Update August 2020: On the 25th of August I'll be hosting a live Zoom workshop on the topic of Instagram marketing for architecture firms. If you'd like to join me, visit the event registration page to learn more.
It makes a lot of sense that architects and interior designers have doubled-down on Instagram in the last two years. Our beautiful visual content fits the channel. Aspirational images take people away from their daily lives to homes, restaurants, shops and offices better than anything in their world.
Assuming you already have a website, Instagram is the perfect first step into building a well-rounded social media marketing strategy for your architecture firm. In this article, I’ll share my opinions on some common misconceptions about Instagram that are holding back your account from achieving it’s potential and wasting a bunch of your time.
Instagram is a photography platform
80% of the success of your account will come from picking the best photos from your hard-drive and posting them as often as you can. It also happens to be the easiest part of the process, because as visual people, we have a lot of amazing images gathering dust.
If you have 100+ professional photos on your hard-drive, you can autopilot your Instagram for the next 12 months by focusing on the big content wins, rather than the small details .
We can get an almost infinite amount of growth, activity and attention on clients’ Instagram accounts without them having to create anything new, write a caption, or pick hashtags for architects. These accounts are quickly rising up and dominating our rankings of the top 100 most-followed Architects and directing a large amount of targeted traffic to their websites.
On the other hand, the majority of my readers are not the best architects on instagram: they post semi-regularly, are daunted by post timing, architecture hashtags, content variety, and tons of other issues. They don’t get any new business from it or see any worthwhile growth or reach. If you’re in that situation, I’m going to discuss a few reasons why it could be happening.
Four common misconceptions about Instagram content that are killing your marketing
Misconception #1: I shouldn’t post too often.
If you want to crush your Instagram marketing, your goal is amplification from Instagram’s algorithm. That means a high rate of engagement on a new post which triggers Instagram to show that post to a lot of your followers. It then puts it in the top posts section of your chosen architecture hashtags, and recommends it to Instagram users with similar interests.
If your next image doesn’t get amplified, it won’t reach many of your followers, be seen in architecture hashtags or anywhere else. You may think you have 1000 followers, but that number doesn’t really mean anything — Instagram gets to decide on a post-by-post basis how many people will see your photos. You may think that you’re in control of your Instagram content strategy, but you aren’t, Instagram is.
You’re probably reaching just 20% of the people that you think you are.
Instagram does one thing very well. It evaluates images and predicts which people will like them. Somewhere in that segment are our prospective clients. Instagram will rarely show your architecture to someone who doesn’t like your architecture — that isn’t in their best interest. Instagrams tries to ensure that every user sees the best images available at any given moment. So, we have the same goal for our client accounts: on any given day, put out the best photo we’ve got to reach the people who will like them the most. From now on, that’s your goal too. Put out the best photos. If you just do that, and forget everything else that you’ve been told you have to worry about, you’ll crush it (and save loads of time).
Since we don’t know what Instagram’s rule book is for a great image, you’ll just be guessing, so don’t overthink that either. It’s important to experiment rapidly by posting as often as you can. We post 1–2 times per day for our clients. The value of posting lots of images is that there is a higher frequency of viral images, or successful experiments. If only 1 in 10 of your photos is a high performer, and you’re only posting once a week, then you will only have a high performance post once every 10 weeks (or five posts each year). If you’re posting twice each day, that’s a viral image that reaches your followers and grows your account once every five days. Remember, Instagram’s algorithm is fickle — even a great image can have an average reception. Don’t slack off on posting frequency, no matter how good your photos are.
Misconception #2: You can’t post a project from three years ago, and you can’t (or shouldn’t) just post professional project photos. “We don’t want to look too polished…”
Many of us have bought into the idea that Instagram is a “storytelling” platform. By posting polished stuff, we worry about the story that we’re telling about ourselves. This advice certainly applies to people in non-visual industries (celebrities, coaches, experts) to justify their existence on a popular social network for photography. I mean, what else can they post? For architects and interior designers, we have visual content to lean on, which makes reaching our goals much easier.
That’s not to say that we don’t need to tell richer stories about our brand to the public — we certainly do — but that’s why we need newsletters, blogs and the dozens of other neglected channels that favour long-form content. Once you’re crushing it on Instagram, explore these other channels.
Likewise, Instagram doesn’t have to have a chronological narrative like a newsletter, so you shouldn’t be over thinking what to post this week based on what’s currently happening in your studio, what stage your project is at, or your latest accolade. It’s about beautiful images. Take that advice, and Instagram’s algorithm will reward you for it. Stick to site visits, the Office Manager’s Birthday drinks and Toby the studio-puppy and watch your reach get crushed. You can post a project today that you built five years ago. We do it all the time. If the photo stands up today as it did then, it will work.
Misconception #3: We don’t have enough images to post every day.
Your photographer would have given you 10+ final photos for each of your projects. You may have sent them to the magazine and had them published — but only the best three made it into the magazine, or the best two made it onto the website. The HERO shot. What’s happened to those photos since then? It’s on your website, seen by only a handful of visitors each month.
Instagram is an opportunity for you to use all of your best images, and the 50+ B-shots too: bring your projects to life in new and interesting ways; the details, the staircases, the beautiful shadows in the corridors; all these hidden aspects. The small vignettes and the irrelevant details have a place now. When it comes to architecture, this is what people are seeking out.
Don’t rush to post them all at once — take your time, spread them out over the coming year and mix them in with other projects. Change your bio URL to the project page on your website with each post, and send your fans there. Now, more than ever, it’s important that we use our project pages to tell a deeper story about the project — then promote that content on Instagram.
What does that mean for architectural photography, and how should I think about photos moving forward?
There was a long time there when we were all wondering : is professional architectural photography in trouble because of social media?
Quite the opposite — I think it’s more important than ever, and it’s actually changing the way that we should be commissioning photography and briefing our photographers.
Volume is valuable now, so it’s important to capture the details so that people can explore the building in a way that goes further than the hero shot. These are big opportunities now that we aren’t confined to 3–4 shots in a magazine, 1–10 in an awards program and 10–15 on our website. Celebrate your best project with 100 images spread out over 24 months, capturing every beautiful nuance.
Since less than half of our followers (in most cases) see our photo the first time we post it, it’s totally reasonable to return to the same images over time to make sure that they get a new dose of exposure.
Misconception #4: You have to use your own content.
If you’re one of the many new architecture firms on Instagram and only have a small handful of projects — or none — don’t kick the can down the road waiting for better projects and photos while the platform matures and your audience stagnates. The best idea for your account is to curate other people’s architecture from all over the world. If you’re looking to attract the type of clients that see things the same way you do and like the same type of architecture you do, you need to become a DJ of content that matches your flavour and the things that you like. If you’re able to distill a messy world of good and bad buildings down to something sublime and interesting, people will love you for it.
By using your platform and your influence to actually promote other people’s work, rather than your own, you’ll be building up a positive perception of your architecture firm on Instagram. You’ll also be boosting your account with substantially better-performing images than you could produce yourself, while building equity with other practitioners at the same time. When you gracefully transition to your own work in the future, your large pre-built audience will know what to expect.
- Start posting your best images on a daily basis. If you have enough images to sustain 2–5 posts per day, do it and watch your account blow up.
- If you don’t have enough photos to sustain a daily content schedule, curate images from other sources and mix them in with your own while giving credit.
- Ease off the caption-writing, the storytelling and the iPhone photos — write about your firm on your website, not on Instagram. Re-invest the time you save into creating non-visual content on other channels.
- Study your Instagram Insights to see which photos are doing better than the rest and let it inform which images you upload.
- If you run out of images, recycle your top-performing shots from the last 90 days.
- Update your bio URL to drive interested visitors to your project pages.
What is the perfect Instagram post for an architecture studio?
- Killer photo
- Caption tagging photographer and name of the project
- Link in bio.
- 20–30 architecture hashtags. Here’s a set to try out.
#exterior #design #exteriordesign #home #homedesign #homeinspiration #designinspo #exteriorinspo #minimaldesign #australiandesign #minimal #homeinspo #australianarchitecture #housedesign #industrialarchitecture #minimalism #amazingarchitecture #architecturephotography #architexture #designers #australianarchitect #architect#architecturelovers #architectureinspo #dezeen #archdaily
Further reading: People Don't Follow Brands, They Follow People