Hey Photographers! Facebook Changed Again (and this time, they want you to pay)

Hey Photographers! Facebook Changed Again (and this time, they want you to pay)


It’s happened. Facebook, aka the free marketing platform we have come to know and love, now wants businesses and organizations to pay to engage with their own fans and followers. If you’ve noticed your reach and “likes” declining lately, you’re not alone.

Back in December, the company acknowledged that the reach per post — in other words, how many of your followers see your post in their News Feeds — has declined. Various studies have confirmed this, one showing a drop in reach from 12% of all followers to 6% over the course of 4 months. And, another blog is reporting that reach will decline to just 1% of your total followers eventually.

With the number of friends and pages that each person follows having increased dramatically, they chalk it up to competition and the need for greater relevance. Of the average of 1,500 possible stories (or posts) that are available to show to each person, Facebook selects 300 to post in your News Feed per day. They do this using an algorithm that’s based on clicks, timeliness of the post and a variety of other factors. In essence, your post has a 20% chance of being shown to any one of your fans — less if it’s not what Facebook considers “relevant.”

So, what does this all mean for you? At PhotoShelter, we’ve continuously recommended that photographers use  Facebook ‘pages’ rather than their personal profiles to promote themselves. And, it’s true that there are still advantages to using pages, including analytics to gauge your return on investment (ROI) and targeted (read: paid) advertising potential. We even have a guide to help you figure it all out. Now more than ever, though, may be the time to re-evaluate your overall social media strategy.

Here’s some tips to get in front of this trend:

1) Be more relevant. Because Facebook uses an algorithm, what the platform considers relevant will always be changing. Not helpful. But, there are some basic guidelines to follow here. First is to know your audience and talk like they do. Post what they like (follow some of them on Facebook to see what kinds of topics, brands and news items they like). If you’re a wedding photographer who also does corporate work, don’t post about both. More then likely you have two different target audiences for your types of work, and sending mixed messages to Facebook’s algorithm will not work in your favor.

Facebook also knows that people like to interact with current/timely articles and announcements. Wonder why you always see birth photos in your feed even from those who you haven’t seen (even on Facebook) in ages? Or, how you learn about the Super Bowl come February even if you’re not a football fan? Connecting your posts to current affairs, even things like #TBT (throw back Thursday) is a signal to Facebook that people might engage more with your content.

Whatever you do, don’t spam your feed. That means posting all day long in the hopes that one of your many posts gets in front of each of your fans. Facebook has caught on to that. They’ve also caught on to “like-baiting” posts such as memes that state “click Like” right on the image or in the status text.

Average organic reach of posts published to Facebook brand pages for all pages and large pages with more than 500,000 likes.

2) Lean on your personal profile for a while. We’ve talked to a few photographers who have reverted back to using their personal profile to post information about their photography and generally see more “likes” and “shares” this way. While you can’t see statistics-wise the reach you’re getting, you can get a sense for whether it’s doing better by posting the same content on your company page (just don’t do this too frequently). You can bet, however, that Facebook will get keen on this strategy and adjust their algorithms accordingly in the not-so-distant future.

3) Experiment with paying to boost posts. The nice thing about advertising on Facebook is that it’s cost effective. “Boosting” posts means you’re paying to reach more people. You can choose whether to do this for people who already follow you (and their friends) or people you choose through targeting. You can spend as low as $5 at a time, and Facebook will tell you approximately what kind of reach you’ll get. Be careful here, though, as some brands (FStoppers for one) have reported an increase in spam via comments and likes when paying to boost posts. This could be because the boosted post is reaching not only your fans/followers, but also your follower’s “friends” who may not be part of your target audience.

4) Look to other platforms. Sure, Facebook is still relevant. If for no other reason than the fact that it has over 1.3 billion users. It’s good for SEO (Google combs Facebook pages) as well. But, it’s not the only game in town. Twitter, for one, has become a lot more visual and photographer-friendly with the introduction of Twitter Cards. Now, you can see images and videos directly in your feed. You can find people who are interested in your work by following relevant hashtags (e.g. #naturephotography) and build a following by interacting with them directly. Instagram is another great platform to engage your fans and followers and works similarly in terms of finding and interacting with people.

As with most marketing tactics, there’s no silver bullet here. The good news is that there are so many more ways to promote your work and get found now than there were ten, or even five, years ago. So many places to get found, especially for photographers, but never enough time to focus everywhere, in fact. What you can do is stay on top of the trends, stop resisting changing your ways and experiment, experiment, experiment. And, don’t forget to watch your metrics. It’s more than likely that you’ll find it’s a combination of things that work. Just don’t stand still!


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There are 20 comments for this article
  1. James at 11:20 am

    Where in this article does it mention having to pay for Facebook pages? The title seems misleading as having to pay for pages isn’t anywhere in the lead. Did I just miss it?

  2. Russian Photographer at 12:19 pm

    I gave up on Facebook page year and a half ago. Zuckerberg’s deadly material jaws will suck all your life out of you and your little page. Facebooks sucks because it is too big, there’s too many ads and people on Facebook are too aggressive against self-promoting. Flickr is million times better place for photographers.

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  4. Jaron Schneider at 2:40 pm

    It should be noted that posting business-related posts to your personal profile page can result in a permanent ban of your personal profile. This has happened to people I know and Facebook will go after those attempting to use their personal pages for business, since they want to make money on business pages.

  5. Aaron Pelly at 4:48 pm

    Thanks for the info. I get that FB has the right to try to get us to spend money to advertise. I mean, up until recently, it’s been a pretty effective marketing tool for a lot of businesses, so in a way, we can’t complain. However, it seems there’s a dark side to paying to promote your posts. According to this video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVfHeWTKjag – promoting your page or posts can actually lead to less engagement with my content. Long story short: I pay to promote my page; gain likes from people who don’t actually care about my content; then, when I make a post, those people don’t like or comment on it; as a result, my likes and comments come from a smaller percentage of my fans; thus, FB pushes the post out to fewer people.

    I can’t verify the accuracy of the information, but it seems to make a lot of sense. Wedding photographer Ryan Brenizer mentioned a while back that he’d paid to promote, and ended up with less engagement as a result.

    If the video is correct, FB is going to be less and less of an effective marketing tool. Paying to market with them is going to make it even worse.

  6. SmallestFish at 4:56 pm

    It’s not only “businesses and organizations” they want to pay. It’s everyone with a page (and thereby following the fb rules btw), no matter if they’re profit or non-profit. I’ve been really experiencing the drop those last months. If you’re a small fish with an artist page that has a few hundred fans, you’re simply screwed. 🙁 Not fair – and not exactly enhancing diversity.

  7. Barbara Bland at 7:14 pm

    I really enjoy all tha pictures you post, and it’s my fondest hope that Facebook does’nt mess that up. I look forward to the beautiful photography every day, and without those pictures to look forward to then Facebook will lose a lot of it’s appeal. I just retired a year ago and now I am on Facebook constantly. I especially enjoy your Grizzly bear photos. In a time when there seem to be so many changes, it woulg be great to have Facebook stay the same. I heard someone say that kids now have moved on to Twitter and Instagram and Facebook is more for baby boomers. Well, Facebook_____ there are lots of baby boomers out here!

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  11. Per Karlsson, BKWine at 5:34 am

    Not at all convinced that paying posts (i.e. paying for advertising) is “cost effective” on Facebook. I think you might be confusing “cheap” and “cost effective”.

    Yes, it is true that you can advertise (“promote your post” or buy advertising in other ways) at affordable cost on Facebook.

    But I am not at all convinced that it has much effect. Yes, it can boost your “likes” or show your posts to more people. But if those Likes are not from the right people they are worthless.

    When I have experimented with paid posts/advertising on FB I have had the impression that the result is generally very poor quality Likes. So I have my doubts if it is “effective” even if it is low cost.

    And on a side not: I am starting having my doubts about Twitter to. Have a feeling it is becoming less and less relevant. I used to be a fan, but now I am not so sure it is worth the time an effort any longer. The way people use it seems to have changed a lot recently.

  12. ST84Photography at 10:58 am

    It is even worse than this. When you pay to boost or promote a post, it reduces your reach even further. This happens because fake accounts “like” your page as a result of you paying to promote a post.

    So, say you currently have 1000 followers of your FB page, and they are all genuine people (clients, friends, etc) who want to hear about your work. Say FB only shares your post with 20% of them. You pay to promote a post. As a result, you get 500 fake accounts following you. The next time you post something, FB shares it with 20% of your followers. But, now, this includes the fake accounts, and your genuine reach has dropped by about a third.

    Paying for posts on FB consistently results in fake accounts following you and limiting your genuine reach among real fans of your work. The two videos in this post explain it well: http://www.booooooom.com/2014/02/25/end-facebook/

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  14. Michael Flaherty at 3:08 am

    Relevance, according to your tips, is about posting what is trendy and similar to what people like (i.e., what is popular). There seems to be no better way than this to torpedo a developing (or even established) style, to strive toward being derivative, to fit into the mold. The internet, in general, foments a stifling sameness. And there is no good reason for this but a widespread lack of imagination.

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  17. ST84Photography at 12:58 am

    Re Danielle’s point – this is true, mainly because it is the platform Google has full access to when crawling for links posted, engagement through likes, reshares, and comments, and the general number of followers an account has.

    Other platforms such as Facebook and Twitter don’t allow Google to crawl their sites as effectively, so a big following on G+ that is engaging with your content will give you strong SEO returns.

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