Do you like to share your photos online? Are you trying to build a following so that you can turn semi-pro or even become a full-time professional? Are you already pro and struggling to build your business?
Hey gang! Welcome to Part 1 of a two-part series on Social Media for Photographers. When I mentioned in my Facebook group that I was going to kick off this marketing series with a piece on social media, quite a few people asked why I wouldn’t start with websites first. The reason is very simple: not every photographer is trying to make money, find clients or build a brand online. There are a lot of photographers who just want to share their photos with friends, family and other photographers- and that’s where social media comes in.
This two-part piece on Social Media for photographers is NOT just about social media for business sake; I am going to approach it from the fun side and the profit side. This article will focus on the SOCIAL part, and I’ll talk about how to connect with people and build a following. In a later article I’ll discuss the MEDIA part and how to properly prep your images to display them online. In that piece I’ll discuss how to decide which social media platforms are best for you and I’ll even show you some cool automation tools that will make the work easier.
The Evolution of Social Media
The world evolves. Those who evolve survive. Those who don’t become dinosaurs and we all know what happened to them.
Social media is a driving force behind some of the most revolutionary changes in the world of photography since George Eastman’s Brownie camera brought photography to the masses. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, 500px and Flickr have become the standard for showing and sharing photography.
Printed photo albums have given way to online albums and video slide shows. Instead of people holding an album or a print when they look at your photo, they are more likely to be holding a phone or tablet. If you’re lucky, they’re looking at a big computer screen.
Now there are some of you who will whine about that change; but I am not here to debate the value of the change. The fact is that it’s a change- so don’t become a dinosaur.
Understand this: the evolution that we call social media is not a product of new technology. People are by nature social creatures and by nature the human race invites and seeks out change. Social media is the art, the adaptation of using technology to be social.
Mark Zuckerburg and Facebook did not invent social media. Decades ago, people met and began relationships at social gatherings, at churches and schools. Then as technology advanced, people posted personal ads in newspapers. Then in the early days of the internet they hung out in online chatrooms hosted by AOL and Compuserve. After that they started using online versions of newspaper personal ads called Match.com and e-harmony.com and now even FarmersOnly.com. In recent years, social media websites like Facebook and smartphone apps like Tinder have become the go-to methods for finding and meeting someone new.
Back in the day, photographers who were doing particularly well could afford a listing in the Yellow Pages because that’s where people went when they needed a portrait or wedding photographer. That’s where a company would go to find a photographer to photograph their product. Most photographers, both amateur and professional, relied primarily on word of mouth to gain new customers. The problem was that it could take months or even years for a positive comment from a previous customer to actually generate a new customer.
We still use word of mouth – it’s just that it happens electronically and at lighting speed. You can make a post on Facebook and have it viewed by thousands of people in less than an hour.
Today people search Google instead of the Yellow Pages. Brides-to-be visit Pinterest to find their photographers. Big advertisers scour Instagram to find new and talented photographers who can bring a fresh look to their brand. New musical talent and television personalities are discovered on YouTube. Small businesses search stock photography websites to find images that can be licensed affordably to help elevate the quality of their advertising. Hashtags have even become a part of our spoken language and they are used as meta-data to help us be discovered by potential new clients. #howcoolisthat
Now I’m not going to sugarcoat things. Social media success requires time, energy, strategy, and planning. There must be a method to the madness. Blindly posting and shouting at people will get you nowhere.
While it is a lot of work, it doesn’t have to be difficult, it doesn’t have to take over your life, and it doesn’t have to be expensive.
Let’s talk about being SOCIAL
If you go to a party or a networking or social event, you wouldn’t run around the room with your phone or tablet yelling, “TAKE A LOOK AT THIS PICTURE! CC WELCOME!”
In the same scenario, if someone walked up to you and introduced themselves or asked you a question or better yet paid you a compliment, you wouldn’t turn your back and walk away without acknowledging them; that would be considered rude.
The problem is that ONLINE people forget how to be social because they forget that there is a person on the other end of the device. They behave in certain ways and say certain things that they would NEVER think of saying or doing in person.
So what happens? Photographers tend to SHOUT! They post a picture with no caption. Or they post a picture with the phrase CC Welcome, which really means please stroke my ego. You see portrait and wedding photographers posting all the time Special on Portrait Sittings! Hey I have free time this weekend – book me for a photo shoot! That’s simply obnoxious – it’s yelling! Why should anyone care?
Worse yet, someone does leave a comment and the photographer doesn’t reply or somebody likes a photo that they post and it goes unacknowledged.
All of these behaviors are rude. You wouldn’t do that in person, so don’t do it online. Always remember that there is a person on the other end of that post, or like, or comment. Treat it accordingly.
If you remember that one simple concept, you will have mastered the most important key to success with social media.
What makes my social media effort successful is the fact that I am social. I post regularly. I don’t shout. I treat others as I would want to be treated. I am accessible; I have conversations and most importantly, I provide value. It’s not all about ME.
YES – Social Media is all about RELATIONSHIPS. If you know anything about small business or if you have ever read a book about how to build a small business, it always comes back to the customer relationship.
Regardless if you are doing this to promote a business or just to find like-minded people to share your work with, you will find success by building relationships.
Many of you became camera club members to learn about photography and find like-minded people to share your experiences with and to learn from. Social media lets you do that with people from all over the world, not just in your hometown.
My YouTube videos are watched by people in more than 110 countries every month. I have a Facebook Group which I would love to have you join if you like to photograph people! My Facebook Group has more than 4,000 people sharing and talking about their photography from 47 different countries.
It’s all about relationships. And for any relationship to work, the other party has to find some value in what YOU have to offer.
I have been able to build a social media following of over 100,000 people online. But it’s not how many followers or how many likes you have that makes you successful. It’s all about the conversation. Yes, conversation is the second most important key to success with social media.
Always remember that to be social you must engage people. In fact, that’s how the social media websites decide what’s valuable and what’s not – by the amount of engagement you are involved in. Not likes or follows. They value the conversation.
I can tell you that I got involved in the Internet very early on and have been very successful in marketing myself and making business connections online. In fact, at this point 99% of my marketing is done online and at VERY minimal expense.
By being social and participating in conversations and sharing knowledge I am able to increase my social currency.
Social Currency is important because without it, you are just shouting. And, unfortunately, nobody is listening.
How to build social currency
Start with GREAT Photographs. That doesn’t mean that if you’re a beginner you can’t post. It simply means only post your best. There is nothing worse than the photographer who posts 20 images of the same set-up. Only one of them is the best- which means all of the others aren’t! So don’t post them. Only put your best foot forward. Remember, when you have the urge to post those 20 images from one shoot, it’s because you had fun and you are excited about the experience. Nobody else will have the same experience as you had. Not even your subject.
The goal with a photograph on social media is to draw attention – to make people pause and hopefully to get a WOW response.
Provide CONTENT and CONTEXT. It is not enough to just post an image. Tell a story. Give some background. Sell it! Don’t kid yourself into thinking that people actually care about your photography. If they aren’t the person in the photo, they don’t care about your photography unless you give them a reason to. If you are a portrait or wedding photographer, when you post the image, talk about how much fun you had with the subject, how wonderful the wedding was, how thrilled you are that you had a chance to spend time with this wonderful person, etc. Comments like this make prospective customers think you are actually a nice person and would be fun to work with.
If you’re posting to a photography group, talk about how you made the shot, the challenges that you faced, and how you overcame them. Be humble and evaluate the image yourself and discuss what you would change if you could go back and do it again. You will be amazed at how much you will learn about your own work that way and also how much other people will learn from you as well.
You don’t need to be an expert – people don’t like experts. Instead, be a person who shares their experience.
Be consistent. Post on a regular basis. I would encourage you to post a minimum of twice a week on every social media platform that you are involved with. It doesn’t always have to be pictures. It could be a cool quote, a link to an interesting article, it could be a short story about an experience or a thought that you had. If you are using social media to build your business this is extremely important. In an upcoming article, I’ll tell you about some tools that will help you automatically generate content for your posts.
Last but not least Social Engagement. Make sure you reply to all comments and messages. Start conversations. Ask for opinions and feedback.
I try to respond to every single comment someone leaves me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. At a minimum, I am sure to like the comment. On YouTube, I have the highest engagement rate of any photographer on YouTube and that is in part because I write a response to each and every comment that is left on my videos. That habit is helping me grow my subscriber base by over 4,000 new subscribers every month.
As I mentioned earlier, social media websites decide if and where your post shows up primarily by the amount of engagement the post is receiving. They value the conversation.
Top Ten Do’s and Don’ts for Photographers
- Don’t mix business and pleasure. If you are running a business, your business message should always outweigh your personal beliefs. Don’t talk politics, don’t make racist, sexist, or simply mean comments. Be sure to avoid TMI. A cute photo of what your pets or kids are up to is fine, but don’t dilute your brand with too many irrelevant posts. Relationship stuff is definitely OFF limits. This rule applies to your business AND personal pages. I’ll talk more about that in an upcoming article.
- Have an awesome profile picture. Make sure your profile picture looks like you and is a high quality and interesting headshot. If you don’t know a good photographer who can shoot this for you, you are probably in the wrong business. #selfportrait Remember, your profile picture is your initial introduction, your first impression. People usually see it at a size that is anywhere from half an inch square to two inches square, so shoot it tight and fill the frame!
- Stay on your own turf. Don’t tag people just to get their attention and don’t share links to your website or social media profiles on other people’s pages or profiles. If you are helping or providing valuable information and the link leads the person to more useful material, then great, share it. Otherwise plastering your links all over someone else’s profile is just cheap and obnoxious.
- Be careful with the jokes. Your sense of humor may not be appreciated by all. I’m not saying you shouldn’t use humor. Quite the contrary; just be sure that it is appropriate, and based on your followers’ and customers’ beliefs… not yours.
- You don’t have to have the last word. Be careful how you react if you disagree with someone. Remember, once you post it, it’s preserved for all eternity
- Be real. Be yourself – warts and all. People will appreciate the honesty. Posers are always outed eventually.
- Don’t Drink and Post. Alcohol, drugs, and social media should never intersect. It’s also a good idea to avoid posting when you are really tired.
- Use spell check or at least review your post and edit it. Bad spelling and bad grammar do not reflect well on your business.
- Your name is your address. Pick a profile name that represents you and your business. Avoid names like Loser1.
- Have fun. Social activities are meant to be fun. You may be using social media for business, but the people who are viewing your posts are not. Keep it light. Leave the whining and crying and complaining elsewhere.
One last tip….
If you don’t have a lot of followers and you are still trying to build those numbers, start the conversation yourself. After you make your post, be the first one to comment. When you’re writing your post save a little tidbit of information for the comment, something that adds to the value of the post. You can also use the comment to ask a question, or simply say something funny.
So there you go. Nearly 40% of the world’s population has internet access. That’s a LOT of opportunity for you to be social. Are you ready to up your social media game? You can start today. You don’t need to wait for my next article or video to be able to make a significant improvement in your social media efforts. You can start right now with the tips I have just given you.
Next up: Social Media for Photographers Part II. I’ll continue the conversation and talk about which social media sites are best for you. I’ll discuss what size your images should be and how to handle the compression algorithms and still make your photos look good on Facebook and other social media websites. And I’ll even share some cool software and automation tools that can make your social media workload a lot easier to handle.
So until next time, remember, your best shot, it’s your next shot. So keep learning, keep thinking and keep shooting – Adios!