BPP 140: Co Hodges - Building a highly engaged photography community in 2019

Co Hodges is the founder and one of the lead educators at unraveled academy. A photography school and community that nurtures you as an artist. Today we are talking about building an engaged instagram following!

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In This Episode You'll Learn:

  • How Co got into photography

  • Why Co started using Instagram late

  • What made Co fall in love with instagram

  • What Co attributes her success on instagram to, and how you can too

  • What kind of photos we should be uploading

  • Why instagram captions dont have to be scary

  • The best way to grow your instagram from scratch

  • What is instagram engagement and how to use it

  • The biggest mistake Co sees beginners making on instagram

  • Why you dont need a portfolio of images to post before starting an instagram

Premium Members Also Learn:

  • Why instagram is a great place to reach potential customers

  • What kind of instagram ad you should be running

  • The best tip to maximizing your marketing dollar

  • When to run instagram ads

  • What instagram analytics we should be paying attention to and how to use them

  • What tools are availible to help make our lives easier while growing an audience



Did you enjoy this episode? Check out more recent interviews with other great guests!

Full Episode Transcription:

Disclaimer: The transcript was transcribed electronically and may contain errors that do not reflect accurately what the speaker said. Because of this, please do not quote this automated transcript.

Raymond: 00:00 Hey Raymond here from the beginner photography podcast. And today we're talking all about how to grow and engaging Instagram audience here in 2019 so let's get into it.

Intro: 00:10 Welcome to the beginner photography podcast with Raymond Hatfield, the podcast dedicated to helping you grow your photography skills. Raymond interviews the world's top photographers in their field to ask questions that will get you taking better photos today. Now with you as always, husband, father, home brewer, La Dodger Fan, an Indianapolis wedding photographer, Raymond Hatfield. Welcome

Raymond: 00:40 back to today's interview. As always, I am Raymond Hatfield, your host of the beginner photography podcast and wedding photographer right here in Indianapolis. And I am glad to be back last week of a family and I went out to Arizona to enjoy so well just to get away from the cold weather. You know, it's just been too much lately and has not been enjoyable. So we had to get away. So we went to go surprise my mom who lives in Arizona. Uh, the kids we showed up at her door, she had no idea that we were showing up. And, uh, she was surprised and delighted and it was, it was a true treat. It was wonderful. The weather was great while we were out there and we even got to see a spring training dodger game, which was awesome even though we lost, which was not awesome.

Raymond: 01:24 Um, but you know, spring training doesn't really mean anything. Uh, cause baseball is such a long season. So, uh, regardless we were, she drove out there which was, I thought that it was going to be worse than what it was, especially with the kids. We have a two year old and a six year old and I thought that they were just going to be fighting the whole time, especially our two-year-old being locked in a car seat essentially the whole time that, you know, she, she'd be crying a lot but it turned out pretty good and it's cool cause I know that these are going to be experiences that, um, that I know that I'm going to remember time and I think that Charlie's at the age now being six, that he's going to remember these things too. Hopefully Parker, probably not so much being two years old, but these are the things that it's like, I want to remember these things and that kind of, you know, ties a lot into photography because there's going to be things that, um, while I was out there, I was talking with my mom about, you know, growing up and some of the vacations that we went on and trips like to a Washington, D C and specifically, um, I remembered a lot of things about Washington d c uh, because it was a brand new experience for me.

Raymond: 02:26 I remember seeing like the lunar, the moon landing lunar module. That was very cool. Um, I remember we took a train out there. I remember a lot of the sites that we saw on the train, I even remember, uh, like what museum was, was shut down for the day. Uh, when we went out there. And when I was telling my mom this, she didn't remember any of that, any of that. But what she remembered was more of the kind of personal things we went with, uh, my stepdad's mom and she was very sick. So she was having a very hard time keeping up and um, it was just interesting to hear how we both experienced the same things, but what she remembered was entirely different. And kind of tying this back into photography with kids, there's going to be a lot of times where I'm going to remember something because it's going to be meaningful to me.

Raymond: 03:10 But for the kids, probably not so much, you know, specifically on a trip. And I posted a photo of this on Instagram. Uh, we got um, like some not frozen yogurt, what's the word? Like the dip and dots or whatever, those little balls of ice cream that like melt in your mouth when you eat them. And like Parker was eating them and they were just getting all over her face and they were melting and it was just like just, she was just getting crazy. Right. And those are things that she's not going to remember because it is to her, she just eating ice cream and she's always messy. So she's just being messy. But to us, I think that's something that I'm going to remember and I'm glad that I got a photo of it because it was true to who she is as a, as a human.

Raymond: 03:45 She's a, she's a very messy person and when she eats ice cream, she is just robbing us and she goes all in, you know, add it unapologetically. And, you know, snapping a photo like that is great for me because I know that I'm going to remember it, but like telling that story to her years later, she's probably not gonna remember it. Having a photo to tie that story to is going to be imperative to, um, just just remembering these fun times that we have as a family. So, uh, I hope that you followed along on Instagram. I know quite a lot of you did, which was awesome to see. Uh, I tried to post a good amount of stories, especially going to the, the Dodgers spring training game, but, um, uh, Internet access was pretty much garbage. Um, but we had a good time and, and that's it.

Raymond: 04:31 So, so today we have on uh, [inaudible], which I'm really excited for for you guys to hear this interview. Uh, she talks all about Instagram, uh, engagement, uh, gaining a following, which is going to be really, really helpful to a lot of you who are new. And as always, I save a portion of the podcast, um, for, for premium members where I ask more business related questions like, uh, like in this episode I ask, um, how to run Instagram ads, whether or not as a business you should have one profile or two. Um, uh, what else was there, uh, the t, uh, what sorts of analytics you should be paying attention to, how to use them to your benefit, and also what sorts of tools you can be using to make your life easier while growing your Instagram as a business. So if you're interested in that, be sure to head over to beginner photography, podcast.com and then click the premium membership button up at the top and you can hear the whole interview as well as all the past premium interviews. So today we're going to go ahead and get right on into it right now with co Hodges. Today's guest is coe Hodges, the Co founder and one of the lead educators at the unraveled academy, which is a photography school and community that nurtures you as an artist, which is awesome. And today we're talking about building an engaged Instagram following. So Co thank you so much for coming on the podcast. Oh my gosh. Thank you so much for having, this is a thrill.

Raymond: 05:58 Yeah, I'm really excited to chat today because Instagram is one of those things that it can be very powerful if you do it correctly. Um, and you also teach photography, which is really cool. But before you started teaching photography, I want to know how did you get your start in photography?

Co Hodges: 06:14 Oh my gosh. Well I got my start, like a lot of women in my field did when my children were born. Um, so I bought my first DSLR when I was pregnant with my daughter who is going to be eight, which is so terrifying and I can't believe that she's already going to be eight. Um, but my first series of shots with that very, I mean I had a canon rebel, uh, one of the, actually had a film Canon rebel right before that. And then I got my DSLR and it was so exciting, um, was a series of self portraits that I did and my pregnancy was her, didn't know what I was doing at all, but those are the only image that I have from that pregnancy. So it kind of ingrained in me the importance of documenting our lives as they were transitioning and changing in the beauty of motherhood and parenthood in general. And so I kind of worked through that. I got really hungry to grow and when my son, my second child was one, that's when I launched my photography business. And within a couple of years it was very successful. And then after that I started teaching and now my primary job is teaching photography and that's what I do every day.

Raymond: 07:16 That's awesome. So what sort of, um, what sort of photography business were you running? Was it family? Was it weddings?

Co Hodges: 07:22 It's mostly family. I did do a few weddings. My last wedding was last January and I will not do more. Um, it's just not for me. I do a little bit more of, um, like a lifestyle documentary feel in my client work and I love having time to just capture the story of these people as they really are right now in their current life situation. So I'm kind of a feeler and a lever and I like to have the time with people. So weddings just really weren't my thing. Um, they're fantastic source of income for so many people though, so we'd still do. Um, and what I do now, we cater to that and make sure people have education on weddings if that's something they want to pursue. But I teach family, family stuff mostly. And I actually run a workshop, which I just finished, um, a four week workshop on family photography and how I do it. So it's just been an amazing experience.

Raymond: 08:13 Wow. That's so awesome. That's so awesome. When, when you first started and you picked up that, that DSLR to, or I guess film camera to take a those self portraits of you while pregnant and you got those photos back, what was it that was missing from those photos that, uh, that, that made you work harder to getting better at photography?

Co Hodges: 08:30 You know, at the time, and I feel like a lot of people can relate to this. At the time I didn't know anything was missing. Um, but I loved the experience. If anybody has ever shot film before, which I was never good, so I can't like, say I was a film photographer. Um, but getting those scans back or getting those, um, those ad back in the mail is like Christmas morning and you're like, oh, did I do it? Did I get a good shot? Um, so it's like this. And then I was like, well, for me, honestly, it was more of, um, I became more dutiful in nature where I was like, I am the documentary of our family. Um, at the time, my husband, he was not into photography at all. Um, he would get annoyed if I'd be like, take a picture of me and the kid.

Co Hodges: 09:13 So, which is really common and that's, it's just, it's a creative mindset versus a non creative mindset and something that, um, I find to be very paralleled in lots of experiences. So it became kind of this almost dire thing that I was like, I'm in charge of documenting these amazing little lives as they're growing and I'm in charge of documenting us together. And I was like, okay, this is kind of a insane task, but I love this challenge and now I want to know how to do it the best I possibly can. So I watched every youtube tutorial. I read every blog post, I took tons of courses, um, went to lectures locally here. I live in Arizona. Um, and I was just hungry for this growth. And what I found in all of that was that I really sucked. I really? Yes, yes. I was like, I'm really horrible at this. Um, but I want to be better and I want to do this as my, um, my footprint and kind of my, what I, what I'm leaving behind for my children. Truly at the heart of what I still do now everything goes back to that this is what I'm leaving behind for them and hopefully I'm teaching others to do the same.

Raymond: 10:20 So when you were trying to educate yourself as much as humanly possible and you realize like, I'm not as good at this as I thought that I was, was there at any point that you had some sort of Aha moment, like you learned something and realized, oh, okay, suddenly this starts to make sense and now why didn't I know this in the beginning, but now this is really gonna change. Thanks

Co Hodges: 10:40 things for me. You know what, it was a little bit abstract. Truly what I, I learned a lot of things from a lot of different people. I really don't, um, claim to be self-taught. I really don't know if that's truly a thing. Um, I think it was like kind of a buzz word that started a few years ago where like we're all self taught because we don't have a college degree in it per se. But for me, one experience that I had, and I'm sure a lot of people listening to your podcast can attest to this, when you're first starting out, it's very scary. It's a scary world. You're looking up to these really highly acclaimed individuals who have this fine art everywhere and they're amazing and they have a voice and it's beautiful and you're kind of lurking in the shadows watching what they're doing and you're loving on them from afar.

Co Hodges: 11:25 And when you're in these groups, whether it's Facebook or other, an Instagram or doing hashtags or wherever it may be, trying to be a part of this, it can be very terrifying and oftentimes you can be rejected in some source. So I was in this one group, an unnamed group. I will never name this group because truly it was an experience that pushed me to make my own. Um, I was in this group in Facebook and I would never post a picture. I was like, no way. Not in a million years alive, be this vulnerable with these amazing artists. Until one day I did and I posted a picture of my daughter that I had taken and it got ripped to shreds just compositionally and in paired, um, over edited. And why are you even in here? This place is for real photographers. Oh No. Yes, for me, I, I actually from my past take rejection as a challenge, just be better.

Co Hodges: 12:24 But it was very eye opening to the darker side of what this can be for different communities. And it really instilled in me the need for a very warm, nurturing, welcoming community, especially for beginners. Um, so fast forward, and we'll talk about this later. What I do now within unraveled academy is everybody has a seat at the table and there is a space for every person, whether you consider yourself a creative or not, you're in this creative space. So you are a creative and whether you're at the beginning of your journey, middle, nearing the end, wherever you are, there is a space for everybody. And so that was really important to me. That was my biggest takeaway from everything that I learned is that, wow, there are so many people who don't feel like they belong and I'm one of them.

Raymond: 13:09 Oh my gosh, that is, that's like, you know what's interesting is that, uh, just a few weeks ago I sent out a, a survey to the listeners of the podcast, a bunch of questions and one of the questions I asked was, do you consider yourself creative? Because I, I assume, you know, if, if you're holding a camera, you're trying to create something in front of you. Right. Um, and astoundingly 70% said that they felt like they were creative, but 30% of people said that they do not feel like they are a creative person. And they just kind of blew my mind. It kind of blew my mind. So it's great to hear that, uh, you've experienced this as well in your own life. And then you're trying to build a community that, uh, that welcomes everybody regardless of whether or not they think that they're creative. Because a lot of photographers, a lot of great photographers are very technically minded, you know, like they have that engineer mindset and, and are not necessarily quote unquote creative, but they can still produce amazing images.

Co Hodges: 14:07 Totally, absolutely. Well, and I think that, and this is, this is to no fault to these people, but the people that I was following initially when I was first learning were the tech savvy individuals way smarter than me, um, were these engineer genius minds. And I was like, I can't hold a candle to this. And when they're talking about composition and we're talking about the technicalities of just like the camera itself and the equipment that we use, I was completely lost because I had this more free spirited artist mindset that I, I wasn't grasping these concepts as easily as they might. And so now that I have expanded my horizons and learn that this is kind of a subjective topic, what art really is, it's really been powerful. And I feel like, and I will attest that most of my students don't even call themselves photographers, which is insane because I feel like we're all photographers.

Co Hodges: 15:05 And even if you're new, you're a new photographer, you still are one. And I remember going through that process myself, and even when I had a business for about a year, and I would still, when people would ask me, what do you do? I'd be like, can I take pictures? I guess, you know, say the word photography. [inaudible] I am a photographer, I am an artist, I am a creative. It's this, there's a stigma behind saying that where people get really hung up and you're like, I don't know if I am that thing. And they feel like they're an imposter. Um, which is a whole other podcast interview about imposter syndrome. But it's real. And especially for people who are just starting out. So we'd like to alleviate a little bit of stress if I can.

Raymond: 15:45 Yeah, no, that's great. That's great. That's, well, I really like hearing your story, obviously how you got to kind of this point. But today we're talking all about Instagram. Instagram, like I mentioned at the beginning, is, is something that can be very powerful. Yes. And it's been around for a while now. Um, you've been taking photos obviously, you know, even if you started eight years ago, longer than Instagram's had been around. So can you tell me when you first fell in love with Instagram and what it was that drew you to it?

Co Hodges: 16:14 Well, I was like the last of my peers to be on Instagram. I was like, no, I'm not doing that. And I actually had an Instagram account that got hacked. Um, and so I left it, I deleted it and uh, went away for a while. So for those of you that ever see those, I'm sure you have. See those messages that come pop up in your dms. They, and I can get you a million followers, all of that stuff. Will people do hack, hack accounts and then use your accounts to like and follow other people. And that's what happened to mind. All of a sudden I was liking all of these really random accounts. Um, so I deleted my account completely and I didn't get back on it for about nine months. And then I started again. And something that was different for me than for a lot of people running a business is I didn't use my Instagram account for business at all, used it for personal.

Co Hodges: 16:59 Um, I use it to engage with other creatives. And what it did was it gave me kind of this, this global audience, this global and friendships truly that I, that I made on Instagram. So people will say, like, we met online. I have met a lot of my true core people online and it sounds insane. My business partner who I run the Academy with and we actually run a nonprofit, um, with together, I met her on Facebook. So it's just very fascinating how the, the beautiful side of social media and Instagram in particular because it's so image rich and image driven as a creative, it's just a really enticing place to be in, to hang out and to be inspired by others to engage with others. It can be really beautiful. That being said, it can be a very frustrating thing too. And I feel like people who are first starting out get very frustrated very quickly with how little engagement they're getting on. So we can talk about that today.

Raymond: 17:51 Yeah, for sure. Uh, I definitely want to talk about engagement, but before we, before we move on to that, what is it that that drew you back to Instagram after your account got hacked?

Co Hodges: 18:00 So honestly, because I did have friends who work global, um, I really loved, I know this sounds ridiculous, I just loved seeing pictures of their lives and for me that's kind of the, the source of why it was started, any ways to really have this global share of our lives. It became a whole different thing and its own, uh, its own right. But the beauty of it I think goes back to the simplicity of just sharing each other's lives together.

Raymond: 18:27 So before you were on Instagram, what were you doing with your photos?

Co Hodges: 18:32 So I was on Facebook exclusively. Um, and I had my wordpress website, which now I'm on Squarespace, but I was blogging and I was sharing on Facebook and I was very, in the beginning, very business, uh, had a very business mindset on Facebook and that's what was working at the time and it was a different time. Everything has changed since, um, so we can have to morph and grow with that, but I was on Facebook.

Raymond: 18:55 Gotcha. Gotcha. So having gotten to this point where you have built quite a strong Instagram presence, you focus a lot on engagement in, in interacting with, uh, your friends and your followers. That obviously took time, right? This didn't happen. You didn't log in that first day. Like, here we go, thousands and thousands of followers. What do you attribute most of your success on Instagram to? Uh, like why, why do people follow you?

Co Hodges: 19:24 That's a great question. So, um, honestly being authentic, um, I didn't have any preconceived notions about what it was going to be for me, but I started out just being myself right out the gates, which I didn't even know that that was important at the time. And now looking back at it, I teach to be yourself exclusively to be authentically you. I actually did a mentorship yesterday. It was very interesting where the girl was like, how can I stand out on Instagram and continue my following, glow this in a big way? And I was like, well, to stand out on Instagram is very hard. So let's start with that. Instagram is a huge beast and I don't want you to focus on how to stand out amongst your peers, especially in the photography realm because there's so many of us. The only thing that's different between you and all of us is who you are as a human being and who we are as a person.

Co Hodges: 20:17 And just let that shine through. Be Yourself, be honest. Talk about your real life, talk about your real struggles. You don't have to talk about anything that's too vulnerable for you to share, but just be yourself and authentically that. And when you kind of dumb it down, so to speak and simplify it in those terms, I feel that people really are able to share, and I don't mean share like, oh, so-and-so shared about this really an early struggle that she went through. That's how you're gonna get good engagement. I mean specific to you almost kind of put your blinders on to what other people are doing, get good engagement, um, or, or to be a strong presence online. Be Yourself as simple as that.

Raymond: 20:55 So how do you do something like that if you are, it obviously makes sense if you have a personal Instagram because your photos are going to be yours, they're going to be very authentic to yourself. But how do you do that if you are trying to, um, I don't, I don't want to say start a business, but if you have aspirations of possibly booking other clients,

Co Hodges: 21:15 absolutely. Well, I fuse my personal work with my client work on my Instagram account. So what you're seeing is kind of a smorgasbord of everything that I do and a huge game changer for me a couple of years ago in my business was to edit and shoot everything the same. So how I shoot my personal work, which I love so much and which comes from the heart, I wasn't doing that. I was shooting and editing my client work so different because I felt like that's what they wanted when I made the conscious decision to make it all the same and cohesive. All of it work together because it's all part of me. It's all part of my heart. When I engage with a client, with the family or couple, that's a piece of me that I'm leaving behind with them. I'm telling their story, but in my way. So all of it's together.

Co Hodges: 22:00 You're going to see my kids, you're going to see my clients, you're going to hear my voice and everything. Um, even if I'm posting a client photo, I might not be talking about them. I might not be saying, oh, here's a sneak peek of this client session. It was so beautiful. I might be telling a piece of my story or something that, that is resonating with me currently and I think it's an important distinction to make is that this is kind of your creative space in which you get to express yourself and whether it's personal work or client work, you're free to do both.

Raymond: 22:30 [inaudible] so when it comes to like telling the stories, like you were saying there, I think that can be a hard one for me because, um, I sometimes, I don't know like what stories to tell. Like I know that I want to like the be engaging and tell stories, but what sorts of stories, um, well, what sorts of stories are we trying to tell?

Co Hodges: 22:50 Right. No, and that's a really good question and this is something that I think people overthink. Um, because I'm not this, but I think it's interesting that I did. So I did a workshop in Australia last October and one of the big things that they asked me while they were there, like, I'm not a very interesting person. What am I supposed to talk about? And it was like, why would you think you're not an interesting person? Why do you think I'm an interesting person? I am no different than you. In fact, I'm probably least interesting in this whole room, but you are because you have a story and you, you're living this, this life and you're having connections with other humans and it is interesting. So it's why we love reality TV so much. Right? Because it's just right. Right, right. Okay. I can attest to that.

Co Hodges: 23:33 I don't love all of it, but the real stuff, the real human day to day interactions, we could watch that stuff and it's like them going to the mall or something ridiculous and you're like, oh yeah, I go to the mall. Right, so it's dead. It's true. It's this, not necessarily the mundane, I want to call it the beautifully mundane. Like I'm a mother, I'm a single mother. I got divorced last year. These are not new topics, but I talk about them in like a real way and people who have also experienced that stuff, they engage with me because they're experiencing something similar or they did last year as well. And again, nothing new, nothing earth shattering, groundbreaking. I'm not new to this world, being a mother and having these experiences, my children. But people react to that and they connect with me over that. So I really think that it's like don't go looking for this huge story that you have to tell that's going to have this wild engagement be who you are and talk about what you want to talk about.

Co Hodges: 24:29 So one of my local colleagues and one of my dear friends, his name is ace fanny, if you don't already follow him, you should. He's hilarious. But he does this thing when he teaches called your 100 things. So it's where you write down a hundred things that make you a busy human being. Whether you like soda or Burgers or whether you're a parent or whether you went to college or whatever it is. All of these things that make you up as a person and then you cross out all the things that you're unwilling to talk about on social media. For him, he wasn't willing to talk about his religious preference and cross that out. Right? And it leaves you with usually at least 70 to 75 things that you can talk about on any given day. So if you're stumped for a caption or you're stumped what to talk about, and you can go back to your 100 things and be like, okay, this is what makes me a busy human. I'm going to talk about this today. And it's been really great.

Raymond: 25:15 First of all, that's a wonderful idea. That's, uh, that's so simple to do. Simple. Yeah. There's plenty of things that I love to talk about, like Tacos and hatred of Cilantro for sure. Um, but now when it comes to the photos, do the funnels have to match up with, with our captions? You're shaking your head now

Co Hodges: 25:35 they don't, and this is something that I used to do. I used to go, here's a sneak peek of this beautiful family. Aren't they great? Right? And they are great and they're beautiful family, but there's no connection there. There's no connection with me or even the family there. I'm just sharing a photo and it kind of falls flat. So, and not to say that I can't say that and it's totally fine. I can say this is a beautiful family. I had a great session with them, whatever, but nobody's connecting with me over that. So instead I don't have to say anything about them at all. I can talk about, you know, my own personal experience as a mother. If I'm sharing a picture of a newborn, I can even say like, I never had newborn photos taken of my children and myself or you know, and I'm every, every newborn session I do, I always ask the mom if she's comfortable with doing breastfeeding shots in there just for her. You know, they're like, I always tell them like, these are just for your family because this time is so fleeting. I don't have this for myself. Please let me give this to you. And so I can talk about that. I can talk about my experience, how I don't have this. So I wanted to give this to this mother. There's a million different ways you can do this, but the point of it is to really dig into how you're about this experience or how you're feeling today and talk about it and it can be really powerful.

Raymond: 26:49 Yeah, yeah, I know. I, I can imagine that. Um, well, I, I kind of have two directions in which I want to go with this, so, okay. I'll just ask this next question. W If, if you, if you're just starting out, right? Like Day One, you've been on the fence about Instagram, maybe your account was hacked and you haven't started the backup yet, and somebody decides after listening today, like, okay, I'm going to go ahead and, and, and start up my Instagram again. What would be the best way to, and I'm sure that this is the wrong metric, but what is the best way to grow your Instagram following from scratch?

Co Hodges: 27:25 Honestly, a picture of you with an introduction about yourself, hi, my name is, this is what I'm here for. And those introductions. And those, this is my face are so powerful. And I do this every once in a while. And I do think it's important to have a face to go with your Instagram tab. Like this is the person behind this feed. Um, I have students that have all client work, all client work. It's very beautiful, it's wonderful. But where are you? You are the person running this business or going to be running this business. You are the person just running this feed. Even if you don't want it to be a business, even you just want to engage with other creatives. Showing who you are is so important. So day one picture of yourself, whether it's a self portrait or picture somebody else took, have your kid take a picture. It doesn't need to be this fine art piece to share who you are truly.

Raymond: 28:15 Perfect. Okay, well I will definitely, I know that after this I'm gonna write down a post, a self portrait of myself. Yeah, I'll definitely have to do that. Um, so you talked earlier about how you just post everything to one account. Right? And I know that there's conflicting ideas. I've, I've heard people say, you know, keep them separate. You are obviously a fan of keeping them together, right? Um, what are the, what are the pros and cons of each? If you do decide that to have a business instance,

Speaker 2: 28:49 you are listening to the free version of the beginner photography podcast. Do you love what today's guest is sharing and want to hear the full interview become a premium member. You will also gain access to the huge back catalog of past interviews. Get monthly in depth photography, training videos and great downloads. Sign up today at patrion.com/beginner photography podcast or click the link on our website, beginner photography, podcast.com. Thank you for your support. Wonderful.

Raymond: 29:22 I love it. Not Willy Nilly Spirit. Yeah. Okay. We'll go with that. So, um, I know that we've talked a little bit about, or actually we've talked a good amount about engagement specifically, but for those who, and I should have asked this right in the beginning, for those who are brand new to Instagram or maybe they're getting into photography later in life, can you tell us what, um, in the word engagement is in the sense of a Instagram and yeah,

Co Hodges: 29:51 why it's important. Oh my gosh, yes. I could talk forever about this. So engagement is who gives a crap about you? [inaudible] simplistic terms here. Engagement are people that are actually interacting with you on social media. You can have a lot of followers and you can even have likes and likes are actually engagement that people who are commenting, people who are really watching what you're doing, people who are watching your stories, people who are commenting on your stories, people are sending you messages in relation to your stories. All of that is engagement. So as a rule of thumb, you have to think quality over quantity. Um, there, there can be people that have 200,000 followers, but their engagement might be 0.5%. That's not very good. You know, you really want to have whoever is looking at you, whoever's following you, you want them to be actively engaged with you. You want them to actually care. Engagement is actually caring about what you're posting and why. And, and having this, this dialogue and this consistency with that dialogue is important.

Raymond: 30:53 So if we want them to interact with our content to build that engagement, yes, what should, uh, what should, what should we be doing specifically to, to grow engagement?

Co Hodges: 31:04 So here is a very specific, I guess algorithm is the right word for this. Um, but when you're first starting out, if somebody comments on your image, you want to comment with at least as many words as they said to you. So it said, I love this image, so thank you so very much and have a nice day or whatever it may be, and make sure that you're giving them the same amount of love if not more back. Okay? So that's number one. Then you go to their page, you either follow them or you like their last three pictures and say something from the heart that you love about their pictures that will grow your engagement more than you can possibly imagine. Because going through and, and don't do the follow for unfollow guys like Oh God, worse follow for follow. Oh my gosh, let's not do that. And Yeah, you want it to be real. So if someone sends you a nice little comment, comment back, go to their feed, follow them like their last three posts. Right? Something Nice about that. If you do that for it, like if you're really wanting to bust out your Instagram and grow in a big way, if you'd engage for an hour a day, you will see growth. Like you wouldn't believe

Raymond: 32:09 really an hour a day, an hour a day just going through. So what if we don't get enough comments to, to interact for an hour a day? What do we do then?

Co Hodges: 32:16 So here's where I want you to engage with hashtags and I want you to find appropriate hashtags that are applicable to newer realm to your life. And to what you're producing. So say I'm like a family photographer, that's pretty vague. There's going to be a million of those, but something along those lines. I'm a family photographer. I'm going to go find other family photographers that follow this Hashtag like a good one would be dear photographer, the owner of photographers, a good friend of mine, she runs a magazine and they do a lot of documentary features. They do a lot of lifestyle work. They also do education. So I'm going to go engage with people who are active on that Hashtag we're sharing their pictures who are engaging with that hub. I'm going to be involved in there. So you gotta think of

Raymond: 32:56 real quick, a Hashtag is just something that you put in a photo to make that photo searchable by people who don't follow you.

Co Hodges: 33:02 Correct? Correct. Or they do. So for those of you that aren't, aren't familiar with hashtags, it's huge. Huge. It's blown up. And you can put a Hashtag and link it to your image to where that image will pop up in that Hashtag feed. So, for example, for unraveled academy, if you do Hashtag unraveled academy, it will pop up in all of the images of people that follow us and want to be featured by us and being featured as a whole separate topic when we can talk about that if you want to. Um, but this is a place where you can engage with people who are in this same group, so to speak.

Raymond: 33:38 Okay. So you are a family photographer. You want to engage with other family photographers real quickly. Why would you not want to engage with the like moms or do you want to engage with moms?

Co Hodges: 33:48 You absolutely do wanna engage with moms. So if moms are your primary focus, you not only want to engage with moms, but you wanna engage with moms local to you. So you want to find local hashtags. So for example, safe, your primary market are, let's just say Yoga Moms, you're going to find a, a hub that's local to you or a Hashtag that is specifically like Phoenix Yoga moms maybe. Okay? And you're going to go engage with those women in there and you're going to go maybe go follow their profiles or like their images and talk with them and you're going to build these relationships locally. That's super important. Super important, especially for building a strong local business.

Raymond: 34:26 So if I was, let's just say I was a winning photographer, right? And My, um, looking for engaged brides, that's a very small amount of time and typically, you know, I could see somebody posting, you know, Phoenix Yoga mom, but very rarely what I imagined, somebody hashtagging their photo Indianapolis engaged.

Co Hodges: 34:46 Yeah. Well, they're at the wedding industry. There's a huge number of hashtags that are applicable and they're constantly changing. And that's something that can be a little bit frustrating at times. Um, but I would definitely look at where are your brides looking? Are they hashtagging junebug weddings? Are they hashtagging different magazines? Are they, what are they looking at? Who are your brides engaging with? Where are they getting their dresses? Where are they getting their hair done? What vendors are they working with? Vendors are huge. Working with other local vendors in the wedding industry will change your business and you can get to the point where you just really support each other and you know, I scratch your back, you scratch mine, I have this bride, she comes and gets flowers from you, she gets her photography from me, she gets her dress from this other vendor. It's huge. The wedding instead we could have a whole interview just on wedding stuff cause it's such a big thing and it's such a different world. Truly.

Raymond: 35:41 I think we're going to have to do that at some point for sure. So when it comes to weddings, it's a very good idea to be connecting with other vendors just as much as as brides obviously.

Co Hodges: 35:53 Yes, absolutely. Because in the wedding industry it is such, especially if you're local, it's such a tight knit network and you know one bride is going to utilize at least 15 different local vendors, 15 services for her wedding, right? You want to know these people and you want to be nice to these people and you want them to like you and in a real, in a real way. In a real way.

Raymond: 36:19 Okay. I'm just going through some of my past brides. Instagram's right here and just kind of looking at things that a, that they like and yes, that makes sense. Lots of local coffee shops, which sounds like a good idea.

Co Hodges: 36:30 Yes. Oh my gosh. Anything, anything local. What people are hanging out a lot, where your primary market is hanging out a lot. That's a really good place to meet because they, hey, I'm, I would love to drop a bunch of my business cards here. Do you guys need some pictures of your coffee shop for social media? I'd be happy to trade you if you recommend me to people that come in. Yeah, there's so many different ways to network. I'm getting in different networking groups with local businesses. Small businesses really do help each other. It's more community over competition more than it ever has been because I'm not competing with a flower shop. Right. I can help a flower shop and they can help me. So this small business love has grown more than ever before and it's really beautiful.

Raymond: 37:14 Okay. So, uh, I now have a long list of things that I need to do after this, but we've talked about some great ideas of what we should be doing on Instagram. Can you tell me, uh, what are some mistakes that you see new photographers, uh, making when they, when they join Instagram?

Co Hodges: 37:29 Sure. And I did it so I can say this. Um, when you're new, try really, really hard not to focus all of your attention on, on just replicating somebody else's idea. And not that we're not learning from each other and I'm constantly learning and being inspired by their people. But I wasted a lot of time and attention trying to recreate somebody else's art. And I had a very specific instance. I just talked about this with my students the other day. I was pregnant with my son and my daughter was one, they're really close in age and I saw this thing on Pinterest that I just had to Redo, right. Daughter's holding the sign, something about being a big sister and we were going to do this thing, right? So I made this sign, I got us dressed, all cute, put us in the backyard, got the tripod set up, got everything set up, ready to rock and roll, gave the sign to my one year old daughter and she tossed it and started crying and signed like, oh my gosh.

Co Hodges: 38:25 Like we gotta do this. I want this pictures so bad, right? So I gave it to her again. I'm like, baby, please just put mommy, please just take this picture. And she tossed it again and started crying and I started crying. I'm looking at my one year old going, why don't you love me? You know, like ridiculous. But what I realized in that moment was that this picture was going to mean nothing to me in the longterm, except that I would always remember that it was a struggle to get it. Yeah. Like this was not meaningful to me. This was causing strife for my one year old who didn't even know what I was saying. And why? Why was I doing this? It was because I saw it. It was something that, you know, I was, I was trying to replicate other people's work. I was trying to get these quote unquote magic moments captured in my camera, but they weren't magic moments.

Co Hodges: 39:11 So it was a real game changer for me. And I started looking at other people's work in such different way as inspirational. True. But I wanted to feel something. I wanted to experience something even behind the camera with my family that was authentic to us. So I really urge people, I see this all the time with new students coming out who are trying to be like, oh my gosh, I saw this amazing picture with the kid under the blanket. I've got to do that. I'm going to do whatever it takes to get this shot. Right? But if you have a crown or a blanket, yeah, you're right and it's fine and all that is beautiful. And don't get me wrong, we're getting this beautiful pictures, but truly how the, how the experience went down for your children, for your family, for you even how this made you feel, um, at, at the end of the day, if you've got a bunch of likes on it that fades, but you have this picture and what does it mean to you for the long term? So I highly, highly recommend, you know, ignoring the trends if you can try not to replicate so much and really deciding what photography is going to mean to you.

Raymond: 40:12 Yeah. I have a kind of a personal story that was like that a few years ago I wanted to do this like composite like for Thanksgiving where it looked like everybody was in the kitchen and we were all freaking out and my son was like trying to put out a fire in the oven on like the Turkey and stuff. And at the time he was too and he didn't like, we got him like this little a fire man jacket and like a little hat. Yeah. He wasn't having any of it. He's like, no, I don't want any part of this. So I watch and I are like, come on Mike, Please just stand here for just one moment. Let me take the phone out. And uh, eventually I got the photo, but now I look at it and it's just like, I remember, I remember the tough time that we had and not like, oh, this is a really fun and creative photo that like I created, which was, which was it's, uh, original intent. But um, right. [inaudible] it's good to hear that I'm not the only one who has gone through something like this and that many others have.

Co Hodges: 41:00 Oh Wow. Yeah. Oh, I did that bunches of times. Like you guys don't feel bad about it. If that's you. Like I did that. I, I did a ton. I squished my kid into so many things, like pictures that I've put my baby in a firefighter helmet and don't worry. You're fine. [inaudible]

Raymond: 41:17 good to know. Good to know. Yeah. One of the other things that I see listeners getting caught up on is that when they're new to photography, they don't really have a large portfolio of content to keep posting. And they, there's this idea that like why can't post it twice? Like people are gonna see it a lot. Can you kind of talk about that? Should they wait until they have a library of images to start an Instagram or should they start today?

Co Hodges: 41:40 No, I think you can start today and I don't think it's a problem to post something twice. Um, but I do think that if you're really wanting to start a business, getting your solid portfolio down is, is a huge job and it's key. And so what I recommend for my students is have two sessions that you give away for free, not to a friend or a family member, to someone who actually would book you and give it to them for free. Give them an excellent experience and get these images that you need to build your portfolio, your website, and have images for social media. And then pick about five to six images from those two sessions in sprinkled them throughout, you know, the month to give yourself a little boost to get other clients to have more images and then so on and so forth. You Go. Um, so the art of the free session is kind of beautiful. I do recommend, and I just said this like don't do friends and family. I know it sounds a little tricky and they're easy, easily available, but those aren't the people that are going to get you more clientele. You really want to try and give a free session to somebody who would possibly book you and can recommend you to their friends.

Raymond: 42:45 Yeah, no, that makes sense. That makes sense. Yeah. And obviously when it comes to having a personal profile that wouldn't really, uh, matter that much is as you're taking personal photos in, in real time. Um, so, but you kind of brought up an interesting point, um, about sprinkling photos throughout the month. Um, is there some sort of frequency in which we should be posting or, or is there none?

Co Hodges: 43:06 So this is up to interpretation. However, I think that you should post five times a week to Instagram and two times two to three times a week to Facebook for business purposes and to stay engaged. Now if you are just doing for personal, for fun, I'm wanting again to engage with other creatives. You're free to do what you want. And honestly, I'm a little bit more sporadic on mine these days and I tend to post two to three times a week to my Instagram. But if you're really wanting to pump out these images and have this awesome engagement, five times a week would be key.

Raymond: 43:39 What is the thought behind posting less to Facebook than Instagram?

Co Hodges: 43:44 So for business purposes, there really is no thought except that you want to stay relevant on Facebook. Facebook is still highly relevant, however, you're not getting as much engagement on Facebook these days as you are on Instagram. So it's more of a means of staying relevant there. People are still on Facebook all day long because they're in groups, they're in groups on Facebook. All of us are on there in some capacity. So I've seen a lot of people archive their accounts. I've seen a lot of people delete their accounts. Like, Oh, I'm not getting any business from Facebook. Yes you are. You are 100% and to stay relevant there, two to three times a week posting and you can just replicate the posts. You can just say, I'm posting the same thing in the same caption to Instagram, pull it over to Facebook, copy, paste, boom. You're done two or three times a week.

Raymond: 44:28 You know, it's funny, just today I accepted somebody into the beginning of photography podcast, Facebook group, who I always asked three questions before somebody can join to make sure that they're real. And they said that, uh, that their, um, Facebook account was dormant. Did they? They, they left it alone for years and the only reason why they reactivated it was to join the group. So yeah, you're right. There's a lot of fun and interesting, uh, stuff to be a part of. Absolutely. What is some, now this is, this is my last question for you. I know that I've taken up too much of your time. Not at all. What is some commonly taught Info to new photographers that is just bad info about Instagram.

Co Hodges: 45:09 Oh, about Instagram, bad info to new photographers about Instagram. Well, I have heard people say that they should not show their faces on Instagram. It should just be client work, which I honestly disagree with wholeheartedly. Um, and I have heard people say that you can't run a business on Instagram and you absolutely can. And by run a business, I don't mean that that is your business. And we talked about this before, you, your business needs to have its own legs aside from social media in general. Um, so it's a tool. It's a tool and you absolutely can. And I do get a lot, a lot of business from Instagram, truly. Um, so it's a great tool. Another thing too, and I don't want to rub anybody the wrong way with this, but if anybody has heard of Instagram hubs or, um, pods, pods, that's the right word.

Raymond: 46:00 Can you quickly describe what that is before you get into, yeah.

Co Hodges: 46:04 [inaudible] so an Instagram pod is a group of people, maybe five or six people, sometimes more, sometimes less. Who have decided to quote unquote be the Instagram algorithm and boost their engagement on Instagram together. So what they do is they are in a separate um, Instagram message thread where they engage together and then when they post an image they share that they posted with their little group. Everybody in that group goes and likes it and comments a specific amount of words and they do this for each other all day long, indefinitely. That sounds very time consuming. It's very time things too mean and there's nothing wrong with this concept. I think it's a good idea. However people burn out of it and it becomes kind of needless to say because if the same people are liking and engaging over and over again, really what that's doing is not being a true algorithm of Instagram and showing your feed to other people.

Co Hodges: 46:58 Your feet is going to be the first. They see every time they open up their Instagram app and they're highly engaged with you because we're forcing it and that's fine and you are getting a little bit more love maybe, but it kind of tends to fizzle out and some people claim the Instagram kind of gets wise to this, to the pods and then it doesn't work anyways. So I've been a part of a few and then ax asked to be a part of a few and I always bowed out very politely because it was too time consuming. I felt like I was letting people down. It's like I cannot do this all day. Is it all day event of liking and commenting on these very specific people's feeds. I feel like that can burn people out really fast. So if you're new and you could ask me a part of a Pod I recommend is politely declining and getting your own legs first and if it fits for you, if it works for you, if you want to do it, if it's fun, then that's something. But I really think it's kind of a time suck and it can really stress people out.

Raymond: 47:56 That's good to know. That's good to know. Cause obviously if, yeah, I'm sure if you were to Google how to boost your engagement on Instagram, that would probably be one of the suggestions and I'm glad to hear that, uh, that it's not all that it's cracked up to be and that it takes up way too much time and that I can just say forget about it instead of going out of my way though to to join one of these things. So polite pass. So thank you so much for everything that you've shared today. Seriously, I feel like I know so much more about Instagram now. Even so now I know like like 1% of Instagram as opposed to you know, all of that because I'm not an expert at all. But you have definitely shared a ton of info and I really do appreciate that. For the listeners who want to connect with you, can you share where they can find you online? Online?

Co Hodges: 48:41 Yes. So I am a cofounder and lead instructor at Unravel Academy, which I mentioned before. And this is an online school for all photographers of all levels and we are@theunraveledacademy.com. Um, so come check us out. I've got a ton of information. I'm very, very active in that group. I'm constantly live teaching and sharing tidbits all the times. I would love to connect with you. We have a really tight knit family in there and all are welcome

Raymond: 49:07 and you can't get out of this without sharing your Instagram, you know that.

Co Hodges: 49:11 So my Instagram is co underscore Hodges, so come hang out with me. I'm always doing lives and sharing a little bit about my little life with my two babies. So I'd be happy to hang out with you guys.

Raymond: 49:24 Perfect. Again, coe. Thank you so much for coming on and we're definitely going to have to schedule something about how to, how to use Instagram for wedding photographers here in the future. That'd be a great resource for sure. So, uh, thank you for coming on and I'm excited to keep up with you in the future on Instagram. Thank you so much for having me. I hope that you were on Instagram that entire time putting into practice what coe talked about. Uh, but I just realized at the same time, I hope that you weren't and that you were actually paying attention instead. But regardless, I hope that you learned something from this interview and I'm sure that most of you did because Instagram is just one of those things that we know it's powerful. We know that we're not utilizing it to its fullest, but also, uh, like we, we want to, we want to know what we're doing.

Raymond: 50:09 We want to use it to gain traction, especially, uh, you know, to show off our work. And, uh, it's always nice to get some recognition for, for it as well. And Instagram is a, is a great place to do. So my biggest take away from this interview with coe is that she, she said flat out, look, if social media is fun, then don't do it. You know, you shouldn't be doing something if it's not fun. And Instagram is no exception, no matter how powerful it is. If you don't enjoy it, if you're not having fun, don't do it. You know, find another avenue, find your thing and, and go after that. So I thought that that was uh, uh, really awesome because I know me personally, I've been frustrated before with Instagram not knowing what to post, what to say, uh, whether or not you know, to post the same thing twice.

Raymond: 50:56 Um, uh, trying to get more engagement. So, so these are the things that I'm glad that I talked to co about today in this interview and she really made it a lot more stress free, a lot more stress-free, more stress free. I'm taking away stress but there's more stress free that that doesn't make any sense. Um, uh, but it was truly an enjoyable interview. And, and Co if you're listening right now, I mean, I really do appreciate you sharing everything that you did because not only did the listeners get a ton out of this interview, but I did as well. And I am, I've said this before and I'm the worst at it, so I apologize. But I'm going to start posting more personal work of mine now, like family stuff on Instagram as well as more engagement, trying to go through hashtags and really get a grip on that because I know that it's a, that it's a place, um, where you can, uh, not build an audience where you can, where you can have this platform and share your work in a way that is, um, where other people already are.

Raymond: 52:04 And if you are doing it for personal work, it's a great place to have like a portfolio and, uh, you know, memories of your images. But also if you're doing it as a business, you're trying to share your portfolio. This is a great place for people to go and just like look at your work. Uh, read captions, get an idea of who you are, what you do, and uh, potentially books. So if you're not on Instagram, you should be in less. It's not fun, in which case you should not be because you should be doing, you should be playing to your strengths. Always be playing to your strengths. So all right guys, that is it today. I hope that you enjoyed this interview. Until next week, I want you to get out there. I want you to shoot, I want you to share on Instagram. You can follow me at our Hatfield photo, all one word and a be safe. All right guys. That's it. I love you all.

Speaker 2: 52:52 If you enjoy today's podcast, please leave us a review in iTunes or your favorite podcast player and continue the conversation with Raymond and other listeners of the podcast by joining the beginner photography podcast Facebook group today. Thank you. We'll see you again next week.