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Photography Marketing: Know your platform

As photographers, we spend a lot of time sharing our images and trying to market ourselves on social media. It’s no secret that we spend about 20% of our time actually photographing, while the other 80% is spent on our business.

In order to be effective on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, however, you have to know the platform. And you have to know your audience for those platforms.

Facebook

When Facebook was initially launched in February 2004, its audience was clear. It catered specifically to college students. But two years after its launch, it opened to the masses, meaning everyone from your teenage cousin to grandma can sign up for an account.

Because of that switch, Facebook has gotten older in terms of its audience that’s familiar with the platform. While I wouldn’t dream of my grandma signing up for Facebook 10 years ago, it’s no longer unrealistic to see people in their 80s and 90s on the most popular social network out there, especially if they were introduced to it several years ago.

As Facebook’s audience has gotten older, it’s starting to lose its grip with the younger generation. This means that, for photographers hoping to market their work, it’s really an ideal audience to cater to. Here are some best practices when posting to Facebook:

  • 60-second rule: If you post a video, try to keep it under 60 seconds. While Facebook has played around with longer videos and even has its own TV show platform on the site, it hasn’t been deemed as being effective. The exception here, of course, is with live videos.
  • Crop your images to 16×9: For whatever reason, 16×9 images fit best in Facebook’s world. They seem to be more effective when cropped to this size, much like vertical and square images are more effective on Instagram.
  • Post promotional material: Because the audience on Facebook skews older, users are less likely to just scroll by what they see. That’s not to say you should write an essay on Facebook, but posting a 3-4 sentence post is more likely to be read (especially if it’s accompanied by a photo).
  • Don’t post text by itself: Several studies have proven that Facebook posts with images or videos are more likely to be interacted with as opposed to text-only posts. As photographers, this should come especially easy for us!
  • Don’t bombard your audience: On your business page especially, it’s important to not over-post. Two to three posts per day is a much better practice than posting five or six times a day.

Instagram

Facebook’s cousin, Instagram, seems to fill the gaps where Facebook can’t. Its audience skews younger, often grabbing the attention of teenagers and millennials. Still, this is a great place for photographers to post work, as these could be people who are your future clients. If you’re a wedding or engagement photographer, millennials are key to market to right now. The same thing can be said for family and newborn photographers.

Where Instagram isn’t as effective is when you’re marketing to corporations or business professionals. Being a corporate event photographer myself, I’ve learned that posting event photographs isn’t effective. Instead, I use Instagram to engage with other community members by posting photos of the area I live in, as well as engaging with other creatives and influencers. It’s why on my Instagram page, you’ll see a lot of travel-like photography, whether it’s five minutes from my home or several hours away.

If you decide to market on Instagram, there are a few best practices:

  • Vertical or square: While my preference is to post horizontal photographs, they are not as effective on Instagram. They don’t take up as much space in a user’s feed, which means your photos are less likely to be seen. Instead, crop for the native square format, or go vertical.
  • Don’t over-post: I find it most effective to post one or two times a day. I use Buffer to schedule out my Instagram posts so I can easily keep my feed updated and know exactly what times my images are posting.
  • Always tag a location: This is key, and often overlooked. Even if it’s a generic tag like Grand Rapids, Michigan, photos that have locations are more likely to be seen — especially if they’re photographs that show off the location. Instagram users regularly visit location pages to check out the restaurant they want to eat at or to plan their cross-country trip.
  • Hashtag and mention others: It’s important to hashtag every image. I recommend you do this in the comments, though, instead of in the main image caption. This helps keep your caption clean and will avoid you from having a link to view the full caption (a lot of people won’t ever click that). At the same time, don’t forget to tag other accounts in your photographs and mention accounts in captions.
  • Keep captions short and sweet: Captions should ideally be 2-3 lines total. This ensures your entire caption is seen.
  • Play around with Instagram stories: Fellow Photofocus author Erin Holmstead has a great piece on using Instagram stories. These are a great marketing tool and can be used for some cool behind-the-scenes footage.
  • Be consistent: Not only in terms of scheduling but also in terms of content. Make sure your feed is clear and tells users who you are as a photographer. If you shoot travel photography, focus on highlighting that. Putting in a random wedding is not going to help your case!
  • No links: Unlike Facebook, you can’t put links into your Instagram posts. Instead, you’re limited to one link in your profile. Many users change this out regularly and make note of it in the caption of their photographs.

For more on Photography Marketing, see my weekly column.

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