Like it or not, photographers find themselves faced with an industry that has embraced a digital world. I am not simply referring to the rapid rise and dominance of an industry by DSLR’s, but rather the development of the arena we call social media. In an age where one photographer’s success, (or lack there of) may be judged by the number of ‘Likes’ on their Facebook Page, how many ‘Followers’ they’ve amassed on Twitter or the number of people in their Google ‘Circles’, we must ask ourselves what exactly this all means. A strong social media presence doesn’t automatically translate into a successful photography career, nor does a successful photography career necessarily translate into a strong following in the world of social networking. In a culture where more and more businesses are turning to social media for visibility, one is in essence obligated to participate simply in order to keep up with the competition. According to Facebook’s S-1 Filing in 2012, more than 4 million business had developed a Facebook Fan Page. Unfortunately for photographers this can turn into a glorified popularity contest, rivaled only by some bad memory from our junior high school years. You will notice on Facebook that sometimes a Page or an image will get a certain amount of ‘Likes’ and then what I often refer to as the ‘bandwagon effect’ starts taking over. People just impulsively ‘Like’ an image or Page because 35 of their friends do, or 1,500 people overall. This becomes glaring when we see a professional photographer post a poor quality image, but because a ‘professional’ with a following posted it, everyone likes it. Sadly, if you were to have posted a similar image it would be viewed as a pathetic snapshot, not a masterpiece. This trend is further affected by the fact that often the general viewing population may not even know what creates a great photograph to begin with. By its very design social networking has introduced a very ‘reactive’ sort of behavior from its users. Does it really matter then? If 1,500 people ‘Like’ it and it’s not ‘technically’ a good image, is it still a good image? With the advent of ‘Promoted Posts’ on Facebook users can essentially buy ‘Likes’ for their Page or posts. So what to do then? Ultimately you have to realize that social media has its limits and is not going to improve your business overnight. That being said, I will be the first to tell you that it is a very important piece of your marketing strategy, one that if utilized properly can help you with networking, developing your unique business branding and possibly sales… possibly. For those of you that are hoping you’ll get established well enough in the world of social media to start driving up the sales of your nature photography I have bad news for you, don’t hold your breath. Most often when we work to establish ourselves in a particular field, we try to connect with those of like mind or similar interests, this is a good strategy and a sound approach. I’ve been a photographer for over 20 years and I’m connected to some very talented photographers through social networking mediums. In that time I’ve seen some incredible images from my peers. How many do you think I’ve purchased? How many have you purchased from people you are connected with through social networks? Odds are your answer is few to none. Far too many people these days think that they will find their ‘Golden Road to the Photographer’s Utopia’ via the internet. While social networking is an invaluable tool in its own right, it won’t do everything for you. If you understand this concept you are miles ahead of your competition. It takes a long time to build a successful Facebook Fan Page. Is it worth it? Only if you know how to use it. A Facebook Photography Page can be a great tool if utilized properly. It can act as a barrier for those who think it’s too personal to “Friend” you on your own profile. This is actually a great service as it protects you from damaging your business’s professional identity by mixing your personal life. I can’t tell you how many photographers I’ve witnessed, (both amateurs & professionals alike), say the most destructive things for their career on their personal profiles or Business Fan Pages. They seem to forget that not everyone else in the world shares their political, social or moral views etc. In the process of not being able to bite their own tongue they are alienating half (or perhaps more) of their potential network from themselves. If you want to be viewed as a professional, act as a professional. If you must rant online, don’t do it. If you must do it, don’t do it on your Business Fan Page. Most prospective employers in today’s world seeking to hire will take the time to search their potential employee’s personal profile, it stands to reason that a potential client or customer will do the same with your Business Page. Make your Business Page visually pleasing, only post your best images there. If you want to be perceived as a nature photographer, don’t post images from your cousin Sally’s wedding that you shot or your dog, mixed messages are never good. Interact with your fans, followers and friends, no one likes talking into a vacuum. Don’t spam your own Page with too many posts in a week, nor should you abandon it for months and then expect your Fans to be waiting for you when you return. A truly successful social media presence is one that works in a supportive role with your website, combined they can create a powerful marketing tool that will increase your visibility and help to put you on the map.
Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.
– Nathaniel Smalley