Whether we like it or not, social media is a major part of our lives. And if you've got your own business, it's an even bigger (and more maddening) part. So here are my tips and tricks for killing it at social media as a photographer.
1. Stop trying to find tips and tricks.
They're like diets; IF they work, they only work for a small time, and then they either stop working, or aren't sustainable. As soon as you figure out a way to work with an algorithm, they go and change it. And it will always be that way. So, for me, it's less about a quick fix, or a trick to best the next algorithm, and more about building relationships. And relationships take time and attention.
2. Don't run your account like it's a popularity contest.
Contrary to what every company that sells "tips and tricks for killing it at social media" would like you to think, high numbers of followers and likes aren't a single direct line to success. And high followers and likes don't necessarily equate to actual business either. There is the argument used that the more visible you are, the broader your reach. And that does make logical sense. But reaching a larger audience, with a message that is unclear, unpolarized and inconsistent or just too similar to everyone else's is just going to be white noise to a larger crowd.
I can tell you this; I am a person who has a pretty small follower base on my social media accounts. But I am a person who books consistently with social media despite that. That's because I've got a clear message, a consistent message and a LOYAL followership as a result of those things.
We've all had it happen; we post something and then we lose followers. And it can be a blow to our ego. And make us panic... panic into curating AGAINST what will sell us. Just remember, losing followers is a process of refinement. If what you posted is something you love, something you feel strongly about, or something that is important to you, then let the haters hate. And if you get low likes on something, that's okay too. If there's one thing that I've learned, it's that the shots that I personally love the absolute most, get very low like numbers. They might be a bit different, maybe challenge current thinking or trends, or even make people uncomfortable. And that is THE POINT of art. And just because someone doesn't double tap or comment, doesn't mean it didn't resonate. I have had MANY experiences where someone who's hired me tells me that the reason they hired me was because of a photo or post THAT THEY NEVER HIT LIKE ON.
3. Figure out what you want and who you want it from.
If you want to grow your business (and notice I say business, and not followers or likes because they just simply are not the same thing), it is best to use social media as it was intended; to share things you love, with people who care. That means not just trying to get as many followers as possible. And that means curating what you share based on something other than getting likes. YES... THAT IS WHAT I JUST SAID. If you really want to grow your business, and make actual connections and bookings, then you need to let go of whether or not you get a lot of likes and be really in touch with what you want, how you want to do it, who you want to do it for.
For me, I know my clientele rather well. They are smart and stylish free thinkers, creative and extremely gracious. They don't mince words, value the ART of photography, they've likely been labeled as "different" at some point in their lives and haven't run from that... they've owned it. They generally have a great sense of humor and want photos that FEEL REAL. And they most likely swear. Probably more than your average bear.
These are my people. They aren't found in the masses. They're on the outskirts. And the only way I can reach them, is by aiming my arrows at the outskirts. And I aim my arrows with authenticity. And I don't mean "authenticity" in the new catch phrase sort of way where everyone says they're authentic and real without understanding what those words actually mean. I'm talking really, truly being you. Finding your voice, sharing it bravely, and letting that guide your arrows not to likes and followers, but to YOUR PEOPLE.
Look, I'll be completely honest with you. I didn't think about any of this stuff when I started my social media accounts. And I still don't really think about it now. I use Instagram as a kind of therapy. I have a photo, or a thought, or combination of both and boom... I put it out there. I share what I feel in a moment. I share what's important to me. I share photos that I love and I share why I love them. I share stories. I share opinions. And yes, this means my feed has no color story. Shit... it has like, no cohesion at all. And this means that my numbers grow very slowly. But they grow meaningfully, and organically... sustainably. And I'm connecting... REALLY CONNECTING, with people. People who may well hire me in the future.
So what's my point here? I guess my point is that social media is a mind fuck. It gives us all a false sense of being good or bad, successful or unsuccessful, liked or not liked. When really, it's just an opportunity. An opportunity to share. And I feel like so many of us are missing that opportunity because of a focus on getting likes and followers vs. getting CLIENTS. People who appreciate our work enough to want to hire us. People who feel they've gotten to know us through our posts and trust us enough to invite us to capture their family, or their wedding.
So if you've got low numbers, but you're sharing what you love to shoot... then keep at it. It WILL work. Enjoy that slow process because it will yield REAL results. I have SUPER low social media numbers... I am also super booked right now with QUALITY clients. MY PEOPLE.
And if you've got high numbers but are frustrated that it's not turning into business, or if you're feeling empty or too attached to those numbers, maybe take a risk. Post something you feel strongly about that might not fit the color story of your feed. Post a photo you've taken that you absolutely love that falls outside the realm of your norm. Detach from the likes and just enjoy the feeling of sharing another side of yourself and your work. Just do something that isn't motivated by quantity and is motivated by quality. You'd be surprised how freeing it is (after you check your phone 500 times in the first hour to see what the response was... :)
So basically, my #1 tip for how to kill it with social media is to stop giving it so much weight. Curate from your heart, share what you love to shoot. It doesn't define you and EVERY photographer has their struggles. And I guarantee you dealing with social media is one of them. I probably could have just said that at the beginning of this post... but then this wouldn't have been another therapy session where I pretend I'm talking to an audience when I'm really just reminding myself...