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News & Insight

Selena Gomez Can School Photographers On Growing Instagram Value & Marketing

By Kishore Sawh on January 15th 2017

You want to know the real difference between the young generation and the, err, less young and generally less effective on social media? A simple glide through their  Instagram will reveal it, and it’s both so obvious as to be obscure, and profound. Barring the exceptions, there’s just no getting around the fact that a 20 year old will wield Instagram in an instinctive way like only a 20 year old could, but even if your instinct isn’t cut the same you can learn, and perhaps Selena Gomez is the paragon of social media perfection, and photographers should take cues – keep reading.

[LEARN: Free Engagement Photography Guide]

But to give an A to the Q, the difference between the younger and generally more successful social media users and those who aren’t is this: they get that the true beauty of social media, its ‘raison d’être’ if you will, is to make the follower feel privy to the secrets of the followed – to make 6 degrees of separation feel like one, or none. Typically to see such private parts of the life of someone with a modicum of fame or notoriety you’d have to get by some manner of majordomo or solicitous rep stationed at the gate, but with Instagram you can let thousands of followers feel like a special part of a private and enchanting world.

Once you understand or accept and internalize this, what you begin to realize is that social media isn’t usually the end game, but a tool to drive people to the content you control, and that will shift how you use it, and monetize it. And again, no one does this better than Selena Gomez.

when your lyrics are on the bottle ? #ad

A photo posted by Selena Gomez (@selenagomez) on

It might strike you surprised to learn all of the top 5 posts on Instagram last year belong to Gomez. All of them; many of which have over 4 million double-taps each. She also now has the most followers on the platform (107 million), tens of millions ahead of the ‘look at me, LOOK at me’ Kardashians. That’s all well and good, but here’s where it gets interesting, when you learn that according to D’Marie Group–”D’Marie’s ranking system is based on each influencer’s ability to generate reach, engagement, and most importantly sales conversions from their social media portfolio. We call this an influencer’s “true value”–a sponsored post across her platforms would be worth $550,000”; vastly more than even those near her atmosphere of follower counts. So why?

D’Marie Group’s CEO, Frank Spadafora, will say it’s about how she uses it, and what she posts – you’ll notice her feed is devoid of the body scrub, hair product or ‘preset’:

It’s interesting that statistically the most influential person on social media is engaged in noticeably less campaigns than other celebrities…Personally, I think it’s because she’s being smart and she’s aware that over-saturating her social feeds with sponsored content could negatively impact the relationship she has with her audience. – Frank Spadafora


Papa ?

A photo posted by Selena Gomez (@selenagomez) on

That’s right, and a scan of her IG will reveal professional shots but the lion’s share of it is made up of the (you may have guessed it) the personal, and the intimate. Now, if you’re a photographer you may not be bombarding people with sponsored content, but you’re likely using IG just as a portfolio, and this is where we often lose. While having it as a portfolio is good, all indicators suggest that for the right kind of engaged following you’ve got to put yourself out there a bit, and then that way you can drive people to your ‘controlled’ media, like your site, perhaps YouTube or whatnot because they’ll likely just want it. It’s sort of basic principles here, that just pushing more of your edited stuff out there doesn’t draw a connection with people and seems entirely attention seeking. Remember, those who don’t look hungry get fed.

[RELATED: Instagram and The Future of Editorials]

That all said, Selena also stands as a case study if you’re ever unsure as a photographer that Instagram is a foray that matters. She’s recently signed a $10million dollar deal with COACH which, it’s been suggested, is because of the brand’s massive social media move. Selena is proof in pudding that Instagram is a destination for the ‘editorial and curatorial’, and that being personalized and playing a long game, but not having IG be the END game, is the way to see the best returns.

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Rob Jr.

    she also has every demographic wrapped around her finger from literally any angle

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  2. Nikos Stavrakas

    I recently took part in a giveaway and the system for getting entries was Gleam. This service had access to follow people on instagram on my behalf without knowing it myself and suddenly I saw in my feed a post of guess who..Gomez! Lol.. another profile I followed without knowing was Nike….

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  3. Griffin Conway

    Love it or hate it, you can’t discount Instagram’s relevancy and importance for a photographer. Great article Kishore.

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  4. J Cortes

    Yeah , having a PR team or publicist, and celebrity status may have something to do with it.

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  5. James Ogden

    I’d say it has more to do with her being a celeb and half dressed in a lot of the photographs.

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    • Luis Luna

      there are other subtle things as mentioned in the artilce, Kim Kardashian is not that popular and is a half dressed “celeb”

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    • A Z

      I actually just looked at her Instagram to verify if this is true. I could maybe find two half dressed (bikini) shots of her out of nearly hundreds of pictures while scrolling through. Looks like she respects her audience. Good for her.

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