For those of us trying to expand our social media presence, Instagram has been the king for quite some time. So what happens when you put a little money into promoting yourself on Instagram? I tried it and here are the results.
There are tons of tips, tricks, and rules out there for people trying to up their follower count. You can even pay for followers, but by now you should know that doesn’t actually produce results and can even hurt your account. However, there are legitimate ways to promote yourself within the platform.
Some of you might be a little skeptical about spending money to advertise online, especially on social media. Honestly I am too, and I had no idea what the results of this experiment would be before trying it out. If you’re trying to brand yourself like a business than it is an completely justifiable expense, however it’s not that simple in my case. Unlike someone trying to sell a service such as shooting portraits, weddings, headshots, etc; as a landscape photographer in my current position im simply just trying to gain followers. The campaign or promotion that I created might not be exactly the same as yours, but it should still be a good indicator of what $50 can get you.
Choosing a Photo
This was the image I chose to promote. A very simple image, certainly not one of the most eye-catching photos in my portfolio, but I wanted to use something that would be considered average (maybe a 3, using Fstoppers rating system). This seemed like the fairest way to go about running this test. That being said, if you were to promote your Instagram I do suggest choosing one of your best photos.
I chose to promote a newly-uploaded photo (less than 5 minutes old) and only run the promotion for 1 day. My thinking was that the first day you post a photo is its most important and likely to be when it gets seen. Instagram prioritizes photos that have a lot of engagement early on. Also, the predicted amount of people reached doesn’t seem to change if you spread out the promotion over more days, so why not skyrocket the engagement right when the photo is fresh.
I created my own target audience: all ages, located in US/Europe, with interest in landscape photography, Photoshop, Lightroom, REI, and a few others. You can set this up however you like for whatever you think would be your best demographic. My estimated reach was listed at 41k-110k.
These are the results of the campaign. 6700 likes to the photo, 4 comments, and I gained 40 followers. Followers are the main goal for me, specifically real and active followers. This is one of the benefits of paying to boost a photo, rather than paying a service to find followers.The followers you gain through a photo campaign are much more likely be active humans. That said, this was likely still not worth it for me. My follower acquisition cost was a little over $1.00 which might be affordable to some, but since I am not selling any services, it is financially unsustainable for me.
There are other factors to keep in mind when running a campaign like this. The quality of your content is important. Your profile feed needs to be appealing as well. Mine certainly isn’t the creme de la creme but it’s decent. I did run this exact same campaign a few weeks prior using a photo that stands out more, the one I wrote about in a recent article.
The results from that campaign were even less impressive. I wanted to try again just in case the first time was a fluke. This also gave me two trials to report using different types of photos. The results for both promotions were less than I expected. If I wanted to gain 20,000 followers it would cost roughly $25,000. Obviously this stat is a bit misleading considering I would hopefully continue to grow and produce without any campaigning, but strictly looking at the data it puts the cost per follower into perspective.
This type of promotion was likely not worth it for what I’m trying to accomplish which is to gain followers. For someone that might simply want more eyes on their services, this might be great. If a campaign like this is reaching 32,000+ people and you book 2-3 shoots from those views, that result is likely well worth the cost. Once again, because my goal is to gain followers it’s not sustainable.
I’m planning to do a follow up to this trial by spending $50 on influencer marketing so look for that article in the coming future. For now I’d love to hear what you think about my little experiment. Have you paid to boost a photo on Instagram? Did I waste $100? If you could quantify it, how much would you pay per “real” follower?