7 Reasons Why Social Media Aint Working for Your Photography Business

Seems like we’re all spending a ton of time online these days “promoting” our businesses through social media.  So, is social media working for your photography business as a viable marketing channel?  If you’re not sure, you’re probably not alone.  We’re connected with thousands of photographers on sites like facebook and twitter, so we took a little look around, and have diagnosed 7 big reasons why some photographers are likely not finding success.  Read on to determine if you’re suffering from one of these symptoms, and hopefully our “tough love” suggestions will help turn things around.      

lonely.jpgSpending a ton of time promoting your photo business through social media but not feeling the love in return? Started to feel lonely all over again?  We’ll help you diagnose what you’re doing wrong. (Photo: Allen Murabayashi)

  • #7 You don’t have a goal.
  • #6 You’re a self-centered loudmouth.
  • #5 You’re a terrible listener.

  • #4 You’re a garden gnome.
  • #3 You have a volume problem.

  • #2 You’re missing a yardstick.
  • #1 You’ve got 140 characters and no soul.

#7 You don’t have a goal. 
Just like any marketing effort, if you don’t set a goal, you’ll never reach a definitive moment you can claim “success.” (Or for that matter, failure.)  You’re running a business, and business efforts are not successful when they “feel” like a success. Business efforts are a success when they hit or surpass the goal that was set before the campaign ever started.

Further, without a goal, you’ll never know if social media is more or less productive than other marketing activities.  When the “investment” is your time, it’s critical to know the opportunity cost – what else could you be doing with your time instead? And which activity is more successful? (Hint: figure it out fast and start spending your time on the more productive effort.)     

And by the way, “building friends and followers” really can’t be your goal.  Do you want to stimulate more prospective client inquiries? More eyeballs on your experimental work?  More limited edition print sales?  More repeat business from old clients? And moreover, who is the audience you are hoping to reach?  That’s all up to you to define.  So set a goal, quantify it if possible, and check in regularly to determine your progress against that goal.      
#6 You’re a self-centered loudmouth. 
Don’t be the jerk at the cocktail party who talks incessantly about nothing but himself.  Nobody likes “that guy”.  “Did I tell you about my new car?  How great my job is going?  My fantastic workout regimen? How much money I’m saving on car insurance?”  Blah blah blah.  I see this all the time, especially on twitter.  Photographer logs into twitter once per day, blasts out 12 consecutive tweets containing links to his photography, logs off, and moves on for the day. But hey, if you’re the self-centered loudmouth, you probably skipped this point completely. 

In case the name didn’t make this clear, social media is intended to be, um, social. So you’d best enjoy some positive interaction amidst your self-promotion. Our rule of thumb is 90% of what you post should focus on something else of value – share interesting links, promote others, actually jump into real conversation, help people with questions.  That’s the real way to organically build a social community and earn a few karma points that will come in handy when you’d like other people to share your self-promotion.  And when people go out of their way to compliment you, or share your desired content, take the time to say thanks. 

For example, I see PhotoShelter member Elijah Goodwin issuing oodles of gratitude daily when people in his network share his nature photos…and it always makes me want to have a peek as well.             

#5 You’re a terrible listener.
This point rides along nicely with the above comment.  If you expect to make it a social experience, you need to listen and contribute to conversations. Know what’s happening around you and look for opportunities to jump in. Take the time to see what members of your community are buzzing about.  Can you participate in the existing conversation while also sharing your photography?  I bet you can – especially if you listen up and find ways to make sharing your work relevant to others in your network.  Become savvy about using the search capabilities on twitter and facebook to make your participation more efficient and help you connect with new people who care about similar issues.  

#4 You’re a garden gnome.
What does a garden gnome do?  Nothing.  People put them in their yard (I’m not sure why). I drive by. Maybe I notice. Chances are I don’t. And even if I did, am I supposed to care?  As a photographer, if you’re pumping content into the social sphere, but your website lacks some simple tools to deepen the relationship with your visitors once they arrive, you’re an awful lot like that lawn ornament that does nothing as people pass on by. What behavior do you expect to elicit from your friends & followers (and maybe their friends and followers too)?  

You obviously care about bringing new visitors to your website and you’re working pretty hard to get them there. So, don’t be a garden gnome.  Why not add e-commerce so that you can turn the visitor into your customer?  If they’re a consumer, sell them a print, notecard, or personal use download of your images. If they’re a commercial/editorial prospect – have the basic tools in place so they can license your work if desired.

So maybe you’re not ready for sales yet. No problem – give your visitors a way to easily share your work with their own social communities and help you build a following by adding easy “Share This” and “Tweet This” buttons. And at the very least, give visitors a way to continue the relationship with you with a newsletter signup option. That way you can follow up in the future, reach them with your newsletter, and attempt to turn a “window shopping” event into a real client relationship.  Add-on forms from Google Docs, Wufoo, and most email vendors will let you do this pretty easily.  
#3 You have a volume problem. 
Your quantity of posts may just be way too strong vs. the quality of posts you’re sharing.  This is a sure way to lose followers and diffuse your content.  The end result?  The stuff that matters is simply lost. 

Try this – relax. Test out a bit of a pullback. Re-establish credibility with your followers by slowing down the quantity and amping up the quality.      

There’s another kind of volume problem too – maybe even more annoying – people WHO COMMUNICATE IN ALL CAPS. (What?? I can’t hear you!)     

#2 You’re missing a yardstick. 
We’ll keep screaming about measurement and web analytics till we’re blue. This is serious. How can you make smart, objective decisions if you’re not measuring the outcome of your efforts?

Start with the simple stuff. When shortening URLs, use bit.ly. If you register with bit.ly and download their browser plug-in, you can track click data on every URL you have shared. This will help you better understand your most popular posts.
Then, add Google Analytics to your website, and get familiar with interpreting the basic data.  (It’s free, by the way.) Ready to have your mind blown? You can actually use Google Analytics to compare the differences in behavior of visitors from Twitter vs. Facebook vs. LinkedIn. One level deeper, if you apply Google Analytics tracking code to the links you’re sharing, you can actually compare visitor behavior between individual posts/links you share. That knowledge will help you optimize what you’re posting, how and where you’re doing it.       

#1 You’ve got 140 characters and no soul. 

Please, show your personality and passion!  Let people know that there’s a human behind the tweets and posts, not a robot.  (There are enough robots out there already automatically feeding content into the social sphere.)  Deep inside that capitalist, wheeler dealer, always-on, business-owner brain of yours, you’re a passionate photographer and you care about your art, right?  OK, maybe you don’t have to reach that deep.  Show it!  

Sure, the space to elaborate is limited, but make an effort to share your opinion, truly engage with people, add your commentary to conversation, and the links and “retweets” that you’re simply passing on.   Use social media as a way to tell more of the story that can’t be immediately gleaned from the photos you are sharing.   Of the people I have truly connected with on Twitter especially, as well as the random links I click and share, I often do so because I like them. Based on their comments, I’m compelled to go beyond the post and explore their photography.  It’s awfully hard to like you, or even develop an interest in what you’re sharing, when you regularly provide nothing more than a link.   

If you have other symptoms and recommendations, please share them below! 


Get more helpful advice on making social media more productive for you by requesting your free copy of our guide, Social Media for PhotographersAs always, you can connect with us on Twitter anytime or chill with us on Facebook (where we talk a lot about what’s happening the the PhotoShelter community). 

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This article was written by

PhotoShelter CEO. Follow on Twitter: @awfingerman and Instagram: @awfinger

There are 6 comments for this article
  1. cutcaster at 3:18 pm

    this is a seriously great post and insights. i know i have suffered from a few of these and have tried to change as i learned more about the best way to use these social media outlets. i think tracking and the analytics are for sure the most important part. if you can’t track how you are doing how can you improve or make the needed changes. do you have other tools you like to use to test out your campaigns. i use both bit/ly and google and obivously like both but what other tools have you seen out there.

  2. Robert Hammar Photography at 1:04 pm

    Thank you so much for a great post! I use Facebook to promote me and my business, and it works. Today I find most of my new customers on Facebook. But in anyway I have learned something new things here too, or rather pointed out what to look for. As you write you have to have a goal. I’m looking forward to your next article, Best Robert Hammar in Finland

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