If you are a professional photographer and you want to harness the power of the internet to help increase your sales, this is for you. In this article I'll look at using social media to promote your work, in the next we will look at websites and SEO (search engine optimisation) and how to make them work for you.
The world of social media marketing can seem a bit overwhelming, so it's important to first plan a strategy, then to take a disciplined approach to implementing it.
Which Social Media Platforms?
Choosing the right social media outlets for your work is the first step. Promotion on social media takes some time and effort, so you don't want to be wasting time on the wrong ones. Pick a few to start with, you can review how they are working for you and drop or add others further down the road. The best platforms for your business will depend on the areas of photography you specialise in, but below I'll list all those I think should be considered.
For photographers, Facebook is considered particularly suited to promoting wedding, portrait, and local event photography, less so for landscape and nature. However, as Facebook has more than 1.7 billion active users, for that reason alone I believe every business should have a Facebook page. To get started with Facebook, jump to 'How Best To Use Each Platform' section below.
At first, Twitter may not seem like the best platform for photographers - being largely text based - but it's handling of photos has been improved. It's also particularly useful for targeting specific business users, or groups of users interested in a certain topic. This is because the platform allows you to use certain attributes to increase your post's visibility - mentions and hashtags. More details in the next section.
A natural choice for photographers, as it's all about photos. It's aimed at mobile users, and statistics show that engagement rates are high. Until recently, your work had to be shared in a square aspect ratio (annoying when composition is so important), but you can now post photos in portrait and landscape format.
While Facebook is mostly about interacting with family and friends, Google+ is more about connecting with other people who share similar interests. Depending on what type of photography you specialise in, this could work to your advantage - for example if you hold photo workshops for fellow photographers, there are lots of photographers on the network. But the most significant difference between the two platforms is that Facebook is largely a 'closed' network - that's to say most posts within FB are kept there. Whereas with Google+, the content is made searchable over the whole internet, with Google's search engine - not surprisingly- looking on 'Plus content particularly favourably. So if you want to improve your website's SEO (and who doesn't?) I would recommend having a Google+ page, just remember to make sure you link your page to your website, more info on this in the next section below.
Owned by Google and closely integrated with Google+, YouTube has over 900 million unique visitors per month. But what use is a video platform for a stills photographer? See the next section below.
Many photographers steer clear of this platform due to worries about copyright infringement. Once an image is uploaded to the site, you have basically given Pinterest permission to do what they want with your image. The whole idea of Pinterest is that the image can be re-pinned by other users. Once re-pinned, a full sized (or near full sized) duplicate is created. Unlike other social media sharing, these duplicate pins won't necessarily link back to your original, therefore you loose the credit (and any benefit) for your work. Having said that, if you are a portrait or wedding photographer, Pinterest's demographics are worth considering, as around 90% of the user base are female. So you need to consider the risks and potential advantages of publicising on the site.
Basically more like an online CV than a social media site, Linkedin is worth considering if you sell your photography to other businesses, rather than the general public.
How Best To Use Each Platform
Since 2011, Facebook have allowed any user to 'Follow' someone else's personal profile (they see your public posts only), without becoming 'Friends' - provided you have allowed this under 'settings'. Since this change, many photographers have used this method to promote their work on Facebook, without setting up a separate business page. Each method has it's pros and cons - for example, from your personal profile you can post in FB Groups (business pages can't), and it's said that posts on personal profiles have a greater reach, that is, they are shown to a greater percentage of followers than on a business page. However, a business page allows you to use Facebook's analytics tool (Insights) and also to advertise (should you wish), and if you trade under a name other than your own, a page is essential.
So for those reasons, I recommend doing both - allow followers on your personal profile, and set up a Facebook page . It won't mean twice the extra work, simply post to your business page, then share that to your own profile. Remember to set it's visibility to 'Public'
When creating a business page, Facebook will ask what Page type you want - for most I would suggest 'Artist, Band or Public Figure', and then select 'Photographer' from the drop down menu. But if you have a bricks and mortar studio, you may find 'Local Business or Place' works best for you. Make sure you 'optimise' the page info section, that's to say fill in all the sections such as the description, bio etc. Try to include words which potential customers might use to search on Facebook for a photographer like yourself, i.e. the type of photography you specialise in, the area you cover etc.
Next, you need to get followers for your page, to build an audience. It's not just about numbers of course, but generally speaking, the more likes, the more likely it is that your page will be shown in Facebook searches. To get yourself off the ground building likes, send a request to your friends - Facebook provides a quick and easy link to make the request. For all who respond, you could then ask them if they would be good enough to invite their friends to like your page, again Facebook provides a link for them. It helps if you have a lot of 'friends' of course!
Once you have exhausted all your friends, you need to start building likes and engagement organically. Engagement is crucial, people don't want to get bombarded with posts trying to sell them something all the time, they want to interact. It's generally recommended that only about 10 to 20% of your posts should be overtly selling a product. The rest of the time, try to encourage interaction from your followers. Some random ideas for posts to get you started:
Post up your most recent landscape shot and ask people to suggest a title for it. Or hold a caption competition for a suitable photograph.
Share a story (brief), about how a shot was taken, or about a photo shoot.
If you have a photo that's relevant to a trending topic, post it - because the news feed algorithm rewards such posts (and followers are more likely to engage) - just make sure to include an appropriate description or hashtag so it can be found.
Post a photo of a city or other place, and ask followers to name where it is. Most people like to show off their skill!
People love quotes and will often like and share them. Photoshop a good quote over a suitable image and post away.
When posting, don't be afraid to encourage your audience to 'please like & share'! Most importantly of all, when people do comment on a post, like and comment back - make your audience feel appreciated.
Twitter can seem confusing at first, but it's easy to use once you are used to it. As with Facebook, your aim is to attract followers and build an audience. One of the best ways to do this is to try to get your tweets re-tweeted. A re-tweet is basically the equivalent of a share on Facebook - more people will see it than just your own followers. Hopefully they may then start to follow you.
To get an account you need a username, often called a handle, which is your unique identifier on Twitter. It can be up to 14 characters, but the shorter the better as it eats into the 140 character tweet limit for anyone replying to one of your tweets. As I said earlier, the great thing about the platform is being able to target certain groups of users with hashtags, and target specific users with mentions. Hashtags seem to cause the most confusion to new users. Below is an example of mentions and hashtags in action.
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The hashtag #stormhour is used on Twitter by a network of meteorologists, storm chasers and weather enthusiasts. Using that hashtag in a tweet will bring it to their attention, and they will often re-tweet any good weather related picture - potentially putting your picture in front of their 41,000 followers. Hashtags are also used for any trending topic on Twitter, or particular event. For example, typing #USelections2016 in a Twitter search will bring up tweets on that topic that contain that hashtag. So hashtags are basically a way of making a tweet easily searchable for anyone interested in a particular topic.
Mentions are a way of bringing your tweet to the attention of a specific user on the platform. In the screenshot example above, I've typed the username @oneplymouth, an account that promotes the city of Plymouth. They would get a notification of the mention, and will often re-tweet anything that they think would be of interest to their followers.
Just as with Facebook, when someone does interact with you (such as the reply in the tweet example above) make sure you respond!
Instagram are currently rolling out business accounts, but at the time of writing they have yet to reach the UK. So for now we have to use a normal personal account, but unlike Facebook, it's fine to use your business name instead of your actual name, if you wish.
Like Twitter, Instagram makes use of hashtags. Unlike with Twitter though, research shows that in Instagram, the more hashtags used, the better the post performs. There is a limit of 30, and I wouldn't suggest using that many all the time, but you can be very liberal with them! Avoid using very common words, such as #landscape. They are used so often, your post is unlikely to compete. As with Twitter, research hashtags and target you posts to your desired audience.
Instagram themselves actually have a great page which gets you started on using the platform. It's directed at users of their new business accounts, but although these aren't yet available in the UK, the advice is still relevant.
As Instagram is owned by Facebook, the two platforms are becoming more closely integrated. When business accounts do become available, you will need to link you Instagram account to a Facebook business page in order to take advantage of the new service.
Although seen as Google's answer to Facebook, both platforms work in different ways. Instead of 'Friends' and 'Follows', Google+ has 'Circles'. Adding someone to your Circles means that you will see the things they share, but they won't see your content unless they add you back. One useful feature of Circles is that you can categorise them. So as a photographer, for example, you can put your workshop clients into one Circle, wedding clients in another, colleagues into another, etc. When you post content, you can then choose which Circle(s) to share it with. In reverse, Circles can act as a filter to select which Circles you want to see content from in your stream. This is particularly useful if you are connected to lots of other people, as it stops you being overwhelmed by too much content.
Another unique feature of Google+ is the ability to add the posts you share to 'Collections'. So you could have a collection for landscape photos, another for street photography etc. The people who follow you then have a choice of what type of content they want to see from you.
Like Facebook, you first need a personal profile on Google+, then you can create a business page. If you have a studio, or see clients at or around your home area, creating a Local Places page is probably best. You can select whether you want to show your exact address, or just a general area that you work in. If you are a landscape photographer however, who perhaps mainly sells online, selecting a Brand Page would probably be best. Think carefully before deciding which page type to choose, it can be difficult to change from a Local Page to a Brand Page if you change your mind. If you choose a Brand Page, make sure you link it to your website.
The Google+ interface is much cleaner than Facebook's, so photos look great on the platform. This, combined with the benefits of making your website more visible to Google's search engine, makes Google+ a very useful marketing tool.
So, how do you make a video platform work for selling stills photography. Well, if you sell photography workshops, give potential participants a taster of what your workshops are like. Or get a friend to video you at work in your studio, at a wedding (with customers permission of course), or on a landscape shoot. Don't worry too much about how professionally made (or not) the video is, if the content is interesting and informative YouTube viewers will forgive any technical shortcomings. Or, if you are too shy to appear in front of the camera, and just want to promote still images as wall art, think 'The Ken Burns Effect' i.e. bringing still photographs to life by zooming in on subjects of interest, or by panning from one subject to another. This effect can be created in many video software applications, including Windows Movie Maker, Microsoft Photo Story, iMovie, Final Cut Pro, and Adobe Premiere, among others.
As previously stated, for most photographers the risks of loosing control of your images outweigh any possible benefits. So this platform is really only worth considering if you are a wedding photographer. Brides-to-be love to browse Pinterest for wedding ideas, and it's convenient for them to create their own boards and pin images. Just remember the pitfalls of the site, and do your own research before uploading anything. I would recommend adding a watermark to all images.
If you do decide to take the plunge, Pinterest has a useful page covering the basics for business marketing.
Unlike other social networks, once you have set up your profile on LinkedIn, and made some connections, things can be kept fairly 'low maintenance'. Potential clients and customers can find you by searching on the site, and recommendations from others is the equivalent of word-of-mouth in the real world. You can also set up a business page on LinkedIn, worth doing if you are going to market your photography services to other business owners.
Social media is a great way to market your photography business for free, but it does involve taking time to do it right. In our next article, we will look at how to use a website to increase sales.
If you don't have the time to use social media to market your photography business, we offer a highly affordable service that takes care of all this for you.