During the summer, I attended a photography meet up in London. During the different days of there were a lot of talks looking at different topics and photographers showing their work. One of the sessions was on promoting your work with a strong focus on Instagram. One of the speakers, Olly Lang, has over 100,000 Instagram followers and so everyone was looking for his advice and he said a fair few things that initially shocked me, but made total sense and are useful for your church too.
It’s not about photos
Instagram is not about the photos and never has been. Apparently, this is a direct quote from the CEO and for someone to state at a photography conference, this might have seemed controversial. But once you think about it, Instagram isn’t about photos. Not only is it moving away from just being photos with videos in the timeline and stories, but Instagram isn’t even about film and photos.
1. It’s about feeling good
I know many people who say that “Instagram feels good” unlike other networks (most notably Facebook and Twitter). That’s because, as many people have commented, the vast majority of people on Instagram want to show off their “best selves”. As such they show themselves working out, eating great food, traveling, meeting friends, and so on. It’s not about “grr my political views which you may agree with and make you angry too, or you disagree with and make you angry.” like other networks.
Instagram is also about …
2. It’s about community
When I could speak to Olly later, he told me that he views Instagram as being about community. This feels a bit different from the previous point but it also conforms to people’s basic needs of a feeling of belonging. That’s important to remember as a church, you want people to feel like they belong and Instagram is a place where people want to go to feel they belong. This makes it a perfect social network to coalesce around.
Remember people will view it on a phone
The next pro-Instagram tip Olly gave was that you should remember people will view it on their phone and in that case, a great photo, might not be a great Instagram post. Instead, you need to grab someone’s attention so that they stop scrolling for a second and give it a second look. Here are some tips he shared to do exactly that…
1. Crop in close
Make sure you fill the scene and direct people’s view clearly to what they should see. It’s fine to have a distance shot, but it needs to be clear what people are looking at or else people won’t give it a second look.
If you are using graphics or taking a picture yourself, make sure you are obvious about where you direct people’s attention. Large centered text over small text in the corner.
2. Use 5/3 format to take up more of the screen
If you use a 5/3 portrait shot, then you will fill someone’s phone more than using a square or landscape photos (I always shared landscape crops, whoops). That doesn’t mean you can’t take landscape photos, but crop for portrait and fill someone’s screen so they spend more time looking at your photo. [This may change with more 2:1 ratio phone screen, still a portrait orientation photo will still be better.]
3. Take photos with your phone
The previous point is why Olly takes photos with his phone. He wants to see more closely how it will look for other people. This isn’t essential but can help a lot. So although there are great tools for making photos on a desktop or with a DSLR and then transferring them to your phone, maybe it’s best to just start with the phone and use the editing apps that you have there.
4. Make your photos bright
Many people put their phone brightness down to save battery. As such, if you have a dimly lit photo, then people won’t notice it or pay attention to it. Instead, you want to make sure the bright parts of your photo are bright. It doesn’t have to be the whole photo, just the bright parts.
Build your network
Obviously, Olly shared a lot of tips on how to build a network and get more followers. Many of these are obvious, but I believe he starts with the desire to get to know people, rather than build up a number.
1. Comments, not follow
A lot of people try following a bunch of random people hoping they will follow them back. This kind of works, but if you are like me, you probably ignore most of those follows as you know they are just spam follows and you may well see them follow and unfollow you several times.
Instead, commenting on people’s post will actually lead to a relationship developing and that means people following you. Imagine if you went to an event and someone comes up to you and says “I’m following you on Instagram”. How would you feel or react? What about if they started to talk to you? You see the difference.
2. Search for local people
One of his key tips is to search for people in your local area rather than just in general. You can do this via searching for a location. To do this, Click on the search tab (it’s the magnifying glass) then tap places, and now you can search for either your current location or any location you wish. This will show you the top and most recent posts. From here you can see if the people are locally based or just visiting.
The other option is to working out local hashtags and then finding people there. Once you find one local hashtag, you can go down the ladder of looking at someone’s picture caption and finding more hashtags they used.
3. When you’re going somewhere, seek to meet up
If you travel around a bit, why not direct message someone in that area and see about meeting up? Perhaps you could do a story to say you are coming or post a picture of your travel tickets.
4. Have a conversation
Again coming back to the start, Olly encouraged us all to have a conversation on Instagram and not just preach to the crowd (pun not intended). This makes a lot of sense if you consider Instagram as a place to belong rather than as a place for photography. If people are looking for connection and seeking to have conversations, that makes a lot of sense. I don’t know about you but I love comments that are more than just “great photo”, so aim to ask questions and chat.
Is this like your Instagram approach?
I’ll admit, I was not using Instagram like this at all. I was a typical “post and run” person who put up a post and then didn’t even try and engage with anyone. But Olly’s talk made me think that I should try a different tact. It also helped me to understand many of the new features that Instagram has added recently which go against a “post and run” approach but help promote community and engagement.
What do you think of Olly’s advice?