In January I made myself the challenge of posting my travel photography to Instagram for every day for a month. Well, almost every day – every Monday to Friday at 8am, I’d post a photo.
I wanted to give myself the challenge of seeing what would happen. I’d been letting my Instagram account languish, and despite previously being an avid Flickr user, I felt like I’d missed the boat on Instagram. I’ve been a travel photographer since I went travelling around the world for two years in 2011, but I’d never really done much with Instagram.
View this post on Instagram
Before the year ends, I'm sharing one of my favourite landscape photos I took in 2019. Sunrise over the pink salt lakes of Murray-Sunset National Park in Victoria, Australia. I rose early to make the most of the morning light, hiking up to a small hill to catch the view. Below, small pools of water glimmered yellow in the light and caught my eye, so I marched as quick as I could to photograph them. ⠀ ⠀ I managed to catch the light before it disappeared behind gunmetal clouds, focusing on the pools of algae that give the lake its pink colour. I had to be careful not to leave footprints through my photos, the delicate surface crunching underfoot. Before becoming a national park, the lake was mined for salt, but to me, it is one of the most spectacular landscape locations in Australia.⠀ •⠀ •⠀ •⠀ •⠀ •⠀ #landscape_lovers #landscapephotography #landscapelovers #landscape_captures #landscapes #sunrise #outdoors #instanature #naturelover #skylovers #swpaopen2020 #swpa #nationalparks #murraysunsetnationalpark #parksvictoria #saltlake #pinklakes #lake #salt #australia #seeaustralia #visitvictoria #pink #visitmelbourne #landscapes
I was also a bit anxious about posting every day. What would people think? Would they get fed up? When really, I’d talked myself out of posting because I was worried about people judging my photography.
So, no excuses. I posted every weekday over January photos from my recent trip to Japan. During this time, I ran three paid promotions.
When I posted at 8am, I’d use that time to engage quickly with other accounts for about 10 minutes. Post a few comments, follow a few accounts, like a few photos. I wasn’t particularly serious or methodical about this.
Here’s what happened when I posted to Instagram every day for a month
- My followers increased by 46 in the space of a month. After months of half-arsed posting, gaining the occasional follower, this was a huge shock to find that my followers had increased so much.
- Most of these new followers came from paid promotions, but these were very reasonable in terms of cost. I’ll go into these in more detail below.
What did well
It might seem obvious, but the kinds of photos that did well over the month were:
- Mountainous landscapes
- Bright, saturated colours
- Light trails
Running paid promotions to increase your followers on Instagram
While I’m an experienced online marketer, I wanted to keep things simple when I promoted my Instagram photos. To be clear, I have my Instagram account set up as a business account.
When a post looked like it was doing well (trust me, Instagram will ask you if you want to promote it), I hit the button on promote, connected my Facebook account and followed the prompts to set up my ad.
I was looking to increase my followers, so I directed the ad to my profile. I also set up a custom audience for people interested in landscape photography in England, Australia, USA and Canada.
I also set up multiple promotions, as I wanted to compare results between photos. It’s no surprise then that my top photos were my promoted images.
My top posts
All three of these images were promoted through advertising
Clearly the top performer – people love photos of mountains on Instagram. This photo garnered me 8 new followers, 241 likes, 10 comments and 7 saves. I spent $6 on promotions. Note that the original post doesn’t show these likes on the embed.
View this post on Instagram
I'd like to say that I hiked up to get this view, but it's really the view from the Shin-hotaka Ropeway, which travels up the Hotake mountains. Still, it's a beautiful view. You can see the whole mountain range from the top. If I had more time (and the husband didn't have a broken foot), I would have used it as the launching point for a hike back to Kamikochi.
This photo of Arashiyama was performing well when I posted it, and then boosted it for $6. I gained 7 new followers from the promotion.
This photo of Myojin Pond was promoted for $3 and garnered 2 new followers. Which isn’t a great result, but it’s interesting for me to see what works and what doesn’t.
What I learned
- Posting every day is a hugely effective way to grow your audience on Instagram.
- Paid promotions work – even a spend as little as $5 is worthwhile on your best photos. If you are spending the money my results equated to around $1 spend per follower, although I’m running a promotion with a great photo at the moment and getting better results.
- Your content still needs to be good. My best photos were clearly liked more than others.
- Watermarks didn’t affect likes at all, in fact, most of my top posts were watermarked. This might be to do with the quality of the images; the posts I watermarked are my best photos I have licensed with Getty Images
- Post seasonally. My Japan photos were very clearly taken in Autumn, and so they didn’t necessarily resonate with Northern Hemisphere viewers in winter, or Australian viewers in burning hot summer.
- Creating hashtags takes just as long as writing captions!
- Keep an eye on the Instagram aspect ratio of 4:5 – some of the photos I exported were too big and I had to re-do them. The only two days I missed were because of this aspect ratio issue.
What I’d do differently
- I felt a lot of pressure to prepare the images and write detailed captions. Keeping these captions short and sweet (1-2 sentences) made it easier for me to prep all the posts in advance.
- With the pressure of posting more regularly, I was forced to share photos I didn’t feel were as good as my best pictures. Despite this, it forced me to get over my perfectionism and post! In future, I’m more likely to post three times a week higher quality photos. It seems like a good future experiment – whether posting less but better photos would attract just as many followers.
- I posted at 8am to capture on both the northern and southern hemisphere audiences. While my analytics said this was when most of my followers were online, I’d previously had good response from posting at 6pm. It would be good to experiment with different times in future.
While I had my doubts around posting every day, it clearly had a huge impact on my followers and engagement. I found that promoting by best performing posts also helped increase engagement, although it wasn’t the sole source of my new followers.
I’ll be continuing to post regularly to Instagram and I’ve been busy prepping my February posts. This time, some more snowy pics!