I recently organised an Instameet for only the second time ever. It's always nerve wracking wondering if anyone will turn up to your party but here's what I've learned and why they're an amazing opportunity for both photographers and marketers.
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WHAT ON EARTH IS AN INSTAMEET?
If you've been using Instagram for long enough you're sure to have seen the term... if you don't even use Instagram you'd be forgiven for thinking it's a new version of tinder where you meet people instantly or instant meat in a can... i.e. spam!
Seriously though, it's all about that favourite word on Instagram; Community. Instagram has really engaged communities, especially around specific interests such as photography. Think of an Instameet as a "Photo Walk". It's an opportunity to get a bunch of likeminded people together to share skills and experience while walking around a cool location taking photos. At first it might seem a bit weird, but only because people are so used to hiding behind the anonymity of their social media but you know what? People are starving for real connections!
WHY HOST/ATTEND AN INSTAMEET?
Ok aside from meeting lots of other like minded people there's a few more strategic reasons to get involved if you're looking to grow your social media savvy and maybe your followers too! But don't just focus on these too much, they're a bonus to be aware of... do it because you genuinely want to meet others and share your passion for photography.
1.) There's value in being connected to more people locally if you're aiming to be an 'influencer'. Being able to show you have a good local following/network means businesses who are looking to market in your city/country are more likely to value your following and either pay you or offer product for posts.
2.) Simply by attending you'll end up connecting with everyone, there's maybe 40 new followers right there and because of the way Instagram's algorithm works you'll find you're content ends up top of their feeds for a while afterwards.
3.) If you host or even attend an instameet you in theory register on the Instagram radar and you might land yourself in the explore feed more often... which leads to more followers. They seem to reward those who engage as a community. I've mentioned this before in relation to taking part on the Weekend Hashtag Project run by the Instagram Community Team, there's still a veil of mystery around algorithms etc but it's worth trying if it's fun as well.
As an organiser lot's of people will probably share the upcoming instameet and mention you. It's a bit like Google rewarding you in search rankings if it detects your website is linked from multiple other sites around the internet. Instagram seems to treat mentions the same. The algorythm seems to be location aware. Around the time of this last instameet I ended up with a big run of new followers who were photographers in New Zealand, they weren't coming to the event and were not even Auckland based but I suspect some of them were just finding me in their 'explore' feed.
HOW TO PLAN AN INSTAMEET
(If you're not quite up to hosting your own Instameet I've given a few tips on finding others at the end).
a.) Create your hashtag:
You create a unique hashtag for each event so everyone can find each others photos afterwards. I used #AKMAY17 so if you click that it'll show you all the photos people posted as an example.
b.) Post the event:
Post to your Instagram a photo that represents the location you'll use along with key information; date, time, location, hashtag. Here's the post I used... click the image to see the original post on Instagram.
c.) Reach out to locals
Don't just expect it to catch on by itself... reach out via DM with any other local accounts you know and point them to the post, if they're interested ask if they would share it out to their followers or DM friends. If you don't know many local accounts just do what I did the first time...
I searched the local #Auckland hashtag and found what appeared to be keen photographers and commented on one of their recent posts (not in a spammy way) saying "hey cool shot... I'm organ Ising an Auckland Instameet and would love to have you join us! See my latest post for details."
As long as you make it clear you're local people will treat it as more genuine and not some random spam. Also make sure you like a few of their posts and follow them at the same time... don't wait to see their answer. That got the attention of enough to hold my first one over a year ago but this time I already had a database I'd saved of those who came last time or were at least interested. So this time I mentioned/tagged all those people on my posts adverting the event.
d.) Add it to the IG community page
Go to community.instagram.com and you'll see a link saying "Tell us about it"... where you can let Instagram know you're holding an Instameet and get it placed on the map for others to see. To be honest I'm not sure how reliable this is because I posted twice through their form and it never appeared on the map. It's worth doing because if you ever want to get on Instagram radar this will certainly help.
e.) Instagram Stories:
If you're too precious to fill your feed with Instameet posters covered in text then use Stories to your hearts content. Make sure you use the location tag in Stories as that will get it listed in the local Instagram city/country Stories feed too. The great thing with Stories is you can now tag your own @username to send people there for rsvp & details plus include the hashtag which becomes clickable to see your main post details.
HOW TO ENSURE PEOPLE SHOW UP!
There's always the fear that people simply won't show! I asked people to rsvp on my posts or via DM (make sure you follow back anyone who shows an interest and keep checking your hidden DM 'requests' folder as a few people will just find it and message you. The rsvp was just to get an indication, the reality is you can't get an absolute committment (always the case with free events, make people pay and they show!) but here's a few other ways to ensure people don't forget.
Post follow up posts on your feed and Stories (see picture above) about the instameet
Make sure you reply to everyone i.e. "look forward to meeting you!"
DM your mobile number to people in case they get lost or run late.
Create a DM group for everyone coming. You can only add 15 people to each so I created 'Instameet Group 1' and so on so I could easily send updates leading up. Try not to bombard everyone though!
Something I didn't do but might consider next time is link everyone via my bio to a Facebook event page to manage rsvp's and updates. However it's nice to keep it within Instagram as much as possible.
Inform people that on the day you'll post by a given time if weather looks iffy. Make sure you post to say "We're on! See you there" send that to the groups, edit all Instameet post descriptions and comment that on each post too... then there's no chance people will say they didn't know if it was postponed or not.
Have a backup date in your post descriptions.
Help connect others on the posts by asking if anyone needs as ride or has spare seats for car pooling*
* a note here: we had one or two people wanting to grab a ride with someone but failed to mention they were only 13 or 14 years old. Always ask just in case. Fortunately we found out and said their parents need to get in touch with us first. The parents just ended up bringing them and one dad had a great time and posted some photos too.
This latest Instameet was coming into winter at a beach nearly an hour out of town! The weather was looking really bad in the morning but it cleared just in time to update everyone. I had some no-shows but mostly people will DM to say so. Thanks to a few others promoting it such as @10stophotography with his 25k followers and a great network of local photographers I managed to get 40 people along! Remember keen photographers are used to battling the elements to get a great shot so don't cancel at the first sign of clouds.
HOW TO RUN AN INSTAMEET
Welcome everyone and wait an extra 15 mins for latecomers.
At this point it's great to get a group shot of everyone (below is from my first Instameet). Post it with the meet hashtag and encourage others to get a shot and do the same to kick things off. If you leave it till later you'll either forget (like I did this latest time!) or some people will often have to leave earlier.
Explain the general activity of the day and where you'll walk
No need to be too formal or march everyone like troops, keep is casual but lead the way.
If it's a massive group and the route is not well known print a map for everyone marking the route in advance... as people stop to take photos it's easy for the group to become spread out.
Make sure to stop at key points along the way which you've identified in advance as great photo spots. Remember you'll have a real mix of age and ability so unless specifically advertised before hand don't make it too challenging such as climbing buildings and cliffs!
Aim for about 3 hours max and allow time at the last spot to catch a sunset or say goodbyes. If the location suits and depending on the group size you might want to end up at a cafe do go through your shots and start posting. Lots of people will wait to edit on their computers at home though.
Don't forget to have fun and take your own shots too!
SHOULD YOU FIND A SPONSOR FOR THE EVENT?
The first Instameet I held last year didn't involve a sponsor but this time I asked a company who I was already talking to about cinemagraphs whether they'd like to get involved. They were new to the NZ market but happen to also be the 4th biggest mobile phone manufacturer in the world! OPPO. They agreed to come on board which was amazing. Together we put a photo challenge in place and on my second Instameet post (pictured also in the Stories post above) I advertised their involvement along with goodie bags and prizes to be won.
I won't go into the logistics of running a photo competition as part of the Instameet because that's a whole other post! But it was a great draw card for those coming to get some cool freebies (they all got a $50 selfie stick for simply submitting a photo to the challenge) along with drinks and chips plus some official Insta-swag, badges and stickers I had from last years official Worldwide Instameet.
If you get a sponsor involved ensure you strike a balance between casual (not too commercial) but getting the business some exposure. They'll be looking to have a few big accounts (10k followers and up) attending in the hope they'll get mentioned as a sponsor. Just be aware that bigger accounts with large followings may have restrictions due to their own sponsorships but many will be happy to do mentions for your sponsor, even if it's in their stories alone which can be great exposure too.
HOW TO FIND A LOCAL INSTAMEET
Probably the best way to find other instameets is to start finding other professional and hobby photographers in your area via the city hashtags and location searches. Scan through feeds for signs of meetups or photowalks or simply ask in a comment if they know who runs them locally. You can check the Instagram community page linked earlier too, although mine didn't get listed you can see plenty are listed in various countries.
We had quite a few travellers passing through or visiting for a while, I picked up two from the CBD because they didn't have transport and realised it's a great way to do amazing little expeditions with locals while your travelling... for free. One of them brought his drone along too which was fantastic at the beach.
Leave a comment! Let me know any good or disastrous instameet stories. Make sure to follow me at www.instagram.com/mrjonkane for future updates and instameets 😉