Get your shopfront in order this lockdown: How to manage your social media channels as an independent photographer
Ahead of our Arete photographer social takeover next month, we have put together our top tips for managing your social media platforms as an independent photographer or videographer.
You won’t be surprised to hear that there isn’t a magic formula for making your social media accounts successful marketing tools overnight. But there are some steps you can take to ensure that they authentically represent you and strategically position you to take advantage of online opportunities.
1. Choose your social channels carefully
Although being on more social channels will undoubtedly expose you to a broader audience, it can also leave you with a lot to do. If you choose to actively post on more than 2–3 channels, this will require both planning and management, which in turn could damage the spontaneity and authenticity of your posts. Find the right balance for the time you have available.
Social media management tools such as Hootsuite, or Buffer are useful — but quite often have limited options compared to posting directly on the platform. A good example is Buffer (a very popular social media management tool) that doesn’t allow you to add on additional tweets to your original post when you hit the character count. It is usually better to post directly on to platforms via their official apps if possible.
Your target audience and your content should lead your choice…
Identifying your target audience is vital. As an independent photographer, this might be publications you would like to be published in, commissioning editors or communication directors; these will be specific to your ambitions. Now you know who your target audience is, the chances are there is someone in your extended network who works in your target audience’s sector or perhaps even in the specific role. If at all possible, try to get a few minutes to pick their brain and discover which social media channels they use most regularly and for what. Failing that, a little online research can go a long way…
For example, generally, Facebook is often used as a personal storyboard for friends and family, LinkedIn is used as a networking and self-promotion tool, and Instagram is built around images, videos, and ‘influencers’.
If you would find a personal consultation on this topic helpful, please just let us know.
This is why it is important to choose your social channels carefully. Try to focus on those where your target audience is most likely to be and are designed for the content you will be posting.
As a photographer or videographer, Instagram will likely be your greatest tool. Although the most popular social platforms change from country to country, as of 2020, Instagram is the number one globally. Instagram has been built specifically for the sharing of images and short videos, so make sure this is where you are focussing most of your attention.
Separate the personal and the professional
If you like to use platforms such as Instagram personally, it is worth having a separate account for your photography identity and to set it up as a ‘business account’. This will give you more options for self-promotion and ensure other people don’t have to ‘request to follow you’ to see your posts.
Having separate accounts will benefit both the personal and professional aspects. By only having a professional account, you could end up stifling your creativity — as you worry about taking or posting photos that don’t match with your professional persona or chosen specialisation.
Conversely, with only a personal account, the photographs you display become less of a specialised edit and more of an eclectic mix of anything and everything you like to photograph. Which brings us nicely on to the next point…
2. Know your niche
Your niche or specialisation should be clear from the moment somebody visits your social media page. Think assiduously about what cover or profile photo you choose, set a scene from the start and tie this in with a short piece of informative text.
The bio section on Instagram is an excellent example of this. Your characters are limited, so it is important to choose your words carefully. Don’t be afraid to use emojis in place of certain words, and make sure you take advantage of the option to add a link to your website, Vimeo or other supporting material.
If you have decided to be a professional photographer, then you most likely know your niche by now. This could be something such as, Photojournalism, Wildlife, Documentary, Event, Sports, or Adventure. Keep in mind that anything you post (including captions) will add to the overall image of who you are as a professional photographer and person. Stay on brand, demonstrate your devotion to your niche, and people will soon begin to associate you with your speciality. Always ensure your spelling and grammar are good — people who may want to employ you will notice this.
If you look up any famous photographer you will notice immediately what their niche is:
David Hurn — Documentary Photographer
Georgina Goodwin — Documentary Photographer
3. Hashtags are your friend
Pretty much every social media platform has incorporated the use of hashtags. By clicking on a hyperlinked hashtag on a platform such as Twitter, or LinkedIn, you are immediately taken to a page. On this page, all the posts that have used that hashtag are displayed chronologically.
Hashtags can be great for joining a conversation about something that is very current, such as #Covid19 or #BLM (Black Lives Matter). Hashtags are also very useful for aligning your content to a global interest or theme, such as #photojournalism or #ThrowbackThursday.
Don’t underestimate hashtags as a tool for getting your content in front of your target audience. Think broadly about subjects your target audience may be interested in and then do a little research into popular hashtags within these subjects. For example, we work with many charities and NGOs, so we often use #CharityTuesday to position our photographs and other content in front of people who are interested in charity.
It can also be useful to spend some time exploring hashtag pages yourself. This can be a great way to stumble across opportunities for you to join a topical conversation, engage with people in your target audience, and collaborate with people in your field.
4. Collaboration is queen (or king)
The clue is in the name, social media. Don’t be afraid to contact people out of the blue to network or discuss opportunities to collaborate.
It is worth managing your expectations — keep in mind that hugely popular social media personalities with tens of thousands of followers are likely to find it challenging to respond to every single private message or comment.
A good place to start is with other photographers or photojournalists that have a similar follower count to your own. By offering to share some of their content on your page, and vice versa, each of you gains the opportunity to get your imagery in front of a new audience. Although time-consuming, this is a great way to grow your following and increase your brand awareness.
When contacting people, if they offer an email address on their profile, this should always be your first port of call. If not, then a private message should do the job. Aim to keep your message concise and authentic. If you come across too formal, it may be misconstrued as spam; alternatively, if you come across too informal, this could also reflect poorly. Just be yourself and don’t overthink it.
5. Maintain your presence and choose your content carefully
Once you have gone to all the hard work of identifying your target audience, gearing your pages to authentically represent you and your niche, the next step, and sometimes the most difficult, is to maintain your presence.
There is a lot of noise in the social media space, although that doesn’t mean you have to shout the loudest to be heard.
As a photographer, your content is your voice. Don’t just put any old up there, perform a mini-edit, and choose only the best shots. If you post too much, you will just be contributing to the noise.
A carefully thought out caption and selection of hashtags, alongside a captivating image, will go a long way on a platform such as Instagram. And remember, keep your content relevant to your niche.
Consistency is key
Aim to post a minimum number of times per week. We recommend somewhere between 2–4 times per week.
This will work to retain the followers you already have as it will remind them why they chose to follow you in the first place. Furthermore, each post will act as an opportunity to attract new followers. And finally, if there is a hashtag you often use, such as #wildlifephotographer, this will also ensure you maintain your presence and relevance on the #wildlifephotographer page for frequent visitors.
6. Your social is your shop window
Never shy away from self-promotion. There are certainly more tasteful ways to do it but avoiding it altogether because you feel awkward will only serve to harm your opportunities. Think of your social media as your shop window — a shop all about you, the professional photographer.
You’ve gone through all the previous steps to build your social media pages , curating the content, and joining online conversations via hashtagging and collaboration. Each of these steps serves to make your shop window look as attractive and interesting as possible. But even this doesn’t guarantee your target audience will engage with you.
Seek out self-promotion opportunities via the web, network both online and off, and most importantly, direct all potentially interested parties to your social media account. If there is genuine interest or they have an opportunity to offer, then your social provides them with all the tools they need to get in touch with you.
And that’s all there is to it! Now get out there and get your shopfront in order.