If you’re an active user of Instagram, there’s a good chance you’re making this common mistake with your gallery images, and it could be affecting your business and relationships with current or future clients.
While numbers may vary depending on which marketing sites or current statistics you use, all of them will tell you that Instagram is currently enjoyed by more than a billion active users every month. And that number keeps rising. Thus, it’s safe to say that if you want to reach new people and expand your brand or grow your reputation beyond your current boundaries, then Instagram is a good way to do that, perhaps for no other reason than the sheer numbers who you can potentially put your work in front of.
Make no mistake, Instagram has its faults. Plenty of them. Many take the view that it’s a necessary evil and the way it keeps changing its algorithms and adding ever more sponsored posts means that we all seem to be fighting a losing battle. But battle on we do, simply because of those numbers and the fact that so many businesses and potential clients look for your Instagram gallery when they’re researching your work.
In that case, it behooves us to do the best we can with our Instagram accounts and the images we display. One of the most common mistakes I see many photographers make (and other creative people looking to turn their talents into some kind of income) is their failure to add any kind of personal photos to their galleries or images that show their followers what they look like or who they are. You might make the argument that you’re shy, or that you’re embarrassed about exposing your personal side to people you don’t know, or that it should be all about the work. And those are all valid points that make sound arguments. But I want to show you explicitly why it’s beneficial to you if you do let your followers learn a little bit about you and see who the person is behind the lens.
One of the business features of Instagram if you turn it on is the ability to see some “Insights” or account statistics for each of your images. For every single image you upload to your gallery, the “post insights” shows you things such as likes, comments, profile visits, reach, follows, and impressions. There are several ways these things can help you, but today, I want to focus on “profile visits.” Why is the profile visits statistic important? Because it shows you how many people looked at your image, and instead of just liking it and moving on, actually took the time to go one step further and click your name and visit your profile.
This is extremely important because your profile is where you have your bio and your bio URL for visitors to click. You might have a link to your website, or your portfolio, or multiple links with something like Linktree, but if people just like a photo, it means they’re doing nothing more than double-tapping your image and paying no more attention to you. Ideally, you want people to visit your profile as much as possible because that’s how you introduce yourself and/or get them to get click your bio URL. As you can’t embed clickable URLs in Instagram posts, the only way users can click your bio URL is if they visit your profile. Thus, it’s important to know which type of images get the most profile visits, and you can find that information through using Instagram’s native “Insights.”
And guess what? For me, far and away the most popular images in terms of getting users to visit my profile are the ones where I show myself or an image of myself with my family. Make no mistake, these types of images are not the most popular in terms of likes, but in terms of profile visits, they win hands down. Let me give you some proof via images.
In this shot above, you can see that it received 1,180 likes, had a reach of 11,611 people, and engendered 93 profile visits. However, let’s compare it with this image below. This shot with my daughter only received 427 likes, had a reach of 5,810 people, but induced a comparatively whopping 168 profile visits. So, half the reach, almost a third of the likes, yet pushing double the amount of profile visits.
Let’s check again to see if this was an unusual event.
In the image above, you can see it received 980 likes, had a reach of 9,294 people, but only 55 profile visits. Compare that with the image below where I’m on the swing with my daughter. It got 344 likes, had a reach of 5,224 people, yet received 133 profile visits. So again, a third of the likes, about half the reach, but almost three times the number of profile visits.
Let’s test the theory out one last time just for the heck of it.
The image above received 1,217 likes, had a reach of 10,067 people, and induced 74 profile visits. Compare that with the image below where I’m holding my two daughters, and the pattern repeats itself. As you can see from the image below, it got 364 likes, had a reach of 4,891 people, but created 106 profile visits.
So, what can we make of these numbers? They clearly show you that personal photos won’t get the most likes or reach the most people (which tend to go hand in hand with Instagram’s algorithm). However, they show unequivocally that people respond to glimpses of the person behind the lens (in the case of photography). People are drawn to people. They want to know more about you and who you are, and when you share snippets of your personal life through images, as I do in my case with family images, they are the ones that impel viewers to do more than just click the like button and quickly move on.
Ultimately, if you’re trying to build a brand or raise your profile, you need to let people know who you are. You also need to find a way for Instagram viewers to visit your profile because that’s what holds your information and your link(s). Therefore, no matter how incredible your photography might be, I’d encourage you to share some personal photos with your followers. I don’t have any set rules, but I do try to upload a personal shot at least every few weeks. As you can see here, they really resonate with people, and many of the business opportunities and work relationships I’ve built through Instagram have started from personal images I’ve shared where people have gotten to know me a little better.
In closing, Instagram’s not easy. It drives most of us insane trying to navigate its moving goalposts all the time. However, there are a few small things you can do to let Instagram work for you. Try it, and let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.