By Will Nicholls.
Social media is a potential gold mine for a photography business; it’s the ideal place to get noticed and build a following for your photography. I’ve been using social media for around seven years now to promote my work, and it’s been invaluable throughout my career so far.
Each social network has a different focus to the others, meaning you can reap a variety of benefits from using multiple platforms.
Let’s take a look at some of the main networks and how you can use them to your advantage.
Reported to have 1.79 billion active users each month, Facebook is the biggest social network in the world. That’s clearly a wealth of opportunity you can’t afford not to tap into if you’re serious about marketing your photos. This poses a problem though: there are a huge number of photographers on there with you. You need to compete and make your page more interesting than the majority of others that are scattered throughout Facebook.
Here’s my Facebook page. I use a business page, not a normal profile made for a person. The advantage of this is that it is much more targeted towards a business. Users can ‘Like’ the page, rather than befriending it and giving it access to all their personal information. It’s fairly easy to build a following this way.
Recently, I have noticed some photographers using their personal pages and utilizing the fairly new ‘Follow’ function. It’s similar to likes, but it gives someone who you don’t know access to your personal page. The advantage here is that Facebook doesn’t seem to throttle your reach as much (I’ll expand on this in the next section). People seem to get a lot of engagement easily this way, and once you’ve tapped into a specific network of photographers online, photos are quickly spread around.
However, you may find yourself stuck to one particular group of people. Now, it won’t be hard for Facebook to throttle those using personal pages for business purposes, if they aren’t already doing it. Plus, you’re limited to 5,000 friends. After that, people can only follow. You also don’t get the powerful analytics and advertising options Facebook pages get. That’s a big killer and the reason I don’t do this.
What is Reach?
Reach describes the number of people who see your post in their news feeds. There are two types of reach: organic and paid. Organic reach comes from engagement, such as people sharing your post. Paid reach comes from paying Facebook for advertising, putting your post into feeds as ‘Sponsored’. The more reach you have, the more engagement your post will receive.
To encourage you to pay for advertising, and to improve the quality of users’ feeds, Facebook will throttle the reach of your posts. If you are just sharing a picture, then you’ll see perhaps 15-20% of your page’s Likes seeing your post organically. If you share a link, Facebook instantly knows you’re probably trying to make money – after all, you’re driving traffic away from Facebook itself and onto an external website. In this case, you’ll probably see 3-5% reach of your Likes.
Do Likes Matter?
Only to an extent. It depends what you’re trying to achieve with your page. If you’re hot on Facebook advertising, then actually not so much. You can use adverts to spread your posts beyond those who like your page. If you advertise for likes, remember you will have throttled reach to them down the line too. Personally, I feel it is better to advertise for engagement on posts, rather than page likes.
Whilst a big number is attractive, the throttling renders it somewhat meaningless. Of course, more page likes means more initial engagement and organic reach. So it is good to have a base line and then work organically for likes after that.
Overall though, I wouldn’t worry about the number of likes your page has. Instead, focus on pushing out good content and likes will come in overtime. You will build a more dedicated, loyal audience this way than if you were to just advertise for likes.
Increasing Organic Engagement
So what can you do to increase organic engagement? Well, avoid posting links for starters. As I’ve already mentioned, this throttles your reach heavily. But I’ve also noticed that Facebook analyses the text you write too. If you are clearly selling something, using keywords like ‘buy’ or ‘purchase’ for example, then you’ll be throttled again. It’s annoying, but you can see why Facebook is doing it – after all, businesses were making big bucks from Facebook for free before they introduced these fancy algorithms.
If your posts receive lots of engagement usually, then Facebook is more likely to allow greater organic reach to future posts. It’s therefore important to work on the quality of what you post on your page. Think about what will generate comments and get a discussion going. Shares are powerful things too. I find that caption competitions work very well for getting people to start talking. You don’t need to offer up a prize; just submit a funny photo and ask for the best captions people can come up with.
Make sure you reply to a few people in the comments of each post. This shows that you are engaged with your audience. They’ll appreciate the reply, and are more likely to come back in the future and engage with you again. It’s all about building a loyal following that appreciate both your photos and you as the photographer.
Of course, the photo matters too. An attractive photo that appeals to people will do well. Some more than others! I didn’t expect this puffin to get as much engagement as it did. It reached 58,750 people organically, with over 2,000 likes and a host of comments.
Working with Facebook Adverts
Facebook is known for its ability to allow advertisers to heavily target adverts. You can select a host of parameters, including location, age, gender, interests, and other demographics. There is something called the Power Editor – it’s an initially scary looking administration area where you can build big advertising campaigns and do all sorts of marketing wizardry. I used to swear by this, recommending people went down no other route with Facebook ads. But that has changed!
The Boost Post button used to be known as the ‘Donate to Facebook’ button. It initially offered poor targeting and was really not worth the money. However, it’s recently had an overhaul and offers a good amount of targeting capability. It’s easy to use and you can commit anything from £1 a day for a duration to promote your post. I use this quite a lot now when I have something specific I want to share with my followers. Try it out!
Experiment with $10 and see where it gets you – I recommend trying it on a post selling prints or some other product. You never know, you may just make a profit.
I love Twitter. When I first started using it I was highly skeptical. Why would anyone want to post a load of Facebook statuses that are limited to 140 characters? But after a few years of having a fairly dead account, I realized its potential.
Twitter is not really a place for image sharing, but a place for networking. It’s a strange limbo of social acceptance where it is perfectly fine to jump in on someone’s conversation and talk to strangers.
It’s surprisingly easy to meet new people in the industry and have them follow you. Then you’re in their feed, and they’ll see what you have to say every day.
I’ve met a host of people on Twitter, and am still meeting more and more to this day. I think it is invaluable for someone who is serious about a career in photography or media. That probably goes for many other industries too, however. It’s just a plenty of potential connections.
If you aren’t registered on Twitter, then sign up. You can even hook it up to post automatically from your Facebook Page too, which takes off the pressure of juggling multiple social media accounts should you be limited in time.
Instagram is something I’ve toyed with briefly but never really committed to. My lack of dedication to Instagram comes because of the inability to include external links anywhere but underneath your name on your page. Any links you include in the descriptions of photos won’t create a hyperlink and can’t be clicked. This is a frustration should you want to take people away from the app and onto your website.
Instagram is a totally photo-orientated platform; to post anything you have to include a photo. I know of a large number of photographers doing very well from Instagram. They’ve racked up 100,000s of followers, and have had numerous business opportunities come from it. But getting this many followers takes a long time and a lot of hard work. Some general best practices I’ve picked up are:
- Post once or twice a day
- Make sure to use hashtags
- Include a punchy, attractive description with emojis to spice it up where appropriate
- Create a short but effective bio line for your profile, explaining what you do and who you are
- Choose your profile photo carefully, and stick to it. This is what you’ll be identified by in people’s feeds. It’s not good to change this too often at all.
It’s worth also noting that there are many ‘photo hubs’ on Instagram. These are accounts with huge numbers of followers that will repost the best of photos that are tagged with a specific hashtag unique to their group. The repost gets you some new followers and is a good way to building up an audience quickly.
Something I am starting to see come to life in the photography world is the use of Snapchat. Photographers are creating accounts which people can follow, and they post straight from the field onto it. It allows people to see behind the scenes and get a daily feed of what they are up to. It’s a great way to build on that feeling of a personal relationship your follower has with you.
Snapchat allows people to feel like they are with you on your shoots. It let’s them see how you work and get a unique insight into your photography. It’s something I will be looking to utilize in the future, once I am graduated from university and there is no risk of accidentally posting a drunken Snapchat from a night club on a professional account!
Social media is powerful, but it is a marathon and not a sprint. Don’t expect to create a profile and instantly have thousands of followers. You need to post regularly, with good quality content and not spam. Don’t beg for shares, don’t beg for purchases, and don’t beg for likes. It just takes consistent, genuine posts to organically create your audience. Unless of course you’ve won the lottery, then go crazy and spend thousands to speed up the process!