Social Media 101 for Photographers
The dawn of social media opened up brand new possibilities for growing an independent photography business. It’s a marketing approach that is accessible to any business and can be seen around the world! But with all the benefits of a new promotional outlet comes uncertainty in navigating a unique territory—you’re not just advertising your services, you’re engaging with people in real time.
To get you started on the road to online marketing success, Richard is breaking down the basics of social media for your business! There's a lot of info here, so we recommend a quick read-through, and then "refreshers" in the future to help you on your social media journey.
Choose Your Platforms Wisely
There are hundreds of social media sites out there. So, it’s important to choose which ones you want to have a presence on—concentrating your efforts on a few strategically chosen sites is better than spreading yourself thin across a whole bunch of platforms. In order to maximize your social efforts, think about the features & functions of a site and, more importantly, where the audience you’re trying to reach is most likely to be.
Quick tip: Currently, Google+, Facebook, and Twitter engagement (liking, commenting, sharing, etc.) is the most influential in search engine optimization (increasing the rank your site is listed at on a search engine, also known as SEO). So, even if these platforms aren’t a perfect fit for you, try to include at least one of them in your social media presence.
Business Accounts vs Personal Accounts
The social side of social media can blur the line between “professional” and “personal”. It’s actually a good thing to show off your personality on your business account—social media is meant to exhibit the more relatable, human side of a business. But, in order to maintain the integrity of your brand and business goals, it’s really important to clearly define if a social media account is for business or personal use. Reserve those pics from Friday night at the bar or references to an inside joke with your bestie for a strictly personal account. All of the personal photos you DO post on your business account—even that iPhone pic of your sleeping cat—should look like a professional photographer took them, because, guess what? That’s what you are!
Quick tip: No matter what social media account you’re using, remember that absolutely anything you post online could be seen by anyone (yes, even if you delete something, you never know who took a screenshot). That means future clients, employers, industry influencers, publications, etc—they all might deny you opportunities based on your momentary lapse in judgment five years ago on Facebook. So, be careful what you post online!
Choose the Right Handle
What’s in a name? A whole lot! So, choose your social media handles wisely. First, keep it professional; it may have been adorable when your spouse nicknamed you “bunny”, but you’ll have trouble looking credible to potential clients with a social media handle like “LilBunnyPhotog57”. Second, choose a handle that is easily associated with your name or your business name by past, present, and future clients. Try to keep your handles as consistent as possible across all the social media platforms you are using—this will make it easier for people to find you as they transition from site-to-site.
It can be tempting to up and change your handle whenever the mood strikes, but STOP! Before changing your handle, consider if there are publications, vendors, loyal clients, etc. who like to share your posts or refer you to others and now might have a hard time finding you or crediting your work. Richard can speak firsthand on how much harder it becomes to feature a photog’s image if they’ve changed their handle!
Quick tip: Make a list of ideal handles, including minor variations, in case some of them have already been claimed.
Define Your Goals…
The end-goal of marketing a business is always to make money—that’s just what a business is. Beyond that, social media marketing goals in particular center on brand awareness and community engagement. So, it’s important to outline objectives that pertain specifically to social media—what particular things can you achieve online in addition to the other actions you’re taking to grow your business? The most beneficial goals you can set are ones that: 1) are precisely defined, and 2) are measurable, so you know if you are achieving them or not.
Quick tip: There are lots of apps to help you stay efficient and track your progress... many for free! You'll have to try them out to see what works best for your workflow and goals, but a few of Richard's faves are 1) Later, for scheduling Instagram posts in advance to save time and stay organized, 2) Hootsuite, for scheduling posts on different social sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, with real-time alerts and some analytics, and 3) Simply Measured, for analyses on followers and content performance.
…and Structure Your Actions
The more clearly outlined your goals are, the easier it is to formulate action steps that help achieve them. It’s that simple.
Let’s take a look at three different social media goals and action steps a photographer might have to give you an idea of what we mean:
Goal: gain exposure to potential high-end, big-spend bridal clients.
Action Steps: target this client-base by posting only your very best, fine art wedding photos, engage and connect with other high-end vendors and publications on social media.
Goal: show off your technical acumen.
Action Steps: blog on related subjects to demonstrate your industry intelligence and link via social sites, seek out and participate in x-amount of related conversations on social media/forums, share behind-the-scenes content that highlights your knowledge and methodology on shoots.
Goal: make clients feel comfortable about working with you.
Action Steps: post footage of what happens during a shoot so potential clients know what to expect, reveal your personality/demeanor so potential clients feel like they already know you, talk about posing techniques and being natural in front of the camera.
Quick Tip: Establishing your goals and actions steps will be the hardest part of marketing on social media. Why? Because there is no formulaic way to set or achieve your objectives; your game plan will always be unique to you. Don’t be afraid to experiment and reevaluate your goals and methods based on what you find works for you!
You’ll probably be posting a lot of photos because, well, you’re a photographer. But, don’t overlook the value of the accompanying text! No matter what type of caption you choose to include—an anecdote about the shoot, an inspirational quote, the title of the image, a few words describing the image’s content, etc.—the wording should reflect the tone of your brand. Also, remember that social media is a reciprocal business, so put out that positive juju by including credits or shout-outs, every single time, and watch the love circle right back 'atcha!
Quick Tip: Besides photos, URL links seriously help boost social media engagement, so try to post content with a link back to your website/blog in the text! You can use websites like Ow.ly or Google URL Shortener to minimize the amount of characters in the web address.
Let’s say you’re following a business on a social site, and they post three images a day, every single day. Then, they go a whole week without posting. You might start to wonder if they’ve permanently left the social scene, or even suddenly closed their doors. Adversely, let’s pretend you’re following a business that only posts once a week, but that’s okay because their posts are great! What if they started blowing up your feed with 10 posts a day? You’d probably get annoyed that you had to sift through all of that just to spot the content you find relevant.
Treat your followers the way you’d want to be treated, and be a consistent marketer. Whether it’s three times a day, three times a week, or three times a month, try to keep a steady schedule so viewers know what to expect.
Quick tip: Pay attention to the best times of day and days of the week to post in order to reach the most followers. Analytics on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter can tel you when your network is most active online.
Part of being “social” is participating in conversations and responding to comments—communication is a two-way street. If you’re spitting out content but not reciprocating engagement (whether it is on your social page or others’ pages) then you are missing out on one of the most useful parts of social media!
The more followers you have, the more difficult it can be to spot when someone is reaching out to you. Don’t worry, just do your best and arm yourself with some “best practices” that will work for your business. Because the truth is, you won’t be able to respond to every single remark on the worldwide web—BUT, if you can learn to spot the statements/conversations that warrant engagement, and you know the kind of responses you want to provide in a given situation ahead of time, you’ll be better prepared to #sharethelove with as many folks as possible online.
Quick Tip: Dealing with negative feedback on social media can be tricky—know when NOT to respond. Empty commentary like “you suck” and “this photo is ugly” doesn’t need a response; what could you possibly say that would improve the situation? For valid complaints, remember to 1) set a calm and positive tone with your response, 2) don’t delete comments from your page unless a comment is abusive, inappropriate, or spam, and 3) acknowledge the issue on social media, but try to transition the detailed conversations out of the public eye to private messages, emails, etc.
Work Those #hashtags
Hashtags are an awesome tool on social media. Hashtags are basically searchable labels; their primary use is to find content across a social network relating to a specific theme (like #filmphotography, #blackandwhite, or #richardphotolab). They can also be used as a kind of afterthought to your post for funsies, usually something humorous or catchy (like #bestdayever, #sorrynotsorry, or #thattimewewroteablogaboutsocialmedia).
So, why not just load your posts up with the most popular hashtags? If a hashtag is spotted by 500 random people, but not one of them will become a client or help you grow your business in other ways, it is not nearly as useful as the hashtag that was only spotted by 15 people, but people who were part of your target audience. Find out what hashtags have a healthy balance of exposure and relevance in both your industry and your consumer-base to get more out of your social efforts.
Manage Your Time
Let’s be honest, we’ve all been hijacked by the time-suck that is social media—one minute you’re liking a photo you got tagged in, and the next minute you’re 100 photos deep into your friend’s yoga instructor’s mom’s Instagram account devoted to her knitting projects. Even when you’re not getting distracted, social media marketing can be a full-time job if you let it. So, always remember to weigh the benefits that you get out of social media with the amount of time you put into it. In the business world, this is known as your return on investment or objective.
Quick Tip: Not sure how much time you should be spending on social media? Ask yourself how much your time is worth—how much do you get paid hourly on the average shoot (including pre-shoot and post-shoot time/expenses)? If the numbers don’t add up, don’t be afraid to par down. Even just ten minutes a day on social media can be effective enough for some businesses.
As social media continues to evolve, photogs will need to evolve with it. Social media lives in the here and now, and what works today won’t always work tomorrow. Carry these foundations with you, but be ready to adapt and keep your eye on this ever-changing medium!