So many photographers have a love/hate relationship with social media. I see posts all the time about photographers just wanting to delete it all. We are constantly checking our engagement numbers, responding to comments and thinking of clever content to maximize our posts. But so often we are disappointed to see our actual social media marketing reach.
As business owners, mothers and people with busy lives, it’s so frustrating to feel like we’re wasting our time with social media marketing. But in this day of technology and connectedness, it would be hard to sustain a photography business without an online presence.
Social media has changed over the years, but its potential audience reach has actually grown. So, while it may seem like we are reaching fewer and fewer people, we actually have the potential to reach more. It’s just that the constantly changing algorithms mean we need to work smarter, not harder. The key to social media is to find the right balance and be strategic.
1. Save time by directing your posts to a specific target market.
It can be frustrating for photographers who have already gained a large following to feel like their work is no longer being seen on social media. But the focus should be on quality over quantity to reach a specific target market. It’s more important to reach the right audience — the people who will actually value and appreciate what you have to offer — rather than a generic mass audience.
You can begin to determine your specific target market by looking at your photography niche. If you photograph families and children, your target audience will be much different than if you shoot seniors or weddings. Or, if you offer mentoring to photographers, your audience will be specific to that market. You need to know who is looking for your services, and then target your posts to those people.
Clearly defining your audience will help you decide which platforms are most valuable to direct your social media marketing efforts. As a family photographer, my target audience is women between the ages of 25 to 45 who have children, an appreciation for the visual arts, and who live within a 50-mile radius of me. I don’t bother to specify an income range because I find that what people value is more important than how much money they make. I use this information to help me decide where, what and when to post.
2. Improve your reach by posting to the social media platforms your target clients visit most.
Now that you know who your target market is, you need to figure out where they interact. Focus most of your efforts on one or two platforms. As a small business owner, you don’t want social media to become overwhelming.
My chosen social media platform is Facebook. I also keep a presence on Instagram, and put a little bit of effort into Google +. Here’s what I think about each of the social media platforms and what they mean for photography audiences.
So many photographers want to delete their Facebook pages. But did you know that the vast majority of your audience is likely spending most of their social media viewing time there? Check out this Pew Research Center study of social media use for this year. If you are in camp “delete Facebook,” this might change your mind.
For photographers, this is a pretty obvious place to invest time since the main focus of Instagram is imagery. While you may not be able to reach the same number of people on Instagram as on Facebook, the algorithms are not as strict as Facebook (yet), so your posts may go further.
If you are marketing your services for photographer education, this is a great place to be since it’s a top choice for photographers. Also, the audience demographic is younger than Facebook, which makes it a good platform choice for those who photograph high school seniors and weddings.
Pinterest is a great platform for photographers looking to market their education services to beginner photographers. Pinterest attracts a lot of DIYers looking for how-to advice.
Honestly, no one is on Google+. But Google is on Google+, which makes it an important platform for SEO. The main reason I keep up with Google+ is to share my blog links, which improves my SEO and Google search ranking.
This is a good place for photographers who do commercial work, real estate photography and business head shots. It’s also great for networking with other local professionals.
Unless your trying to reach teenagers, or possibly high school seniors, Snapchat will probably not earn you a great return for your time investment. Snapchat users tend to be much younger than users on other social media platforms.
You may have luck with Twitter, but I had to let it go. Images are just not the main point of the platform — words are. As a photographer, I want my images to take the place of my words more often than not.
YouTube and Vimeo
These video platforms can be useful for photographers that incorporate videography into their sessions. YouTube currently has a huge number of users subscribing to various channels. I recommend sharing your YouTube or Vimeo links on Facebook or Google +.
How to decide which platform is right for your business:
If you have a website, try using a tracking plug-in to see how users are making their way to your site. For WordPress, the StatCounter plug-in will allow you to track where your audience comes from. I get visits from both Facebook and Instagram, but my client base finds me mostly from Facebook or Google searches. So, while I have a ton of platforms to chose from, I focus efforts where my clients are finding me.
3. Maximize engagement by knowing when and how often to post.
How often you decide to post can vary anywhere from a few times a day to a few times a month. Knowing your audience will help decide what days or times of day to post. Keep in mind, if you post too frequently, people could get sick of seeing you in their feed and stop engaging, or worse yet, start to hide you.
If you are a high end, low volume boutique photographer, you will take fewer clients and need to reach a smaller audience than someone who shoots high volume. The bigger your audience, the more you’ll need to post and engage in order to keep your target audience active. Particularly, those of you marketing to other photographers with education services will want to post more frequently as your audience likely spends quite a bit of time on social media.
Be intentional about your posting times. Most of my audience checks Facebook in the morning before work or in the evening after their kids go to bed. It’s smart to show up when your target market is active. For example, if you shoot high school seniors, posting an image on Sundays for “Senior Sunday” will gain you lots of views.
To support my small business with social media, I don’t need to build a large audience or post all the time. I know when my target market is generally active, and I post during those times. Sure, it would be great to have lots of followers and likes on my work, but the time investment is not worth the return.
If you need to post more frequently and are struggling to keep up with it all, try looking into third parties, like Hootsuite or Tailwind, that allow you to schedule your posts. Some third party apps will even post to social media for you.
4. Avoid burnout by setting limits on your social media time.
There are many studies that show social media use can easily become obsessive compulsive. This will negatively impact your productivity at the very least, and may harm your relationships and mental health at the worst. Digital photographers already spend a lot of time in front of a screen culling and editing images. The temptation to take a quick break and scroll through your newsfeed under the guise of “marketing” or “staying connected” is not only counterproductive, but also bad for your overall wellbeing.
Here are a few ways you can avoid burnout and stop spending so much time on social media marketing:
- Use a third-party app (like Tailwind) to schedule your posts in advance. This way you can spend an hour or two once a week scheduling all of your posts across various platforms.
- Have set times for posting and engaging on social media. Turn off your notifications so you don’t feel compelled to constantly be checking in.
- Keep your phone away from you and have a set office space designated for work and computers so you don’t end up checking engagement while making dinner or when you’re with your family.
- Take breaks from social media. Let your audience know when you’re on break and when you’ll be back. Your followers are taking time away from their lives to engage with you on social media, so communicating with them is not only smart, but considerate.
Apps for balancing your time online
If you find yourself wanting to set limits but struggle to stick to them, there’s an app for that!
Freedom allows you to set schedules to block social media apps from your phone and computer.
Flipd is an app that will send reminders to stay off your phone or it will hide your apps for a predetermined amount of time.
In Moment allows you to track and limit your social media usage.
StayFocusd is an extension for Google Chrome that allows you to restrict your use of certain websites.
Space allows you to track the time spent on your phone and set limits on phone use in general.
5. Find and build a community for accountability and support.
When people engage with your social media posts, those posts are seen by larger audiences. It can be helpful to have a group of photographer friends that will like and comment on your posts (and in turn, you do the same for them). So much of the advice compiled here are tips that I’ve picked up from photographer friends.
I struggled for a long time to find other photographers with similar styles to collaborate with, but joining the Clickin Moms forum and then Click Pro was like having instant access to a huge supportive group of friends. Most of the Instagram loops and Facebook groups I have joined are because of invites I’ve received in the Clickin Moms forum. Having a support system of like-minded individuals for advice and accountability is so important in an industry that can often feel isolating.
Tips for posting on Instagram
1. Use the right hashtags! Hashtag what your clients might be searching for and for hubs that are active and feature images on a regular basis.
2. Utilize the stories feature. You can even choose to keep your favorite stories in your highlights at the top of your feed. This is a great way to be sure your posts are seen, highlight time sensitive information or promote something with a deadline.
3. Participate in Instagram loops. Basically, a group of photographers all post at the same time. Each poster tags one person in the loop so that each photographer has a tag, effectively creating a loop. Followers can click the tags all the way around the circle until they get back to the original post. Often these loops have a theme or a variety of themes and last for a certain number of weeks.
4. Join Follow Friday groups. This typically consists of five people (although it can be a few more or less). Basically, each person creates a grid of images from the other four Instagram feeds and shares the grid, tagging each person in the post on a Friday. This can be a way to gain followers, but also collaborate with other photographers and show community over competition.
Tips for posting on Facebook
1. Post only your best work. Choose one great image rather than posting a bunch of similar images.
2. Tag someone in your images. I like to post one image from my client sessions within the first 24 to 48 hours. I always tag my clients. They are excited to see their pictures and often share or make their sneak peek into a profile photo. Be sure to educate your clients that when you share an image on your business page and tag them, they have to allow it to be seen on their page or Facebook will hide it.
3. Choose your blog images. When posting a blog link, don’t let Facebook choose the image for you. Choose the image yourself (resize it for Facebook), tag someone, and include the blog link in the post or comments.
4. Go live! This one is scary, as often times we prefer to be behind the camera rather than in front of it, but going live on Facebook can bring a lot of viewers and engagement if you do it right.
5. Use Facebook groups. Create a VIP group for clients or fans that you love to work with. Include fans that you know appreciate what you do and want to hear from you.
I’m writing this article as someone who is knee deep in the struggle of finding balance with social media marketing. I hope other photographers reading my research and experience here will be able streamline productivity and get back some of their precious time. Social media can be such a powerful marketing tool and a great place for photographers to share their work. If you have additional tips on how to balance social media use, please share them in the comments!
All photos by Tara Fletcher