The 7 Rules of Social Media for Photographers
That’s my most popular instagram post. My second most popular is a ring shot. Because of that, I know that time spent taking ring shots isn’t time wasted. It’s an important part of every wedding. Family shoots can be made fun. There’s ground that needs to be broken.
So then we get into social media, don’t we? Although I’m not an expert (I have about 5,600 follows as of writing this) on insta, I do know my way around. I’ve read countless articles on almost every blog I could find. So here’s seven rules I’ve learned over time, and they seem to work quite well.
1. Don’t get your personal instagram and business instagram confused.
Yup, people who follow a photography insta or twitter want *gasp* to see photography. Say a mother is looking for photos of her newborn. She finds six inspirational sayings, 11 selfies, and a photo of you partying with some questionable looking guys. Alternatively, take a look at Peter Lik’s instagram. We see gorgeous landscapes, beautiful vistas, and exactly 0 photos of him drinking his pumpkin spice latte after a run. That kind of stuff belongs on your personal insta (and it’s okay to have two, I have a personal insta as well).
Remember, your professional instagram is your portfolio. About 25% of my work comes from my instagram. I curate it very carefully. I know that my latest two or three photos can be the make-or-break moment for a ton of potential followers. As for my personal instagram, I’ll post photos of adorable puppies if I feel like it.
2. Don’t go overboard on hashtags. But still use them.
Have you ever followed an #instagood tag? I did once. It was very depressing. Do you think people are following these tags, looking for photos of you and your bestie, photos of a plane wing, party photos, and maybe a selfie of you after your jog? Absolutely not. You know who is following those tags? Bots. Though instagram does have tight security involving automated liking, those crafty hackers have made a bot or two that follows the hashtags, will like/follow you for 1-4 days, then delete you. The idea being, you’ll follow back or at least notice their wares.
Is it possible to gain followers using hashtags? I’m going to say no. The only way to gain followers is by posting good content. By giving good value.
That’s not to say hashtags are all bad – they’re awesome, and I use them all the time! Differently than you probably think, though. I happen to live between Vernon and Kelowna, BC. In Canada. Every now and then, I search Okanagan related hashtags to see what people are up to. I get a lot of visitors in the summer coming up from Alberta, and a few destination weddings. I’ll sometimes comment and tell them about some of the hidden gems, the great places to visit around here. We have a lot of beaches and beautiful forest hikes, and many of them are not on the map. You can also search via location. This is a great way to give value, while still staying in touch with your community.
3. Have everything point to everything.
If you follow my twitter, you’ll get a message to check out my FB page. When you go to my FB page, you’ll see links to my instagram. On instagram, you’ll see a link to this website. On this website, you’ll see a link to my google plus. On my google plus, you might see a link back to my website. Though there are people who are only on instagram, or twitter, many people have multiple social media accounts and would like to connect on all of them. Even though google plus is a boneyard, I still receive likes and shares on it.
My most visited post, where I took photos of the abandoned Pandova asylum, has more organic search hits than any other post on my website. What did I do about it? Well, I posted my instagram and facebook info in the first paragraph. I’ve gotten 1,500+ followers to my instagram alone, just because it was mentioned in this near viral post. And guess what happens when they hook to my facebook? That’s right, they get linked to all my other social media sites.
There’s a lot to be said about branding and watermarks. I could really go into it.
For starters, all your social media sites should display your logo prominently. That’s NOT to say your oversized logo should be in the middle of every image. Please do not do this. It ruins your image. “But what if people steal my image?”, you might ask, incredulously. Well, if I wanted to steal your image, I’d spend 2.1 seconds cloning out your watermark.
Watermarks should be visible and recognizable, but should in no way affect the integrity of your image.
Second, your logo should be visible in all your profile avatars. If I’m taking a look at your twitter, I should be able to recognize that logo from your instagram. Do you ever wonder why Coke spends so much money on billboards? Is it so you buy more coke? It’s to establish brand recognition. If you have different photos on your business card, instagram, and facebook, people might not be able to link them together. Establish that brand recognition. It will only work for you in the future.
5. Update your social media.
There’s charts on how often to update each section of social media. It’s recommended you post on twitter 5-10x/day (yikes!), on Google Plus once a week, on instagram once every day. I tend to update every two or three days. If you just don’t have the time, consider an automation service. This is important – it keeps viewers involved, and lets prospective clients know that you are still in business.
I have clients who have been following me for eight years. Ever since I first registered my domain name and started a business on Facebook, they were there, cheering me on. They keep on top of my work, and applaud me as I develop. This is so encouraging. Over time, these diehard fans snowball. They recommend you to friends, they comment on your work, they buy prints from you. Treat them like gold.
This can also be an important motivation to stay inspired. Sometimes I have no idea what to post. I get into my car, drive out to somewhere beautiful, and take some long exposures. Or I’ll sort through my mounds and mounds of previous work, find something beautiful, and re-process it. Either way, I’m creating new content.
As a bonus, this will keep you in the mind of magazine editors. This month alone, I’ve been in four magazines. Every time an editor calls me, she says the same thing. “We connected on twitter.” or “I saw you on Instagram, and I like what I see!” They are not interested in one-hit-wonders. They want to see artists who post consistently great photos month after month.
6. The world is your science lab.
Earlier on this week, I posted three photos on 500px. If you haven’t been before, 500px is a community where you get rated on every photo. In a lot of ways it’s like instagram – if your photo is high quality, you’ll get lots of likes and shares. If it’s not, you’ll get by with one or two likes.
The three photos were aptly labelled “Green.”, “Yellow”, and “Orange.” I wanted to see which one would get the highest rating.
The photo with the highest rating was green. I know, for the future, if I submit a photo to 500px, and it is heavy in greens, I will get a higher rating. This is different with different forms of social media. 500px is run by photographers. As a result, they prefer complex compositions that challenge the rules of photography.
Instagram is not the same – when I post to instagram, I know to use simple color theory – one or two colors maximum. Google plus is different still. Tumblr prefers darker color theory. Facebook prefers cropped in shapes with very little background detail.
I learn to improve my photography not only by studying the old masters, but by seeing what the market appreciates. The more I can differentiate between a good and bad photo, the more I know what to do. I know photos in the forest do well. Golden mean cropping works incredibly well, almost wondrously. Color theory has been my most valuable asset to date.
Don’t take offense. See what scored highly in your feed, and do your best to understand why it was so popular. This will help you grow as a photographer.
7. Be consistent.
I feel this applies to anything, not just photography.
That being said, I didn’t see much traction on my social media for the longest time. I was updating every three days with solid, high quality photography. I kept going, though. About a year and a half in, I noticed a bump. I had been featured in Instagram’s “users to follow.” It wasn’t huge, but it got me to 500 followers.
Over time, following all the principles you’ve seen above, I got to 1,000 followers. That’s when things started to snowball. People were tagging each other in my comments. My google plus posts started seeing shares. My blog visits went from 2x/week to 600x/week.
What would have happened if I had given up three months in? I certainly wouldn’t be enjoying the success I do now. If you disregard everything else in this entire post, I’d love for you to remember this one – stay consistent.
That’s it for now. I hope you loved this post. Any comments, feel free to post them in my facebook. Feel free to follow my twitter, instagram, google plus, 50opx, tumbler, pinterest, linkedin, facebook, or blog. See you in a few days!