It all started with a conversation between filmmaker Justin Gustavision and I this past Friday. Justin works for Nadus Films who just released a brilliant award-winning documentary “BBoy For Life” which shows how break dancing has provided teenagers a way out of Guatemalan gang life. The film has been picked up by Starz and Discovery Channel, yet their social media presence could be considered dry, when it should be arousing a well-deserved tornado of hype.
It’s easy to get discouraged and lost in today’s online landscape, but you are not alone. This situation applies to many musicians, artists, photographers, filmmakers, actors and break dancers all over the world. In the current market, it’s just as important to sell yourself correctly as it is produce the art you're passionate about. With that said, I’d like to expand on an Fstoppers article that I published several weeks ago; “Social Media Etiquette – The Do’s And Don’ts Of Online Interaction.”
I’ll be the first to admit, like many others I’m addicted to the feedback. Just like a pat on the back, a like, comment or re-tweet sends a warmth of confidence and grants a sense of positive reinforcement. Many don’t realize that what you post to social media has a direct effect on how many likes, comments and re-tweets you receive. In order to get great feedback, you must provide solid updates that your friends and fans can really sink their teeth into. People fly through their newsfeed at lightning speed; anything light or frivolous will be passed over without a pause.
Nearly a year ago, a friend of mine, Gunnar Deatherage had just been voted off Lifetime’s Project Runway in the final round. Gunnar wasn't upset whatsoever, he was actually on top of his game. His social media presence was exploding and things were moving at full speed. Mission accomplished. But, Gunnar never really kept up the consistent satisfying content that his fans yearned for. Unfortunately, over time his social media engagement started to taper off, a lot. Around that time he approached me to consult with him to breathe some new life into his online game. I asked Gunnar to start posting images of himself in fashionable outfits and working hard behind the scenes every single day, no less than once a day. His engagement skyrocketed.
This is the very reason "selfies" have exploded in the world of social media. People like to see pictures of you… not your dog, your food or your kids. You. I’m not saying take a selfie, I’m saying grab a friend and ask them to snap an image of your working, shooting or even editing. Spice up the image by adding in some comedic value or something your demographic can relate to.
Only Your Best
Social media is a giant game of give and take. In order to receive awesome feedback, you have to give your friends something they can chew on before they engage in your work. That work must always be top notch. Time and time again I see people post a barrage of images from the same shoot, even some with the same pose or lighting. All of them have little to no engagement for that very reason. Before posting work from a shoot, question yourself and look at your work with a real critical eye. It’s important to be your own worst critic and only post your best images.
Behind The Scenes
It’s become more and more imperative for artists to provide an “backstage look” or “behind the scenes” of a photo shoot or show. So much so, many publications and commercial clients provide an entire budget for behind the scenes video and photography. People love to see what all goes into the production of an advertisement, movie or concert. Within the past few years, behind the scenes video has become just as important as the photograph or film itself. If you don’t know a videographer, then ask a friend to shoot some BTS with your smartphone and edit the clips in iMovie or even Instagram. Bottom line, if it shows you, your camera and your subject; then you’re set and you've some great content in your hands. Content people can chew on.
Share A Unique Story
I covered this briefly in my last post on social media, but I wanted to reiterate the importance of sharing a unique story. Remember to include a personalized message with a back story on how the photograph was lit or perhaps the hurdles you jumped to capture it. Your followers want to hear the struggle, but remember to stay humble and selfless as much as possible. Self-admiration is a big turnoff in the art world, be careful not to cross that line.
Everyone loves a good "hack." Although, that’s an odd play of words, popular blog sites like Huffington Post and Buzzfeed have embraced anything with the word “hack.” It has become the word to use when taking shortcuts. Following that trend, I've found that posting photography tips and tricks can keep up engagement when things are slow and I’m dry on content to post. Everyone has their own workflow, find ways to be creative and keep it short.
When I layout these fundamentals with my friends like Justin and Gunnar, they always express concern of “keeping up with it all.” There is no doubt, this can all be very overwhelming. But, similar to portrait lighting, once you have it locked in, the effort becomes completely worth it.
Just like the art we create itself; marketing requires hard work, determination and consistency. It all depends on how far you want to take it. If you put just as much work into marketing as you do your photography and post process, then the sky is the limit. But, don’t expect results right out of the gate. Just like a brand, engagement takes time to build, even I still have a long way to go. Remember, the only thing that is stopping you is “you.”