When I joined Instagram in February 2014, I didn't really get it, but since going full-time with my photography business and taking my social media strategy more seriously, I've grown to really enjoy using Instagram to support my creative business.

In early 2017 I decided to make more of an effort with the platform and as a result, I've now reached 1000 followers, which is really exciting for me! It also seemed like a good opportunity to share some of the ways in which I've grown my audience and generated consistent engagement on Instagram. So, here goes!

Post Consistently (There's A Tool to Help With This)

I first started to notice a steady increase in followers and engagement when I began to take my posting schedule more seriously and made a concerted effort to post once a day (at least on weekdays). I couldn't do this alone, however, so I looked for a tool to help keep me on track! Luckily, there's a great free one that I now use for nearly all of my posts called Later.com. Instagram doesn't allow automated posting by any third-party software so Later just lets you prepare your posts, captions and saved banks of hashtags (on their desktop or mobile app) and then sends you a reminder to publish it to Instagram at the time of your choosing. You then open it in Instagram with one click and paste in the caption and hashtags with a second, it's so easy! You can also line up a month's worth of posts at once (or more if you pay to upgrade your account) in the calendar and then drag-and-drop to arrange your feed however you want it to look. Later also has some basic analytics so you can track which posts perform best and thus determine when's best to post for your specific audience.

How to use Later.com to post more consistently on Instagram

How to use Later.com to post more consistently on Instagram.

Start A Conversation

Instagram is a visual platform first and foremost, and I obviously love it for that reason, but I'm finding more and more recently that it's also a wonderful place to gather inspiration and build genuine friendships. However, you won't enjoy this benefit if you only ever post about your work or talk "at" people in your captions. One of my favourite ways to use Instagram is to ask a question and I've found that lots of my best-performing posts have taken this format. You may need ideas for a blog post or want travel tips or reading list recommendations, ask away and see what responses you get! I love getting a chance to properly interact with people who may have only ever liked my posts in the past; reading their comments is a chance to get to know them better. Another bonus is that your followers and other people who see the post will likely benefit from the comments too, making your feed an even more appealing place to hang out!

I turned to Instagram for book recommendations and now have an amazing list of reads to enjoy! Thank you, lovely followers!

I turned to Instagram for book recommendations and now have an amazing list of reads to enjoy! Thank you, lovely followers!

Show Your Face!

As a Personal Brand Photographer for Creative Women, I am always talking to my clients about how they can build trust with their target audience through photography. Of course, a holistic approach to brand messaging is key and what you say along with your photos is really important, but I can't stress enough how much of a positive impact showing your face on your website and social channels can have on your business. As entrepreneurs and freelancers, we are our brands, and allowing our potential clients to get to know us is a powerful marketing tool. I would recommend that you at the very least have your photo as your profile picture on Instagram and on top of this I'd suggest that every tenth photo (or as regular as every fifth, if you work with clients on a face-to-face basis) on your grid is one of you. This might seem daunting if you haven't really done it before, but trust me it gets easier every time you do it and in my experience, it delivers the highest engagement of any kind of post! This is obviously down to the caption and hashtags as well as the photo itself, but it goes to show that when you share the person behind the brand, people respond because they want to get to know you. Remember that customers who buy from small independent businesses choose to do so over shopping with big corporate companies because they enjoy supporting real people, so show them that you are a real person!

Try posting photos of yourself and asking questions in your captions and see how these posts perform!

Try posting photos of yourself and asking questions in your captions and see how these posts perform.

Focus On Great Photos + Mix It Up!

So, this tip is a two-for-one! I think sometimes in an effort to reach certain milestones or get featured for particular hashtags, we can forget that the whole point of Instagram is to share beautiful photos, so remember to only post images that you are proud of and that you feel fit with your brand values and visual aesthetic. This also means that if there's a trend for colourful floral flatlays, but you're all about clean lines and muted tones, an image in this style will stick out in your feed and confuse your loyal followers, who may go elsewhere if they feel you're suddenly changing direction. So, while consistency of style is important, variety of content helps to keep people interested too. Try to resist the temptation to only post photos of your finished work (that's what your Etsy shop or online portfolio is for) - invite your followers behind the scenes of your creative business and share your process with them. Talk about what inspires you and what you like to do when you're not working. All of this will enrich the experience of browsing your feed and encourage more people (and the right people) to follow along with your journey. If you need a helping hand creating beautiful images for your business Instagram, you know where I am!

Share your creative process, people want to know how you do it! Behind-the-scenes shot from the Brand Story Shoot I did for florist Webb & Farrer.

Share your creative process, people want to know how you do it! Behind-the-scenes shot from the Brand Story Shoot I did for florist Webb & Farrer.

Experiment With Insta Stories

I haven't really used Stories much yet since they launched in November 2016 (I was resisting what looked like Snapchat, until I realised what they could really do!) but so far I've found it to be a fun and easy way to share more ad-hoc moments, behind-the-scenes snaps and short videos. I care probably a bit too much about the overall aesthetic of my feed so won't post a phone snap from when I'm out and about, but if I feel like a candid moment will add value or be of interest to my followers, I add it to my Story instead. It's a nice way to share a bit more of your personality and non-work life too and can be a great conversation starter with like-minded followers. The geo-tagging is a handy feature too, you can get your Story added to the Story of wherever you are (from something as big a country down to a specific street, shop or cafe), which increases your reach and builds credibility for your brand locally.

Five Ways to Increase Your Engagement on Instagram (For Creative Biz Owners) Click To Tweet

How do you use Instagram? Have you tried these strategies to grow your audience and build engagement? I'd love to hear in the comments what you've found to be effective! Don't forget to share this with any of your creative biz pals who might find it useful too!

If you liked this, you might find 30 Ways To Use Your Brand Photos helpful too!