After all, you might argue there’s no such thing as overexposure on the internet…ahem.
Why photographers you might ask? Well, I have a few photographer friends who want to know more about how they can use the internet for marketing.
In addition, I’m really interested in how to create a personal brand, and I think it’s something that almost anyone can do effectively; it’s just about being true to yourself. And, as most photographers are “one-man bands”, marketing the brand that is you is of the utmost importance.
So where to start? Well, sites such as Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram are really useful for showcasing images, but social media is just one part of creating a memorable online persona.
Ultimately, you need to think beyond just social. So whether you’re the next David Bailey, an up and coming professional photographer or an amateur with a camera phone and an awesome eye for detail, this is the post for you.
Ready? Ok. Lights; camera; action…
1. Understand how Google works
A common query is “how do I appear on the top of Google search?” There might not be a simple quick-fix to search engine optimisation (SEO), but understanding how Google works is a great place to start. Search is too big a topic to cover in great depth in this post, but here’s a brief introduction with some links to beginner’s guides.
When you type a search query into Google, you’ll see different types of results:
The results in red are paid search ads. This is where the advertiser has paid a fee to have their web search results displayed at the top of Google, based on contextual key words. The associated cost can be based on the amount of traffic driven to the website (PPC or pay-per-click) or CPM (cost-per-impression; i.e. the number of times the ad is displayed).
The results in blue are natural or organic search results. These are unpaid for, and are based on the Google bots crawling your website for key words. Where your website appears depends on a number (in fact, hundreds!) of factors taken into account by Google’s magic algorithm, and forms the basis of SEO or search engine optimisation. These are known as ranking factors. Search engines aim to provide the user with relevant answers to their queries and rank them in order of importance. That’s a very topline overview, but you get the picture.
So, what does this mean? Although SEO is a long-term, continuous process, the very first port of call is to understand that Google can only crawl your site if it can read the words on your website. Google understands text. It does not understand images. So if all the text on your site is presented in image form, then Google can’t read it. You’re not even speaking to Google.
The other thing about having text as images is that you cannot create web links for words used on your site. If the words are presented as images, you provide no opportunity for the user to click on a word which opens up as a link to a different part of the website. And don’t forget, if your text is presented as an image, editing it is a whole lot harder than simply going back and retyping the words.
So although images are obviously important for photographers, making the most of the words on your page is crucial for Google to be able to index your site. And I’m not saying you need lots and lots of text on your site; after all it only follows that a photography site will probably be mostly made up of images. But, crucially, any words you do include must be text-based to make it easier for search engines to read, and must be optimised to yield better search results.
For more information about SEO, check out these (free) beginner’s guides:
- Econsultancy Search Engine Optimisation (SEO): A Beginner’s Guide
- SEOMoz: The Free Beginner’s Guide to SEO
- Google: Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide
2. Use creative content to tell a story
They say a picture tells a thousand words. Ultimately, photography is the art of story-telling. Sharing the story behind your photography is not only a great way to engage your audience, but also helps to generate content for your website.
Social media, like photography, is about telling a story. All this really means is “be interesting”. For example, the Humans of New York is a great street photography blog that generated a large following through social media. As of November 2014, HONY has 10.7M likes on Facebook.
The photographer behind the project, Brandon Stanton, aims to photograph New York residents and plot their location on a map. But what is really fascinating about the project is the short stories that Stanton collected along the way.
This is definitely something photographers can be inspired by. Whether it’s on your website or on social media, sharing the story behind your photograph can be a really effective way to engage your audience.
And stories can also be shared in the form of blogs on your website. If writing isn’t your thing, it doesn’t need to be in great depth. Content marketing provides a whole host of benefits. Not only does it help to build valuable relationships with your existing advocates, it can help search engines to find you, thus generating new relationships with potential clients. Crucially, it makes you appear personal and human.
Another place where you can share your story is on your About page. Take a look at street photographer, Matt Stuart’s About page, for example. On this page, he shares information about his photography experience, what inspires him, details of the cameras he uses, and much more.
3. Share your knowledge and expertise
Another form of content marketing includes how-to-guides and hints and tips for hobbyists who want to improve their photography. Everyone wants to take better pictures. And this is where you come in.
Obviously, you don’t want to give away the farm, but providing some useful advice can help position you as a thought leader or expert, and therefore enhance your credibility. If you’re known to be an expert in your field, you’re far more likely to be approached by PR and press to give your opinion on a particular topic.
In addition, it gives readers a reason to come back to your website and read your content. If writing is your thing, you could create a blog around photography tips. If blogging isn’t your bag, then sharing tips on social media about how to capture a beautiful image is a great way to generate interesting content. It just gives your audience a far more compelling reason for hitting the “Like” button on your fan page.
Alternatively, you could answer questions on third-party websites, such as Quora, for example. This is a great resource for readers to get tips about almost any subject; equally experts can go online to answer these queries. There are hundreds of queries relating to hints and tips about improving photos, both from in front of and behind the camera.
Yahoo Answers is another example of a question and answer site. Internet users will often type their questions directly into Google, which means that questions on Yahoo Answers often rank well in search.
4. Find creative ways to interact with your fans, followers, listeners
Okay, so you’ve got your Facebook page. You have Instagram. And you have Twitter. Now what next? Of course the obvious thing is to post your photos and get as many “Likes” as you can. But think beyond just “Likes” and think about how to interact with your audience and create meaningful conversations.
Photographs are essentially capturing a memory and it’s simple to get your audience to talk about their special moments or places they have visited. If you’re posting an image of a place you’ve visited, something as simple as asking your audience about their memories of that place can initiate a dialogue. It takes you a step beyond merely likes and helps you to reach out to your fans through meaningful interactions. It’s also a great way to show your human side and create a personal brand.
Competitions are also another way to get your fans to interact with you. For example, take a look at photographer, Max Barsness aka heretosaveyouall on Instagram. He has some truly beautiful images, and some 103,000 followers. He also happens to be friends with one, Mr Aaron Paul. Back in August 2014, Aaron Paul ran the following competition:
The offer of a Breaking Bad script inevitably led to Max garnering a lot of followers and comments on Instagram. Now you could question the value of these followers, given that many people were only lured to the page on the promise of Breaking Bad memorabilia. And although many people quickly unfollowed Max after the competition ended, many stayed for the beautiful images (myself included and I’m really glad that I did!). The point is that the competition created great exposure, and Aaron Paul did this because he truly believes in the talent of Max’s photography.
Now, in an ideal world, we would all be friends with Aaron Paul (yeah, bitch), but of course, not everyone can do this. But what this example does highlight is the value of running competitions as a means to get your followers to interact with you and create some buzz around your photography. And it doesn’t have to be on the scale of Aaron Paul superstardom.
The benefits of running competitions on social media are numerous, but they include increased engagement, creating incentives for people to follow you, and enhanced brand awareness and exposure.
5. Go back to basics and nail your website.
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that while social media is a great platform for showing off your portfolio to your fans, your website is the primary place for showcasing your best work to potential paying clients. It’s likely to be the first place that your future customers will look for you.
A lot of small businesses focus on social media as a starting point for marketing themselves online, but it’s crucial to make your website a priority. It’s a given that as a photographer, you will probably be using high-quality images on your site, but have you taken into account the overall user experience?
For example, how easy is it to access and use your site on mobile? If you’re building your website using a free provider, such as Wix or Weebly, these sites now include mobile optimisation tools to create a version of your site that will work on phones.
Also, think about how your customer will find your website. If your photography company works under a corporate brand name, are they more likely to search for that brand or for your name? If someone doesn’t yet know the brand, they are probably more likely to search for you instead, as an individual who is the face, talent and creativity behind the photography. It takes a while to build a recognisable brand, whereas a name is probably more instantly memorable.
The functionality of the website is also important. It sounds simple, but for example, does your website allow the user to cycle back and forth on images, pause on certain pictures and forward others?
The user experience of the website is a whole in-depth topic in itself, but it’s worth thinking about your site from the perspective of your customers, and definitely making it a priority alongside other forms of marketing.
I hope this post has been interesting and informative, and I would love to get your feedback. It would also be great to get digital marketing tips from those working in the realm of photography.