Social media for the photographer
When I began speaking to photographers about social media in 2007, I was faced with many doubters, folded arms and prove-it attitudes. Those who listened got a head-start on the revolution that, once again, changed our industry.
Any more, using social media is not an option for photographers. It’s how you share your style, skills and story with the world. It’s how you become known in our field. In the past, it took money and a lot of time knocking down doors to find people to hire you. Today, the goal is the opposite. Now, your task is to make it easy for them to find you. An online presence and social media are how you do it.
Of course, social media is not the only way to build your photography business. Nonetheless, the photographer starting out or an established photographer who wishes to grow their business must place social media as a priority in their marketing plan. If you want big money for your work, the name of the game is branding and relationships. Often, it doesn’t matter if your competition has greater skills or the coolest website. If you have a strong and trustworthy brand, chances are you will get the bigger jobs.
Don’t fear the words your brand, or personal branding. They are common buzz words you hear in social media. All branding means in social media is your reputation development or management. When people see your photographs, name or logo – what do they think and feel? Your job within the social media is to guide your reputation.
Below your will find my social media story, how to develop a social media plan, and the tools to help make social media work for you. Social media is time-consuming, no doubt. If you have lots of money, there are other ways to earn attention for your work, and gain new clients. If you don’t have the resources, then your time is the payment to attract the attention of the people you want to know you and your work.
My social media story
Why share my story? I believe it’s important to show you how I’ve benefited from using social media. You may not use social media the same way, but my example will spur a few ideas that you can apply to your career.
Lindsay Adler and I wrote the first book on digital marketing and social media for photographers in 2010. The Linked Photographers Guide to Online Marketing and Social Media. I’m amazed that, with all the changes over the last five years how well the basic concepts in the book hold up. I still use the same techniques today to build my photography and marketing companies. I credit my activity in social media for how I got book deals, speaking gigs, my largest clients, and amazing personal opportunities.
When people talk about social media as the new thing online, I like to quote my acquaintance Mitch Joel, who asks, “When was the web not social?” The web was designed for communication, the only thing that has changed are the tools.
The tools we use today are much better than our choices ten years ago.
In the early days, I hung out on internet bulletin boards, and primitive chatrooms. I chatted and left messages for people around the world. I recall waiting for the slow responses to my thoughts and questions. I learned how to build relationships without hearing a voice or seeing the face of people I did not know on the other side of the green blinking cursor.
By the mid 1990’s, the world wide web was taking hold, and for $2.95 per hour, I could connect to a social world called AOL (America On Line). AOL was neither the internet, nor the world wide web, but a social world (like Facebook). Often, it was a dark world of people exploring in ways only an anonymous handle would allow them to do. Over time, I began to make friends, and eventually I made my first online business connection, in 1997. Her name is Janice, and we met in an AOL Michigan chatroom. She was an account executive for a small design firm and not long after our online meeting, Janice invited me to tour their office. Almost twenty years later we are still friends, and she continues to hire me for photography projects.
Some will recall that access to the internet was not always easy. At times, it was painful to dial into the overloaded networks via a 14,400-baud modem. I remember the sound clearly. The sound in the video below still haunts me.
Audio over the Internet (Podcasting)
I began podcasting in 1999 by sharing creative business advice on my rosh.com website. Back then, it wasn’t called podcasting: it was audio over the internet; there was no “Pod.” I used the Real Audio system to produce my clips. The technology wasn’t where I wanted it to be to create the type of show I envisioned, so I stepped back after about six months of production. However, I am proud I got in the game early. Listen below to an example of my 1999 creative business tips.
Your Value - Download This Episode
(The last part of the audio was added later when I bundled the series)
Over the next six years, I published an online and print magazine, created small media-related websites, developed my SEO skills for my photography business, and spent a lot of time on assignment for newspapers and magazines.
My photography representative (and friend) April attended a seminar on Podcasting in the spring of 2007, and she recommended I try it. The technology was finally available, and my buddy Dean and I launched a podcast called Prosperous Artists the next day. During that time, I began to understand where the technology was headed. I listened and learned from Podcasts by C.C. Chapman, Mitch Joel and John Jantsch. All were early podcasters, with excellent information and a good year or two of experience ahead of me. Dean and I recorded about 140 shows over two years. You can listen to an example below.
The Brain Game - Download This Episode
In February of 2008, I gave a talk to my local American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) chapter about social media. One of the national directors, Ben Coleman, attended, and suggested I attend the upcoming Strictly Business II conference, to be held in Chicago. He suggested that I connect with the ASMP leadership – specifically, Susan Carr, Judy Herrmann and Richard Kelly. I made the connections and their support was extremely valuable.
In June of 2008 I flipped the switch to launch my solo podcast, New Media Photographer. I did this to help give authority to my ultimate goals of earning a book deal, landing a digital consulting gig, and traveling the world speaking — specifically eyeing Australia. I didn’t start blogging on the site until after my podcast took root.
Within six months, I was on the road speaking about social media for photographers. Yet, with all the focus on my podcast, it was Twitter that put me on the map.
Social Media And My First Book
I joined Twitter in June of 2007, eleven months after it was launched. It was an amazing time of social media connections and discovery. The closet comparison we have today is how people are developing their voices on Periscope. I made many connections, including a photographer who joined Twitter in early 2009. His handle is @photojack and he was fascinated with the new social technology. I took him under my wing, as I did many others trying to get their arms around the new social media. It turns out @photojack is Jack Hollingsworth, at the time one of the top stock photographers in the world. An engaging man with a lot of connections.
During this time the economy was falling apart and the photography business in Detroit was at Great Depression levels. I knew I had to develop more opportunities. I visited my client Greg, and shared the work I was doing in social media. He was a one-man digital marketing shop looking to grow, and I advised that he needed a social media consultant. Fortunately, Greg agreed.
By the fall of 2009, @photoJack invited me to Photo Plus Expo as a guest on his panel about social media. He even organized the first Tweet-up held a PPE. A tweet-up is where Twitter friends meet, in-person.
One of my Twitter followers was a young recent photography school graduate with about 250 followers. Her name is @lindsayadler. She was very enthusiastic about the upcoming Tweet-up, and the opportunity to meet both Jack Hollingsworth and me at PPE. She had great energy and, without hesitation, I immediately interviewed her for my podcast.
A few months later, Lindsay Tweeted me, asking if she could interview me for her up coming book on social media for photographers. This is the same book that I was writing during the previous summer, the difference being that she had a publisher.
A young photographer, just out of art school, wants to write a book on how to market photography? I had many choices about how to approach my new competition. Fortunately, I made the right move and I took the social media approach; support and champion her project with enthusiasm. And, of course, I agreed to the interview.
In late December of 2009, I received a Tweet. I remember it clearly. It was evening, and I was sitting on my living room couch. It was from Lindsay asking, “What are you doing?” She informed me that she needed help with her book. It was past deadline, and her co-author was no longer on the project. She told me I could do whatever I felt we needed to do to complete the book in eight weeks. We got it done, and our first book was published May 2010.
A Tweet That Took Me Around The World.
One night before bed, I checked Twitter. I noticed a few new followers and I took a moment to review their profiles. One was a photographer @ from Australia with less than 15 followers at the time. I noticed his involvement with booking speakers for the Australian Institute of Professional Photographers (AIPP). So, I thanked him for following me, and suggested if there was anything I could do for the people of Australia, please let me know. He replied quickly asking if I would make the trip to Australia. As a direct result of this exchange, in the fall of 2011, I landed in Adelaide, Australia, to speak to AIPP about digital marketing and social media.
What Good Is Social Media For My Photography Business?
You may think, “Great, so you accomplished your goals, but how did it help your photography career?”
I’m often asked if spending so much time on social media, writing blog posts, and recording podcasts and video actually results in revenue from photography?
Even before I jumped into social media, I understood the value of search engine optimization (SEO). I quickly noticed that, the more active I was in social media, the higher my photography portfolios were being ranked in search results. Being active in social media helped to attract links from national photography organizations, websites, magazines, and blogs. These authoritative links, my social media branding and activity online has made it easier for photography buyers to find me. All the information found on the internet about my work builds trust as a professional because, there is so much accessible information. this means that my reputation is not a mystery.
In 2014, I earned my largest sustained account ever through search. During the first six months of this year, I added three well-known brands to my roster of clients, because I’m easy to find online.
There are many ways to employ social media. Let’s explore how you can use social media to grow your photography business.
Social Media For Your Photography Business
Your social media solar system
A social media plan involves consistent publishing. I like to refer to my social media plan as a solar system. In the center of the solar system is my website (sun), orbiting my website is my blog. The blog is my personality, style, ideas and opinion. A little further out, I have my inner planets, which are multimedia sites such as Flickr and YouTube. On the far edges of my solar system are my outer planets, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The outer planet social media sites are where I regularly engage and network with the social media community. I share information from my inner planets, blog and website. I also share other people’s content that my followers might find interesting.
The goal is to drive qualified prospects gradually toward my website. My website is the only place I ask for the sale. I design the rest of my solar system to educate, inform, and develop my reputation as an expert in my field. This activity earns me links, mentions of my name, and the sharing of my work.
Before you kick your social media into high gear, you need to make sure that your website is in order. Does it represent your best work? Is it a modern design and easy to use? You can spend hours sharing your work online, building relationships, and developing yourself as an expert. However, if your website isn’t effective; your efforts and opportunities are lost seconds after a prospect clicks the link to your site.
Your social media solar system doesn’t need to be complex. Once you are confident with your website, set up a blog, one inner planet such as YouTube and one outer planet like Facebook. Decide on a realistic schedule and consistently publish your work and information people you wish to follow you will like.
How to get work through social media
Today, I can turn on my iPad, click on Periscope, and share my thoughts via live video streaming with people around the world. When I release this blog post, the headline and link to my blog post will be listed in a media stream of about twenty-thousand people. Those people have the opportunity to share my blog post with thousands more instantly. It’s amazing how Information can travel the world in just seconds.
I attribute my high search engine rankings to my social media activity. These rankings do affect my income. However, very few new clients have come directly from social media in my case. I said new clients. However, Social media is an excellent way to keep in touch with existing clients. It is a fact that, the more connected your are to a client, the greater the chance they will offer you new opportunities. This scenario happens all the time. Current clients call me for projects because they saw my name in their social feeds. If you understand business, you know that developing more business from current clients is easier and more cost-effective than earning new ones.
Many photographers, especially wedding and family photographers, receive referrals from their current clients through social media. Asking seniors to share an image on their Facebook page leads to more visibility among their peers and parents.
Photographers who sell their work online develop distribution channels through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. They also collect emails on their website by offering special opportunities for free stuff to the social media community. These emails are in turn used to direct market to people interested in their photography.
Social media is a powerful tool for networking, communication, customer service, publishing, distribution, and keeping up-to-date on the information you want to know.
LinkedIn: Knowledge is power
If I told you fifteen years ago that I had a way for you to easily connect with the prospects you want to know, you might be interested in hearing more. If I said you could place the name of a company in a search box and the names and positions of the employees would be listed on your computer screen — you would demand to know more. If I said, I can also show you whom you know who may have relationships with these people. This gives you an opportunity to ask for a warm referral; I believe that, with access to career-enhancing information, you would have reached for you wallet, and told me to name my price.
No worries, it’s all available today. We call it LinkedIn and it’s free.
After I wrote my first self-published book, I decided to pitch it to a publisher. I’d always wanted to work with Wiley. I went to LinkedIn and typed the title of the person I wanted to know at Wiley. After two searches, I found the right individual. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a Premium account, so I couldn’t connect there.
I took the Editor’s name, and proceeded to my Facebook page. I typed her name in the Facebook search box and quickly found her. I sent a message asking if she was the right person to talk to about the book I wanted to pitch. She replied that she was and to please send my book over.
During the next few weeks the team at Wiley reviewed my book ideas. Ultimately, they decided the book was not a good fit. Fortunately, they followed up asking if I would write a different book for them. I accepted, and over the next eighteen months, I wrote two Wiley Digital Field Guides on the Canon Rebel series. Not bad for a LinkedIn search on a whim.
Who do you want to know?
Facebook is not dead!
I regularly hear how Facebook, despite its one-and-a-half billion users, is dying. Why? Because the millennials and younger generations don’t use or like it. The fact is they don’t like email either, and email is stronger than ever. Millennials don’t use Facebook or email for communication with their friends. It’s a different story when they become adults, and hit the business world. Then, they become email experts, because it’s mandatory. I like to explain that it took a long time to get Grandma and Aunt Jane on Facebook, and they are not leaving for the next shiny object. So, when millennials want to connect with family, they hop back on Facebook.
Facebook is about friends, family, cat videos and that uncle who thinks President Obama was planted here by aliens. It’s your private world. When it comes to business, people who know you and like you are about the best resource for referrals and opportunities.
This doesn’t mean you spend your time selling to family. However, sharing your awesome photography is a great way to remind people what you do. You’re lucky, in that friends and family like to see your photography, and read about the fun things you do. Both photography and video are cool, and travel well on Facebook.
Do I need a Facebook Business Page?
If you don’t want clients in your personal business, then the answer is yes. I’m friends with a few clients on my personal Facebook account. Most of them are clients I’ve known for years and I consider them friends.
If you plan on advertising on Facebook, then opening a Facebook page is a good idea. The organic reach is now less than 5% for most business page accounts. You can increase the percentage of people who see your work in their personal newsfeed, but you must be engaging, active, and provide excellent content. Otherwise, you have to buy your way in, through Facebook advertising.
The Value of Twitter
Twitter is a media stream. You follow people, organizations, and brands that share information that interests you. Use Twitter to gain knowledge and the latest information on the things you care about. Contribute to Twitter with quality information, ideas, thoughts and links that the people who follow you will find interesting.
If you want a certain type of person following you, such as an architect, then consider sharing information about architecture. Share what the people you want to follow you will appreciate. Today, it’s much easier to share photography and video on Twitter.
Twitter is an excellent distribution channel for your blog and content marketing efforts. It’s also one of the best social media platforms to develop your reputation as an expert in your field.
Posting to Twitter three to five times a day is a good average. If I have particularly good information to share, I’ll go as high as ten, not including retweets and engagement.
Pinterest is for Inspiration
Pinterest is a highly visual platform. People use Pinterest for inspiration and good ideas. Think about your images and how they might inspire people. Create boards with exciting themes, and add to them as you create new relevant images. Keep everything you post to Pinterest at the highest quality possible.
Instagram for Photography Rock Stars
Instagram is an excellent social media platform to share your images. This social media service built its reputation by offering filters that people can apply to images taken with their smart phones. Often, these filters make average photographs look spectacular, and it’s fun to experiment with these filters. However, it’s not required for you to use them to share your photographs.
Instagram is a service that demands a high volume of photography for success. If you wish to earn a following on Instagram, you should post five to ten times a day, if not more. Use hashtags related to the photograph and engage other users. Make friends by liking, commenting and sharing other people’s stuff.
YouTube for Everything
YouTube is one of the most important social media platforms. It is host to the second-largest search engine, behind Google, its parent company. Use video for promotion, eduction, how-to, behind-the-scenes, question-and-answer, and entertainment. Video gets bigger every year, and it must be part of your social media plan.
New apps such as Periscope, Meerkat, and Blab continue to support the live streaming revolution. Still, for best results and longevity, repurpose the streaming content by uploading it to YouTube.
Posting a high volume of video isn’t necessary. First, focus on quality, and then build volume. It’s not uncommon for a video to earn new life and viewers over time.
Below is a small list of tools that can help you with your social media. There are new tools in development everyday. As you find new tools, test them. You don’t have to be an expert of every social media tool. Use the tools that benefit you and solve the problems you have.
If you think it might be nice if you could do something specific, search for a tool or application. Chances are, someone else had the same need, and created a solution.
Hootsuite: This is one of the standard social media scheduling tools. It has been around for a while and continues to offer additional support services. I like to use the Hootlet in my browser. When I find a blog post that I like, I click the Hootlet icon and a box pops up allowing me share the post at that moment in my specific social media, or schedule the delivery for later.
This feature is helpful because I’m generally reading blogs at one point during the day and I don’t want to share everything at the time. Scheduling is not a bad thing if you are prepared to check in with your social media during the day to respond and thank people who are sharing your posts, tweets and status updates.
Buffer: This is another popular social media sharing site. It has many of the same features as Hootsuite. Each platform has its strong points. For the most part, the one you use should be based on your personal preference.
Google Analytics: It’s important to understand the value of each of the social media platforms you use. If you share your photographs on Twitter, and find that everyone who visits from Twitter bounces off your website (leaves immediately), then maybe Twitter is not the right platform for you. If you find that visitors from Pinterest hang out for a while and view multiple pages, then you might want to invest more time on Pinterest.
Canva: This is a web-based tool that combines the best elements of Photoshop and design templates to create social media memes, banners and well designed documents.
Buzzsumo: What is working on the web? This tools helps you figure out what content to create that may spread. Type a keyword or topic, and the tool shows you the topics the have earned the most reach. Pay special attention to the headlines of winning content.
Evernote: This tool has many uses. One of the main things I use Evernote for is storing information for future content sharing and my podcasts. If I have an idea, I keep it in Evernote. If I see a good article to reference on my podcast, I send it to Evernote.
Hemmingwayapp: A big part of social media is writing. Many photographers are not confident in their writing skills. This web application helps people with their writing by reviewing reading levels and grammar, such as whether a post is written in the active voice. It’s worth a look.
Social Rank: If you need a more insight into who your most valuable followers are on social media, specifically Twitter or Instagram, this is a good site for insightful information.
Topsy: Who is sharing or talking about you? Are you interested in a specific topic? Looking for social intelligence? Topsy is a good stop in your research process.
WordPress: Blogging is an important part of social media development. WordPress is the go-to place for blogging support. I always recommend WordPress to photographers starting a blog.
Last Social Media Tips
How much time?
The number-one question people ask me when I speak on social media is how much time should I spend engaging in social media? This answer is, the more the better, and be consistent. Honestly, more might not be better for you personally, but consistency is always valuable.
The fact is the more time you spend in social media, the more opportunities and relationships you develop. However, there is a point of diminishing returns, and it is up to you to figure when that time arrives. For example, if you spend all of your time earning new relationships with people who want you to photograph for them, but never set up a time to meet, let alone do the actual work — your efforts are wasted.
It’s more than posting
Posting to Facebook every day is not social media. It’s posting information on a social platform. If you don’t follow-up and connect with people online, you are leaving the social out of social media. If you want success in social media, you must be social.
Go out of your way to share other people’s work and engage with people outside of your inner circle.
Ask yourself who do you want to connect with to develop new opportunities, and grow your business. I concede I’m very lucky for all the opportunities social media has given me. Still, none of them would have happened if I hadn’t taken action.
This is long post, and yet I’ve hardly scratched the surface of all the opportunities, ideas, platforms and strategies available through social media. This blog post is social media, too, so let’s keep the questions and discussion going in the comments.