How To Grow An Instagram Community – Tips from @way2ill_
Eric Mark Do is the man behind the Instagram account @way2ill_ a community page with over 68,000 followers that features images from urban photographers around the world. With such a large following you’d be surprised to hear that Eric only started the page in July 2014, right around the same time he seriously put more effort into capturing and editing photos himself. Now he’s telling all and sharing how he took a popular hashtag and cultivated it into an engaged online community.
Who introduced you to photography?
No one really “introduced” me to photography, per se, but I definitely have been inspired by many photographers on Instagram. I’d seen a bunch of rooftopping photos on IG and, already being an extreme sports and heights enthusiast (skydiving, bungee jumping, etc), it naturally called out to me. So I was an urban explorer long before I got into photography. From there, I met other urban explorers who were more advanced photographers. And the more I went out on shoots with them, the more I learned.
When and why exactly did you start @way2ill_?
According to Iconosquare, the first post on @way2ill_ was July 22nd, 2014. Crazy how time flies, right? I started the account because photographers were using the #way2ill hashtag, and scrolling through it I saw lots of stunning photos, but no one was actually featuring anything from it. So I created this account to bring all these creatives together in a community hub. I recently found out who started the tag, (@subcuzz and @alozor), and we all celebrated hitting the 1 million hashtag milestone. Much respect goes to them for sparking the movement.
How did you cultivate such a strong and engaged community on @way2ill_? What was your strategy?
In terms of building @way2ill_, it took a lot of grunt work in the beginning and even now. I manually followed a ton of people and quickly found out what the Instagram daily limits were.
In the past year we’ve forged partnerships with other hubs, which — in addition to more exposure for all involved — strengthens the bond within the Instagram world.
We’re also constantly looking for new ways to take things to the next level — whether it’s contests with cool prizes, hosting Instameets, or posting Q&A’s with photographers. And I think that’s been the most rewarding part about it all: fostering real interaction and friendships within the community.
How many accounts do you manage? How do you keep up with all of them?
Oh man, too many. In addition to my own photography and personal account, there are 6 other accounts I’m involved in. I’m the admin/founder of @way2ill_ and @PortraitPage. I make selections for @AGameOfTones @Chasing_Cranes and @InstaMagazine_. And I’m a co-community manager for @Yoshirtinc.
It definitely gets overwhelming at times, so organization is key. I’ve made a Google calendar for feature selection times and that’s helped a TON. Of course, I also have great teams behind @way2ill_ (6 moderators and 1 designer) and @PortraitPage (5 moderators) that help out by making awesome selections and flyers.
What’s your advice for new pages on Instagram that are just starting off but want to cultivate a large following?
It probably sounds cliché, but I would say your first goal shouldn’t be getting more followers: it should be focusing on your craft.
With that being said: definitely use hashtags. My friends gave me crap when I first started maxing out the hashtags, but it’s the main way for feature accounts and other Instagrammers to find your work.
Follow people who inspire you, like photos, and leave genuine comments. We’ve all seen the “dope shot bro!” and “sick” “cool shot” comments. Be real and talk about the actual photo/edit and people will notice.
What would you do if Instagram disappeared tomorrow?
That’s a great question that gets me thinking often. While Instagram has surpassed Twitter’s user base and continues to grow, many Instagrammers know that it’s still just one platform. So as a photographer, it’s a smart idea to already cross-post your work to platforms like 500px, Flickr, Tumblr, etc.
With regards to @way2ill_… we’d probably have a brainstorming session with all the feature hubs and figure out what platform we’d move to…or maybe we’d try to create a new one or something. Who knows ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The fact that you can meet up with a complete stranger in another country and they’ll happily take you around their favourite spots is a little mind-blowing, right? So let’s all try to keep this network around as long as possible.
Check out Eric’s photography here.