A Social Media Roadmap for Photographers

We all know how great Instagram is by now and that it’s the most valuable platform for photographers to build an audience, but it’s also very much our comfort zone. Sharing photos is fun & easy, but how much of the interaction you are getting is from other photographers and how much from paying clients.


The answer to that question would entirely depend on your content strategy and how you built your followers but that’s not the focus of this article. Today I want to challenge you to think beyond Instagram and consider how you can use other social networks as part of your marketing mix.

The number of social media platforms out there can be overwhelming and the thought of keeping them all up-to date is crippling which is why many photographers just take their latest work and spam it across all of them. This is the social media equivalent of that old sales analogy, flinging shit at the wall to see what sticks.

To use social media as a marketing tool you need to appreciate the nuances of each different platform and learn to tailor your content for specific platforms.

Let’s take a look at the big four and discuss how they differ in function and content.

Facebook

Facebook is the daddy of social networks so seems as good a place to start as any.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I spat my dummy out when they started changing their algorithms and only a fraction (I believe around 16%) of my fans were actually seeing the posts I made. In fact as you can see for yourself if you choose, I didn’t bother posting to Facebook for months at a time and even then only sharing links to other places.

I’ve now accepted the fact that Facebook as an organic platform for building an audience is history but started to see the light in it’s current competitive advantage.

It is the most sophisticated form of targeted marketing the world has ever seen and delivers these tools to you for a ridiculously low cost.

My advice for Facebook is to use it as your content hub (or a second website) and try to post as much native content as possible.

Have a new fashion film or behind the scenes on YouTube you want to promote? Cut a short trailer and upload it directly on Facebook with a link to continue watching on YouTube.

Written a new article to help your clients on your blog? You might not know this but since Nov 2011 you’ve had 60,000 characters to play with in your status updates, so try cross-posting it as long form content directly in your timeline with a link to your newsletter sign-up at the bottom. Just remember to use an attractive image header for the post too.

Shot a new editorial you would like to share in full? Facebook is a fantastic place to show off your uncropped work and the ability to organise shoots into albums is really helpful.

Facebook ALWAYS prefers you to publish media natively and doing so will increase your post reach but it will still be lackluster. That is why it’s at this point I like to get my wallet out!

Now you might think like I did for a long time, I’m not paying for views, why should I when their not even showing all my fans my posts, the crooks. I’ve come to realise however that this is cutting my nose of to spite my face as the days of amassing large revenue from free social marketing are coming to an end, it’s time to adapt or die.

When you have created valuable content that you would like potential clients to see it would be stupid not to take advantage of Facebooks powerful data-mining and insanely specific targeting features to promote your posts.

I’m not saying you should do this for every post, but if you’ve just spent the time writing a 1500 word article on “content marketing for fashion brands” then it’s in your best interest to make sure as many fashion brands as possible read it and sign up to your newsletter. With Facebook you can tailor your posts audience with minimal investment to make sure that is exactly who reads it. Forget followers, EVERYONE can be targeted on Facebook to really grow your reach!

As an experiment for this article I uploaded one of my 60 second “Touch of Grunge” fashion films and then paid a measly £3 to boost the post for 24 hours using the auto targeting option that show’s it to fans & friends of fans that it’s algorithm predicts will be an engaged audience.

Here are the results:

Organic post reach 349

Organic video views 43

Paid post reach 2,074

Paid video views 632

For comparison, after 24 hours the same video had just 9 views on YouTube!

It’s time to stop thinking of Facebook as an organic social network and start thinking of them as the greatest data company of all time for marketers. This is the place you want to place your most valuable content written or produced for your potential clients (not other photographers) and then use their insanely powerful voodoo to ensure your target audience see it.

Instagram

With over 300 million active monthly users it’s the place that everybody gets to play “professional photographer”, so as professional photographers we really need to bring our A-game!!

Visual of Personal Instagram 

This is why I try to keep my images curated, showing only my best work or shots I feel work well on this platform.

Whilst a lot of people have had success using Instagram as a personal diary, a professional account isn’t the place for food porn and selfies. Slightly more controversial, I’d argue one step further that it’s no longer the place for behind the scenes either!

I have experimented a lot with Instagram recently and even played about with quote cards as I know how popular these can be to help brands build their audience but when I looked at the engagement levels it was clear that’s not what people followed me for and the first rule of content marketing is to give your audience the content they desire!

Instagram is the platform best suited to showing-off your talent and drawing a line in the sand for your aesthetic. Show your best work and only show the type of work you want to shoot more off!

 

Snapchat

The new kid on the block for many, Snapchat does one thing better than any other social network. It demands your followers full attention.

When someone chooses to watch your snaps they are fully engaged with the content without distraction and it is the perfect platform for connecting with your followers beyond your work alone.

This is where you show them your personality and the life behind the lens. This is where you take them on your adventures and share your behind the scenes. Snapchat is a private social network and it’s “here today, gone tomorrow” content gives your followers the feeling of being part of an exclusive club rather than other platforms where your content lives forever and any tom, dick or harry can see it.

With it’s video functionality it also gives you a low-barrier entry point to the world of vlogging. Whilst sharing your personality and experiences through photos is great for connecting, doing so with video and speaking directly to your followers will make that connection much stronger.

No one expects the content on Snapchat to have high-production values either. It’s fast & authentic that wins the day here.

Also, if your really bursting at the seams to show off your selfies or latest meal after banning them from Instagram, your perfectly fine to do so on Snapchat. Just keep it real!

Remember there is no discover feature built into Snapchat for finding new followers so a quick tip would be to shamelessly promote your account wherever you can. So you can Snap my ghost now to see how I use Snapchat myself for micro-vlogging.

 
 

Twitter

I nearly didn’t include Twitter as it’s fallen from the branches in recent years but there are still a couple of things that make it a strong platform for us to use.

Firstly, don’t think of this as a place for sharing your photography like on Instagram. Even with the improvements they’ve made for image content, it’s not a patch on that and so there is no point trying to use it as such.

Twitter is a listening platform that allows you to engage in conversation with anybody you’d like, plain & simple.

What I mean by this is, you can search the whole of Twitter for discussions to chime in on or you can follow people you would like to meet and listen to what they’re saying, ready to jump in on the conversation when you have something of value to add to it.

It’s been best described as the cocktail party of the internet and everyone is invited. Treat it like the biggest networking event you’ve ever been to and apply the same principles of politeness you would in real life. Introduce yourself, add value to the conversation and attend with the goal of making partnerships, not sales.

But what if the people I would like to meet are not on Twitter? Whilst many visual creative types may not bother with the platform anymore, I find writers still love it and have used it with great success to meet magazine editors & PR contacts.

As a side note, it’s also a great news aggregate for keeping up with stories in the industry.

 

Adam Marc Williams