What is the connection between Instagram and booking your ideal venue? We will explain that in a moment, but first, we have question for you. How are you currently using your Instagram account to benefit your wedding photography business? Here at ShootDotEdit, we know the importance of using Instagram to attract followers who you can then convert into clients. So, what techniques do you use on your account to stay top of mind with potential clients?
Your answer might be you are sharing past wedding photos, adding hashtags, and using a program like Iconosquare to help you decide when and what to post for your followers. With the updates to Instagram, like the addition of Stories and the Contact Button, you have to consistently test out new ways to attract followers to your account and lead them to your photography business. In our Instagram Guide for Wedding Photographers, we share tips and tricks to help you stay up-to-date with your account. The more relevant your account is, the easier it will be to attract followers who are looking for a wedding photographer just like you.
This year we saw something really interesting happen in our business. Let me explain.
I was born and raised in West Virginia, and therefore, since pretty much day 1 of our business I have said to Justin it would be a DREAM to get to photograph a wedding at The Greenbrier (this gorgeous historic hotel in WV that is the epitome of elegance to me, and also side note: houses a bunker large enough to have held all of Congress during the Cold War. Crazy!). It has been at the top of my bucket list for pretty much as long as we have had the business. And yet, despite becoming friends with planners who do weddings there and being featured several times in WV Weddings Magazine, it has just never worked out. That is until, this year. And here is the really crazy part: it happened because of Instagram.
Last summer when we were down in WV to shoot another wedding in another city altogether, we stopped off at The Greenbrier for lunch and I posted this photo on Instagram afterwards. Caption: Who wants to shoot a wedding here? #thisgirl
Now here is the first cool thing that happened: right away, The Greenbrier started following me and they hardly follow anyone! Total fan girl moment! Ahh! But that was not all. A few months later, we got this inquiry from an amazing bride that read, “I have adored your photography from afar as I stumbled upon your Instagram account very early in the wedding planning process last year. Now that I am researching further, I keep referencing your photography style as exactly what my groom and I are looking for.” Where was she getting married? The Greenbrier. How excited was she to be a J&M Bride? “10 times a thousand!” Who gets to shoot a wedding there in 2016? THIS GIRL! 🙂
Now, I know that it is not brand new information that potential brides can find you on Instagram. Several of you out there have probably had that happen already, where brides stumbled upon you on Instagram. That is old news. What is REALLY interesting about this is how we can be using Instagram to bring us exactly the brides we are looking for and some of our most ideal, dream weddings, just by being smart about how we are using this pretty little app. And, what I also know is most of us are not making the MOST of all those opportunities. So here they are, the 5 things you need to do on Instagram today.
1. Brand Your Grid
You have to start thinking about your Instagram “grid” (the first 12 squares that people see when they come to your IG profile) as a mini-website. It is basically your store front for Instagram. And, if people don’t like what they see when they first come over, fair or not, just like they would on a website, chances are they are going to click away without ever following you. So that is great and all, but HOW do you go about getting a consistent grid?
I think this is one of the hardest things we have had to figure out with Instagram, and for the longest time, my look was all over the place. But last summer, I had an idea that has really helped a LOT: I decided to use the colors and vibe of our brand as a filter for how the grid should look. So now you will see a lot of blush, gray, black and white, ribbon, and iconic and romantic photos. And that happened very intentionally. Once I started matching the feed to our website, the consistency really started to show up!
2. Curate a Mini-Portfolio
One of the things that you will notice I did on that Instagram post, after I did the caption, was I included our signature hashtag #justinandmaryweddings (note that we also have #justinandmarybrides). I have basically been posting these 2 hashtags on all of our wedding photos for the last couple years. What that turns into, in effect, is a mini (or not so mini!) portfolio of all our best images at the simple click of a button, without them ever having to leave the app. As soon as a bride clicks on that hashtag, she can kind of go down a rabbit hole of our work, getting pulled in further to get to know us, our work, and what we stand for as she goes.
“The second someone clicks on the photo where it says #justinandmaryweddings, they can have an instant portfolio of all of our work.” – Mary Marantz
3. Get in Front of People
The other thing you will notice I did on that photo is after I shared our hashtag, I included The Greenbrier’s hashtag, as well as tagging them as my location. This gives people (and potential brides) two different ways to stumble upon us: either by searching through the location tag and seeing everyone who has posted pictures there, or by clicking on the Greenbrier’s hashtag in one of their posts and then stumbling upon mine. What’s really cool about this is we have never had the chance to shoot a wedding at The Greenbrier before. And yet, we were able to get in front of their brides simply by going and spending time there and Instagramming about it afterwards. The possibilities for this are endless.
“Pick a dream location or venue you would love to shoot at, and go visit the location and put it on Instagram. Use your hashtag and their hashtag, and make sure you geotag them, as well. Who knows what can happen!” – Mary Marantz
You can cross-promote and share audiences with a bunch of creatives when you do a wedding or styled shoot together. You can have lunch with a planner or florist and each post about it using each other’s hashtags (in addition to your own), even if you haven’t gotten to work together yet and really want to. You can travel to a city you want to do more weddings in and tag those locations. You can go have lunch at a venue where you want to work and post about being there. It really blows the doors wide open on breaking into markets that you otherwise have not been able to get a foot in the door!
4. Mimic a Drip Campaign
We really like to think of Instagram as our steady marketing drip campaign. In other words, it gives us the chance to tell people over and over on the daily who we are and what we want to be known for. For example, we want to be known for: iconic black and white photos (#bringingblackandwhiteback), beautiful blush details (#bringontheblush), weddings and shoots at historic mansions or places with classic architecture, our shooting for the generations to come, rich emotional moments, gorgeous Vanity Fair style dresses, and more personally…our marriage, our faith, golden retrievers (#cooperthewonderpup), restoring old homes (#marantzhouseproject), and fashion (#justinandmarystyle).
“Instagram has become huge in our business. We are actually getting a lot of our audience and our brides from there. It can be a very powerful tool if you put it to work for you.” – Mary Marantz
We sort of stumbled on all this ourselves as we have been figuring things out. You can use this to remind people who you are on the daily, to help you think of posts when you are stuck, and you can create hashtags around them to pull people in further.
5. Inspire Others
Finally, I think one of the biggest missed opportunities people run into with Instagram is viewing it only as something that is good for themselves. They get focused on growing their numbers or sending people to their sites (we all do from time to time!). But, always try to remember there are real people behind those screens and that by them making the choice to follow you, you have a real opportunity to speak into their lives. To be a voice of hope on a day that might be crumbling, and share light where it was most unexpected. And sometimes, that is just as easy as admitting you don’t have it all together and giving people permission to breathe.
Are you following Justin and Mary on Instagram? Continue to find inspiration for your account, learn more about them, and follow their journey on their individual Instagram accounts: @justinmarantz and @marymarantz!
What can you do to implement these 5 things into your Instagram strategy today? If you already use any of these techniques on your account, how has it worked for you? What recommendations would you provide for your fellow wedding photographers? Let us know in the comments!
As all optimizations to your business and social accounts, these things take time. Test one technique at a time to really maximize your results. Keep in mind, not every strategy will work for you as it does for another wedding photographer. Track your progress with each test you run, and make adjustments as necessary. What else can you do to maximize your Instagram business account and book more clients who are perfect for your business? Our Guide, Instagram for the Wedding Photographer, is full of tips and tricks from industry pros who are doing it right on Instagram. Download the guide today and implement new techniques into your strategy!