Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few years, you'll probably have noticed that many social media platforms have been heading downhill. Here's how to best prepare for the social media storms ahead.
Placing all your eggs in one basket is never a good idea for photographers online., especially if that basket is owned by a billionaire company that values profits over anything else. While social media can be a great place to meet people, sell work, and get inspired, it can also be a hotbed of negativity and a fruitless time suck. The biggest downside to social media is that a particular platform you've worked hard to grow an audience on could easily go out of fashion or out of business with very little notice. I've lost count of the number of big-name photographers on Instagram that are literally nonexistent on any other forms of social media. This approach to growing an audience is not only a risk if your corner of the Internet suddenly stops being popular, but you're potentially missing out on reaching large groups of people who don't frequent the places that you do.
What Can Photographers Do To Avoid Losing Their Audiences Online?
Embrace Automation Tools
If these social platforms are places you want to try to build an audience, then you need to hedge your bets and be on all of them. It mitigates the risk if the worst were to happen and one of these spaces suddenly stopped being popular. While I appreciate this sounds like a lot more work, there are tools out there like IFTTT, which will allow you to connect up various social media accounts and post automatically on your behalf. So, for example, you can manually post a photo on Instagram, and your Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and LinkedIn can all be updated with the same content without you having to lift a finger.
Promote Your Social Media Everywhere
If you don't already plug your various social media accounts across platforms, you really should start doing so. I'm sure there are lots of people who follow you in one place that had no idea you had a presence somewhere else online. Use tools such as Linktree to create a page of all your social accounts and make sure your personal website clearly publicizes where you can be found. Also, consider including these social handles in any printed marketing you may be making. The worst time to plug your alternative social media accounts is as the ship is sinking and people have already stopped logging in. So, be sure to get in there early and gently remind people from time to time that you are online in other places.
Consider Not Bothering With Social Media
There are plenty of successful photographers who don't bother with social media at all. That's not to say they don't have a presence online, but they opt to connect with their audiences away from platforms with annoying advertisements and ever-changing algorithms. One powerful tool I think is still massively underrated is that of a newsletter. I've already talked at length about the benefits of having a newsletter and still feel it's the most future-proof way to stay connected with your audience in 2022. It's hard to know if the likes of Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook will still be around in the coming years, but it's highly likely that we all will still have email accounts and be signed up for various newsletters. Out of all the points raised in this article, having a newsletter is without a doubt the best way to avoid losing an audience.
Building a Website
Carrying on from the idea of shying away from social media and starting a newsletter is the notion of building a website. Having a website of your own is a more guaranteed way to keep connected to an audience long-term. The great thing about a personal website is that you are completely in control of it. No paying to boost posts, no shadowbans, and no billionaire owners telling you what you can and can't do. As long as you continue to pay the bills for your site, it will always be there. The same can't be said for any of the big social media platforms out there. Some of my favorite corners of the internet are creative people's websites. It's so refreshing to see good content on someone's website without having to wade through the noise of advertisements or posts you have no interest in.
Additional Measures Worth Considering
While some social media platforms are closer to extinction than others, I do think it's good practice for photographers to back up their social media accounts from time to time. A backup should not only give you all the text you have written over the years, but also any images or videos that you have shared. This content may prove to be useful for new social media platforms you may join or for using on your own blog. Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook all make the act of backing up easy enough to do. With just a few clicks of the mouse, the social platform will email over an archive of what you have posted over the years. This process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on how much content you have and the amount of demand for such a service there is. I recently requested backups of two of my Twitter accounts, and the download links took much longer than normal to get. The main thing to take from all this is that it's best to be ahead of the game with making archives, as you never know what will happen to these places in the future.
While it can be hard to know what will happen with these spaces in the future, all good things do usually come to an end in some shape or form. For this reason, photographers must hedge their bets and prepare for a worst-case scenario if keeping those audiences is important to them. By funneling existing followers to safer waters, you stand a much better chance of staying connected with them in the long run. The internet can be a great place for photographers to meet clients, make sales, and build audiences. Just be sure to not place all your digital eggs in one basket, as that hard work cultivating an audience will be for nothing.
Over to You
What do you think is the future of social media for photographers? Do you have any other thoughts on how best to keep hold of an audience? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below.
Lead image originally by Javad Esmaeili, used under Creative Commons.