I first started using social media as a way of sharing my work with the world and with the hopes of building a business. My presence on social media was for me, was selfish and was focused on making myself known. When following the best practices on social media like sharing stories through my posts, posting regularly, engaging with my audience, the focus is still selfish and is still focused on building my own brand. However, what I did not expect was how much social media would have improved my skills as a photographer. I have learned so much from social media just by browsing the pages and engaging with people with similar interests.
Although it is not a surprise to many people, I did not intend on using Instagram for inspiration. I always relied on Pinterest or magazines but as Instagram grows in popularity, the number of outstanding artists has grown as well. There is a seemingly infinite source of inspiration flowing out of social media at all times and that was unexpected for me. I thought I would be providing the inspiration!
With COVID-19 as well as the world being in social unrest during this summer, social media has been used as a key source of social activism and information sharing. It was probably not expected but social media became key sources for information on racism, sexism, protests, etc. Along the same vein, social media now has the ability to affect elections. It is a definite social influencer.
Finally, social media has also allowed me to keep track of current trends as they happen in art, society, the news, etc. It is not only a way of spreading my message but I am absorbing everyone else’s messages as well. I can also keep track of social media trends on all different social media platforms. Instagram can feature Tiktok videos, Twitter can feature Facebook posts, Pinterest can feature pictures from Instagram. Everything is interconnected and this can be hugely beneficial to anyone who is trying to keep track of the world but does not want to have all social media channels at once.
The below activities are things that I have committed to continuing to do over the next 6-12 months in order to continue to develop my network. My strategy for developing a professional network as a novice photographer/a photographer with a relatively small audience is to first make sure that my work is displayed in a way that showcases my talents properly. Without this, I will be unable to sell my worth to other photographers and it will be much harder to be taken seriously.
Secondly, I find that many photographers went through the same struggles at the beginning of their journeys and really enjoy imparting their wisdom of emerging photographers. I think that it is incredibly useful to reach out to other photographers for advice or with any questions you may have. This act helps put you in touch with photographers who are willing to interact and help out but also shows those photographers that you are interested in learning!
Third, it is incredibly important to hone one’s skills and to learn your craft. If there are things within photography that I find difficult, I make sure to do the research and the practice to improve on my skills. Staying stagnant in your skill level hinders your ability to market yourself and network with others.
Finally, I think that it is imperative to take chances as, and as my sister has always said “just try.” If you would like to be a photographer, reach out to photographers in your area and ask to act as a second shooter for them. If they accept, watch them and learn from them. Ask questions when appropriate and look for constructive criticism. Taking chances and putting yourself out there is an essential part of networking that cannot be ignored or overlooked.
The final step mentioned above helps you take your online networking into real life. It is important to make sure you’re fostering good relationships with your mentor photographers. However, when I network online on the other hand, I also find that it is very useful to tag the people who inspired your work, the people whose work you admire or the people who you learned from. This can get your work featured on other, more prominent people’s pages and can help grow your audience. All in all, I think it is most important to be able to share praise and appreciation for the people around you. This is appreciated by artists and can help relationships grow.
The two organizations I have chosen that I think fit into the category of having an impressive social media strategy are National Geographic and GymShark, an athletic clothing brand.
National Geographic has 147 million followers on Instagram and the photos they post are from different photographers from around the world who all curate the captions as well. This means that the photos and captions all portray different stories, moods, feelings, perspectives and consequently, can easily keep followers engaged by not telling the same story or sharing the same content every day. Additionally, the fact that photos shared on the page are by photographers who are not necessarily employed by National Geographic encourages the photographers who follow the page to engage with the page in hopes of getting their pictures featured as well. They have an excellent strategy that requires minimal effort on their end but brings them a lot of attention. Additionally, they use their platform to share important information about causes that they care about. These causes are often environmentally based, and they share this information via the story, reels and IGTV features on Instagram. This way they can share both the information that they feel is important, share their personality and identity, as well as support their followers by posting their content on the National Geographic page. Finally, they also share stories through Snapchat and other apps in an effort to engage with a younger audience. All of their efforts are working well as their followers and relevance grow.
Gymshark does an impressive job on social media as well. They currently have three verified pages on Instagram named Gymshark, Gymshark Train and GymsharkWomen. Their main source of publicity comes from fitness influencers/ambassadors across the world. Personally, I follow a number of fitness influencers in order to find inspiration for my own workouts and I find myself clicking through their stories or scrolling through my Instagram feed and being very aware of the Gymshark clothing that they are wearing. Gymshark sends their influencers clothing before they release dates to build anticipation for their products as influencers post about the new clothing and how much they “love” them. Influencers also answer questions about the products which relieves Gymshark of that responsibility. This, just like with national geographic, encourages their followers to interact with their page. There are also thousands of people around the world who want to be fitness influencers themselves and who are posting their workouts on Instagram and tagging Gymshark in their captions in hopes of being sponsored by the company. This is free publicity.
The company that I think could stand having a social media strategy is ShopSolarKits. The thing that attracted me to this company is that it is a family-owned business that is run completely online, from a website and yet, they have very little social media presence if any. ShopSolarKits sells solar energy equipment in the United States. The product is in high demand in today’s both social and environmental climate. The products are of high quality. The products are affordable. There are countless videos of people online travelling in their camper vans that are largely powered by solar energy or videos of people building these travelling camper vans. It is a trend that is taking off right now and a trend that ShopSolarKits (SSK) could absolutely take advantage of. Their product is one that could definitely be marketed through social media and they are missing out on a big opportunity without a social media strategy. I think that SSK could do very similar things to National Geographic and Gymshark by featuring their customers on their Instagram page or by sending some of the most popular VanLife “influencers” some products to boost their name and their products. SSK could truly start anywhere because they have so little going in terms of social media, but I think that featuring their customers could be a good start.
Hello! Please allow me to introduce myself quickly. My name is Sophia, and I am a freelance photographer. Although my main career is not focused on photography, I have a deep love for it and have decided to pursue it as a sort of “side hustle”. Therefore, I started my own small photography business. The business was created because I love photography but also in order to make a little extra money on the side. Therefore, the kind of listening and monitoring I do is tailored to understanding what people are looking for right now related to photography and what prices they’re willing to spend on those services.
I sell prints of my photos and I sell photoshoot sessions. Therefore, I need to figure out how best to share and build my website so that people can order prints, and I also need to figure out what my community is looking for in the photoshoot department. Are people looking for Holiday shoots? Portrait shoots? Graduation shoots? Christmas Card shoots? I need to figure that out in order to make it known to my community that I can do that kind of thing.
One of my favourite listening and monitoring tools is Google Analytics. Why? One big reason is that it is free! I don’t make tons of money from the photography business, so I don’t want to spend tons building my social media presence. Google Analytics allows me to see where people are accessing my website from, the demographics of my audience and tells me how my audience usually views my site. This is immensely useful for me as it allows me to understand my consumer base but also lets me know whether my website needs to be better built to suit a mobile device versus a computer. All of this allows me to build a business and website to attract customers. Google Analytics also lets me see how people are getting to my site. Is it through typing in my website name? Is it through other social media platforms? Again, an incredibly useful tool for understanding where to market myself. At the end of the day, because my business is so small, there is a lot less I look to monitor than if I had a large business or was looking to grow but Google Analytics is all encompassing and allows me to analyse the data I need but also the data that would be necessary if I wanted to grow.
In terms of listening and monitoring, I have found that LinkedIn groups and even Facebook Searches allow me to understand what my community is looking for. I have grown up in my city and have been involved in the community for my whole life. I therefore have a pretty diverse base to listen to. LinkedIn allows me to create more connections and allows me to share my work publicly as well. Both sites have been incredibly useful for me as they provide what feels like a more personal understanding of my audience even if it requires a little more work on my end.
My favourite sources of news and updates for me come from blogs and microblogs like Twitter. I follow a number of blogs from WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, etc. of local businesses but I also find it quite useful to follow their Instagram pages and those pages are often updated much more regularly and much quicker. As well, in the photography business, Instagram is a good place to start to learn about trends in the photography world. Additionally, Twitter although Tweets are very short and don’t provide much information, the ease and speed with which people update Twitter is attractive to me. During the US Election, I was checking twitter for updates on States and often saw the news about states before I saw it on the actual news shows. There is also absolutely a possibility that the information shared on Twitter is false, but it is for that reason that I don’t use Twitter as my sole source for the news. I always look up news stories after seeing Tweets to make sure that the information is correct and that I have not been misled.