My Personal 2-Month Instagram Challenge
I shared on Instagram stories at the beginning of May that I was committing to posting 2 times a day on Instagram. Now, let me tell you, there is something about telling people that you’re going to do something and asking them to hold you accountable, that really helps you show up for yourself and do what you say you’re going to do, because that little act of me sharing with my Instagram audience that I was going to be doing this, seriously helped keep me accountable. And today, I’m going to share the results of this experiment where I posted on Instagram 2 times a day in the month of May.
Now, I am going to say over Memorial Day weekend, I only posted one post a day for about 3 or 4 days, because I’m going to share a little bit more of that here in a second. So just in full integrity, It wasn’t 2 posts every single day, there was a period of time over Memorial Day weekend where I only posted once, but generally for the entire month, two times a day, that is a lot of posts.
Why did I do this?
We are generally pretty consistent posting on social media, usually 3 to 4 posts a week. Most of them are usually reels but committing to 2 times a day really challenged me to look at things differently and really stretch myself in terms of coming up with content ideas, paying attention to systems that could help me stay consistent. And so this episode is all about what’s working now on social media after I posted twice a day.
I did a similar experiment when I first got on TikTok, I think it was the end of 2020, maybe the beginning of 2021, and I had some crazy numbers. We grew by about 15,000 followers in the span of 60 days. Whatever I was posting, I believe, once a day for sixty days. I’m not here to tell you that I grew by 15,000. In fact, our following didn’t even grow that much but I learned so much about what people like to see from us, what kind of content performs well, and most importantly, the kind of systems and processes that we need to have in place that honestly we didn’t really have in place to produce that level of content and produce engaging content not just putting up stuff just to put up stuff.
In this episode, I am mainly going to be talking about Instagram because that’s where we did the challenge. If you came here thinking and I was going to talk about TikTok or Facebook or really anything else. It’s just going to all be about Instagram today.
One thing that I want to mention before we get into all the things that I learned, is that social media is 10 to 15% of a healthy marketing strategy. There are so many other pieces that a lot of photographers are sleeping on when it comes to how to get clients. So while it’s fun to talk about social media and it’s fun to test out new things and see what works, just a little reminder that really social media should be just about 10 to 15% of your overall marketing strategy and that we don’t actually own social media.
So in the middle of this experiment, I could have been growing like crazy and getting tons of views on reels and booking new clients. But if Mark Zuckerberg decide he wanted to pull Instagram, there’s nothing I could do about it right? So it’s so important to keep that in mind when we’re talking about social media. It’s not the end all, be all – it is a small percent.
What’s Working Now on Social Media
1. Reels…and Carousels & Photos
First of all, you might not like to hear this, but reels, carousels, and static photos – all 3 of those worked really well for me this past month. Honestly, coming into this experiment, I definitely thought reels were going to blow carousel posts and static images out of the water, but I wanted to test everything so I tested all 3 and I was surprised to find out that both did well, but carousels in particular did pretty well too! People like to share informational carousels that make them look good or kind of say something that they want to say without having to say it.
I will say that reels, overall, did get the most reach and definitely brought in a lot of new followers. But I was surprised at what the carousel and the static photo did too.
So what does this mean for you? It means that everything is worth testing and just because Instagram experts or marketing experts are saying that Instagram is pushing reels right now, doesn’t mean that that’s always true for your account.
It’s so valuable and so important to test lots of different things when it comes to your social media account.
So for us, reels did well and better than the other creative ways to post, but I was surprised at how the other posts did well too.
What is ManyChat? Basically it’s kind of a robot that does a little bit of your social media for you. For example, if you’ve seen somebody post and they say, “Comment the word GROW below and I’ll send you my free PDF,” that’s where ManyChat comes in and you can automate every single person that comments on that post. It’s an automatic DM with whatever you promised them.
I love this because I used to do prompts like that and I would manually go in and be DM-ing people and I was terrible at keeping up with it. And then days or weeks later, people would comment on it and I’ll be like, “Wait…where’s the link for that thing? What was I promising on that…” I have to go find it. It was way too time consuming and distracting and I didn’t feel like I was really giving people the kind of experience I wanted for them. Because if somebody’s commenting that they want a free training or a free PDF or more information about something from you, they want it right?
So if you’re doing something like this where you’re saying, “Hey I have 5 birth spots available for this summer. Comment BIRTH below if you want more information,” they want information and that is a really, really hot lead of somebody who wants to learn more about working with you and you don’t want to wait until the kids are in bed or 24-48 hours later. By then, chances are, they’ve already forgotten.
So that’s what I love about ManyChat is you set it up before you post or when you post, and it will automatically respond to them with a message that you designed. So I really, really like ManyChat as a creator and as a business owner and as a consumer because I’ve been on the receiving end of that.
And people have done some really cool things with ManyChat, where you can create DM conversations where they just click yes or no, or they select certain things and it can continue to have a conversation with them.
Now, I will say, I do disclose whenever it’s robot Tavia talking and whenever it’s actually Tavia talking. I think that’s really important because in this day and age when you’re DM-ing with someone, you’re kind of assuming it’s them. But as we start to have more automations and AI things take over, I think it’s really important to disclose when it’s actually you and when it’s not.
So I am loving ManyChat I have barely scratched the surface of how incredible it is. But the reason that I’m doing that, you might be saying, “Okay, why are you even having people comment, why don’t you just say check out the link in my bio or whatever…” As you know, on Instagram you can’t put a clickable link anywhere except for the link in your bio or DMs.
I found that the more steps I give people to take, the less likely they are to do them, the less likely they are to actually take those steps.
And so whenever I would create a post and say go, “Click the link in my bio,” they have to get off of what they’re looking at, they have to click over to my profile, they have to find the link in my bio, they have to click that – it’s just so many steps that.
With ManyChat, if they’re scrolling their reels feed, they can literally just comment. And they don’t even have to exit the reels they can keep scrolling and that DM is waiting for them. So I’ve just found that the conversions are so much better and it’s just a better user experience for the person that’s engaging with the content on Instagram.
There is a version of ManyChat that is free. I’ve been using the paid version for a long time. So I’m not totally sure what the free version can do, but I’m pretty sure it can do quite a lot. It might just restrict how many messages and certain things that you can do, but there is a free version. So if you want to check this out, there’s so many different ways that you can use this as a photographer.
3. Great Hooks
What is a hook? It is the first thing that you’re staying in an Instagram reel. It’s the first sentence of your caption. We know people are busy, people are scrolling, so you really have to catch their attention. In fact, there may have already been multiple times in this episode that you’ve gotten distracted or like, “Oh yeah, what’s she talking about,” right? We have very short attention spans these days.
So when you’re on social media and it’s crowded and it’s busy and there’s a lot of people competing for your ideal client’s attention, the hook is what is going to help your post stand out.
So whether that’s the first line of the caption or the first thing that you say in an Instagram reel, it has to catch their attention.
When it comes to an Instagram reel, what I found is if there’s any dead space, even for like half a second, you lose people. They just keep scrolling (I found this on Tik Tok as well). So what I’ll often do is I’ll start my videos when I’m mid the first word.
So if I’m saying, “Here’s a way to…,” it’s starting almost to sound like, “Ears the way…” because I’m chopping it up to where I’m almost halfway through saying it before they scroll past. Because we’ve got to keep their attention.
So what’s working on Instagram is really being intentional about great hooks in your caption and in your reel.
Some examples of some great hooks:
- I’m about to show you….
- Here are _____ ways…
- This is how you _____…
- There’s no such thing as _____…
So hooks and really looking at the hook how to make it more engaging, how to make it more captivating is really important and I found that to be true during my experiment this month.
4. Captioning like you speak
I think that sometimes, whenever we’re creating social media content, no matter how new or experienced you are, something about typing makes us go into formal mode, where we’re trying to craft these posts and make them very eloquent and act like we’re almost writing an essay or something. And I realized that I was slipping back into that almost, to where I was trying to focus so much on the hook and the call to action and all these things that I lost my voice in all of that.
So really looking at how can I describe what I want to describe or say what I want to say about this photo or this topic in a way that I would say it to my best friend or say it to my husband or describe it to my mom?
Imagine – how would you describe this to your best friend and try that the next time you’re writing a caption. Write the caption like you speak and then read it out loud and see if it sounds like you.
5. Treat Instagram Stories like a Reality TV Show
I discovered something crazy this month – my highest viewed story, take a guess what my highest view story was because it wasn’t birth images. It wasn’t when I posted polls or used the slider or when I shared a new podcast episode that I poured hours and hours into.
It was literally when I posted a story.
Maybe you saw it about going to the gym and my AirPod fell out of my ear and bounced up and landed inside of the squat rack that I was using. It was stuck in this tiny, skinny, little hole I had to go get a trainer to help me fish it out. It was the whole thing. It was one story slide and that outperformed every single story that I have posted literally in the last three months which is so crazy, right? And that had nothing to do with any of my businesses. It was just about my life.
So what’s the takeaway for you – people want to know about your life. On stories, you can get away with posting a lot more like off-the-cuff, random, lifestyle type of stuff. I think about the feed, kind of being more of my public self, and the stories are things that I would share with my friends.
This kind of a little hack for you: if there’s a story that you’re telling your husband or your mom or your friend, consider telling it on IG Stories too because when the AirPod thing happened to me, I was about to text my husband. And so instead of doing that, I created an Instagram story out of it (I did eventually text him as well). But it’s those silly things that happen in your day that when you post on stories or ask on stories, that have nothing to do with your business, tend to be the most engaging.
Now you’re not going to be surprised by this – the sixth thing that is working on Instagram is consistency and batching when it comes to social media.
I know that social media and being consistent on social media is something that all of us struggle with, including me. And doing this challenge and asking you guys to keep me accountable, like I said in the beginning, helped me so much to stay consistent. But one more thing that helped me stay consistent is batching.
Batching helps so much with this, but I didn’t want to batch things too far in advance because I wanted to be able to see what was working in real time and it’s harder to pivot or make changes if I’m batched out weeks in advance. So what I did instead is I would batch twice a week. Remember, I’m posting twice a day, so twice a week seems like a lot to batch, but it was really making 6 posts in one day.
So usually on Monday and Thursday I would batch posts for the upcoming three days and at first, earlier in the month, it was taking a long time and I was going, “Okay is this really a good use of my time.” But the more that I do it, the easier it becomes. And the more that I started to take notes and write down systems and processes for doing it faster next time, of things that were working, the faster it became.
Now, of course they were always crunch times, where I was like, “Shoot, I need to post something in 15 minutes,” because I would always post at 10:00 and 7:00 my time. So I want to share with you the 3 things that I was thinking if I needed to come up with a post quickly:
First of all, I would repurpose a reel into a carousel. So literally I would just take the content, take the things that I said in the reel, and make it into a carousel inside of Canva. The exact same content, boom post it.
The second thing that I would do would be to take a high performing TikTok to post on Instagram. So if you have content over on another platform like TikTok, post it on Instagram. There’s no reason why you can’t and in fact, a lot of posts that I posted on TikTok that did well, also did well on Instagram.
And then, I also tested something new which was posting gif. If you look in my feed, you’ll see a few. There was one Jamie Lee Curtis, there was one with Jess from New Girl. I didn’t have to show my face for those, you guys, they were literally just gifs that I made relevant to my ideal client and to my audience.
So don’t be afraid to repurpose things and try something new.
Go back and take an old Instagram reel that you posted in January that did well and reshare it again a few months later nobody cares. There’s not police for that, it doesn’t matter. It was more important to me to be consistent than to freak out about the fact that I posted this 3 months ago and I’m posting it again.
7. Engagement might decline over the summer (and that’s okay!)
I realized that Instagram engagement declines in the summer and on the weekends and I just became okay with that. And that’s one of the reasons why I only posted 1x instead of 2x/day over Memorial Day weekend. I realized that people just aren’t on their phones as much and in the summer months, moms are hanging out with their kids more than on Instagram, which is awesome.
But there’s no sense in me pouring my heart and soul into a post on a Saturday morning to have it reach 3 people. I just realized that on the weekends, people just aren’t on social media as much and that’s okay.
And so, I think the tip for this, as far as what’s working, is looking at when your audience is online, when they’re engaging with stuff, and posting then and being okay with slightly lower engagement on the weekends and in the summer.
And I’m sure you’ve heard me sprinkle little bits of this in this episode, but just because something is working for me does not mean that it’s going to work for you. And so, you get to test an experiment and here’s the thing – some of my posts reached 100 people, which is very low for me. And I was like, “Oh okay, well that did not work well.” I learned from it and that’s what I encourage you to do as well is to look at your expectation, look at your normal reach, and go, “Okay, this particular post didn’t reach the number of people I thought it would or that I wanted it to,” and why.
Don’t make it mean anything about you. Don’t make it mean like, “Oh I’m just not good at social media. People don’t want to hear from me.” No. Instead, look at it and go, “Okay, what can I do differently to reach more people next time?”
Testing is the name of the game when it comes to social media.
So as I have come to the end of this 30-day social media experiment, I hope that I have been able to provide you with some good insights that can help your social media account for your photography business. Really, this month was a lot of work, it really took a lot of time. So I don’t think I’m here to tell you, you need to start posting twice a day on social media and I’m not going to continue posting twice a day on social media.
My plan now is to post 6 times a week. People are not on social media on Saturday, so I will not be posting on Saturday anymore. Through the summer, six times week feels good for me and I am going to re-evaluate in August.
Now, big takeaway for you, I hope that you remember, social media is only a tiny piece of a healthy marketing plan and I never recommend leaning solely on social media to get clients.
But it’s a fun place to hang out. You get real time feedback and can experiment – it’s super fun, but it should be a small percentage of your overall social media strategy.
If we’re not already connected on Instagram, I would love to connect with you there! I am just @TaviaRedburn.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this episode, any takeaways, things that you’re going to try, shoot me a DM over on Instagram.
And I just want to remind you that if you have a passion, it is not an accident, because not everyone loves the thing that you love. So whatever your passion is, it is there for a reason. And I hope that you’re going to pursue that passion and make it happen.
Have a great week!