There is a love/hate relationship the majority of us have with social media. We promote our work there, but we also waste a huge amount of time on it. What are the best alternative to social media then? Where can we publish our work in order to gain visibility and, why not, some paid projects?
Let’s step back for a moment and try to understand what we are dealing with here.
Promotion is marketing, and the word scares many of us. This article wants to demystify what marketing is. It wants to change your perspective on how social media platforms revolve around it. It also wants to show you the best alternatives to social media to gain some visibility. At the end of this post you will love marketing for your photography a bit more!
Please remember, there is no silver bullet to promote yourself. There are ways in which you can understand how you can make the most out of promotion. This with real alternatives to social media.
Marketing or Likes?
In today’s world, the daily currency we look at is the number of likes we get. Everything seems to revolve around the level of engagement we get on Instagram. Everyone wants others to like us, but is this the real number we should focus on? Being a successful photographer has little to do with the number of likes you have. When you live from photography, it is the number of clients that counts. Even if you are not a professional, it should not be how many people “like” your post to drive you.
You should be much more interested in being relevant.
Marketing is the process of getting known. It is what drives people to appreciate your work. You should then introduce them to the pipeline to become clients. These people may be brides to be, someone who wants your portraits or someone who wants one of your prints. My point is straightforward: if you want to make peace with marketing, stop counting likes. You should understand who you show your photographs to, and what you want them to do once they land on your page.
Do you want to know which was the big turning point in my business? It was when I stopped looking at the number of visits on my website. It was amazing to have 15k visits a month on my small boudoir website, yet these numbers never counted. The true count was the number of “ideal clients” that were landing there. Understanding them did more than any social media campaign we ever had. I stopped counting visitors and I started counting leads.
The issue with social media as a marketing platform
My main issue with social media as a marketing platform is that we often forget its limitations. Many of us feel that social media is the final place to drive our ideal client. This is generally false. Social media does not have the capability to convert visitors into something more. And because social media limits you to the people you know, it is challenging to expand your reach, which is… marketing. In social media, we need to be good networkers; we need to be active and “real” in interactions with others. This requires a lot of time and effort. And every minute we invest there, we remove from what should be important for us: our photography.
Social media is not the photographers’ enemy, yet neither is it our magic wand. Social media are great platforms for advertising. If you want people to find and see you, you need to advertise yourself. you can do it through traditional adverts. Or you can do it through time commitment. You can even pay someone to do it for you. Yet, it is advertising, and it has its limitations.
Know your clients
Let’s step back for a moment from social media. The issue I have often seen is that photographers tackle marketing with the wrong foot. Whenever I teach marketing for photographers, it is simple for me to see who will succeed. They are those who understand that you need to know your “ideal client” well and deeply. The real advantage of social media is that it groups together many types of people. Most probably, a well-planned ad campaign will reap your ideal client from there. Yet, social media is not the best place to find them. Hence the challenge every photographer faces: there is no silver bullet to promote your photography. Nobody has a pre-built solution that matches your style, this is why you have to work yourself.
Now, don’t let the title “ideal client” scare you. Even if you are not a professional photographer, you should still have one. Even if photography is your passion, you still have one ideal client. You should have one specific type of person that you would like to show your photos to. She can be your next subject or your next model. She can be your next paying client. In any case you should know her very well.
This is the challenge. No one can tell you what are the best alternatives to social media for you. They cannot help to promote you if you don’t know your ideal client!
The best alternative is not the same for everyone
If you wanted to reach me, being on Facebook would not help you much, as I am rarely there. Now, while I may not be your ideal client, you have to ask yourself what your ideal client does. Is she often on Facebook or does she love YouTube? Does she tweet a lot or is she more into reading blogs? You see, it is your challenge to define who the client you want to promote your photos to is. The good news is that understanding her will make you understand the “photographer you” better. You have to dig deep in understanding this person, being her in every detail. This is the key to promoting yourself. While your ideal client may be on social media, I am sure they are somewhere else as well. And they may be easier to reach than on Facebook.
The key thing you have to do is describe in details the person you want to show your photographs to. The deeper and deeper you go in describing her, the easier it will be to discover where you can find them. You can find the alternatives to social media to promote your photographs in your ideal client:
**Understanding what they read and what they love is your key to success**.
Yours is different from mine, and it is different from another photographer’s. You see, my clients are women who consider themselves feminists. Guess where I decided to be? In podcasts and social circles where they gather. I am on the mouths of other feminists who understand what I do. The silver bullet is not one alternative to social media.
**The real silver bullet is understanding who you want to be in front of**.
Everyone will try to convince you to invest your money to advertise through their platform. If you know how to make it work, which is a big if, you will be able to reach your clients. The point of this article comes before that: you need to know whom you want to reach before thinking how.
**Invest your time in asking yourself: who is that should see my photos?**
Why social media’s strength is its weakness?
Social media logic revolves around who knows whom. This is where everything started. Who is your “friend” and who you follow. It is all about the social circles in which you are in. This is powerful and it works, but it is also social medias worst weakness. Breaking free from your social circles is difficult. Getting known by those who don’t know you yet is the challenge. When you publish your photos on Instagram, best chances are that your friends will see them. If your friends are your ideal clients, then you are ok. But If you want to promote your photography, reach those that don’t know you yet…
My pet peeve about social media is simple: I am in front of the eyes of those who know me already. My friends are on social media, and we are connected. For my business accounts, my previous clients are often there. While this is good for repeating clients, social media limits my options if I want to expand my reach. Promoting my photos should be done towards those who care about what I produce and don’t know me yet!
Instagram and Facebook allow you to reach new people effectively only through paid ads. So, are there any digital solutions that are good alternatives to the usual names? And if so, why?
Solution like Phlow, We Heart It or EyeEM can help
Here come a few alternatives to traditional social media. They may have the possibility to change the way we promote our photographs. You will notice that they are all niche products. The probability is that you don’t know them yet. They do not have the reach Instagram has. What they do have is the potential to make it big as marketing tool for photographers.
All these have one thing in common: they are not friends-centric.
To better explain the concept, users are not any longer the center of attention. You don’t need to know and follow someone, you need to decide what you care about, and these products show you the rest. In placing photographs at the center of attention, these products are placing users at the helm of what they want to see. If your ideal client is about portraiture, she will find amazing portraits. Our ideal client is not interested in who we are. They don’t know us. But they want to see what they like, and our photos can be there. They can be there not for who we are or how good networkers we are, but because of our craft.
Where should you go from here?
What I have written so far is a wide overview of the options photographers have to promote themselves. The reality is that we all need a step-by-step guide on how to get there. Some of you are frustrated by the lack of engagement on social media, I have been for a long time. Some of you may not know where to put their first steps. I want to close this article by giving you a simple step-by-step guide on how to build your silver bullet. It won’t be simple, and you will have to do it all by yourself. If you do it though, I promise you that you will find the best alternatives to social media to promote your work!
1) Produce a Business Model Canvas ( https://strategyzer.com/canvas/business-model-canvas ) for yourself. It is a simple strategy to understand what you offer and what you could deliver to people. Spend time in understanding this even if you are not a professional photographer. This will give you clarity about who should see your photos.
2) Describe ONE ideal client. You should describe the person you’d like to find your photographs. Don’t be shy and describe her in every single detail. What she does, what she loves, what she thinks and how she feels. Be verbose, be her, describe every single emotion she is after. Don’t skip this part, don’t be cheap and invest days of your time in understanding her. The more you write, the more you will have clear in your mind why she needs your photographs.
3) Put 1 and 2 together. It is as simple as it gets. Your canvas and your persona should play well together. One should be perfect for the other and vice versa. Make sure your vision and the person you want to be your client match.
4) Stop “spraying and praying”! While I advocate this for how you photograph, this time I am talking about marketing. Be precise, target the persona you built and forget anyone else. Promoting yourself in front of people who are not interested in what you do is useless. I would trade a thousand likes for a client every day.
5) “Be your ideal client”. Start identifying the places where you would hang out. If you were her, would you be on Facebook? Or would you rather read a blog about yoga? And if you are in a particular place, what would you do there? Use your brain cells and imagination together. Marketing your photography is fun, if you play enough!
That is what you need to find the alternatives (if you need them) to social media. This is what you need to promote your photography in front of the eyes of the people who care. As they are the only one you should care about!
For more on promotion, check out this link.