter on it with no context as to how it reflects your brand can be quite obvious to make out (unless that’s part of how you express your brand, in which case, kudos to you).
2. Find Your Style and Stick With It
The most compelling Instagram accounts look relatively uniform at a glance. Each photo has a similar style to the one before it. Whether it’s is a particular color scheme, a means of framing your image, what’s actually in the image, a unique font or any combination of these, your page needs to be visually cohesive and make sense in how it reflects your brand.
I focus a lot on the editing process of my photography. A majority of my time is spent on the coloring and lighting manipulation of my shots. When I imagine a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, I’m reminded of the meticulous design processes that go into each car they make. This is how I am with my photos, and that’s the style I aim to reflect on my Instagram page. My goal is to create unique, artistically thoughtful images of cars that reflect the same principals the cars themselves were designed with in mind.
3. Less is More in the Caption Space
You can use up to 2200 characters in your caption, but the further away you can stay to that number, the better. “A picture is worth a 1000 words,” as they say. Your caption shouldn’t be doing most of the talking for you. Choose something simple but thoughtful. You can always include a call-to-action, but the overall goal is for the image to do the majority of talking and for the caption to compliment it.
Here are a couple ideal examples from Ferrari and Lamborghini’s IG pages.
Both are simple and reflect the image they represent. Lamborghini includes a simple call-to-action for their fashion lineup on their website, but doesn’t go beyond that. You don’t necessarily need to keep your captions this simple, but the point is that this is not Twitter or Facebook. Images are king on Instagram.
4. You Have 30 Hashtags. Use Them and Use Them Wisely.
If there’s anything to fill your caption space with, it’s hashtags. Being that you’re allowed to use a maximum of 30, you possess a lot of opportunity in getting your brand out there. There are all kinds of different hashtags for all kinds of different themes. You can use ones that are industry specific, time specific or even design specific. Find ones that are relevant to your content and load them up in your posts. You can even create your own hashtags for user-generated content and establish your own space on Instagram for you to interact with other users following your brand.
To clean up your caption space, try posting them with a space below the caption, or on a separate comment. This creates some separation from the main text so it doesn’t blend in and make your caption space look too messy.
This is almost vital if you want to gain and retain a following. When people are commenting on your post, say something about it! This especially applies at the early stages. Every time someone comments on my photos, I make sure to at least say “thanks” or “I appreciate the comment” to let people know I give a damn when they engage with my posts.
Part of the term ‘social media’ is the word ‘social.’ If you’re trying to build your brand and establish a following, this is a particularly useful thing to understand. This doesn’t only apply with who is commenting on your photos. One thing I’m starting to work on is going out and finding pages with similar interests to mine and engaging with them. If you’re a small brand, you should probably be doing the same since your current focus is to get noticed.
And don’t go commenting for the sake of building your follower count. If you’re going to engage with other pages, be genuinely interested in the content they are posting. Don’t comment with “follow for a follow” or “Nice! Follow my page for more like this.” It sounds too salespersony, and we’re living in an era where that type of marketing doesn’t fly very well.
Instead, if you want people to follow you, simply interact with genuine interest. Your ideal follower should show up because you engaged with them in a meaningful way and in turn want to see what kinds of content you’re posting on your page. Make it a two-way street, and not only will your follower count go up, but it’ll stay up because you’ve obtained followers that care about what you have to offer and will consequently keep coming back for more.
6. Keep. Posting.
How do you build a brand? How do you build a business? How do you build a skyscraper? How do you build the Statue of Liberty or the Washington Monument or the Great Pyramids of Giza? You show up every day and put in a constant effort to grow it. With Instagram, this simply means posting content and making engagements every day. Consistency speaks for itself. It displays your dedication to your brand and your commitment to growing it on a daily basis. When people notice that, they will naturally be drawn to you, and if you are pumping out content they’re interested in, they’ll stick around. But you have to keep feeding the machine. Nothing grows unless it’s properly and consistently nurtured over time.
I may not have a massive following on Instagram (yet), and I know that hurts my credibility for a lot of the things I’m preaching here, but the same principles for building and maintaining a following have been around for quite a while now. The only missing variable for me is time, which I’m right now in the early stages of. I can confidently say, however, that in the five or six months I’ve been growing my Instagram account, I have definitely picked up followers and have already made some engagements with other car folks in my area. Ferrari dealerships in Beverly Hills, Scottsdale and Houston have seen my photos. A major car event in Italy has seen my photos. Hosts of the Scottsdale Cars & Coffee event have even used one of my photos for their 4th of July post (top photo of the Corvette). A local dealership chain has reposted my photos twice on their account.
The bottom line is that if I can get this kind of attention only months in, then so can your personal brand, small business or large corporation. And if the amount of active IG marketers is going to double by next year, then that’s just a lot more potential exposure for you to go out and find. Of course, remember that “everyone is not your customer” (Seth Godin), so make sure you’re staying true to your brand and engaging with those who will find value in what you have to offer.
And hey, if you’re into car photography, I happen to have a couple of cool photos on my Instagram page.