In 2006 Facebook went public. It was a new way of communicating and took the world by storm. It grew into the world’s largest social network with three billion users worldwide. It changed how we interact with each other and the world around us. Even though today’s younger generations tend to prefer other networks, over two-thirds of US adults use it regularly. The major media conglomerate Meta owns Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, channeling a substantial proportion of today’s communication. Facebook hosts companies’ pages as well as private profiles, and today 90 million small businesses use Facebook to promote their services. This includes many photographers like Rocco Ceselin. But is Facebook for photographers worth it?
Rocco, a Los Angeles lifestyle photographer sees Facebook, along with Instagram, as an important tool to find clients. He says,
Posting on social media is important and useful for my clients. They love to see that my life as a photographer is active and interesting and I love to share my passion for storytelling through new images.
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Facebook has personal profiles, pages (for businesses and people who may have many followers), as well as interest groups. There is a lot of focus on personal one-to-one interactions usually with people or brands the poster is familiar with. Groups also play a very important part – it’s where like-minded people support each other, give advice, or discuss topics.
Although still a vast social network, a lot of influential young people have turned away from it, flocking to other platforms where it’s easier to interact with people who are not in your real-life network already. It’s also difficult for businesses to grow their following without paying to promote posts or advertising.
Like all major social media platforms, an algorithm decides which posts appear on your newsfeeds. Every new post is evaluated on how relevant it is likely to be to you. This is based on what kind of posts you have interacted with and how many people from a similar demographic have reacted to the post. So if you are, for example, a music photographer and have liked and interacted with people posting about a certain genre of music, you are much more likely to see other posts about similar bands.
The algorithm continually ‘learns’ about your Facebook behavior. For example, it considers the time of the day you’re active on the platform so that it can show you relevant content, especially ads, during those times. Journalists and organizations have criticized Facebook for allegedly designing it so that it appears to favor controversial and divisive content. Why? It leads to greater engagement, which keeps people on the platform and for longer periods of time, allowing Meta can sell more advertising.
In 2018 Facebook took the controversial decision to change its algorithm. This change curtailed the number of people who would see the posts of business pages, favoring personal posts in newsfeeds. It was believed that Facebook wanted to encourage businesses, who usually have a marketing budget, to opt for paid posts or ads to reach their customers instead of relying on organic growth. Facebook offers users to pay to ‘boost’ a post. These will then be displayed in newsfeeds (labeled as a ‘sponsored post’). This is bad news for photographers. Posts from their business pages are likely to only be shown to a small fraction of their followers unless there is an extraordinarily high amount of likes and comments to a post. This means it can be difficult to stay in touch with former clients.
Next, we can look into how to advertise your photography business on Facebook. It’s important to understand all your options and to use the information to decide which path is best for you.
There is a bit of a grey zone for photographers who may have a personal profile, which happens to include some clients who you know personally. However, there’s a danger that the page neither works as a personal page, where you can speak your mind, nor as a professional one, where you can openly promote your business. So it’s worth considering how you would like to utilize this platform.
While a personal account will get you a personal Facebook profile, a business account means you are running a Facebook Page. Pages can’t have Facebook friends, but people can ‘follow’ or ‘like’ them. They cannot post on personal timelines and only see public data of users’ names, profile photos, and locations. The business page can’t comment on other timelines, but you can send private messages. It’s also worth noting that Facebook business pages are always public, meaning anybody can visit them. This could restrict the content you can show – for example, personal projects with models who don’t want their images publicly displayed.
When setting up a Facebook business page, it should align with your branding and include a photo that grabs people’s attention and shows off your skill as a photographer. Add an appropriate call-to-action (CTA), which is always located at the bottom right-hand corner of your cover photo. Don’t forget to make sure everything in the “About” tab is accurate.
While it can be challenging to get a wide reach with a business page, photographers can use Facebook to build relationships with relevant decision-makers, rather than just broadcast to as many followers as possible. How? Depending on your business and clients, creating a Facebook group can work well for you. They can be an excellent environment for discussion and exchange of information. The key for an engaged group is to provide value for its members. For example, it could be about visual trends in your industry, how to direct photography shoots, how to write a good brief, or the ins and outs of organizing a production. In addition, Facebook photography groups can be fantastic for positioning yourself as a helpful expert while allowing you to showcase your work. However, there are certain rules you should follow to run a successful Facebook Group:
Reaching your target audience is not only about creating a Facebook photography ad. There are a few other strategies you should consider (as well as boosted or paid posts).
Adam Wells, a San Francisco outdoor and lifestyle photographer, finds Facebook a useful platform to connect with clients. He reposts his Instagram feed, as well as any client work that has been shared, here. He says,
Although Instagram is my primary platform, simply because it’s more visually immersive, Facebook is still a useful touch point for my business. I like having all my posts and my client’s re-posts all in one place. I grew my FB following by inviting my FB friends to follow my business page. I also put the details of my social media account in my contracts so that crediting me across all my various channels is a part of our agreement, which in turn drives more traffic to my page.
While connecting with other photographers is often easy, it will take some more effort to network with potential clients. Inviting people you have worked with before to like/follow your page or asking them into your group is a good starting point. Joining and being an active participant in professional support and networking groups in your field is another way to build relationships, but this can be very time-consuming.
These allow you to target users according to gender, age, location, education, marital status, and work. However, people who commission photography can be harder to target, as their professional field and job titles vary widely. Facebook offers the option to target anybody who has visited your website in the last 30 days, but it can make people uncomfortable. As a result, few photographers use it, but it’s still worth being aware of it, as it’s great to reach particular hyperlocal groups.
Here is a quick guide on how to make the most out of your Facebook content.
Videos will get the highest engagement, followed by posts containing photos. Meanwhile, text-only contributions will usually be shown to the fewest people. It’s also worth keeping in mind that Facebook prefers native content (content on their platform) over links. So make sure you add an actual video, image or graphic directly to the post.
They can be fun, informative, or thought-provoking. But usually, shorter posts work better.
Posting consistently and keeping in line with your brand is key to establishing a powerful presence on Facebook.
It’s hotly debated how many people actually use hashtags on Facebook to browse different subjects, as is very common on Twitter. Nevertheless, using some relevant hashtags can help to grow your following.
Nothing boosts confidence more than heart-felt testimonials from recent clients. They can even be more effective than paid ads. A happy client won’t mind you reaching out, giving you great content for your social media accounts.
While posting regularly certainly helps, keep in mind that quality also matters. Posting for the sake of posting can backfire, as people will unfollow your page. The Dallas portrait photographer Stewart Cohen sums it up:
I try to engage when I feel I have something to say and try to communicate in a way that our clients may appreciate.
You can enhance your Facebook marketing strategy by using these tools of the trade:
Make sure you make the most of the tools available – Facebook insights or third-party software can give you valuable information about your followers and the reach of your posts.
You can also connect LinkedIn to Facebook, so anything you post on LinkedIn is automatically re-posted on Facebook. For more automation, you can use software that allows you to schedule posts to be disseminated across various platforms. Rocco, like many others, automatically re-posts all his Instagram posts on Facebook.
Like all successful social media platforms, Facebook is extremely good at keeping you scrolling – their revenue depends on it! Take time to step back and review how many leads it garners vs how much time you spend on Facebook. This way you can make sure you use it as effectively as you can. Ask yourself if you’re reaching the right people, how many convert, and if the time you spend on it is a good investment in your business.
Here is a breakdown of the pros and cons of using Facebook for photographers’ businesses.
Most photographers find Instagram more useful for showcasing their work, but Facebook can still be a useful platform. So it’s worth doing an audit and considering how useful the biggest social media behemoth is to you. Ultimately, it’s all about your business and how you can – or cannot – make this platform work for you.
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