With so many consumers joining social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter, it goes without saying that photo assignments will follow. Social networking sites are becoming household brands to this expanding group of consumers, making it easier for people to stay in touch with others, and providing new opportunities for savvy business owners to promote their businesses. Photography is a very relationship-oriented business and adopting an effective social media strategy can be a valuable addition to your marketing plan!
How can a professional photographer use social media to drive increased business volume? For starters, they can show off their skills by putting one or more high quality portfolios on a couple of popular social media networks. Studies have shown that looking at pictures represents more than 75% of the activity on all social networks. People love to look at images and will “spread the word” about your artistic and technical talents. As traffic and fans build, your social networking pages will serve as a powerful “on ramp” to bring significantly increased traffic to your existing website. For photographers, a dedicated website is an absolute necessity, but the old “storefront on internet main street” model is rapidly giving way to the more chaotic, social media “crowd in town square” metaphor. This model is far more effective at rapidly disseminating valuable information and ideas, since it relies on the unique “one to many” community features unique to modern social media.
The attractiveness of social media lies in its ability to communicate appealing, yet fundamentally personal content or impressions. As an accomplished photographer, you have an unfair advantage here, as your images always convey unique and powerful perspectives of everyday places and events. For optimal appeal, all you need to add is some personal and insightful perspective about the location or event. For example, if you include an environmental shot from a wedding, add a few words to perhaps explain why you use the location. Something like “the expansive north facing windows in the conservatory offer bright yet soft natural lighting in virtually all seasons.” For you, this should be easy, since that is the reason you use the location in the first place! For that perfect baby shot, you might add “Julie was a little out of sorts that day, but when her puppy ambled in she settled down as if finally protected!” A few comments like these accompanying your best images will make you a “hit” to your target audiences. They will show why you are an insightful and exacting professional, who does everything possible to get that perfect image for each of your clients. It explains how and why your images are at once personal yet spectacular.
Remember, even if your displayed images are not exactly what a given client might want, after looking at your best and reading your perspectives, they will be comfortable that your intuitive visual skills and techniques, coupled with your personal desire to please, will result in that perfect image, be it for senior citizens, families, married couples, babies or graduating seniors.
But there is more to the magic of social media than just your own perspectives. In the past, most photographers judged whether someone liked their work by looking at the number of “hits” on their web pages. This methodology, however, is flawed. Social media also enables public feedback and discussion as you exhibit your best stuff…in the town square! It is also extremely important to acknowledge what many refer to as “the 3 C’s,” those being conversation, community, and collaboration. You need to be prepared to interact with individuals who may be interested in their own works, including other photographers as well. Before the internet, few people knew about many accomplished photographers. Today, individuals around the world have access to pictures from a wide variety of artists, and a photographer’s needs to use this capability to maximum advantage. Through opinions received from more prominent and experienced photographers, novice professionals can learn what their own work lacks and in this manner, advance their own professional development. Build a connection with everyone who comes to the social networking site looking at your pictures. Engender trust with all these potential clients, and realize that everyone who is interested in your pictures has many friends with whom they can share their opinions. In this way, you can build a much larger community of followers who appreciate your work and have the potential of using you for pictures of their own life!
I know all this may seem like a lot of work, but your growing social media presence will make you real, and clients who call on you will feel like they have known you and your work for years!
You are correct in saying that there is a great potential in making an effort to present one’s photographic presence in the town square of social network marketing.
The ability to show photographs and creativity to hundreds of others with little, or no effort is a very enticing vixen. With only a simple training, an individual can take pictures and upload them to any, or all of the social media. Publishing works that, without question can be seen by hundreds, if not thousands of individuals globally is one of the greatest assets available to professional photographers.
But I believe this media can also be a two edged sword.
There are many photographers that present images as professionals, that to experienced and trained professionals, are poor in quality, poor in lighting, poor in composition, and in general just a snapshot.
The effect caused by these types of images to the general public viewer is that “anyone can do that”! And, sure enough, if they do try, they see that they can make images just as good as the self proclaimed professional.
These new untrained photographers should be very careful in the images that they publish. They tell the untrained viewer, that those images are professional. It also tells those that do know some of the fundamentals, that the creator does not understand much of what it takes to make professional images, and therefore injures the publishers image as a professional. This will further negate all the efforts to bring in future business to the inexperienced.
Of course I doubt that there could be any un-requested, sensible critique of images that are poor, without stepping on the toes of the young, or inexperienced photographer. But that pathway is there also.
It would be great however, if those who are just starting, or want to learn the many stepping stones of professional photography, would not share images publicly, unless they have ASKED for guidence and instruction though a privet message system with a sharing qualified professional photographer.
My feeling is, as a photographer of 50 years, and a brick and mortar studio operator for 20 years, helping other, younger photographers become more proficient should be the goal of any professional with knowledge of the many elements of a quality image. Social media offers that opportunity. The great, wide open pathway is there, and the same advantages are there of sharing knowledge in the social media, as well as is the pathway to promotion mediocrity of a profession, which is what is feared the most.
With the ability to “teach” using the technology that is here, could there not be presentations created for basic lighting, composition, and some basic posing problems? With the proliferation of photography, “knowledge is king.”
Bruce D. Roberts, M. Photog., CPP
Great post David. And I agree, it IS a lot of work, and as photographers consider the immense benefits, it becomes a productive use of our time. I suppose it’s all about allocating regular time, and finding a balance. True in so many areas of our lives.
Social media is by far one of the best mediums on the web today for business expansion and marketing. It is true; if you are not using social media sites such as facebook, you are missing out on a HUGE market of people who would be interested in your services. In the photography industry, using social media makes the MOST sense because people LOVE to look at photos – so what better way to market your business? Kudos to you for posting on such a cutting edge marketing technique.