If you’re trying to build your brand on Instagram, you know it’s not an easy feat. Success doesn’t happen overnight for the vast majority of us, unless you’re some kind of celebrity (in that case, congrats). Behind every perfectly staged photo is a person (or people!) with a plan. And if you ask those people, they’ll tell you strategy is key for growth.
I met Sydney Norberg, an Orlando-based photographer and owner of Sydney Marie Photography, through Instagram nearly three years ago. Not only is she one of the most creative and kindest people I know, but she’s also a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the mysterious world of Instagram (she’s even launching her own mentorship program, #captionandcreate, April 1!).
She taught me to look at my profile in a more strategic way. By implementing some of her tips, I was able to grow my Instagram account exponentially in the past year. I reached out to her to see if she’d be willing to share some of her wisdom with you, and she happily accepted (because she’s awesome, duh).
Read our interview below!
Hi, Sydney! Tell us a little about yourself.
I love taking photos and making people feel beautiful in photographs! I love adventuring around new cities and eating tacos (with a side of diet coke, please). At the age of 18, I started my photography business and jumped into wedding photography in 2016! Because of Instagram, I have been able to establish my brand in the city of Orlando and have had the opportunity to create content for awesome brands like Fossil, UberEATS and American Eagle!
How long have you been on Instagram?
Oh man, I think I’ve been on Instagram since I was 17. But, I started cultivating a specific look at the end of 2015.
What encouraged you to use Instagram as a professional tool?
As I was looking for inspiration and other successful photographers around the US early on in my photog journey, I noticed how each account was used as a portfolio for them. Just by scrolling through my feed, I knew who each photographer was because of the specific style they portrayed in their photos. That’s when I made the decision to focus on branding myself on Instagram as well.
Why do you think it’s so important to build a personal brand on Instagram?
Social media is such a major part of our generation. It’s a way to present yourself to people you’ve never even met (a.k.a. potential clients!). As a photographer, I want my clients, my friends, my community to know what I’m about, even if they haven’t met me in person. So, I use each photo, each edit and caption to portray my personality and passions. I feel my goal has been accomplished when I meet people that following on Instagram and they say, “You’re just like I thought you’d be!”
Cause a picture’s worth a thousand words, right?
Creating a cohesive feed is crucial to attracting new followers. How do you plan your content? What types of locations/images do you look for?
So when planning my feed, I put some things into account (and it hasn’t always been this way!). I’ve noticed a recent pattern of the people who follow me – teen girls, Orlandians, creatives, photographers, bloggers, and some of my clients) – so I post for them. I know the teens and Orlandians like seeing new places and shops to check out when they’re in town. I know the creatives and photographers want to see my work and photography style. And, I know my clients want to get to know me personally before hiring me as their wedding photographer.
I also created a private Instagram account to plan my grid a bit more. This way you have a chance to see what is pleasing to the eye, what stands out and what should possibly be deleted. I highly suggest doing that — it’s a life changer!
How has Instagram helped you land opportunities with companies/brands?
Instagram is a huge market for brands these days. It’s an easy way for them to get their product out to potential buyers within seconds even. With that in mind, I always make sure that I am professionally presenting myself through my Instagram. And I believe from that, brands easily know who I am, know what I do and understand the content I will provide – ultimately, deciding if it matches up with their style/brand.
What are your go-to photo editing apps?
VSCO – 100%!
Networking online is just as important as it is IRL. What tips do you have for someone who is looking to network through Instagram and build lasting relationships?
I’ve met some of my closest friends through Instagram! Actually, found Natalie herself through a hashtag! (It’s true guys, she did!)
If I had any tips to give, I’d say just be yourself & truly care about what your “insta-friends” are doing! Comment, like, share their stuff, email them, go to the link in their bio! Support & show how much you just love what they are doing & the work their putting out!
You’ve had many of your images shared by brands with large followings. What tips would you give someone who is looking for opportunities for exposure?
If you are looking to be “re-posted” or noticed by a specific brand or audience, the only advice I would give is – create the content they want to see. If your content/vibe alines with theirs, there is a great chance you will be noticed by them!
What advice would you give someone who is interested in building their following on Instagram? What methods helped you grow?
This has honestly been a tricky one for me. Followers do not make sense to me, unfortunately! I have some friends that have been reposted a few times & have gotten over 5-6k followers in a year. I have other friends that put out constant, beautiful work but have only grown around 1-2k in a year. I’ve realized though, that engagement is key! Personally, I focus on making my engagement stronger, know my specific audience (even if it isn’t 20k).
P.S. if you want to know your engagement percentage, type in your handle on influence.hypetap.com
You’re launching a mentoring project called #captionandcreate. Why do you think people should sign up for this? What are you hoping to teach them?
I am SO excited about #captionandcreate! This project has been a developing idea of mine for about a year now, so I’m thrilled to finally be opening registration April 1st!
#captionandcreate is a one on one mentorship. It’s a way for you to sit down & really evaluate how you want to portray your brand on Instagram. And ask yourself: Who is your perfect or potential client? What is your mission? And how is it unique among other brands?
I’ve also included a fun E-book (the #captionandcreate Tips & Tricks Guide) with current statistics & recommendations on how to further your brand & truly stand out from the rest!
Thank you for sharing your insight with everyone, Sydney! And thank you for reading along!