Digital Marketing for Photographers
I spent a couple of seasons as a wedding videographer here in Minneapolis, and I intersected with dozens of photographers along the way. Many of these photographers were great at what they did, while others were questionable at best. While wedding photographers are the ones I worked with consistently, I’ve also had the opportunity to meet fashion photographers, commercial photographers, portrait photographers, lifestyle photographers, and more.
Here’s the terrifying fact:
Photographers with minimal skill are able to book gigs consistently, and they’re often commanding higher rates than the most skilled photographers.
Photographers are missing low hanging fruit that’s available to them via simple digital marketing techniques. Photographers who are digital marketing savvy are converting dozens of leads online, attracting the clients they actually want, and shooting selectively due to the high volume of potential gigs they could choose to work with.
Here’s what those photographers are doing that you’re not.
I can’t remember the last time I met a photographer who keeps up with their blog. It’s definitely understandable, given that photographers spend most of their time editing old photos and shooting new ones. However, if you want to be competitive with the top talent in the photography industry, you have no choice but to update your site on a consistent basis.
Think of how you’d search for a wedding photographer, assuming for a moment that you don’t know the dozens of photographers that you’ve crossed paths with. You’d probably head to The Knot or to a search engine.
You’d look up “Wedding Photographer MN” or some variation of that, and then pick from the first page or two of photographers that come up. If you were a little more unsure, you might look up articles like “How to Pick a Wedding Photographer” or “What to Ask Your Wedding Photographer”. Is your name coming up in any of those searches? It’s highly unlikely unless your website is staying fresh with new, relevant content.
Think of your website like a town. Each page on your site is a building. Some people are drawn to bars, others are drawn to coffee shops, and still others are looking for restauraunts, theaters, and more. Is your website the classic 3-page site with a Home Page, About Page, and Contact page? If so, it is like a small town with two bars and a restaurant. It won’t appear on any map, and no one will be drawn to it.
If your website contains hundreds of pages targeted at unique interests, you’ll soon find that hundreds, even thousands of people, will be attracted to your site. These hundreds of pages are typically organized within a blog.
On most photographers’ blogs, you’ll find articles like “Nick and Chloe - May 2017.” Unfortunately, these kinds of articles are only relevant to two people and their families. While this is an absolutely essential post for driving that crowd back to your website, it’s much more important to be aware of what engaged couples are currently searching for.
If you were about to get married and didn’t know anything about wedding photographers, what are the odds that you’d click on a link entitled “5 Things to Know Before Hiring a Wedding Photographer”? It’s a pretty safe bet to say that you’d be tempted to click and check it out. You might even be searching for an article about just that.
The people who read these articles are qualified leads, and they are the ones that you need to be appealing to. Instead of keeping your blog exclusively dedicated to previous clients, think of what a future client might want to know and write something that speaks to them. Very few photographers do this, and in the long term, the results of doing this could be tremendous.
Photographers should have a bigger advantage than almost any other kind of brand on social media. They have massive image libraries and assets available to aid them on social media. And yet, just like everyone else, they fail to get more than 1-2 likes on their posts.
Why? Because social media is about more than great pictures. To succeed on social, you need to be considering the audience on each platform. What works on Instagram or Pinterest will almost certainly fail on Facebook.
Consider these simple steps to stepping up your social media game on the three most important social media networks for photographers:
Facebook: Here’s a fact: people come to Facebook to be informed and to read opinion-based content. That means that they don’t come to see a photo of a bride they don’t know attached to a caption that shares absolutely nothing about how the photo should be relevant to them. Instead, they come for a political opinion that aligns with their own or a funny anecdote that relates to their unique situation.
I’m not telling you to post memes and politically charged rants on Facebook in a weird plea for likes. I’m simply asking you to consider why people like posts like this and how you can capitalize on it.
Here’s my thought. On Facebook, it’s important to attach your photos to meaningful descriptions. Share someone’s story or a little bit about them. Find a way to make these “random people” relevant to all of your followers. After all, relevancy is the key to social media. Facebook has designed an intricate algorithm around the idea of relevancy. This is their core value, and you need to be aware of that if you’re going to succeed. Think about why you click on the things you click on and why you like what you like. Odds are, your fans are liking or ignoring content for the same reasons as you.
Here’s another way to fail on Facebook—don’t share anything besides your work. Facebook is not Instagram, and your “feed” is completely valueless. Share some personalized content. People want to know who you are and they want to know what you do. Behind the scenes content will almost always perform better than photography that’s been polished off.
Facebook users are concerned with stories, facts, figures, and the like. Not just eye-catching work. If they were after that, they could pick up a coffee table book. People want to see work that’s meaningful, and they want to know about the people that are behind it. Not seeing the practical application? Think of the wildly successful Humans of New York page.
Instagram: You’d think that all photographers would understand Instagram. Unlike Facebook, Instagram actually is based largely off of high-quality, impressive imagery. People come to Instagram to be inspired, not to be informed. Instagram should showcase your best work, but everything you share should fit stylistically with everything else in your feed.
You should also be researching the hashtags your potential clients are looking through, and you should be limiting your sharing to a maximum of 3 times per day.
That might sound like the most basic advice anyone could ever offer, but I can almost guarantee that you are not using hashtags and posting strategies to their maximum potential. Spend at least an hour researching, and you’ll uncover communities you didn’t even know existed.
Instagram’s about authenticity as well, and it’s important to be apart of the conversation. Be sure to interact with other people’s content to avoid feeling like a “brand” instead of a person.
Pinterest: What kind of photographer has a digital marketing strategy that involves Pinterest? Well, if you think about it, the idea of marketing on Pinterest doesn't sound so crazy - at least not for photographers.
Have you ever used Pinterest searches as a way to generate ideas and get inspired? If you're active on the site at all, then it's likely that you have. After all, that's pretty much why this network exists. People are always on the look out for ideas, and that's not at all different when they're considering photographers.
If you've been around the block a couple of times, you've probably encountered at least one client that has some great ideas for your shots. They might pull out their phone and inform you that they were looking on Pinterest and saw something that they want to emulate.
Imagine what could happen if your photos were the inspiration shots that people everywhere referred to. It might seem like a hollow victory at first. After all, no one's going to pay you for the idea that you gave them.
However, a photographer that's viewed as an authority in the industry has the highest potential to win the best gigs. These are the photographers that people request from all over the place, the ones that shoot at the most interesting and incredible weddings across the country.
Marketing on Pinterest requires a little bit of love to be spread around. Try posting your best photos and creating boards that include a combination of your photos and work that you admire. You might find yourself with followers, re-pins, and phone calls from all over the place.
Ever taken a shot at film photography? If you're like most photographers, you've at least picked up a film camera once or twice.
Some people love film photography and others hate it. Why? Because there's a lot of educated guesswork involved.
Becoming a great film photographer takes time because successes and failures can't be observed until the roll is developed.
Film photography is exactly like organic (free) digital marketing. Even the best online marketing strategies take time to develop. It can be months before any kind of results are seen.
Paid advertising, on the other hand, is a lot like digital photography. Results come instantaneously, making campaigns easier to measure and improve.
There are all kinds of places that you can place advertising dollars, but the important thing to know is that you have to do it right. Paying for marketing doesn't make anything into a guarantee, and you could end up wasting tons of money before learning that - unless you're careful.
There are two great places to invest advertising dollars in. Here's what to know about each.
Google AdWords: AdWords is your ultimate search engine marketing solution. Try searching for "wedding photography" and adding in your locality. What you'll likely find is a search engine result page that has a bunch of things mixed together to create a variety of options to click on.
On the very top of the page (and on the bottom), you'll find advertisements. These advertisements are here because certain people placed bids up for the opportunity to appear for that exact search query.
Google doesn't allow just anything to appear here. After all, they want their users to find relevant pages on search engine result pages - even the ads have to be relevant. Every Google ad that competes for a position on a search engine result page is given a relevancy score by Google. That score, among other factors, determines which ads appear in which position.
Beyond that, relevancy almost certainly determines how users will react once they reach your website. Will they want to hire you as a photographer? Will they be scared away by cheap advertising compacts? Are they compelled to learn more?
Before paying for advertising on Google, consider all of these things and develop a page accordingly. Don't just drop users onto your homepage, they need to be led to exactly the information that they're looking for. You can know a lot about what they might be looking for based on what it is that they searched for.
Facebook Ads (and Instagram Ads): Unlike Google AdWords, most photographers are familiar with Facebook advertising. It's popular, and it's been known to drive all kinds of leads.
But be careful here. Irrelevant ads will scare people away and cause them to ignore whatever it is you're saying. Once again, it's important to consider exactly what someone needs to know about you, your photography, or your company.
As a photographer, you probably don't need to be told that imagery is important in advertising. No one will hire a photographer that posts horrible photos.
However, it's also important to consider the next step that you're encouraging. Are you driving someone to your website so that they can easily inquire about your services? Are you leading them back to your Facebook or Instagram profile so that they can see more of your work?
Whatever you choose to do, just make sure that you think through a potential customer's journey. Where they're at in the process will almost certainly determine what they think of the advertisements you're showing. Target carefully and plan accordingly.
This really is all it takes to get started on surging ahead of the competition. Seeing major results takes time, but you might be impressed by how quickly the right leads start coming your way every now and then.
If you’re interested in learning about advanced strategies for social media, SEO, and web presence marketing, we’d love to buy you a cup of coffee. We’ve seen big time results by working with our clients to explode their web presence and get their content seen, and we’d love to talk about how we can do the same for your photography business.