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Cracking the Instagram Code with Jenna Kutcher

Jun 17, 2016

Raise your hand if you’re a business owner, have Instagram and lets-be-honest-here, have no clue on how to use it for your business.

Do you see us waving our hands wildly in the air?

Over the last week or so, we took part in this challenge on how to utilize Instagram as more than just a way to share photos. The challenge was a concept created by Jenna Kutcher, a small-town wedding photographer from Wisconsin who makes high-end living as a wedding photographer in large part thanks to Instagram. She lives in a town even smaller than ours, and makes a quarter of a million dollars a year. She’s got 75k followers on Instagram, with crazy amounts of interaction. We found her and instantly asked ourselves: How does she do it?!

Jenna’s talented as a photographer, but what really has set her apart from the hundreds of photographers in her area is how she connects with people on Instagram - she’s cracked the code, so-to-speak.

Cracking the Instagram Code with Jenna Kutcher

There were one daily challenge for everyone to complete and we had some wild results, which we’ll share with you!

Day One: Do research on previous posts. Ask yourself questions like: What was it of? What was the purpose of the caption? What was the interaction on it? What hashtags did you use?

Our Results: iPhone photos tanked in engagement compared to professional photos (hint hint Randy: might be time for Ashley to get a newer phone with a bit of a better camera!). Photos shared either early in the morning or late in the evening had much more interaction than mid-day photos. Brighter (overexposed) images had twice as much interaction as darker (under- or properly-exposed) images - which was definitely something that isn’t all too surprising considering that’s the preference for things like Style Me Pretty, which brides tend to flock to nowadays.

Day Two: Introduce yourself, and share a photo of yourself.  

Our Results: Nearly three times as much interaction as we normally get, on a single photo of us drinking coffee together. Jenna recommends sharing a photo of yourself at least once a week, to re-introduce yourself to new followers and to share new things about yourselves with older followers.

Day Three: Share a photo of something, and use hashtags.

Now, if you follow us on Instagram (which you totally should!), you’ve seen us use hashtags before. Our wedding hashtag is #RADweddings, and then we also use locational hashtags (i.e. #PalmSpringsWedding or #ColoradoWedding) and then also other hashtags that allow us to connect with other industry professionals (i.e. #TheRisingTide or #ShootAndShare) and we ALSO use hashtags for publications (i.e. #TheKnot or #TheDailyWedding).

Something Jenna stresses is figuring out whether you want to be a “Big Fish in a Little Ocean” (use specific hashtags like #CountryClubWedding or #WaldorfWeddings) or if you want to be a “Small Fish in a Big Ocean” (use hashtags like #bride or #groom).

Our Results: On this day in the challenge, we received a wedding inquiry directly from Instagram. WHAT?! AMAZING!

Day Four: Grow your tribe.

As Jenna says, “The name of the game when it comes to Instagram is attract or repel!

Our Result: Throughout this challenge, we didn’t gain hundreds of followers BUT we did attract quite a few, which was great (hey guys! Welcome to our tribe!). We also repelled a few, and rather than being like “Damn it! This sucks!!” … instead we realized that those people just aren’t our tribe - and that’s totally okay.

We really only want to attract a certain type of follower: the kind that want to be part of our tribe! The ones who want to see not only pretty pictures of our wedding adventures, but, to get to know us as people, as business partners, as husband and wife, as parents, as crazy dog people, and as adventurers.

Day Five: Post a photo, and ask a question to your followers.

We posted the quote, “She knew she loved him when ‘home’ went from being a place to being a person.” If y’all know anything about us - you know we move - a LOT. We are not the stay-in-one-place-all-our-lives kind of people - too many years in the military to ever feel like one particular place is “home” (although truth be told, Colorado is as close to home and heaven as we’ll ever be!). But something we learned throughout the last almost-14 years together is that no matter where we are in the world: Japan, North Dakota, Washington, driving in the RV or in a hotel - as long as we are together, we are home.

Our Results: This day had the most comment interaction of the entire week, and, we got to know a bit more about our tribe. They invited us in to their lives, which was just absolutely amazing.

Day Six: Real > Perfect

Oh y’all, this needs to be stamped on our foreheads. In gold glitter.

Instagram (and any other social media, really) is a highlight reel of our lives. On this day, Jenna challenged us to be real and honest with our followers - share something that people may be able to relate to, something that people may not know about you.

Our Results: We decided to share a photo from the forest in Colorado, and we talked about giving up security in order to chase our dreams. We shared about how when Randy quit his job last year after Ashley’s month in the hospital, it was scary for us - we gave up a secure paycheck, medical benefits, and a Target discount. But over the last year, we’ve doubled our income and been able to chase our dreams of being destination wedding photographers and it’s allowed us both to be better parents and spouses. Terrifying, yet rewarding … and our tribe seemed to really relate to chasing dreams - which was great!!

And last but not least -

Day Seven: The Power of Going Viral

Technically, we were supposed to do this a couple of days ago, so we don’t have the result yet … but we ARE going to share this today!

On the seventh day, Jenna hosted a webinar and we listened in - and were totally enlightened. She has a way of being so real, so honest - it’s endearing and charismatic and at least four times we thought “we wish she lived closer so we could sit together in yoga pants and eat mac-n-cheese with her and Drew!” At the tail end of the webinar, she actually announced that she is going to be starting up essentially an even more in-depth boot camp of sorts for Instagram, called:

>>>> The Instagram Lab <<<<

It sounds like an amazing opportunity for anyone wishing to learn more from Jenna about cracking the Instagram code and discovering HOW to use Instagram to build your business. We know we’ll be taking the lessons we learned throughout this challenge and applying them to our business!!




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  1. Raelene Schulmeister

    June 17th, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    Yeeeeessss!! I’ve loved your IG posts this week! They’ve been so great! I tried to get in on Jenna’s webinar 3 times but it was jam packed!

  2. Misty

    June 17th, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    These tips are just what I needed!! I feel so lost when it comes to getting more engagement on IG! This is amazing!

  3. Stella Kelsie Throop

    June 18th, 2016 at 1:27 am

    These are AWESOME. Thanks for sharing, friends! 🙂

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