More social media likes won’t empower you photography career

TL;DR – Social media is great… but it doesn’t necessarily mean more social media equals better business.

It seems that lately everything photographers want is more social media exposure. Everything seems to be revolving around how many likes you have. Or how many comments you receive on any single photo. The idea that more social media is better for your photography is not correct. Instagram leverages out dopamine levels to keep your interest high. Yet, more social media is not always the best solution for your business.

For how Instagram is set up, it is tricky for personal businesses as photographers. They focus interaction and engagement on friendship. You want your photography to shine through. You should start using them as a tool to reap new clients, not as a personal tool to pamper your ego. I am sorry for putting it bluntly, but a thousand likes won’t pay your rent. If you want to be a photographer, not an influencer, there are other routes.

The like4like game of Instagram

TL;DR – You are more likely to engage with the wrong type of audience. This is because we tend to socialise with people like us.

One of the unique selling points of social media is their social aspect of course. It is who you know. A lot of guides on how to get more social media engagement stress this a lot. You have to be genuine. You have to follow other people, like their photos, leave comments and reply to those you receive. It is like being in a circle of friends and discussing your photographs. Here comes the first fault in the social media marketing logic. Even today, you may target the wrong kind of audience. Allow me to explain a simple example to clarify this:

If you were to meet with like-minded people, who would you say you are more likely to meet? Other photographers or your ideal clients? I will be very honest, I like meeting people that see the world as I do. I like to chat about details in photographs which my clients don’t see. Of course, I also like to listen to other opinions on cameras, lenses and other gizmos that may make my life easier. Let’s translate this to the social media world. We are more likely to follow and interact with other photographers than with our clients.

As above, let’s consider your newborn photography business. If you photograph newborns, your social media circle should be very specific. You should follow a lot of local mums or pregnant women and engage with them. Do you say that your Instagram reflects this? I wrote another post on the “right” way of doing social media, and it pivots on this: who you engage with!

You may find useful > social media and marketing: what you need to do it right

More social media engagement for businesses

TL;DR – Facebook (and Instagram) are trying their best to monetise content from businesses. They lower your organic engagement to force you to pay for advertising.

Living in 2018 and not in 2015 any longer, we should forget the idea of likes, and embrace the level of engagement. This is if you want to play in the social media arena and if you understand that in a few years this will change again. Now, we know we need to engage, which is why Instagram will then show your content to more people. The more your photo receives engagement, the more visibility it will have.

Di per se, this is not a bad thing. It is a way of filtering good content from bad ones. Well, of course, it also means that if you post great content at the wrong time, your image will get lost. This puts a strain on you, as you have to be more than a photographer – you need to be a social media expert. In this case, more social media might not relate to your engagement. It might relate to the time you spend by being the target of someone else’s advertisement.

There is another brick in the wall (if you allow me the pun). Facebook announced that it is changing its algorithm once again. They tell us we want to see more of what our friends post. They also tell us that we are not very interested in what the businesses we follow share. I don’t know if I want to see more of my friends’ post, to be honest, but I am interested in what this change means.

It means that your social media efforts will be working less than before. Your engagement will work less than before. So, if you want more social media for your business, you are in for a rough ride in the coming months. And there is a very simple reason for it. If you are a business, this algorithm update means you will have to pay to reach your audience. To me, this is not “social” at all.

I wrote a guide to the fundamentals of marketing for photographers. A part of it highlights nurturing your relationship with your ideal clients… and as a result of this, the nurturing is not going to be organic interest-based any longer. More social media you say? I am not sure you will get what you want.

You may find useful > The fundamentals guide on how to make a marketing strategy for your photos

more social media?

Are your followers likely to buy from you?

TL;DR – In a connected world, we are more likely to have people from all over the world see us, over those who live nearby.

On my business Instagram account, I have people following me from all over the world. Many of them come from Mexico. I don’t know why, but that’s what Instagram tells me. They drive quite a few likes and comments. This is the “more social media engagement” everyone needs. Unfortunately, there is a big disconnection between them and my buyer persona. The fact is, it’s unlikely for a person from the other side of the world to book me for one of my portrait sessions.

Seeing more than two thousand likes on one of my photos a few years ago was incredible. Yet, I am aware of the complete disconnection between those likes and my bookings. The organic engagement through social media is in freefall. If you don’t resort to paid advertisements, it is likely that you will reach fewer and fewer people every day. So, even if your followers are likely to buy from you, which is quite a statement, they won’t see your photos.

Are we really going to invest so much in more social media when social media is shutting us down?

You may find useful > Buyer persona: meet your future customers for the first time

Social media is good, but focusing only on more social media is not

TL;DR – Every hour spent on social media is an hour you don’t spend on things that can attract you more paying clients.

There is a chasm between business and photography. This is true in particular for up and coming photographers. Many will focus a lot on growing and improving their “style” to the highest level they can. While this is not wrong, it should never take over the growth as an entrepreneur. You are an entrepreneur, and you should focus on your business and marketing growth. Yes, you should do it even before buying your new camera.

Trust me, you will become a better photographer, you need more experience. Guess what: with more clients, you will have time to build more experience! But being a great photographer with no knowledge of how to make money is worst. It is one of the most frustrating things you can face.

The challenge is that wanting more and more social media exposure takes time. We are fine with removing that time from what we have for marketing. We can spend an hour a day playing the like4like game, commenting and building our follower base. What if we invested half of that time to write content that our buyer persona wants to read?

At phlow we believe good photos should be rewarded. Social media rewards social networkers. What about helping professional photographers to be discovered? Would you like it?

My point is simple social media is good, but it is not the holy grail for us photographers. It is an amazing tool, but it does not necessarily mean that more social media equals more business. Try and detach yourself from the loop of wanting more and more likes. You should start celebrating new clients. To do that you need to sharpen your marketing skills, and it is not rocket science!

You may find useful > Principles of marketing: the problems are not your photos

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Creator, photographer, idealist and traveller, in any order you like. Married to the most incredible woman on earth and dad to an amazing boy. The definition of luck!
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    Principles of marketing and what I should have done before becoming a better photo takerwho is the buyer persona and why she is so important for your photography business