Using Instagram for Business: 3 Million Followers with Chris Burkard

Prolific photographer and CreativeLive instructor, Chris Burkard has 3 Million followers on Instagram.

To celebrate this incredible milestone, Chris is sharing with us exactly how he’s used Instagram to grow his photography business, how he built an engaged following, and is giving actionable tips to everyone looking to leverage Instagram for business.

For many of the world’s most famous photographers, Instagram has proven to be a very valuable channel for not just building a community of loyal followers, but for creating lucrative relationships with brands, businesses, and other photographers in the industry. We’ll be exploring this exact topic with several other photographers and social media influencers coming up on Social Media Week 2018.

As Chris puts it himself, “99% of my work comes from Instagram and other social media channels.”

It helps that Chris was an early adopter to Instagram, but that’s certainly not the key to his success. He’s learned to use the platform as a tool for connecting and building relationships that extend much further than just a like and a comment. That strategy has been central to launching his career as a professional photographer.

So, how do you and I go about building a following and driving business from Instagram, just like Chris? Let’s dig in.

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I have been thinking for awhile about a way to say THANK YOU to all the people out there that have followed me & my journeys around the world these last few years on @Instagram. Its been an amazing experience to be able to share my work & travels to places like Russia, Iceland, Norway, Caribbean, Alaska and a ton of places in between with this amazing community. So as I reach a Million Followers I can't think of a better way to say thank you than to give out a FREE print to as many people as I can afford. No gimmicks, no ads, no brand affiliations.. just a humble gesture to all the people that have supported my work over the years. Sometime Tonight I am going to post a Discount Code and Website link that gives out THOUSANDS of free prints. Sorry not everyone will get one so you have to act FAST. All I ask is that you cover the shipping.. Ill pay for everything else. Code only works in the gallery link provided. *best bet is to turn on notifications for when I post since they will go quick!! PS – FOLKS let's be cool and only get one each 🙂

A post shared by ChrisBurkard (@chrisburkard) on

Join Chris and other incredible instructors for 40% off some of our summer adventure photo favorites. Check it out here >

Here’s my interview with Chris, focused around how he grew his Instagram audience to 1 Million followers, and how he’s leveraged Instagram for his business over the years.

Q. How would someone who’s just starting out,  go about acquiring their first 100 or 1,000 followers?

Chris: “The key is consistency in your content, social engagement, and image curation.”

“You can be a talented photographer, but if you aren’t able to curate your feed in a way that catches the eye of new visitors to your profile, it will be difficult to get off the ground.”

When you take a look at Chris’ feed, it’s all very carefully curated and doesn’t feature images that are off-brand with what his followers appreciate, there aren’t any funky cropped images, and absolutely everything inspires you to adventure in the outdoors.

Q. What was your first breakout moment on Instagram?

Chris: “I feel like I began to gain a lot of speed once I started shooting remote and unique surfing trips. I don’t know if there was a defining moment, but I do feel like I began to gain more momentum after shooting that type of content and tapping into a niche market.”

Pushing past the point of having just your friends and acquaintances following you can be a major hurdle that stops many businesses in their tracks. That’s why finding your niche and creating compelling content for that audience is key.

Join Chris and other incredible instructors for 40% off some of our summer adventure photo favorites. Check it out here >

Q. Do you ever create partnerships with brands or other photographers?

Chris: “Always. I think a huge part of my Instagram success is knowing my demographic, so getting to know other photographers is a huge advantage in posting images people love to see.”

“Instagram is a tool to build relationships with people and brands, and I feel like that has contributed largely in my success.”

This post on BusinessInsider explores tips from several successful Instagram users on how they’ve gotten noticed by brands and leveraged their audience sizes to land huge deals.

Chris has frequently leveraged the size of his Instagram audience to do collaborations with some of the world’s top brands in many different categories. However, what keeps his followers engaged – even in sponsored content – is authenticity and clear disclosure.

Shoot, he’s even landed a book deal from business connections made on Instagram.

Q. What are your thoughts on using hashtags to grow your follower base?

Chris: “I think hashtags play a huge advantage for anyone that want to share their content with a larger audience. It’s a great way to have people from all over the world find your account.”

In fact, this post on Buffer supports this belief. Images with 11+ hashtags received 2x more engagement, on average.

Knowing the hashtags that your audience is going to be browsing and sourcing inspiration from, is key to selecting the right ones to leverage within your image captions and comments.

Q. How often do you recommend posting?

Chris: “I recommend posting at least once a day at the same time of day to maintain consistency.”

“Usually I will post around 9am (before people got to work) or 5pm (after people get off work). I find that during those times I get the most engagement.”

CoSchedule published a detailed study that also concludes, posting on Instagram outside of regular work hours, is best for engagement. Find your ideal time (or times) of day outside of work hours, and stick to it.

Q. How have you leveraged your Instagram following to also achieve business goals of yours?

Chris: “99% of my work has came from Instagram and social media. Instagram is a powerful tool, not only for influencing people but also for business, connections, and opportunities.”

Chris’ incredible success as a photographer is in no way a coincidence. He’s a living testament to exactly how combining passion with a driven mindset and unrelenting thirst for learning, can create a powerful business.

Clearly, if your business is a good fit for being on Instagram, there’s a massive upside to learning how you can leverage the platform to help build your audience, drive revenue, and create a brand name for yourself.

If you want more tips on how to use Instagram for business, check out our class on Instagram Marketing for Small Businesses right here on CreativeLive.

Join Chris and other incredible instructors for 40% off some of our summer adventure photo favorites. Check it out here >

Ryan Robinson FOLLOW >

Content marketing consultant to the world's top experts and growing startups. Online educator at where I share business advice and teach entrepreneurs how to start a blog and other side businesses. Check out my post on the best business ideas, read about how I validated a business idea in just 30 days, get my recommendations for the best business books, and check out my favorite motivational quotes.