Lessons from @oldmansiggy
It’s pretty safe to assume that when you think of nature photographers, you imagine intrepid explorers snapping photos in Yosemite, Australia, and the Antarctic. Something tells us that Toledo, Ohio doesn’t really pop to mind in that list.
But that’s exactly where talented nature photographer and Instagram star Lucas Sigurdson, @oldmansiggy, shoots his masterpieces.
He has built a name for himself sharing the landscape of Northwestern Ohio in a way that brings a different perspective to land some might consider boring. He was one of Instagram’s first featured photographers and has built an audience of over 52,000 followers on the platform.
We interviewed him in the second season of Social Humans to get a better understanding of how he built this audience, the successes he’s had and where he sees Instagram going. We share these insights with you in an effort to help you apply them to your own audience building and also to give perspective on the hard work of influencers.
Capture the moment
Lucas started sharing on Instagram just after high school with no previous photography training. He tried to showcase his different way of seeing familiar places and this developed into a passion that he never knew he had. He describes himself as a storyteller of moments. Even today, he’s generating a great response from people who respect and appreciate his focus on sharing the “beauty in the ordinary scenes that you wouldn’t normally pay attention to”.
Takeaway: He’s found success through differentiation and you can find similar success with your audience. Don’t try to make your content look like anyone else’s and don’t be afraid to experiment. Approach your content from your unique brand perspective to drive interest and engagement from your audience.
There’s no overnight success
Lucas acknowledges that it took him awhile to first see traction on Instagram. This wasn’t because his images weren’t good. The fact is that it simply takes time to build an audience. The first time he got 11 likes on a photo, he was super excited. Over time he started taking it more seriously and began experimenting with hashtags to draw attention to his work. Eventually, Instagram selected him as one of their early featured Instagrammers. This began a strong growth trajectory for him. But becoming a suggested user didn’t happen randomly, it was because Instagram saw him as someone who was sharing what a specific audience wanted to see and he had built a strong voice with them.
Takeaway: Today, it sounds like common knowledge to use hashtags to attract audience. But Lucas was dealing with the early days of Instagram -- when hashtags were first adopted, so this was some groundbreaking stuff at the time. What was true then and remains true now is that it pays off to carefully watch trends and monitor your ideal audience members. You cannot just expect them to come to you, you must do research and make yourself easily discoverable to your target consumer.
The world wide web is your oyster.
The beauty of the world wide web is that it’s world wide. The internet eliminates the barriers of even the vastest distances. Lucas acknowledges that there aren’t a lot of “flashy” scenes to photograph in Toledo, Ohio --at least not the same type of scenes you’d compare with Miami, LA or Seattle-- but Toledo still has a vibrant and growing art, music and food culture. He feels supported by a great Instagram community in Northwest Ohio and doesn’t feel that he’s held back professionally by being based in Toledo. In fact, he has found that his location leads to inspiring conversations comparing cities and photography.
Takeaway: You’re not limited by your location or your reality. Whether you’re a budding new influencer or a brand trying to make it on the global scene, your location doesn’t have to be a limitation and can actually provide you with a more unique perspective. Similarly, you don’t need to pretend that you’re an LA brand if you’re actually a Toledo brand. Authenticity is the golden ticket.
Instagram creates unique opportunities
He loves the opportunities afforded to him by Instagram and his work on the platform. He still can’t believe he’s getting these partnerships as a college student but believes that “Instagram is single-handedly revitalizing the marketing world”. Brands are creating unique opportunities for photographers and this is creating some meaningful advertising campaigns. Instagram is giving him the opportunity to do things he never thought would be done.
Takeaway: Create incredible brand experiences for influencers. Move past the standard one-off programs and build the kind of unique experiences that your influencers will remember because this means your customers will remember them too.
Don’t get caught up in the numbers game
Lucas admits that there was a point when he was obsessed with the numbers. Most influencers fall victim to this early in their career. “Early on he loved getting likes, comments, and any attraction. But [he’s] since matured… to be more ingrained with the community”. Rather than focusing on the number-driven metrics each post is gaining, he’s now more aware of and thankful for the individual members who’ve followed him throughout this journey. He doesn’t care about likes because if he inspires his community, “that makes it all worth it”.
Takeaway: We’re not going to tell you that engagement doesn’t matter but we’d want to remind you that there’s more to the story behind those numbers. The whole point of social media is to create communities and conversations around shared interests. You’ve got an opportunity to build something bigger than a spike in engagement rates.
Each episode of the Social Humans podcast reveals personal stories like this. We recommend you give them each a listen to learn about influencer marketing straight from the source.