How many people are seeing my Instagram content? The simplest first question everyone asks and answers. We know traffic is a good thing for business and the follower number is the cool currency that brings in new clients, when done right. But its always just a feeling. To get more empirical insights, we’ve asked photographers who are using Instagram to showcase their works, if they really are getting gigs. And, if so, how much time do they spend on Instagram, and how many followers did they have when they scored their first job there.

What you need to consider reading this post:

  • 520 photographers participated in our study. They use Instagram for work and roughly 99% of them signed up to our service Cherrydeck.
  • Some of them forwarded the study to other photographers.
  • The study was conducted between March 15th- 27th, 2018 which means the results might be different in the future.
  • We only asked photographers about organic traffic, not traffic from advertisement.

Before we began our actual survey, we asked the photographers to tell us who they are. We found that 81.8% of them are professionals while 18.2% are amateur or hobby photographers.

Professional vs Amateur
Answer distribution (in %): “What type of photographer are you?”

To save your time, here are the results to the initial question: “Did you ever get a client through your work on Instagram?”

From our survey, we found that 38.2% of the photographers have gotten at least one client form their Instagram activities. Pretty good we think! On the other hand, 52.7% of photographers say they never got a job directly through Instagram, while 9.1% are not sure if they ever had a successful conversion.

Ever got a job
Answer distribution (in %): “Did you ever get a client through your work on Instagram?”

We then drilled deeper and asked those photographers who were able to get a job, if having a high number of followers came into play. The result was indeed very surprising.  The average numbers of followers photographers had when they got their first customer are not as high as we anticipated. Three-quarters of the photographers were able to get their first job through Instagram when their number of followers were under 2,000. In fact, 53.8% were able to convert a follower into a client when they had less than 1,000 followers. This finding is significant as it is contrary to the popular belief that only high profile accounts are able to “make it” on Instagram. Nevertheless, this is not to say that followers don’t matter. Quite the opposite – they do. The study just indicates that you don’t need a huge number of followers to start getting tangible leads on Instagram.

how many followers
Answer distribution (in %): “How many followers did you have when you got your first client through your work on Instagram (try your best guess)?”

According to our study, 20.6% – or one out of five photographers (53.8% of 38.2% of all in the set) – were able to get their first Instagram job when they had less than 1,000 followers. So, hypothetically speaking, in order for you to have a 100% chance of getting your first job, you should then have just short of 5,000 followers (20.6% of 1000).

Assuming that you are already producing killer content and a handful number of Facebook friends you can already reach out to, this doesn’t sound too far-fetched, right?

And here is when it gets even better. The more followers you have the easier for you to get new followers. We call this “drag”.

“Drag” may be the reason many people say the amount of followers doesn’t correlate with the quality of work. We agree to some extent. Nevertheless, what’s still true is that number of followers give you the ability to “drag” more new followers to your account. Both, real ones and bots. But if you are hoping to be doing business with real people, we recommend getting rid of the fake followers. Not only that there’s no point of showing your work to a machine, bots are likely to attract more bots, decrease your engagement rate and eventually, they will harm your account as Instagram is always trying to kill bots.

The most important part of this number game (and probably the hardest if you don’t have a lot of cash to burn through ads) is gaining real followers authentically. But how? We have summed up some relevant and battle proven tips for you here.

Successful photographers average time spent on Instagram 

Now that we know photographers don’t need gazillions of followers to get a new customer, we asked how much time do they spend on average on Instagram. Even more, we asked, how much they are engaging (interacting with other accounts).

In our study, 40.0% of all participants said they spend 15 minutes or less on engagement on Instagram per day. Of the not successful ones (the ones who never scored a job), 46.4% put in less than 15 minutes per day – less than average. The successful ones, however, put in slightly more time. 35.1% engage 15-30 minutes per day. But, and this is somewhat twisted: 53.6% of the UNsuccessful users put in MORE time than the successful ones. We assume that this is a matter of either content of focus, but we can’t assess this.

engagement time
Answer distribution (in%): “How much time (in minutes) do you spend with Instagram engagement for your work account per day?”

Although we were able to quantify from our study, we are far away from being able to draw the causality between time spent on Instagram and gaining meaningful client leads. This is because it is beyond the scope of this survey to understand how these photographers engage on Instagram. But we will try to discover it along the way. Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get notified! What we have now already for you is, nevertheless, a compiled list of suggestions on how to engagement efficiently. Again, read here.

Based on the size and scope of our survey, you may already know that big generalisation is not the goal here. Rather, this study is our attempt to take a more empirical route to have a clearer picture of how the number of followers plays out when it comes to getting a job on the Gram. And we think that the results are really interesting and somewhat not like we would have expected. We would like to send a big thank you to all the photographers who participated in the survey and shared their insights with us. Let us know what do you think about the results in the comments. We are keen to know about it!

Posted by:Philipp Baumgaertel

Philipp is the founder of Cherrydeck. He is all about people, nerdy things, and the startup culture. Follow him on Instagram @philippb_ok

2 replies on “Surprise: This is how many followers you need to get your first client on Instagram.

  1. “So, hypothetically speaking, in order for you to have a 100% chance of getting your first job, you should then have just short of 5,000 followers (20.6% of 1000).” – is most likely not true since the dose – response relationship wasn’t directly studied. I would suggest to do correlations or logistic regressions using all factors you’ve measured to make more informed recommendations. (happy to help with some spare time, if needed btw.). But awesome to see how much cherrydeck values customer feedback! All the best, j

    1. Jonathan, great input! We’re aware that this not a statistical certainty, this is why we added “hypothetically” to it. We’d be happy to get a tighter grip on research, so if you want, lets sit down for a coffee and chat. Maybe we can build an awesome new study together.

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